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Ockham on the Virtues

by Rega Wood

Publication Year: 1997

Ockham's views on many subjects have been misunderstood, including his views on ethics. This book is designed to avoid pitfalls that arise in reading medieval philosophy generally and Ockham in particular.

Published by: Purdue University Press

Series: History of Philosophy


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii-iv


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p. vii

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pp. ix-xii

Medieval philosophical ethics is undeservedly neglected today. It is written in reasonably simple and nontechnical language, and it provides insightful perspectives on ordinary issues of human conduct; it is no mere historical curiosity. Ockham's carefully considered and clearly written De connexione virtutum is particularly attractive in this regard. It is more polished than most...


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pp. xiii-xvi

PART ONE: Introduction

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CHAPTER ONE: Ockham's Life

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pp. 3-11

William of Ockham was born about 1287 near London in the village of Ockham, the county of Surrey, and the diocese of Winchester. His date of birth is calculated on the basis of information on his probable age when he was ordained a subdeacon and when he was licensed to hear confessions and first lectured on theology. In Ockham's day, subdeacons were ordained at eighteen; at thirty...

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CHAPTER TWO: Ockham's Influence and the Origins of His Intellectual Isolation

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pp. 12-18

The intellectual climate changed a great deal in Ockham's time. The English intellectual milieu between 1315 and 1325, when Ockham was most active as a philosopher-theologian, was much more hospitable to his views than it was a decade later. As William Courtenay has shown, Oxford in the early fourteenth century was less characterized by schools than was the later period. Views...

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CHAPTER THREE: Ockham's Thought

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pp. 19-39

Ockham has sometimes been hailed (or denounced) as the founder of modernity—emphasizing freedom, individuality, and economy of thought. He has been made responsible not only for modern progress in the sciences, but also for modern anxiety and uncertainty about the universe and the role of human reason.1 Though he emphasized our complete dependence on God's will for...

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CHAPTER FOUR: The Medieval Debate on the Connection of the Virtues

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pp. 40-59

Some people can be counted on to do the right thing. They enjoy good food and take pleasure in their bodies, but they are not intemperate. They are not incontinent and at the mercy of their emotions, but bravely face adversity. They are not greedy, but treat other people fairly. Day in and day out, they know what needs to be done to lead a worthy life. We describe people who...


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Art. I

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pp. 62-73

...Concerning this question,1 there are four things we should do. First, we should preface the discussion with some conclusions necessary to the question being considered; second, we should make some distinctions. Third, we should reply to the question. Fourth, we should state and resolve some doubts.a...

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Art. II

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pp. 74-89

...The first distinction of the second article concerns prudence, which can be considered in four ways.1 In one mode, it is taken as all knowledge directive with respect to any possible action whatever, whether mediately or immediately; this is the manner in which Augustine considered prudence in the first book of On the Freedom of the Will.2 In this sense, prudence refers to two kinds...

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Art. III

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pp. 90-141

The third principle article itself has four articles: the first concerns the connection of the moral virtues among themselves; the second concerns their connection with the theological virtues; the third, their connection with the habits of the sensitive part of the soul; the fourth, their connection with prudence. ...

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Art. IV

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pp. 142-187

The fourth article raises some doubts. The first doubt is whether there is any indifferent act of will1-such that that act would at first be indifferent as to goodness or wickedness, and afterward numerically the same act would be rendered good or wicked. It appears that this could happen, since every act elicited in conformity with right reason is simply virtuous; but someone...

PART THREE: Commentary

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pp. 191-193

Ockham begins by establishing six basic conclusions regarding virtuous acts. A medieval Aristotelian, he assumes that virtues are states or habits; he distinguishes between acts and habits of virtue. Ockham speaks of eliciting acts and producing habits. Habits are modifications in a subject produced naturally by acts; they are the effects of acts on the soul. But habits are also ...

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pp. 194-204

Ockham's first conclusion establishes his basic principle: Different acts produce different habits. But where the effects are different, their causes must be different. On this basis he will argue that each of the different degrees of virtuous acts that he posits is specifically different from the others. Ockham proves inductively that habits in regard to...

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pp. 205-218

Article 2 is a second beginning to De connexione. Ockham defines degrees of virtue and distinguishes the different meanings of prudence and moral science. He also distinguishes efficacious acts of will from good intentions. Finally, in the last three distinctions, he argues again for the same theses established in conclusions 3-6 of article 1. ...

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pp. 219-251

2. Ockham divides the third article into four subordinate articles. The first sets out seven conclusions about the relation of the moral virtues to each other after presenting the opinions that Ockham sets out to refute; the second article lists eight conclusions dealing with the special problems introduced by theological virtues; the third article argues briefly for the almost total independence...

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pp. 252-282

Here there are eight doubts, or rather eight objections against Ockham's position. Only the first two get significant treatment, though a number of the other doubts are answered implicitly in the course of the reply to doubt 1. A rather miscellaneous list, these eight doubts probably represent objections actually raised at Oxford when Ockham was speaking. Doubt 1 raises objections...


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pp. 283-296

E-ISBN-13: 9781612490403
E-ISBN-10: 1612490409
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557530974
Print-ISBN-10: 1557530971

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 1997

Series Title: History of Philosophy
Series Editor Byline: Adriaan Peperzak See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 794701207
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Ockham on the Virtues

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Subject Headings

  • Virtues -- Early works to 1800.
  • William, of Ockham, ca. 1285-ca. 1349. De connexione virtutum.
  • Virtues -- History of doctrines -- Middle Ages, 600-1500.
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