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OCKHAM ON FINAL CAUSALITY: MUDDYING THE WATERS1 I. Ockham on Final Causality: Forty Years of Debate: 1.1. Posing the Problem: In her 1955 article "Das Problem der Finalkausalität um 1320,"2 Anneliese Maier argues that thirteenth century thinkers had already wondered whether Aristotle was right to set final alongside material, formal, and efficient causes as essential to the explanation of a thing. She describes a gradual historical process whereby "Scholastics" allegedly moved away from the Philosopher's doctrine towards John Buridan's putative conclusion that there are no final causes in inanimate nature, that everything there comes to pass by natural necessity and not for the sake of an end.3 According to Maier, Aristotle not only numbered final among the four causes,4 he kept two fields of final causality—viz., art and nature—distinct. Borrowing words from a later time, she explains how in art ends "move metaphorically" insofar as intelligent agents make them their aim. In nature, however, the form of oak is the end of the acorn and regulates the efficient causal process that unfolds when the seed is planted.5 Maier insists that for Aristotle, final cause in nature is cause in a "more pregnant" sense than in art where the end moves only metaphorically. Again, her Aristotle recognizes no higher intellect that thinks and wills and so orders nature to its ends.6 By contrast, Maier contends, thirteenth century Scholastics had begun to collapse the two sorts of finality together, tracing ends in nature to the ordering activity of intelligent agents.7 Thus, while 1I was provoked to write this paper by probing comments from Calvin Normore and Robert Merrihew Adams on a different paper. I remain indebted to them! 2"Das Problem der Finalkausalität um 1320," in Metaphysische Hintergrunde der Spätschohstischen Naturphilosophie (Rome, 1955) 273-299. Maier, op. cit., 273-374. 4Maier, op. cit., 273. sMaier, op. cit., 278. 6Maier, op. cit., 278. 7Maier, op. cit., 279. 1 Franciscan Studies Vol. 56 (1998) 2 Marilyn McCord Adams Scholastics accepted that every agent acts for the sake of an end, and that whatever has a final cause has an efficient cause, Giles of Rome maintains that natural agents are always instruments and organs of agents that act through the intellect.8 It is not necessary that the agent aim itself towards an end by understanding and willing; it is enough if a higher agent does. Without being the hero, Ockham does figure marginally in Maier's story. On her reading, the More than Subtle Doctor follows Giles9 and more proximately Thomas Wylton in turning ends into "something psychological" so that the causality of the end consists in its being loved or desired by an efficient cause that efficaciously wills something for its sake. Maier recognizes three authentic ex professe treatments of the subject by Ockham. She regards Book II of the Expositio in libros Physicorum Aristotelis as the earliest but finds it of scant use in tracing the history of the problem: not only is Ockham primarily concerned there with explaining Aristotle and Averroes, his own views are still underdeveloped and mentioned only in passing.10 At the same time, she finds nothing there to be at odds with Ockham's fuller treatments in De fine and the Summula Philosophiae Naturalis. Maier follows Boehner's speculation that De fine (packaged by the Lyons edition as Se«i.II,q.3) was not originally part of the Sentence-commentzry. She also finds many unclarities of textual detail. Nevertheless, she accords the work central importance when she argues that Ockham there takes over Wylton's theses that final causes move metaphorically (by being loved or desired etc.) and therefore need not really exist to exercise their causal role.11 For Maier, the Summula is doubtless the latest, containing a "short and snappy" summary oí Ockham's mature position: once again, that the final cause moves metaphorically and so can cause whether or not it exists.12 1.2. Leibold's Challenge: If Maier understandably gave the then-unedited Expositio II short shrift, Gerhard Leibold was in a position to fill in this gap by 1982, when he had already completed 8Maier, op...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 1-46
Launched on MUSE
2013-07-03
Open Access
No
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