Jacques Maritain Center : History of Philosophy / by William Turner


Ockam's conceptualism and his attempt to simplify Scholastic psychology and metaphysics constituted a reaction against a movement which was a source of real danger to Scholasticism -- the ultra-realism of the Scotists. And because Ockamism, as it was called, responded to a need of the hour, it was accepted on every side, and met with extraordinary success. Its triumph, however, was short-lived. Men soon realized that the danger which Ockamism introduced was greater than the evil which it sought to remedy. Within the period of seven years (1339-1346) three official condemnations{1} were launched against it, the first two emanating from the University of Paris and the third from Pope Clement VI. During the fifteenth century similar decrees were issued, showing that the struggle between the Ockamists and their opponents continued until the close of the Scholastic era.

Among the first followers of Ockam were Robert Holkot or Holcot (died 1349), Gregory of Rimini (died 1358), and John Buridan (died about 1360). Of these the most distinguished was John Buridan. He was born at Béthune, towards the end of the thirteenth century. Between the years 1320 and 1323 he followed the lectures of Ockam at the University of Paris. In 1328 he became rector of the university, and for a quarter of a century occupied the first place among the advocates of Ockamism, which system he continued to defend in spite of prohibition and condemnation. No importance is to be attached to the story that he was driven from the university and sought refuge in Vienna. Buridan developed the nominalistic theory of universals and formulated a theory of will, in which he maintained that choice is invariably determined by the greater good, and that the only freedom which we possess is a power of suspending our choice and reconsidering the motives for action. The well-known comparison which gave rise to the expression "Buridan's ass" is not found in the works of Buridan, although it is possible that he made use of such an illustration in his lectures.

During the latter half of the fourteenth century Marsilius of Inghen and Peter d'Ailly were the principal defenders of the doctrines of Ockam. The former,{2} after having achieved remarkable success as a teacher at Paris, served a term as rector of the university. About the year 1379 he left Paris, went to Heidelberg, and was made rector of the university which had been founded in that city in 1356. Peter d'Ailly, surnamed "the Eagle of France," was born at Compiègne in 1350. In 1380 he became master in the University of Paris; later he was promoted successively to the sees of Puy and of Cambrai. He was made cardinal in 1411, and died in 1425. With these Ockamists is associated Albert of Saxony, who died in 1390.

In the fifteenth century Gabriel Biel (1430-1495) composed a Collectorium in Libros Sententiarum, which is an exposition and defense of Ockam's doctrines.

Among the opponents of Ockam's philosophy were many of the Scotists already mentioned.{3} To these may be added the realists, Thomas of Strasburg (died 1357) and Dominic of Flanders (died 1500), and the theosophist, Raymond of Sabunde.

Raymond of Sabunde, a Spanish physician, was professor of philosophy and medicine at Toulouse about the middle of the fourteenth century. His principal work, entitled Theologia Naturalis, is similar in method and contents to the Ars Magna of Lully. Raymond explains the union of philosophy with theology as consisting in the ability of each science to establish all truth, whether natural or supernatural. Whatever is contained in the book of nature is contained in the book of sacred scripture, and whatever is contained in the book of sacred scripture is contained in the book of nature. There is, however, this difference between the two books, that what is contained in the book of nature is contained "per modum probationis," while what is contained in the book of sacred scripture is contained "per modum praecepti et per modum mandati."{4} In this way Raymond breaks down the distinction which the schoolmen of the preceding age placed between the natural and the supernatural orders of truth -- a distinction which is as essential to the true doctrine of Scholasticism as is the absence of contradiction between the two orders.

The general tendency of Raymond's thought was towards realism rather than towards nominalism or conceptualism. There is also traceable in his writings a leaning towards the mystic school of philosophy, and although he does not formulate the principle "Amo ut intelligam," he evidently attaches very great importance to the contemplative love of God as a factor in man's spiritual life:

Amor complet omnia, quia primo per amorem omnes creaturas ordinavit Deus ad hominem, deinde homo per amorem conjungitur et colligatur Deo. . . . Solus amor facit hominem bonum vel malum. . . . Virtus non est aliud quam amor bonus, et vitium non est aliud nisi amor malus.{5}

While Raymond was teaching theosophical mysticism in France and Spain, another and very different form of mysticism was being developed in the schools of the Low Countries.

{1} Cf. Chartul., II, 485, 506; Prantl, Gesch. der Logik, IV, ff.

{2} Stöckl (Gesch. der Phil. des Mittelalters, II, 1049 ff.) places Marsilius among the realists who were opposed to Ockam's philosophy. cf. also De Wulf, Hist. de la phil. scol. dans les Pays-Bas (Louvain, 1895), p. 291. It is certain that in logic Marsilius was a nominalist; cf. Archiv f. Gesch. der Phil., X, 249, n.

{3} Cf. p. 392.

{4} Theologia Naturalis, Titulus, 212, p. 314 of edition of 1852.

{5} Op. cit., Tit. 119, 229; cf. Raemundi Sebundii De Natura Hominis Dialogi, see Viola Animi (Lyons, 1544).

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