Home / Projects / Medieval Logic Research Group


Principal Investigator: Stephen Read

Members: Barbara Bartocci, Mark Thakkar

Research students: Alessandro Rossi

The Medieval Logic Reading Group meets during Arché semesters from 10.15 until 11.45 each Friday in the Arché Seminar Room.


Theories of Paradox in Fourteenth-Century Logic: Edition and Translation of Key Texts (Principal Investigator, Stephen Read; Research Fellow, Barbara Bartocci: 2017-2020)

The logical paradoxes have played a significant role in the development of philosophical ideas, not just in logic but also in philosophy of language, epistemology, metaphysics and even ethics and political philosophy, throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. They played a no less significant role in later medieval philosophy and were the subject of much debate and the spur to original ideas, arguably reaching their zenith in the 14th century. Much has been learned about the medieval debate in the past fifty years, in the writings of Thomas Bradwardine, John Buridan and others. But other interesting treatises remain unedited, many only surviving in contemporary manuscripts. Among these is the treatise on insolubles (logical paradoxes) by Paul of Venice, summarizing and developing theories and solutions from his predecessors in the 14th century, constituting the final treatise of his Logica Magna. A project was begun in the 1970s to edit and translate into English the whole of the Logica Magna in 20 volumes, but only seven of the treatises from this huge work were completed and published when the project was abandoned in the 1990s, and this final treatise was not included. The proposal is to edit and translate this treatise, which describes fifteen other theories which it rejects, then develops its own at length, together with a commentary; to edit and translate two further treatises, those of Walter Segrave and John Dumbleton, writing in Oxford in the 1320s or ‘30s, which Paul mentions and which remain unedited, containing rich ideas about alternative solutions; and to provide a critical edition of a further treatise, by Peter of Ailly, written around 1370, which was translated into English in 1980 but still lacks an edition of the Latin text. Publication of these texts will allow a better overview of the development of solutions to the paradoxes through the 14th century, as well as giving further insight into the nature of the paradoxes and their possible solution.

Critical edition and translation of two logical works written by John Wyclif (Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, Mark Thakkar: 2014-18)

The aim is to produce a reliable critical edition and translation of John Wyclif’s Logic. This general title covers two of his earliest known works. The first, De logica, is an introductory textbook usually dated to around 1360.  The second, Logicae continuatio, aka Probationes Propositionum, is a more advanced work usually dated to the 1360s and perhaps revised not long before Wyclif’s death in 1384.

The project has two main objectives.  One is to replace the Wyclif Society edition (Dziewicki 1893–99), whose defects have been the subject of repeated complaint.  Dziewicki himself lamented that the illegibility of the manuscript on which he had mostly relied‘may account for, and to some extent excuse, the numerous shortcomings of the present edition, which no one can regret more thanthe editor himself;’ to make matters worse, the fourteenth century was uncharted territory in the 1890s, and Dziewicki found himself baffled by some concepts that are now familiar to scholars of the period.   As a result, his edition stands in the way of a clearunderstanding of the Logic and its place in the history of fourteenth-century philosophy.

The other main objective is to resituate the Logic in its proper historical context.  The Wyclif Society (founded in 1882)championed Wyclif as ‘the originator of the Reformation’, and the introductions to the three volumes of Dziewicki’s edition betray an impatience with passages that lack significance for theological developments. Without this vested interest, and with aneye to Wyclif’s education as an Arts student in the ‘calculatorial’ Oxford of the 1350s, we can better understand his preoccupation with extraneous topics like atoms, space, time, and motion, and his habit of introducing quantitative considerations in qualitativecontexts.

The project also has two subsidiary objectives.  One is to advance the debate over the dating and putative revision of the Logic, which has been hampered by uncertainty about some of the passages that may provide evidence.  The other is to do the same forthe debate over the authorship of the Summula summularum, another textbook that has been ascribed to Wyclif.