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OCKHAM'S CLEAVER I. Introduction Recent commentary1 has made it clear, I think, if it was not clear already, that Ockham's project for dismembering opposing positions on universals, relations and the like, is not an expression of his penchant for parsimony, but derives from something less methodological , more substantive and more controversial. A very plausible candidate for that substantive doctrine is what would seem to be a basic intuition of Ockham's about the "autonomy" or separability of real things; in particular, he holds explicitly that only such individuals for which it is possible (at least by the power of God)2 to exist separate1 Of articles primarily about the razor, I have made particular use of: C. Brampton, "Nominalism and the Law of Parsimony," The Modern Schoolman 41 (1964): 273-281; R. Ariew, "Did Ockham Use His Razor?" Franciscan Studies 37 (1977): 5-17; A. Maurer, "Method in Ockham's Nominalism," The Monist 61 (1978): 426-443. (An oft-referenced forerunner of these articles is W. M. Thornburn, "The Myth of Ockham's Razor," Mind 27 (1918): 345-352.) For recent analyses of Ockham's anti-realism about universals and relations, see the references in note 3, below. Valuable studies have also been done on connotative terms in Ockham and on his account of quantity; but, in what follows, I make reference only to a few of them. 2 Ariew claims that the crucial element in Ockham's criticism of the realism of Duns Scotus is an appeal to the absolute power of God (16-17); but I think that is misleading. First of all, such an appeal adds nothing substantial to the claim that there is no contradiction in certain things' existing independently from one another (in this case, the common nature and the "haecceity"). And secondly, the resulting inconsistency is only a symptom of the underlying problem Ockham finds with Scotus's formal distinction, which would remain quite apart from considerations of an omnipotent deity. ?20JOHN BOLER Iy from other individual things are really distinct from one another and therefore can properly be said to exist.3 The hypothesis I want to pursue in the present paper is that Ockham 's interest in the autonomy of really existent things is primarily a concern for their independence not from one another but from thought. What realism neglects, from this point of view, is the need to come down on one side or the other, without qualification, hedging or overlap, about whether one is dealing with the conceptual or the real.4 What makes Ockham's account of that distinction a radical one, I think, is a belief that the mind-relative is mind-dependent. And what enforces that division, so construed, I shall take the liberty of dubbing Ockham's Cleaver. Where the famous Razor avoids useless clutter, the Cleaver is meant to ensure that we have not projected the form even of our best efforts at understanding,onto what, in order to be real, must be independent of our thinking about it. My purpose in the present paper is to try to bring out the need for a study of the Cleaver as a basis for a better understanding of the medieval controversies about nominalism and realism, and of Ockham's place among them. After sketching a traditional thematic treatment in the Middles Ages about confusion of the conceptual and the real, I try to tidy up 3 The following commentators are more or less explicit in calling attention to Ockham's principle of separability: D. P. Henry, Medieval Logic and Metaphysics: A Modem Introduction (London: Hutchinson, 1972) 94; C. S. Peirce, The Collected Papers of C. S. Peirce, 8 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1931-1958) 8: pargraph 20; J. Weinberg, Abstraction, Rehtion and Induction (Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1965) 35 & 49-56. The idea is not far from the surface, I think, in the following: M. Adams, "Ockham on Identity and Distinction," Franciscan Studies 36 (1976): 11, and "Universals In the Early Fourteenth Century," N. Kretzmann et al., eds., The Cambridge History of Later Medieval Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge UP) 417; P. Geach, Logic Matters (Oxford: Blackwells, 1972) 293-310; W. 6k M. Kneale, The Development of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 119-144
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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