Version: v2, Published online: 2015
Retrieved January 17, 2020, from https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/port-royal/v-2
Port-Royal-des-Champes was an abbey in France, initially located near Versailles, but later moved to Paris. Its importance to the history of philosophy is due primarily to a group of Augustinian-Cartesian thinkers who developed an influential theory of mental and linguistic representation. This theory is found in the 1660 Port-Royal Grammaire générale et raisonnée (General and Rational Grammar) by Antoine Arnauld and Claude Lancelot, and the 1662 Port-Royal La logique ou l’art de penserLogic (Logic or the Art of Thinking) by Antoine Arnauld and Pierre Nicole.
The aim of the Grammar is to identify the universal structures of thought underlying all languages, and thereby explain the similarities and differences among languages. The aim of the Logic is to understand the natural operations of the human mind in order that we might learn to employ our faculties better. A fundamental presupposition of both works is that words are signs used to indicate to others what is taking place in the speaker's mind. This leads the Port-Royalists to regard the structure of language as reflective of the structure of thought, and vice versa.
The most important aspect of this structure is the manner in which ideas are put together into propositions and words are put together into sentences. According to the Port-Royalists, a proposition is constructed by a special mental operation, which they call judging. It is this operation that gives rise to truth and falsity. Affirmation, or taking two ideas to belong together, is one species of judging; denial, or taking two ideas not to belong together, is another. These acts of judging are signified by verbs, while nouns signify ideas.
The Port-Royal theory had an enormous influence on Locke's approach to mind and language. It was also regarded by Chomsky as a predecessor to his own linguistic theories.
Pearce, Kenneth L.. Port-Royal, 2015, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DA063-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis, https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/port-royal/v-2.
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