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COMMENTARY A RECENT PRESENTATION OF OCKHAM'S PHILOSOPHY ^^% e Wulfs Histoire de la Philosophie Médiévale belongs to the standard¦tJ histories of medieval philosophy. More personal than Geyer's work, Die ^mP Patristische und Scholastische Zeit, it runs the risk of being more subjective as well. Whilst Geyer carefully collects the results of the latest studies in the particular fields, De Wulf apparently aims at a more rounded picture of the philosophers under consideration. In such a synthesis, however , there is a greater danger of being led by preconceived ideas or the consistency of an imaginary system and in consequence arriving at a subjective interpretation. We still believe that history should first ascertain facts, and it should attempt to reconstruct a "system", if there is any, only after a thorough acquaintance with the sources. We also believe that history should be absolutely impartial. We do not deny that history has also the task of judging; but its judgment must be guided by something more important and more objective than the personal convictions of the historian. And above all, the historian should with due regard to human frailty always be ready to understand the thought of a philosopher in the better and more intelligible sense, whenever his statements permit it. Scotus promulgated this golden rule of interpretating texts and judging about them when he said: Ex dictis eorum volo rationabiliorem intellectum accipere quern possum (Ox. I, d. 8, q. 5, n. 8). We are convinced and intend to prove that such sound rules of historical research have not been observed in De Wulfs treatment of the philosophy of Ockham. We were reluctant at first to make an issue of this, especially since the man whose work we were to criticize, is justly regarded a pioneer in the field of the history of medieval philosophy. We were even more hesitant of censuring his work on learning of the death of this great historian. But can we strictly adhere to the rule of charity, De mortuis nil nisi bene, if a dead man's work still lives and perpetuates what are clearly errors and misunderstandings manifest to those who went through the tedious labor of checking his work against the historical facts? We believe, we can adhere to the rule, if we separate the person from his work, and avoid setting one personal conviction against the other. With this understanding, we shall in spite of our original hesitation undertake, at the request of several friends, an objective criticism of De Wulfs presentation of Ockham 's philosophy. And while we shall have to point out almost incredible errors, still it is only these errors we wish to expose, not the man, whom we admire and to whom we are indebted. For that reason we shall not refer to De Wulf in the following pages, but only to the Histoire. Our criterion will be the evidence of the texts. Ockham's philosophy is treated on pp. 27-51 of the third volume of the Histoire de la Philosophie Médiévale, published in 1947. We shall read one paragraph after another, indicating each by its number in the Histoire and then shall offer our comment. Nr. 377 deals with the life of Ockham and his works. This part, as is acknowledged, was rewritten partly by making use of our own research. There is one sentence, however, which in the face of the sources is hardly admissable. 443 444COMMENTARY Quand Louis de Bavière voulut légitimer le marriage adultérin de son fils, contrairement aux lois de l'Eglise, Guillaume défendit l'omnipotence de l'Etat en matière politique (p. 29). It will be very difficult or rather impossible to prove this sweeping statement on the basis of Ockham's text itself in the work that he has written about this matrimonial cause. We shall refer to it in the edition of H.S. Offler (Guillelmi de Ockham, Opera Politico, Manchester 1940). Ockham discusses this individual case under the assumption that the marriage under question is not valid (cfr. p. 281, 24-27) - an assumption which was later confirmed by the Church in 1349. He further maintains that the emperor has...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 443-456
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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