William of Ockham discussed the fallacy of amphiboly twice in his writings. The first treatment was in his Expositio super libros Elenchorum, where he simply presents Aristotle’s treatment, updates it with some Latin examples, and tells us it is not too important, since we do not often run into cases of ambiguity of thiskind. Later, in his Summa logicae, however, he extends his treatment appreciably. He here includes under ambiguous statements philosophical and theological sentences which are improperly stated. (...) Led by Aristotle, Augustine and Anselm, Ockham finds that in their writings they give us instances of improper statements which need to be restated properly before they can be evaluated as true or false. These leads provide for Ockham a key to unlocking the teaching treasures of the Ancients. (shrink)
Realism and conventionalism generally establish the parameters of debate over universals. Do abstract terms in language refer to abstract things in the world? The realist answers yes, leaving us with an inflated ontology; the conventionalist answers no, leaving us with subjective categories. I want to defend nominalism in its original medieval sense, as one possibility that aims to preserve objectivity while positing nothing more than concrete individuals in the world. First, I will present paradigmatic statements of realism and conventionalism as (...) developed by Russell and Strawson. Then, I will present the nominalist alternative as developed by William of Ockham. (shrink)
William of Ockham was tried for heresy due to his assertion that certain qualities can exist independently of substances. Scholars have assumed he made thisstrange assertion in order to account for the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. I argue, however, that the assertion was philosophically rather than theologically motivated. Ockham develops a nominalist substance ontology, according to which most changes can be explained as the result of local motion. Knowledge and virtue are changes in human beings that cannot (...) be so explained, however, because they are not entirely passive processes. In fact, knowledge and virtue require free will, which could not be considered truly free if it were not an independently existing quality. In this paper, I explain Ockham’s nominalist substance ontology and show how it functions as the sine qua non foundation for his uncompromising commitment to metaphysical libertarianism. (shrink)
This paper is intended to offer an analysis of William of Ockham's and Guido Terreni's discourses on papal authority; it illuminates how their polemical use of the same authority -- Thomas Aquinas -- resulted in two diametrically opposed views. Guido Terreni's precarious understanding of Aquinas' commentary on the gospel of Luke stretched papal authority on doctrinal definition to the point of papal infallibility. Whereas, William of Ockham's use (and transformation) of Aquinas' idea of the object of (...) explicit faith resulted in a demand that every ecclesiastical authority should have thorough knowledge of the Christian faith and take every caution in doctrinal decision making. The paper shows that, in the context of polemics, Aquinas' ecclesiology was dissolved and different aspects of it were exaggerated by Terreni and Ockham. Thus, the paper also highlights Ockham's polemical skill in turning Aquinas -- the papalists' favourite authority -- against them. (shrink)
It is well known that Francis of Marchia and William of Ockham joined Michael of Cesena's rebellion against the pope, together escaping from Avignon and signing documents supporting Cesena's defence of Franciscan poverty. The relationship between the works of the two thinkers, on the other hand, is the subject of ongoing investigation. After discussing Francis' rejection in his Commentary on the Sentences of Ockham's theory of quantity, this paper shows how Francis' Improbatio became a source for (...) class='Hi'>Ockham's Opus Nonaginta Dierum. Building on Offler's ground-breaking critical edition of the latter work, it is argued that Ockham made extensive use of Francis' Improbatio, even though on several points he felt it necessary to reformulate the arguments of his confrère or even to substantially modify his positions. The two Franciscan theologians differed deeply both in their basic philosophical commitments and in their methodological attitude. These differences emerged even when they were—so to speak—fighting on the same front. (shrink)
The English Franciscan, William of Ockham (c. 1285-1349), was one of the most important thinkers of the later middle ages. Summoned to Avignon in 1324 to answer charges of heresy, Ockham became convinced that Pope John XXII was himself a heretic in denying the complete poverty of Christ and the apostles and a tyrant in claiming supremacy over the Roman empire. Ockham's political writings were a result of these personal convictions, but also include systematic discourses on (...) the basis and functions of spiritual and secular power as well as exhaustive discussions of Franciscan poverty and the general problem of papal heresy. Ockham emerges in this study as a man deeply committed to natural and Christian human rights, who found these fundamental values so seriously menaced in his time that their survival could be assured only by radical, even revolutionary, personal action and by a basic reworking of traditional political thought. (shrink)
William of Ockham was a medieval English philosopher and theologian (he was born about 1285, perhaps as late as 1288, and died in 1347 or 1348). In 1328 Ockham turned away from 'pure' philosophy and theology to polemic. From that year until the end of his life he worked to overthrow what he saw as the tyranny of Pope John XXII (1316-1334) and of his successors Popes Benedict XII (1334-1342) and Clement VI (1342-1352). This campaign led him (...) into questions of ecclesiology (the study of the nature and structure of the Christian Church, e.g. of the functions and powers of the pope) and political philosophy. -/- The Dialogus purports to be a transcript made by a mature student of lengthy discussions between himself and a university master about the various opinions of the learned on the matters disputed between John XXII and the dissident Franciscans. The student is usually the initiator; he chooses the topics, asks most of the questions and decides when he has heard enough. The master is, so to speak, an expert witness whom the student examines. -/- This volume publishes an edition of two elements of the Dialogus. Part 2 of the Dialogus is not in dialogue form and may not to be the work of Ockham himself. Part 3 is divided into two tracts. Tract 1, which is reproduced in this volume, is on the power of the Pope and clergy. -/- Liberal thinking in modern times builds on certain earlier ancient and medieval political ideas, which Ockham reasserted, defended and helped to perpetuate. Thus there are elements in his ecclesiology and political philosophy that anticipate the views of Locke, Mill, and other modern liberals. (shrink)
In WilliamOckham on Metaphysics, Jenny E. Pelletier gives an account of Ockham's concept of metaphysics as the science of being and God as it emerges sporadically throughout his philosophical and theological work.
According to the doctrine of the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Spirit are supposed to be distinct from each other, and yet be one and the same God. As if that were not perplexing enough, there is also supposed to be an internal process of production that gives rise to the Son and Spirit: the Son is said to be 'begotten' by the Father, while the Spirit is said to 'proceed' either from the Father and the Son together, or from (...) the Father, but through the Son. -/- One might wonder, though, just how this sort of divine production is supposed to work. Does the Father, for instance, fashion the Son out of materials, or does he conjure up the Son out of nothing? Is there a middle ground one could take here, or is the whole idea of divine production simply unintelligible? -/- In the late 13th and early 14th centuries, scholastic theologians subjected these questions to detailed philosophical analysis, and those discussions make up one of the most important, and one of the most neglected, aspects of late medieval trinitarian theology. This book examines the central ideas and arguments that defined this debate, namely those of Henry of Ghent, John Duns Scotus, and WilliamOckham. Their discussions are significant not only for the history of trinitarian theology, but also for the history of philosophy, especially regarding the notions of production and causal powers. (shrink)
Buridan’s theory of sentences with epistemic verbs (‘to know’, ‘to believe’, etc.) has received much attention in recent scholarship. Its originality with respect to Ockham’s approach, however, has been importantly overestimated. The present paper argues that both doctrines share crucial features and basically belong to the same family. This is done by comparing Buridan’s notion of the ‘appellation of reason’ with Ockham’s application to epistemic sentences of the general principle that a predicate always ‘appellates its form’.
How can the Body and Blood of Christ, without ever leaving heaven, come to be really present on eucharistic altars where the bread and wine still seem to be? Thirteenth and fourteenth century Christian Aristotelians thought the answer had to be "transubstantiation." -/- Acclaimed philosopher, Marilyn McCord Adams, investigates these later medieval theories of the Eucharist, concentrating on the writings of Thomas Aquinas, Giles of Rome, Duns Scotus, and WilliamOckham, with some reference to Peter Lombard, Hugh of (...) St. Victor, and Bonaventure. She examines how their efforts to formulate and integrate this theological datum provoked them to make significant revisions in Aristotelian philosophical theories regarding the metaphysical structure and location of bodies, differences between substance and accidents, causality and causal powers, and fundamental types of change. Setting these developments in the theological context that gave rise to the question draws attention to their understandings of the sacraments and their purpose, as well as to their understandings of the nature and destiny of human beings. -/- Adams concludes that their philosophical modifications were mostly not ad hoc, but systematic revisions that made room for transubstantiation while allowing Aristotle still to describe what normally and naturally happens. By contrast, their picture of the world as it will be (after the last judgment) seems less well integrated with their sacramental theology and their understandings of human nature. (shrink)
Modern scholarship on Ockham's political thought suggests that his anti-papal polemical activities were intended to be destructive. A close analysis of Ockham's Dialogus, Part I in particular, reveals that the truth is just opposite: the reality as Ockham saw it was that the ecclesiastical institution had already broken down due to the heresy of the contemporary popes. Ockham thus proposed an alternative -- non-institutional -- vision of the Christian society; drawing on the Ambrosian (and Ciceronian) discourse (...) on negative injustice, he appealed to all believers that a faithful believer's dissent from allegedly heretical papal authority was not irrelevant to them. Ockham called for the mutual protection of believers in opposition to heretical popes for the preservation of orthodox faith, which was indeed the common good of the Christian community. Ockham's anti-papal polemic was a constructive endeavour to rescue the very foundation of Christian solidarity. (shrink)
“Ockham never wrote a commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics,” Jenny Pelletier tells us at the beginning of this monograph, “but the absence of such a commentary does not allow us to infer that he was uninterested in or skeptical of metaphysics” (1–2). Her central contention is that Ockham had a robust conception of metaphysics as a distinct branch of scientific knowledge concerning being and God. It is an argument worth making insofar as many scholars in recent years have held (...) that Ockham lacks a metaphysics or rejects the possibility of one. In opposing these claims, Pelletier also has much to say about what Ockham’s metaphysics includes and how it relates to other sciences. As the study of being, it considers .. (shrink)
Born in England and educated at Oxford, Ockham was the preeminent Franciscan thinker of the mid-fourteenth century. Because of his role in the bitter dispute between the Franciscans and Pope John XXII over evangelical poverty, he was excommunicated in 1328. After that he abandoned philosophy and theology proper, producing instead a series of political tracts on the ecclesiastical and secular power of the papacy.
My talk tonight comes under the heading of history of theology. It may take you away somewhat from the study of early Christianity, but perhaps it can come under the head of the history of the history of early Christianity—my topic is a dispute involving Marsilius and Ockham over Peter’s role in the early Church and the use Ockham made of early Christian documents, or what he thought were such.