Obligations, Sophisms and Insolubles

National Research University “Higher School of Economics” - (Series WP6 “Humanities”) (2013)
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The focus of the paper is a sophism based on the proposition ‘This is Socrates’ found in a short treatise on obligational casus attributed to William Heytesbury. First, the background to the puzzle in Walter Burley’s traditional account of obligations (the responsio antiqua), and the objections and revisions made by Richard Kilvington and Roger Swyneshed, are presented. All six types of obligations described by Burley are outlined, including sit verum, the type used in the sophism. Kilvington and Swyneshed disliked the dynamic nature of the responsio antiqua, and Kilvington proposed a revision to the rules for irrelevant propositions. This allowed him to use a form of reasoning, the “disputational meta-argument”, which is incompatible with Burley’s rules. Heytesbury explicitly rejected Kilvington’s revision and the associated meta-argument. Swyneshed also revised Burley’s account of obligations, formulating the so-called responsio nova, characterised by the apparently surprising thesis that a conjunction can be denied both of whose conjuncts are granted. On closer inspection, however, his account is found to be less radical than first appears.
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