Recent scholarship has asserted that Renaissance humanists adopted an effectively poststructuralist view of language as a sign system independent of extramental reality. But language involves more than signs, and this scholarly position squares poorly with the theory of verbal mood advanced by Thomas Linacre (1460–1524), physician and founding father of English humanism. As grammarian, Linacre adds a sixth mood to the five inherited from Priscian, classifying almost every use of Priscian's subjunctive mood under his new heading, the potential mood. As physician, Linacre translates texts from Galen that show his view of physiology to be thoroughly Aristotelian, grounded as it is on the distinction between actuality and potentiality. On this basis, Linacre rejects the standard rhetorical approach to the moods as “affections of the mind,” preferring instead a philosophical view. By shifting the subjunctive functions to his potential mood, Linacre gives us a verbal system in which the indicative and subjunctive moods represent not just dispositions of mind but basic aspects of extramental being, the actual and the potential. In so doing, Linacre asserts a fundamental continuity between grammar and metaphysical reality.
John Leeds; Language and Metaphysics Rejoined: Thomas Linacre and Grammar beyond the Sign. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 May 2016; 46 (2): 213–231. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-3491774
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