Who is William of Ockham (Guillelmus De Ockham)?June 26, 2021
William of Ockham (Guillelmus De Ockham) was an English philosopher who lived between about 1285 and 1347.
Known mostly for his Ockham’s Razor and nominalism principles he developed, William of Ockham wrote important works in the fields of logic, physics and theology.
One of the most influential philosophers and logicians of the fourteenth century, Ockham was born in 1285. After graduating from Oxford in 1315, he lectured on the Bible (1315-1317) and Sententiae (1317-1319). In 1323, Lutterel handed over a file containing Ockham’s 56 heretical theses to the Pope and accused him of heresy. Ockham’s 51 theses, which went to Avignon, where the Pope was, to defend himself, were censored; but none of them were formally convicted. He took refuge with the Holy Roman German Emperor Louis of Bavaria, whose sovereignty was not recognized by the Pope, together with the members of the sect, who escaped the Pope’s wrath. Here he wrote many political articles against the Pope. He died in 1347. Among the works of logic, the most important ones are: Explanation on the Book of Porphyrios, On the Book of Predicates, Summa of All Logic. Ockham’s other works include The Explanation of Physics Books, Destiny and Future Possible Things, and Research on God’s Forethought.
According to Ockham, however, man cannot perceive the absolute perfection of God; because God is not a material object. But a concept of God can be obtained by making abstractions from things other than God. This concept includes not the essence of God, but the mental representations of Him in man. Since these representations are not derived directly from God, they cannot adequately reflect the divine essence. According to Ockham, there is a protective cause that protects the existence of beings in the world. To say that God is such a protector is more persuasive than to say that he is a producer. According to Ockham, the effects of celestial bodies on earth can be experienced; but it is not possible to experience the effects of God. But it is possible to learn about God by using his divine attributes.
According to Ockham, knowledge is divided into two as composite knowledge and non-composite knowledge. Compound knowledge is knowledge of a proposition. Non-composite knowledge is again divided into two: 1. Intuitive knowledge; 2. Abstracting information. Human knowledge begins with a direct experience of individual facts, and from this experience a sense intuition or perception arises. This is followed by a mental intuition of the same object. Intuitive knowledge is the first experiential knowledge of individual things. The object of abstract knowledge is the universal. Things that don’t exist can also have intuitive knowledge. This acknowledgment of Ockham is related to the problem of the possibility of theology. According to Ockham, universals take place in the mind. Individual existences exist outside the mind. Thus, Ockham’s attitude towards universals displays a nominalist appearance. Terms can take three different forms: mental, verbal and written. Language is a system of signs based on concepts and conventions between people. The concepts that emerge as a result of the natural relationship between the mind and the object can be expressed with different words in different languages. But the logical framework of the term is the same in every language. Ockham adhered to the principle of simplicity in explanation. According to Ockham, one should not increase the number of things unless necessary. A statement that can be made using less is superior to one made using more. This approach has been called “Ockham’s razor” in the history of philosophy.
According to Ockham, morality is a form of human action that conforms to the power of the will determined as a result of the dictation of the mind and other mental conditions. The sole purpose of these actions is “goodness”. Goodness is when something is as it should be. According to Ockham, God created everything in the world by willing it to be so. It is impossible for God to bring about something bad by definition. Because God’s creations are subject to an influence from his own 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 should follow. According to Ockham, man’s moral obligation depends on God’s omnipotence and unlimited freedom. These two adjectives are the highest rule of being moral. The freedom of God reveals that he commands human morality without being bound by any divine law. The moral rules that God imposes on people are contingent. Through this contingency God can change these rules at any time. But God created the entire universe according to a certain rule, and all his creations must live according to this rule. For Ockham, seeking the good is, in a way, embodying God’s will.
Also please see:
– The life and works of William of Ockham
– from Ockham