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OCKHAM AND THE DIVINE FREEDOM I. A Traditional View One way to approach the philosophy of William of Ockham (1290-1347) is to begin with his epistemology and point out its limits and its inadequacy. From this perspective Ockham emerges as a severe critic of Duns Scotus and Henry of Ghent and to some extent an adversary ofAquinas. One can also find in him a critique ofprevious Augustinianism and the origin ofa more modern way in fourteenthcentury scholasticism. That Via Moderna for all its logical precision is judged as leading to a drastic restriction of philosophical truth and to a scepticism about any knowledge beyond the empirical order. As a result the whole area of faith is greatly expanded and becomes in turn the only safeguard against a scepticism introduced by philosophy .1 There are certainly adequate grounds in Ockham for such an approach . Against Scotus' world of formally complex realities Ockham consistently maintained a world of uniquely existing singulars, each ofwhich was only itself and pointed only to itself. Knowledge ofthese singular beings was grounded in a sensible and intellectual intuition of their existential presence to the knower. All other knowledge became abstract knowledge which divorced itself from existence. Such abstract knowledge resulted in a relationship of concepts, a logic, a pattern of interpretations, which might be adequate as a possible explanation ofthe world but which could give no guarantee of its existen1 Cf., for example, Gilson, E., History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages, (Random House, N.Y.) 1955, p. 489. 246HARRY R. KLOCKER tial validity. Such validity was always reserved for the initial intuition. A prime example of this is Ockham's treatment of causality.2 He certainly seems to have held that cause and effect were operative in the world of singulars. But to attempt to establish causality philosophically was quite another question. If all one can intuit is the singular in itself with no distinct reference to any other, then causality had to be reduced to a more or less constant association of two singulars. This assocation always remained a de facto one, and the assertion that such a situation could be affirmed beyond experience remained probable at best. How could one affirm a cause which had not been experienced in conjunction with a given effect? He is equally reticent about final causality.3 He saw no way to establish finality in nature. Nature was only itself being itself and would act like itself whether there was an ultimate final cause or not. Ockham was willing to admit some sort of finality in intellectual beings, for such beings do propose ends for themselves and act to accomplish them. But such ends also do not point beyond themselves to any ultimate end such as beatitude . Becuase of the freedom of the will he saw any end as rejectable including final beatitude. Granted such a view of causality there is little hope in Ockham for any proof of the existence of God based on the contingency of the finite. He explicitly rejects any proofs from efficient or final causality; nor does he have any use for an a priori proof, such as Anselm's argument . Secondary causality, for all we know, might well terminate at a creature to whom God had given the power to create.4 It also might go back into a multiplicity of causes, each of which is the cause of all the effects in a given order. 2 Klocker, H. R., S. J., "Ockham and Efficient Causality," The Thomist, XXIII (1960), 106-123. 3 Klocker, H. R., S. J., "Ockham and Finality," The Modem S^olman, XLIII (1966), 233-247. 4 Ockham, Scriptum in I Sent.: "Secundo dicit [Scotus] quod Deus est causa prima primitate illimitationis et primitate durationis primo modo dicto . .. . Affirmativae patent quia Deus est perfectior omnibus, concurrit etiam ad omnem effectum, quod non facit quaecumque alia causa. Negativa etiam patet, quia quamvis Deus possit causare aliquem effectum et postea permitiere aliam causam secundam conservare et per consequens agere, non tamen hoc est universaliter verum, imo raro vel numquam accidit." (OTh I, 669). Ockham and the Divine Freedom247 Ockham certainly held by faith that the finite was produced by the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 245-261
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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