[6.0.0] Lorenzo Valla Ontology

The humanist Lorenzo Valla (c. 1406–1457) in Repastinatio dialectice et philosophie, disagreed with the structure of Aristotelian categories [1.3.2]:

  • The world consists of things, simply called res.
  • Valla’s list of categories contains substance, quality, and action
  • “At the back of Valla’s mind are the grammatical categories of noun, adjective, and verb; but in many places he points out that we cannot assume that, for instance, an adjective always refer to a quality or a verb to an action (Repastinatio, 1:134–156; 425–442; DD 1:240–80). These three categories are the only ones Valla admits; the other Aristotelian categories of accidents such as place, time, relation and quantity can all be reduced to quality or action. Here, too, grammar plays a leading role in Valla’s thought. From a grammatical point of view, qualities such as being a father, being in the classroom, or being six-feet tall all tell us something about how a particular man is qualified; and there is, consequently, no need to preserve the other Aristotelian categories”.
  • The Soul is a substance with special importance.

The following OntoUML diagram shows the main classes in this model:

CLASSDESCRIPTIONRELATIONS
Thing“His main concern in the first book is to simplify the Aristotelian-scholastic apparatus. For Valla, the world consists of things, simply called res. Things have qualities and do or undergo things (which he refers to as “things”).”
Substance“Hence, there are three basic categories: substance, quality, and action.
At the back of Valla’s mind are the grammatical categories of noun, adjective, and verb; but in many places he points out that we cannot assume that, for instance, an adjective always refer to a quality or a verb to an action (Repastinatio, 1:134–156; 425–442; DD 1:240–80). These three categories are the only ones Valla admits; the other Aristotelian categories of accidents such as place, time, relation and quantity can all be reduced to quality or action. Here, too, grammar plays a leading role in Valla’s thought. From a grammatical point of view, qualities such as being a father, being in the classroom, or being six-feet tall all tell us something about how a particular man is qualified; and there is, consequently, no need to preserve the other Aristotelian categories. […]

He thus thinks that it is ridiculous to imagine prime matter without any form or form without any matter, or to define a line as that which has no width and a point as an indivisible quantity that occupies no space. Valla’s idea is that notions such as divisibility and quantity are properly at home only in the world of ordinary things. For him, there is only the world of bodies [substances] with actual shapes and dimensions [quality]; lines and points are parts of these things, but only, as he seems to suggest, in a derivative sense, in other words, as places or spaces that are filled by the body or parts of that body. If we want to measure or sketch a (part of a) body, we can select two spots on it and measure the length between them by drawing points and lines on paper or in our mind, a process through which these points and lines become visible and divisible parts of our world (Repastinatio, 1:142–147; 2:427–431;  DD 254–64). But it would be wrong to abstract from this diagramming function and infer a world of points and lines with their own particular quantity. They are merely aids for measuring or outlining bodies. In modern parlance, Valla seems to be saying that ontological questions about these entities—do they exist? how do they exist?—amount to category mistakes, equivalent to asking the color of virtue.”
subkind of Thing
Quality“Hence, there are three basic categories: substance, quality, and action. […]”subkind of Thing
Action“Hence, there are three basic categories: substance, quality, and action. […]”subkind of Thing
Soul“The soul as an incorporeal substance is treated by Valla in a separate chapter (
Repastinatio, 1:59–73; 2:408–410; 418–419; 
DD 1:104–29). Rejecting the Aristotelian hylomorphic account, he returns to an Augustinian picture of the soul as a wholly spiritual and immaterial substance made in the image of God, and consisting of memory, intellect, and will. 
subkind of Substance
ParticularA particular thing

Related posts in theory of Universals: [1.2.2][1.3.1][1.3.2][2.5][2.7.3][4.3.1][4.3.2][4.4.1][4.5.2][4.9.8][4.11][4.15.6], [4.18.8]

Sources

First published: 8/9/2022

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