Tuesday, November 02, 2010

A priori and propter quid

In chapter 17 of Book III part 2 of Summa Logicae, Ockham gives a neat explanation of the terms propter quid and quia that shows how they are close, or even equivalent to the terms a priori and a posteriori respectively. I discussed this earlier. The translation is mine. (Sadly, I failed to get John Longeway's translation from our local Waterstone's, or indeed any Waterstones in the country, and had to resort to Amazon).

Separately, I am working on a translation of Buridans Questions on the Posterior Analytics. The translation of 'scire' is tricky, as both Ockham and Buridan use it with 'notare'. Both mean a sort of knowing. As they use it (and define it) 'scire' means a sort of reasoned knowing, the thing you get from understanding a demonstration, or 'syllogism that produces knowing'. Thus scientia, from which we get the English word 'science'. The modern and the medieval Latin meaning are closely connected. Understanding how they are different is a difficult matter that needs teasing out.

Propter quod oportet scire quod quaedam est demonstratio cuius praemissae sunt simpliciter priores conclusione, et illa vocatur demonstratio a priori sive propter quid.On account of this we must know [scire] that one sort of demonstration whose premisses are absolutely prior to the conclusion, and this is called demonstration a priori or propter quid.
Quaedam est demonstratio cuius praemissae non sunt simpliciter priores conclusione, sunt tamen notiores sic syllogizanti, per quas devenit sic syllogizans in notitiam conclusionis, et talis demonstratio vocatur demonstratio quia sive a posteriori.Another sort is demonstration whose premisses are not absolutely prior to the conclusion, and which are nevertheless better known to the syllogiser in this way, through which the syllogiser thus arrives at knowledge of the conclusion. And such demonstration is called demonstration quia or a posteriori.

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