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OCKHAM ON DIFFERENCE IN CATEGORY It is easy enough to show why Ockham's discussion of the categories is important simply by listing the many significant topics that come up in the context of his writings about them: e.g., the account of first and second substance, relations, individual inhérents, mathematics and infinitesimal, place and many more.1 In the present paper, however, I want to concentrate on Ockham's idea of what categories are: that is, his theory of the categories as such rather than what, however interesting in its own right, he might have to say about individual topics under the various category headings. His category theory (in this sense) is, it seems to me, surprisingly less fully articulated than one might expect. In Sections 1 and 2, I try to sort out some of the problems associated with that. In Sections 3 through 5, I take up the issue of the basic character of the categories as a classification, and its implications for dealing with certain recent controversies about Ockham's semantics. Section 6 provides a brief summary of my conclusions. While I end up raising more questions than I answer, the idea that there is still more to be learned even about well-known medieval philosophers is not at all out of line with the spirit ofJerry Etzkorn's life-long inquiry into the sources. 'There are extensive discussions of these topics throughout Ockham's works. I mean to concentrate on texts primarily directed to the categories: Expositio in Librum Praedtcamentorum Aristotelis (OPh. II), Summa Logicae (OPh. I) and Quodlibeta (OTh. IX). I more often cite the latter two because they are not explicit commentaries. They are also more accessible to the non-specialist because of reliable translations: M. J. Loux (trans.), Ockhams 's Theory of Terms (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1974) and A. J. Freddoso and Henry Schuurman (trans.), Ockham's Theory of Propositions (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1980); Freddoso and William Kelley (trans.), William of Ockham: Cuodlibetal Questions (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991) 2 vols. 97 Franciscan Studies, Vol. 56 (1998) 98John Boler There are two general questions to be asked of any Aristotelian theory of the categories:2 (1) How are the categories derived (and/or distinguished)? and (2) What are the ontological consequences of that? My primary concern in this paper will be with the anomalies in Ockham's answer to the first question; but a brief sketch of his answer to the second may be helpful as background. On this issue, fortunately, Ockham is reasonably clear and consistent. The categories, for Ockham are a classification of concepts and he insists that no distinction of entities (other than concepts) follows upon that classification. That is, there are no categorial things (res) in his system.3 But while Ockham vigorously denies that there are categorially distinct things, he is equally insistent on the relevance of categories to ontology. The main value of studying Aristotle's book On The Categories, he says, is in avoiding the fallacy of Figura* That is to say, one should learn from that book that (surface) similarities and differences in the structure of affirmative predications are not matched by or mapped on differences among or within things outside the mind. "Brunellus is a donkey" and "Brunellus is a parent" are both (on the surface) in quid predications; and "Brunellus is brown" and "Brunellus is similar (to Eyore)" are both predications quale. But they all have, for Ockham, quite different (deep) semantic structures; and the appropriate analysis of these structures, he thinks, allows one to protect both a nominalistic ontology and an Aristotelian scheme of essential and accidental predication.5 2I shall be dealing throughout with Aristotelian rather than Kantian categories. Roughly put, the former have to do with the simple or basic explicit elements in language or thought as expressible; the latter with the presuppositions of our conceptual scheme. ^Expos. praed., ch. 10, #6; Quodl. V, q. 23. Ockham recognizes only two basic kinds of extramental thing (res): individual substances and certain equally individual qualitative inhérents. His commitment to the latter derives not from the categories but his analysis of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 97-113
Launched on MUSE
2013-07-03
Open Access
No
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