The Moral Philosophy of William of Ockham (Guillelmus De Ockham)

The Moral Philosophy of William of Ockham (Guillelmus De Ockham)

June 27, 2021 Off By Felso

According to Ockham, morality is a form of human action that conforms to the power of will determined as a result of the dictation of reason and other mental conditions. The sole purpose of these behaviors and action styles is “goodness”. Goodness is when something is as it should be.

So, according to Ockham, there is a “must have”. It is the will itself that determines this. An ax cutting a tree, fulfilling its own function; therefore it means doing something good. Similarly, since all beings in the physical world all exist in accordance with God’s will (another thing is inconceivable anyway). All of them are both good and desire the good.

According to Ockham, everything in the world was created, of course, in accordance with God’s will. In other words, God created everything exactly as He wanted it to be. It is therefore impossible by definition for God to bring about something bad. Since God’s creations are also subject to an influence originating from His will, they must obey that will unconditionally. Thus, concepts such as Wisdom, Love, Power and Mercy accumulated in God appear as the highest moral rule that includes all the rules that all people must follow. As a creature, man has to abide by this moral rule without any conditions. In other words, obedience to this rule is its existential imperative.

According to Ockham, man’s moral obligation depends on God’s omnipotence and unlimited freedom. These two adjectives are also the highest rule of morality (Aspell, 1999: 360-361). Therefore, this freedom of God reveals that He has commanded people to have morality without being bound by any divine law. The moral rules that God imposes on people are contingent. It is through this contingency that God can make changes to these rules at will. What God commands us to see as good now can suddenly appear bad to us, again by His will. In this respect, it is possible to perceive the rules as absolutely immutable structures, only if we do not forget that they are contingent contents depending on the will of God. However, God created the entire universe according to a certain rule, and all his creations must live by this rule. On the basis of this rule, all people have tended to seek and aim for good and avoid evil. According to Ockham, to turn to the good is, in a way, to embody the will of God (Maurer, 1982: 286-287).

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook