Something amazing about the Peripatetic of Pallet: Abaelard's development of Boethius' account of conditional propositions

Research paper by Christopher J. Martin

Indexed on: 01 Dec '87Published on: 01 Dec '87Published in: Argumentation


Mediaeval logicians inherited from Boethius an account of conditional propositions and the syllogisms which may be constructed using them. In the following paper it is shown that there are considerable difficulties with Boethius' account which arise from his failure to understand the nature of compound propositions and in particular to provide for their negation. Boethius suggests that there are two different conditions which may be imposed for the truth of a conditional proposition but he really gives no adequate account of how such propositions may be obtained. The true greatness of Peter Abaelard as a philosophical logician is revealed in what he is able to do with the material which he found in Boethius. It is shown that he developed a precise theory of conditionals giving an account of how true conditionals may be obtained and principles which may be used to reject others as false. Unlike Boethius Abaelard properly appreciates that conjunctions must be treated as logical units. Even he, however, falls victim to difficulties which arise when this connective is brought into contact with negation and the conditions which he lays down for the truth of a conditional.