ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

377. William of Ockam, Roscelin and Abelard. -- Those three names are often connected by historians of medieval philosophy, with a view to establishing analogies between them, or even asserting that all three arrived at the same solution of the Universals problem (146, 174). But we need only compare the doctrines of Ockam and of Roscelin to see hov utterly misleading it is to label both of these philosophers as "nominalists".{1} The two systems have nothing in common save the denial of extreme realism. Roscelin's so-called nominalism suffers from mere poverty of ideas, but if taken in its proper historical setting it may be regarded as an early and unformed attempt at moderate realism. Ockam's so-called nominalism, on the other hand, was the fruit of a well-informed criticism of mature and fully developed doctrines, and it is a clear and unequivocal expression of conceptualism. From this we draw the conclusion that extreme nominalism never had any representatives among scholastics. If we want to find it, we must leave the Middle Ages and search in the non-spiritualist philosophies that suppress all distinction of nature between sensation and thought.

Neither is it without important reserves that Abelard's so-called conceptualism can be compared with the terminism of Ockam. Abelard prepared the way for Thomism and worked towards the Thomistic solution of the problem; Ockam combated that solution. The former simply did not assert explicitly the real validity of the universal, because he did not formally raise that point in the discussion; the latter explicitly and deliberately denied the real validity of the universal, in order the better to vindicate, as he thought, its ideal validity.

{1} UEBERWEG (op. cit., p. 305) calls William of Ockam "der Erneuerer des Nominalismus".

<< ======= >>