William of Ockham (c.1285-1347)


OCCAM, William (Qulielmus Occamus, or Ochamus), b. about 1280, in the village of Occam (Ockham, or Oksham), in the county of Surrey, Eng.; d. in Munich, April 10, 1347 (or 1349). As the principal source to his life (the pars iii. tract. 8, of his Dialogus in tres panes distinctus) has perished, many details, especially of his earlier life, are very uncertain. He is said to have studied at Merton College, Oxford, and to have obtained, in 1300 the archdeanery of Stowe in Lincolnshire, besides other ecclesiastical benefices, which, however, he resigned on entering the order of the Franciscans. Shortly after, he went to Paris, where he studied under Duns Scotus, began to teach philosophy and theology himself, and acquired the surnames of Venerabilis inceptor, Doctor singularis et invincibilis, Princeps et caput nominaliam. As the reviver of nominalisin, and breaking completely with the opposite doctrine of realism, which had been sole ruler in philosophy since the days of Anselm and the Victorines, he encountered much resistance. In 1339 his views were even forbidden to be taught in the university of Paris. But he also found many enthusiastic friends, such as Marsilius of Padua, Jean of Jandun, John Buridan, and others. At what time he returned to England is not known; but in 1322 he was provincial of his order there, and as such he became implicated in controversies much iones, Lyons, 1483, and often; Quodlibela septem,. more dangerous than those his philosophy had caused. it is not probable that he took any part in the quarrel between Philip the Fair and Boniface VIII. The Disputatio inter clenicum et militem is, at all events, not by him. But at the general Franciscan convention at Perugia, in 1322, he, together with the general, Michael of Cesena, and the brother, Bonagratia of Berganio, vindicated, against the decision of the Pope, the strict view of the order, that Christ and the apostles had iiever held property. They were all three summoned to Avignon; and, as they would not yield, they were kept in prison there for four years (1324-26). Finally, a formal process was instituted against them; but in the night of May 25, 1328, they succeeded in escaping, and fled to Italy, where they were well received by the emperor, Lewis the Bavarian, and his antipope, Nicholas V. When the emperor, in 1330, was compelled to leave italy, and retired to Bavaria, Occam and his fellow-sufferers followed him, and settled in Munich. There he spent the rest of his life, developing a most astonishing literary activity, directly attacking the Pope and the Papacy. As time went on, however, he became more and more lonesome (some of his friends died, others made their peace with the Pope), and lonesomeness finally made him more pliant. He made overtures for reconciliation, and they were eagerly accepted; but it is uncertain whether he ever signed the formula of recantation demanded by the Pope. See WADDING: Ann. Ord. Min., Rome, 1050, viii. 2; and JAcoims DE MARCHIA, Dialogus contra Fraticellos, in BALUZE, Miscell., who denies it.

Occam was a critic by nature. From a criticism of the reigning realism in philosophy, he went on to a criticism of the dogmatical tradition of the church, and thence to the criticism of the ecciesiastico-political views of his age; always free, sharp, consistent, and yet pious, orthodox to stiffness, ascetic even to fanaticism; always clear and precise in his fundamental conceptions, but lengthy and heavy in his dialectical exposition; sometimes flashing like lightning, but often obscure on account of abstruseness and subtlety. Of his philosophical works, which have great interest for the history of medieval philosophy, but are only imperfectly known, the principal are, Expositio aurea, Bologna, 1496, a series of commentaries on Porphyry and Aristotle, and containing a full representation of his logic and dialectics; Summa logices, Paris, 1448, Bologna, 1498, Venice, 1508, Oxford, 1675; Major summa logices, Venice, 1521, etc. From his philosophy followed his theology as a natural consequence. The reality of the universalia he denied (ante rem, in re, post rem); but, when the thing and the idea are not equally real, that absolute congruity of reason and faith, of science and religion, always pre-supposed by realism, must be an illusion. From this premise Occam subjected the dogmas of the church to a most scorching criticism; not, by any means, for the purpose of overthrowing them, or weakening their influence, but simply in order to show that the two spheres - that of experience and that of authority - are so absolutely different,. that the principles by which the one is ruled are entirely inapplicable to the other. His principal theological works are, Questiones earumque decisiones, Lyons, 1483, and often; Quodlibeta septem, Paris, 1487, Strassburg, 1491; Centilogium, Lyons, 1494, a collection of piquant examples rather than abstract problems; De sacramento altaris, Strassburg, 1491, Venice, 1516, etc. But by far the most numerous, and, in historical respect, also the most important, group of his writings is the ecclesiastico-political, called forth by the controversy between the Franciscan order and the Papacy, and the contest between the emperor, Lewis the Bavarian, and the popes John XXII., Benediet XII., and Clement VI. The maxim resulting from his theological criticism, that, in the Christian Church, the highest, the absolute authority is vested in the Bible, led him to a crushing criticism of the manifold pretensions, dogmatical and political, made by the Pope. As above mentioned, the Disputatio inter clericum et militem is not by him, Of undoubted genuineness are, Opus nonaginta dierum, written in ninety days, between 1330 and 1332, against the decision of John XXII. in the property question, afterwards incorporated with the third part of his Dialogus, first printed at Lyons, 1405; Tractatus de dogmatibus Johannis XXII., written in 1333-34, against a sermon of the Pope on the state of the departed souls before the resurrection, afterwards incorporated with the second part of his Dialogus. Compendium errorum Joannis XXII., Paris, 1476, Lyons, 1495, written between 1335 and 1338, after the death of time Pope; Epistola defensoria, Venice, 1513; Decisiones octo quæstionum, written after 1339, first printed at Lyons, 1496, and answering the questions, whether the highest spiritual and the highest secular power can be united in one person, whether the secular power has its origin directly from God, whether the Pope has the power of jurisdiction also in secular matters, etc.; Dialogus in tres partes diatinctus, his chief work in this line, written probably in 1342-43, first printed in Paris, 1476, 2 vols. fol., but not complete; De jurisdictione imperatoris in causis matrimonialibus. De electione Caroli, etc. A collected critical edition of Occam's works does not exist (several of them are still in manuscript); nor has there been written any satisfactory monograph on his life and doctrines, though the latter exercised so decisive an influence in the period of the Reformation, especially on Luther.

Wagenmann, "Occam, William" Philip Schaff, ed., A Religious Encyclopaedia or Dictionary of Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal, and Practical Theology, 3rd edn, Vol. 3. Toronto, New York & London: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1894. pp.1679-1680.

Primary Sources

Book or monograph William of Ockham, Expositio Aurea, new edn. Gregg Publishing, 1964. Hbk. ISBN: 0576994863. {}
Book or monograph William of Ockham: 'A Letter to the Friars Minor' and Other WritingsWilliam of Ockham, 'A Letter to the Friars Minor' and Other Writings, Arthur Stephen McGrade & John Kilcullen, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Pbk. ISBN: 0521358043. pp.433. {}
Book or monograph William of Ockham, On the Power of Emperors and Popes, Annabel S. Brett, eds. Thoemmes Press, 1998. Hbk. ISBN: 1855065525. pp.200. {}
Book or monograph Ockham's Theory of Terms: Part I of the Summa Logicae. M.J. Loux, translator. St. Augustine's Press, 1997. Hbk. ISBN: 1890318507. pp.220. {}
Book or monograph Ockham's Theory of PropositionsOckham's Theory of Propositions: Part II of the Summa Logicae. A.J. Fredoso & H. Schuurman, translators. St. Augustine's Press, 1997. Hbk. ISBN: 1890318515. pp.220. {}
Book or monograph William of Ockham, Philosophical Writings, revised. Hackett Publishing Co., Inc., 1990. ISBN: 0872200787. pp.167. {}
Book or monograph William of Ockham, Predestination, God's Foreknowledge and Future Contingents, 2nd edn., M. McCord Adams & N. Kretzmann, translators. Hackett Publishing Co, Inc., 1996. Hbk. ISBN: 091514414X. pp.136. {}
Book or monograph William of Ockham, Quodlibetal Questions, Vols I & II, Alfred J. Freddoso & Francis E. Kelley, translator. Yale University Press, 1991. Hbk. ISBN: 0300048327. pp.738. {}
Book or monograph William of Ockham: A Short Discourse on Tyrannical GovernmentWilliam of Ockham, A Short Discourse on Tyrannical Government, Arthur Stephen McGrade, ed., John Kilcullen, translator. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Hbk. ISBN: 0521352428. pp.251. {}
Book or monograph William of Ockham, A Translation of William of Ockham's "Work of Ninety Days", Vol. 1, John Kilcullen & John Scott, translators. Edwin Mellen Press, 2001. Hbk. ISBN: 0773475281. pp.504. {}
Book or monograph William of Ockham, A Translation of William of Ockham's "Work of Ninety Days", Vol. 2, John Kilcullen & John Scott, translators. Edwin Mellen Press, 2001. Hbk. ISBN: 0773475303. pp.480. {}

Secondary Sources

Book or monograph Marilyn McCord Adams, William Ockham, 2 Vols. Publications in Medieval Studies, 26. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1989. Pbk. ISBN: 0268019452. pp.1216. {}
Book or monograph Philotheus Boehner, Collected Articles on Ockham. Franciscan Institute Publications. Philosophy Series, No. 12. St. Bonaventure, NY: Franciscan Institute, 1958. pp. x + 482.
Article in Journal or Book C.K. Brampton, "Scotus, Ockham and the Theory of Intuitive Cognition," Antonianum 40 (1965): 449-466.
Article in Journal or Book David Burr, "Ockhma, Scotus, and the Censure at Avignon," Church History 37.2 (1968): 144-159.
Article in Journal or Book Richard Cross, "Nominalism and the Christology of William of Ockham," Recherches De Theologie Ancienne Et Medievale 58 (1991): 126-156.
Article in Journal or Book A. Edidin & C. Normore, "Ockham on Prophecy," International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 13.3 (1982): 179-189.
Book or monograph A. Goddu, The Physics of William of Ockham. Leiden: E J Brill Academic Publishers, 1984. Pbk. ISBN: 9004069127. {}
Article in Journal or Book Vesa Hirvonen, "William Ockham on Human Being," Studia Theologica 53.1 (1999): 40-49.
Book or monograph Anne Hudson & M. Wilks, eds., Studies in Church History Subsidia 5: From Ockham to Wyclif. Oxford, Blackwell, 1987. Hbk. ISBN: 0631150552. pp.353-9. {}
Article in Journal or Book John Kilcullen, "Ockham and Infallibility," Journal of Religious History 16.4 (1991): 387-410.
Article in Journal or Book Gordon Leff, "Knowledge and its Relation to the Status of Theology According to Ockham," Journal of Ecclesiastical History 20.1 (1969): 7-17.
Book or monograph Gordon Leff, William of Ockham. The Metamorphosis of Scholastic Discourse. Manchester: Manchester Universoty Press, 1975. Hbk. ISBN: 0719005779.
Book or monograph McGrade: The Political Thought of William of OckhamA.S. McGrade, The Political Thought of William of Ockham. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Pbk. ISBN: 0521522242. pp.283. {}
Book or monograph E.A. Moody, The Logic of William of Ockham. Russell & Russell Publishing, 1935. ISBN: 0846206668. {}
Book or monograph Nold: Pope John XXII and His Franciscan CardinalPatrick Nold, Pope John XXII and His Franciscan Cardinal: Bertrand De La Tour and the Apostolic Poverty Controversy. Oxford Historical Monographs. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003. Hbk. ISBN: 0199268754. pp.280. {}
Article in Journal or Book Mary Ann Pernoud, "The Theory of the Potentia Dei According to Aquinas, Scotus and Ockham," Antonianum 47.1 (1972): 69-75.
Article in Journal or Book Gian Luca Potesta, "Rm 13,1 in Ockham," Christianesimo Nella Storia 7.3 (1986): 465-492.
Book or monograph John Julian Ryan, Nature, Structure and Function of the Church in William of Ockham. Scholars Press, US, 1982. Hbk. ISBN: 0891302301. {}
Article in Journal or Book Takashi Shogimen, "From Disobedience to Toleration: William of Ockham and the Medieval Discourse on Fraternal Correction," Journal of Ecclesiastical History 52.4 (2001): 599-622.
Book or monograph Brian Tierney, Ockham, the Conciliar Theory, and the Canonists. Facet Books. Historical Series, 19 (Medieval). Fortress Press, 1971. Pbk. ISBN: 0800630645. {}
Book or monograph Damascene Webering, Theory of Demonstration According to William of Ockham. The Franciscan Institute. Pbk. ISBN: 1576590992.
Article in Journal or Book John R. White, "Ockham and Nominalism: Toward a New Paradigm," Catholic Social Science Review 6 (2001): 271-287.
Book or monograph Ockham on the VirtuesRega Wood & William De Connexione Virtutum, Ockham on the Virtues. History of Philosophy Series. Purdue University Press, 1997. Pbk. ISBN: 1557530971. pp.272. {}
Article in Journal or Book Earl R. Woods, "Ockham on Nature and God," Thomist 37.1 (1973): 69-87.

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