Consider this passage from Duns Scotus:

Si enim ista ratio est in se falsa, tunc includit virtualiter propositionem falsam; quod autem est simpliciter simplex, non includit virtualiter proximo nec formaliter propositionem falsam, et ideo circa ipsam not est deceptio.

What does proximo mean in this passage?

The context is a philosophical discussion about simple and complex concepts. The point is reasonably clear: a complex (composite) concept can contain an implicit false proposition, but a simple concept does not. Here's a crude example of the former: "flying monkey" is a complex concept that implicitly includes the false proposition "flying monkeys exist" or "some monkeys are able to fly." I'm not asking about the philosophy; and I know the dictionary definition of "proximus" and I can parse "proximo" -- I just can't make any sense out of the term "proximo" in this passage -- conceptually, grammatically, or otherwise. The clause beginning with quod autem reads smoothly without proximo; here's my literal translation, omitting any translation of proximo: "that which, moreover, is absolutely simple does not include virtually or formally a false proposition, and therefore about it there is no deception."

Any thoughts about proximo would be very welcome. Thanks.

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    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 9:21
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    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 9:23

1 Answer 1


I'm not entirely certain, but I can only read this proximo as an adverbial or pragmatic expression. It could be an adverbial use of proximus "next", just as many other adverbs end on -o, cf. certo "certainly", sero, vero, etc.

The following expression is found in classical Latin:

proximum est, ut = "it follows that, remains that, the next point is" (Lewis & Short)

So the word can be used to indicate logical sequence or consequence.

In a different edition, your quotation is punctuated as follows:

Si enim ista ratio est in se falsa, tunc includit virtualiter propositionem falsam. Quod autem est simpliciter simplex, non includit virtualiter, proximo, nec formaliter propositionem falsam, et ideo circa ipsum non est deceptio.

It makes sense to translate it as follows:

"That which is simple does not include a false proposition virtually, nor, by consequence, does it include one formally.

Proximus can often mean "next, following". If there is no virtual false proposition, then of course there is no formal false proposition.

P.S. Notice ipsum instead of ipsam: I think ipsum makes more sense.

  • 3
    I've never seen proximo used to mean "by consequence" in medieval Latin. My intuition is that this is an ablative of means having to do with a syllogism (something like "virtually, through a proximate [term]"), but I'm not positive.
    – brianpck
    Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 1:38
  • 1
    @brianpck: I do think it is syllogism-ish, however it is analysed syntactically: if it is not x virtually, then it certainly cannot be x formally. I'm not sure about any specific adverbial translation, but I don't really know how to interpret your "through a proximate term".
    – Cerberus
    Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 6:29

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