William of Ockham Criticism - Essay

Philotheus Bohner (essay date 1946)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Realistic Conceptualism of William Ockham," Traditio, Vol. IV, 1946, pp. 307-14.

[In the following excerpt, Bȯhner argues that Ockham's doctrine concerning universals is a realistic conceptualism, and that attacks on Ockham for practicing idealistic conceptualism are therefore unfounded.]

Students of medieval scholasticism are accustomed to apply the name 'conceptualism' to Ockham's doctrine concerning the nature and scope of universals. This seems to be an apt designation, provided that its meaning is not burdened with idealistic connotations. Unfortunately, quite a number of neo-scholastics qualify conceptualism as a doctrine which severs the bond...

(The entire section is 4423 words.)

Philotheus Boehner (essay date 1957)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to Ockham: Philosophical Writings, edited by Philotheus Boehner, Thomas Nelson, 1957, pp. xvi-xxix.

[In the following excerpt, Boehner summarizes the guiding principles used in Ockham's writings and explains some of his terminology.]

… III. Ockham's Philosophy

Before drawing the broad outlines of Ockham's philosophy, we must remind the reader that Ockham never expounded it systematically and in its entirety. The Cursus philosophicus in several ponderous tomes is a characteristic product of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century scholasticism, but no scholastic philosopher of the thirteenth or the fourteenth...

(The entire section is 4265 words.)

Marilyn McCord Adams (essay date 1970)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Intuitive Cognition, Certainty, and Scepticism in William Ockham," Traditio, Vol. XXVI, 1970, pp. 389-98.

[In the following essay, Adams summarizes Ockham's doctrine of intuitive cognition, explains why it does not lead to scepticism, and explores some problems in its logic resulting from particular admissions of Ockham.]

Ockham's doctrine of intuitive cognition lies at the heart of his epistemology. As Philotheus Boehner1 and Sebastian Day2 have quite rightly observed, one of the central aims of this doctrine is to answer the question how the intellect can have certain knowledge of contingent states of affairs (including the...

(The entire section is 5277 words.)

Earl R. Woods (essay date 1973)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Ockham on Nature and God," The Thomist, Vol. XXXVII, No. 1, January, 1973, pp. 69-87.

[In the following essay, Woods examines Ockham's proof for the existence of a first cause and discusses how this proof differs from Aristotle's proof for the existence of God.]


I should like to discuss the Ockhamist argument for the existence of God from efficient causality. In particular, I intend to focus on the relation, in Ockham, between the universe and God, insofar as that relation can be elaborated by reason without the aid of Revelation. Briefly, I desire to indicate the kind of being in which Ockham's proof for the existence of God...

(The entire section is 7278 words.)

Michael J. Loux (essay date 1974)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Ontology of William of Ockham" in Ockham's Theory of Terms: Part I of "Summa Logicae," by WIlliam of Ockham, translated by Michael J. Loux, University of Notre Dame, 1974, pp. 1-22.

[In the following essay, Loux focuses on some problems inherent in Ockham's use of the terms concrete and abstract.]

The distinctions between singular and general terms, on the one hand, and abstract and concrete terms, on the other, play crucial roles in discussions of ontological issues. Although these dichotomies can be expressed in purely grammatical terms, they have traditionally been thought to point to two over-arching distinctions among things. Philosophers have...

(The entire section is 10513 words.)

Armand Maurer (essay date 1976)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Ockham on the Possibility of a Better World," Mediaeval Studies, Vol. XXXVIII, 1976, pp. 291-312.

[In the following essay, Maurer discusses Ockham's views on the limitations of God's powers and compares these views with those held by other theologians, including St. Thomas.]

In his William James lectures, published under the title The Great Chain of Being, Arthur Lovejoy formulated 'the Principle of Plenitude' which he found latent in the philosophy of Plato. This Platonic principle asserts that the universe is full of all conceivable kinds of living things; 'that no genuine potentiality of being can remain unfulfilled, that the extent and abundance of...

(The entire section is 9750 words.)

David W. Clark (essay date 1978)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Ockham on Human and Divine Freedom," Franciscan Studies, Vol. 38, 1978, pp. 122-32.

[In the following excerpt, Clark explores Ockham's descriptive definition of causality.]

Toward the end of its vital life, Scholasticism seemed to lapse into a painful second childhood. The very possibility of Scholastic theology was again questioned—this time by the uncompromising philosophy of Latin Averroism. The Parisian Statutes of 1270 and 1277 tried to legislate an alliance between reason and faith but only added to the confusion.1 Early heresies returned to trouble the old age of Scholasticism; a subtle form of Pelagianism, for example, was debated...

(The entire section is 4445 words.)

Arthur Stephen McGrade (essay date 1980)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Ockham and the Birth of Individual Rights" in Authority and Power, edited by Brian Tierney and Peter Linehan, Cambridge University Press, 1980, pp. 149-65.

[In the following essay, McGrade examines the relationship of Ockham's philosophy to his politics, particularly concerning rights and powers.]

Perhaps the only thing more frustrating than the combination of politics and philosophy is their separation. The idea of a society dominated by philosophy epitomises rigidity, and certainly philosophy does not flourish when it is dominated by society. Yet a social order which cannot sustain deep critical examination of its institutions and values courts corruption,...

(The entire section is 8242 words.)

Marilyn McCord Adams (essay date 1986)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Structure of Ockham's Moral Theory," Franciscan Studies, Vol. 46, 1986, pp. 1-14.

[In the following excerpt, Adams compares and contrasts Ockham's understanding of free will with the ideas of his Franciscan predecessor, Duns Scotus.]

1. Introduction

Ockham's moral theory, like his nominalism, finds its place among the most notorious, and yet widely misunderstood, doctrines of medieval philosophy.

  1. Many take Ockham's as the paradigm of "Divine Command Morality," according to which moral norms are entirely a function of the arbitrary choices of the free will of an omnipotent God. Paul Helm's recent comment is...

(The entire section is 5163 words.)

Brian Tierney (essay date 1986)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Natural Law and Canon Law in Ockham's Dialogus" in Aspects of Late Medieval Government and Society, edited by J. G. Rowe, University of Toronto Press, 1986, pp. 3-24.

[In the following essay, Tierney traces some of the sources and influences that led to Ockham's theory of natural law.]

An earlier approach to Ockham's theory of natural law, which still finds support in some modern scholarship, emphasized a supposed relationship between the great Franciscan's specific political doctrines and his general philosophical principles. More recently, several scholars have argued that Ockham's political theory can best be understood when it is related to the...

(The entire section is 9240 words.)

Calvin G. Normore (essay date 1990)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Ockham on Mental Language" in Historical Foundations of Cognitive Science, edited by J. C. Smith, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1990, pp. 53-71.

[In the following essay, Normore describes Ockham's concept of mental language and its purposes, highlighting some problems and difficulties associated with it.]

Thanks largely to the work of Noam Chomsky, we have witnessed over the last thirty years a revival of interest in two closely related ideas: that there is a universal grammar, a set of structural features common to every human language, and that the exploration of this grammar is, in part, an exploration of the structure of thought.


(The entire section is 7743 words.)