On a Sophisma of Richard Kilvington and a Problem of Analysis

On a Sophisma of Richard Kilvington and a Problem of Analysis

Katz, Bernard D.

Medieval Philosophy and Theology, vol. 5, no. 1 (1996)


In his discussion of one of Richard Kilvington’s sophismata, Norman Kretzmann has drawn attention to an interesting puzzle on the nature of linguistic analysis.’ Richard Kilvington was a fourteenth-century English philosopher, one of the socalled “Oxford calculators,” and his Sqbhismata is a series of perplexing sentences and accompanying discussions, designed to illuminate various issues in natural philosophy and epistemology. The sophisma that gives rise to Kre~mann’s concern is the first, the peculiar sentence

(1) Socrates is whiter than Plato begins to be white.

We are to understand the sentence as comparing the whiteness of two objects, of two swatches of cloth in a container of bleach, say. Kilvington contends that the sentence is true if, for example, the Socrates swatch is white and, at the same time, the Plato swatch begins to be white. In his account, an object begins to be white just in case it now is not white but immediately after now is white.

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