SEP update on Medieval Theories of Modality
There have been some important updates to the SEP entry “Medieval Theories of Modality” by Simo Knuuttila. Here is an excerpt pertaining to my interests in the contemporary analysis of Aristotle:
There are several recent works on Aristotle’s modal syllogistics, but no generally accepted historical reconstruction which would make it a coherent theory. It was apparently based on various assumptions which were not fully compatible (Hintikka 1973, Striker 2009). Some commentators have been interested in finding coherent layers of the theory by explicating them in terms of Aristotle’s other views (van Rijen 1989; Patterson 1995). There are also several formal reconstructions such as Rini 2010 (modern predicate logic), Ebert and Nortmann 2007 (possible worlds semantics), various set-theoretical approaches discussed in Johnson 2004, and Malink 2006 (mereological semantics).
I’m going to take a closer look at Striker’s position, as I am not convinced that Aristotle’s modal syllogistic is based on assumptions that are “not fully compatible”. I think the issue is one of getting clear on Aristotle’s metaphysics at the time that the Prior Analytics were composed, and to realize that some of those metaphysical presuppositions did not remain constant as Aristotle went on to work on De Caelo and Metaphysics. I like Malink’s approach of using the Topics in order to understand what is going on. Perhaps a post or two dedicated to the “Two Barbaras” problem is in order!