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OCKHAM ON HUMAN AND DIVINE FREEDOM 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 seriously in the 14th century. But above all, the political influence attached to types of scholastic discourse such as Thomism and Scotism came to have a disruptive effect. The battle for prestige between universities and teaching orders developed too often into predictable and counterproductive arguments, and finally, into harsh forms of intellectual control. After a century of commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard there seemed to be no consensus or clarification . Indeed, the Nominalist movement took shape in the early fourteenth century convinced of the presence of fundamental mistakes in the fabric of Scholasticism and of the need to rethink its progress. William of Ockham (c. 1285-1349) initiated the mood and ambivalent energies of Nominalism. In general, the historiography has painted a picture of Ockham as a theological reactionary. And at first glance, he filled the description. Ockham rejected the errors of Latin Averroism explicitly; he warned frequently that Greek philosophy suffered from its ignorance of God's freedom.2 And this had special 1 Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis, ed. H. Denifle and E. Châtelain (Paris, 1889), I, 486-487, 543-588. The work of Father Mandonnet remains valuable for the doctrinal content of the Averroistic Movement in the late 13th century. Siger de Brabant et l'Averröisme Latin au XIIIme Siècle, Ire Partie, Étude Critique, Vol. VI (Les Philosophes Belges; Louvain, 1911), chap. 8-9. The confusion resulting from the Paris Condemnations is outlined well by Etienne Gilson, History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages (New York, 1955), pp. 387-426. 2 For example, see Quodlibeta Septem (Strasbourg, 1491), I, q. 4, wherein Ockham refers to the Paris Statutes explicitly. See Super Quattuor Libros Sententiarum , Vols. IH-IV (Opera Plurima; Lyons, 1494-96), I, dist. 43, q. 1, L-M; Ockham on Human and Divine Freedom123 importance—he revitalized the distinction between God's "absolute" and "ordained" power.3 This distinction expressed the world's contingency by contrasting absolute possibilities with the ordained facts of creation—a timely reminder for the Averroists who denied freedom in the First Cause. But in Ockham's hands this dogma seemed capable of compromising orthodoxy as readily as heresy: God's promises could be reversed as easily as Aristotle's false conclusions. Understandably, many scholars have considered the distinction of "absolute-ordained" power as the structural key to Ockham's thought and to the entire Nominalist movement. Recent studies of Ockham are sympathetic or critical of his motives and accomplishments according to the interpretation placed on this distinction. Both friends and foes have claimed that the philosophy of Nominalism was derived from, or was a function of, its theological premises.4 I, dist. 42, q. i, D and II, qes. 4-5, E, for Ockham's warning about the "Philosophers ." [All references to the "Quodlibetal Questions" will come from the Strasbourg edition. Quotations from the "Sentence Commentary" will come from the Lyons edition except where it is possible to use the critical edition in progress at the Franciscan Institute]. 8 Ockham explains that: "God can produce somethings by 'ordained' power and others by 'absolute' power. This distinction should not be understood so that two powers really exist in God of which one is ordained and the other absolute because there is only one power in God regarding created being which is God Himself in every way... Rather, it must be understood thus: 'to be capable of something' is sometimes considered according to the laws ordained and instituted by God. God is said to do these things by ordained power. Otherwise, 'to be capable of something' is taken as 'to be able to produce everything which does not entail a contradiction to be done,' whether or not...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 122-160
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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