We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)


The list below shows Durham University research staff who are members of IMEMS. Click the member's name to see a more detailed biography and department.

We also welcome anyone from outside the University with an interest in our work to join. Membership is free of charge. You will receive invitations to our programme of events, with a weekly emails digest about what is happening in the Insitute and further afield. To join IMEMS contact:

Publication details for Dr Sara L. Uckelman

Uckelman, Sara L. (2016). Book Review: Articulating Medieval Logic by Terence Parsons. Philosophical Quarterly 66(263): 432-435.

Author(s) from Durham


Medieval logic can often ‘seem to consist of a variety of unsystematic and disparate remarks, and it is not at all obvious whether or how they fit together’ (p. 1). In this ambitious book, Terence Parsons seeks to demonstrate how ‘medieval logic can […] be seen as a group of theories and practices clustered around a core theory which is a paradigm of logic; this theory consists of a number of widely known principles, all of which can be derived from a very simple core of rules and axioms’ (p. 1). Starting from the beginning—that is, Aristotle—Parsons takes the reader from the semantics of the simplest categorical (subject-predicate) statements through a semi-formal notation called ‘Linguish’ (a mix of Latin and English, plus some symbols), to the modes of personal supposition, and eventually to complex statements involving tenses, relatives, anaphora, and other phenomena; along the way, comparisons with contemporary logic and lingusitic theory are regularly made.

Because the Organon provided the foundation for developments in the Middle Ages, Parsons begins with Aristotelian logic in ch. 1, presenting not so much Aristotle's views per se but rather what the theory of categorical sentences and syllogisms looked like to medieval logicians (p. 6). This approach focuses on the structure of categorical sentences and arguments, and mostly glosses over questions about what makes these sentences true (though see pp. 9 and 10). In ch. 2, the basic building blocks are extended to categorical sentences which have quantified predicates, predicates which are singular terms, and negative terms, all of which require special analyses, and were explicitly dealt with by medieval authors.

The next two chapters are primarily modern in orientation, introducing a new notation, called ‘Linguish’ for representing explicitly the sentence types (‘logical forms’) and proof rules discussed in chs 1 …