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

381. Earlier Ockamists. John Buridan. -- The Franciscan ADAM GODDAM or VODDAM, the Dominicans, ARMAND OF BEAUVOIR, master of the Sacred Palace (1328-1340), and ROBERT HOLGOT (died 1349), are mentioned among the first supporters of Ockamism. The new doctrines were also embraced by a section of the Hermits of St. Augustine (391). But the recognized leader of Ockamism in the first half of the fourteenth century was John Buridan.

JOHN BURIDAN, born at Béthune towards the end of the thirteenth century, attended Ockam's lectures at Paris. He was rector in 1328, and for a quarter of a century he exercised a preponderating influence in the Arts Faculty and in the University generally. Not only did the official prohibitions fail to prevent Buridan from teaching Ockamism, but two years after the letter of Clement VI., August the 5th, 1348, the rector and procurators combined to give their colleague an unequivocal proof of their confidence and support: another indication, apparently, that the Arts Faculty had no mind to banish Ockamism, but rather to repress certain abuses fostered by a section of malcontent disciples. It is not true that Buridan taught at Vienna, nor that he was driven out of Paris with Marsilius of Inghen. His relations with John of Navarre belong likewise to the domain of fable.{1} He died subsequent to 1350, leaving a Summa de Dialectica, a Compendium Logicae and commentaries on Aristotle's Physics, Metaphysics, Ethics, De Anima and Parva Naturalia.

The problem of free will received special attention from Buridan. He is known as a partisan of psychological determinism. Every good presented to us by our intelligence, exerts on our will, which is of its nature undetermined, a certain natural attraction; and if we abandoned ourselves to this complacentia, we should necessarily select whichever of two goods appeared to us the greater. But the liberty with which the will is endowed enables it to suspend its choice and command the reason to examine anew the alternatives in question. Our choice will be moral if we take as standard in this comparison the end of our nature, the ordinatio finalis. The will may multiply those delays as it pleases; but when, finally, it accepts the judgment of the reason without further appeal, it will necessarily choose the good which appears to it the greater: this, for Buridan, is the very essence of moral freedom.{2} This doctrine is remarkably like that illustrated by Leibnitz, where he speaks of the motionless balance with the two equal weights. In connection with Buridan's teaching, too, every one knows the story of the ass dying of hunger midway between two hay-ricks of equal size and quality. No reference to any such illustration is found in Buridan's own writings; it was probably his contemporaries who made use of it to throw ridicule on his theory. Possibly, however, Buridan himself may have used it in his oral teaching to illustrate the difference between the free act of man and the necessary act of the beast:{3} while the latter of necessity follows the stronger attraction, and cannot reach a decision if we suppose his sense appetite at the dead point between two equal pleasures, the former finds in his own power of reflection the means of ultimately determining the greater good and embracing it.

As a confirmed Ockamist, Buridan denies all distinction between the faculties of the soul. Voluntas est intellectus et intellectus est voluntas.{4} Nevertheless cognitive activity is superior to volitional and plays a preponderating role in the moral life.

{1} Chartul., ii., p. 646, n.

{2} We do not refer to the necessary volition of the good in general, which Buridan explains like the Thomists.

{3} This is SIEBECK'S explanation, op. cit., p. 204.

{4} In Eth. Arist., L. x., q. i., fol. 204, Paris edit., 1513.

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