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Language, Renaissance philosophy of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-C020-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved January 27, 2021, from

Article Summary

Renaissance philosophy of language is in its essentials a continuation of medieval philosophy of language as it developed in the fourteenth century. However, there were three big changes in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. First, humanism led to a much greater interest in the practical study of languages, including Greek, Hebrew and vernacular languages, as well as classical Latin. Literary analysis and eloquent discourse were emphasized. Second, there was a loss of interest in such medieval developments as supposition theory, which meant that there was little discussion in logic texts of how words relate to each other in propositional contexts, and how sense and reference are affected by the presence of such logical terms as ‘all’, ‘none’, ‘only’, ‘except’ and so on. Only in early sixteenth-century Paris were these issues pursued with any enthusiasm. Third, the fourteenth-century insistence that both words and concepts were signs had several effects. There was a new interest in the classification of different sorts of signs, both linguistic and non-linguistic, particularly in the work of some early sixteenth-century Spaniards. Naturally significant mental language was emphasized in a way that diverted the attention of logicians from spoken languages and their imperfections. Finally, concepts themselves came in for more attention, so that many of the topics discussed by logicians overlapped with what would now count as philosophy of mind, as well as with metaphysics. For instance, philosophers in the late scholastic tradition made much use of an early fourteenth-century distinction between the formal concept, which is a representative act of mind, and the so-called objective concept, which is whatever it is that is represented by a formal concept. The discussion of these issues by such writers as Pedro da Fonseca and Francisco Suárez has an obvious bearing on developments in early modern philosophy.

Citing this article:
Ashworth, E.J.. Language, Renaissance philosophy of, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-C020-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2021 Routledge.

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