Richard Kilvington and the theory of obligations

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Kretzmann and Spade were led by Richard Kilvington’s proposed revisions to the rules of obligations in his discussion of the 47th sophism in his Sophismata to claim that the purpose of obligational disputations was the same as that of counterfactual reasoning. Angel d’Ors challenged this interpretation, realising that the reason for Kilvington’s revision was precisely that he found the art of obligation unsuited to the kind of reasoning which lay at the heart of the sophismatic argument. In his criticism, Kilvington focussed on a technique used by Walter Burley to force a respondent to grant an arbitrary falsehood and similar to Lewis and Langford’s famous defence of ex impossibili quodlibet. Kilvington observes that just as in obligational disputation, one may be obliged to grant a false proposition and deny a true one, so in counterfactual reasoning one may be obliged to doubt a proposition whose truth or falsity one knows, on pain of contradiction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-404
Number of pages15
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2015


  • Obligations
  • Sophisms
  • Ex impossibili quodlibet
  • Kilvington
  • Burley


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