In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

334 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY disagreeing with the views of the numerous writers he has occasion to cite. This not only adds interest and zest to the discussion but also furthers clarification through contrast with opposed stands. One can fully appreciate the concern (pp. 2-5) and effort to show the high relevance of Aristotle for modern thought. Yet in regard to the effort as a whole, one may be left with a strong doubt whether the most effective way of achieving this purpose is an attempt to clothe Aristotle in the raiment of a philosophical trend that has already passed its acme. JOSEPH OWENS Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto William of Ockham: The Metamorphosis of Scholastic Discourse. By Gordon Left. (Totowa: Rowman and Littlefield, 1975. Pp. xxiv + 643. $47.50) Gordon Left's new book represents the most ambitious effort to expound Ockham's thought since the pioneering efforts of Baudry, Boehner and Moody. Divided into three parts--"The Cognitive Order," "The Theological Order," and "The Natural Order"--its ten chapters contain discussions of every major philosophical or theological topic treated by Ockham. It happily belongs to the new, more sober strain of Ockham scholarship, which Boehner worked so hard to encourage. In the introduction, Left explicitly disavows the approach (formerly his own) that begins with a caricature of Ockham as a logic-chopping sceptic and destroyer of the great medieval synthesis and proceeds to distort his actual views. Instead, Left adopts the sound premise that before we can assess a philosopher's place in the history of philosophy we must be clear about what he actually says (introduction, pp. xiii-xv). With a view to attaining such understanding, Left adopts the method of close paraphrase with a minimum of interpretive comment and discussion of the secondary literature. Products of this approach share with accurate translations the advantage of presenting a figure's thought in its purest form and of guarding against distortion. Further, in presenting Ockham's views on a given topic, Left has, for the most part, been careful not to rely on what Ockham says in a single passage of a single work but instead draws materials from each major discussion . Nevertheless, this procedure has inherent limitations, and Left's execution of it is sometimes defective. Because extended paraphrase can so easily become tedious and bbring, the historian must constantly weigh the goals of accuracy and exhaustiveness against the need for clarity and emphasis. Paraphrasing seriatim all of the texts in which an author discusses an issue can have a point where some change or development in his thought needs to be illustrated or where there is some special danger of distortion. But Left's practice often results in needless repetition and less clarity than could have been achieved from a single, more integrated presentation that drew on all of the sources. This is especially true in his discussion of the technical aspects of the theory of demonstration (in chap. 4, sec. 3) and of the issues concerning univocity and being (chap. 3, sec. 5.1; chap. 5, sees. 1-2). Where lengthy paraphrases from different works are involved, the historian owes the reader some account of the relations among the various treatments. Left is uneven in his discharge of this responsibility. His discussion (in chap. 2, pp. 78-102) of Ockham's shift from the view that universal concepts are objectively existent ficta to the claim that they are really existent mental acts (intellectiones), in which he proposes some modifications in Boehner's classic account, is one of the most lucid parts of the book. And Left's summary of Ockham's varying views about the univocity of 'being' is informative. Elsewhere, however, he drops apparent contradictions without a word of comment. For example, in chapter 7, section I, where he is relying on Ockham's discussion in Ordinatio I, d.45, q.u., Left speaks of "an immediate BOOK REVIEWS 335 cause as the sine qua non of an effect," and gives the sun as an example (p. 457). Yet he writes later on regarding the sine qua non relation that "although Ockham rejects such a relation among natural causes, he accepts it where...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 334-339
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.