Wednesday, June 2, 2010

June is Ockham Month at The Smithy

My mentor and dissertation director Timothy Noone used to say that you can't know if you're a Scotist until you've grappled seriously with Ockham. I haven't read much Ockham since the graduate course I took on him some years ago, and it seems to me it's time to brush up. I'll be doing a little of that grappling this month.

People who don't read either frequently talk as though Scotus leads directly to Ockham: univocity and voluntarism to nominalism, the division of faith and reason, rebellion against the Church, and then Protestantism! Ergo Scotus is bad, Q.E.D.

Now this is a little like saying that Plato is bad because he leads to Nietzsche, insofar as without Plato there couldn't have been a tradition of Western metaphysics for Nietzsche to undermine. More seriously, it's like blaming Husserl for Heidegger, since Heidegger's thought is "phenomenological" and couldn't have arisen without Husserl, even though Husserl quite accurately described Heidegger as his "antipodes".

Ockham is Scotus' antipodes. Both British, both Franciscan, both post-Thomist pre-"decadence" scholastic system-builders who were responsible for much of the direction of philosophy and theology for at least the next century, still they don't have much in common. Seriously.

By the way, speaking of both Scotus and Ockham, recently I've heard more than one philosopher say - in a way that suggests that the opinion is pretty uncontroversial - that David Hume is the greatest philosopher ever to come out of the British Isles. That's pretty rich.

Anyhow, this month I'll be reading Ockham's first Quodlibet and commenting on it here. It has twenty questions, so - given that I probably won't post every day but probably can most days - that should be about right for June. Meanwhile perhaps Faber or Br Guzman will vary it up a bit. After that it's back to Scotus, but if Ockham turns out to be popular (to the limited extent possible!) there are seven Quodlibets, each with around twenty questions, which altogether present a pretty good mosaic of Ockham's thought, so I would definitely consider doing another Ockham month in the future.

The first post in the series will come tomorrow.


Paradoxicon said...

Just started reading Ockham for the very first time after re-reading some of Scotus's works. It seems I timed it just right.

Lee Faber said...

You're incorrct to refer to S and O as system builders. they just critizied Aquinas like little paracites.

Paradoxicon said...

You've got me scratching my head on that one. I didn't refer to them as system-builders in my comment...or is this in reply to the original post?

Lee Faber said...

Sorry, paradoxicon, I was referring to the post.