Saturday, January 7, 2012

Ockham and Scotus and Natural Theology

Throughout his criticism of Scotus' doctrine of the existence and oneness of God, Ockham remains faithful to his basic philosophical notions, which are radically different from those of the Subtle Doctor. The two theologians do not differ in what they believe about the Christian God, but they diverge on what human reason left to its own resources can prove about him. Ockham finds only "adequate reasons" for affirming his existence - reasons that fall short of strict demonstration. Philosophy assures us of an ultimate ground of the universe: a primary conserving cause or causes, but these might be the heavenly bodies whose causality we experience in our world. Scotus can go further in his rational pursuit of the Christian God because he makes use of a different philosophy, according to which there is real community among beings along with individuality. Ockham fragments the universe into myriad individuals, from which all real community has been eliminated. This leads him to an empirical notion of causality, according to which a cause shares nothing with its effect (except perhaps some of its matter), their bond being simply the recognized presence of effect to cause. As Léon Baudry perceptively remarks, Scotism and Ockhamism are not just two doctrines but two different styles of thinking.

- Maurer, The Philosophy of William of Ockham in the Light of its Principles, 182-183.

I still plan on posting some longer excerpts, but I've been busy over the Christmas season with travels and getting ready for the new semester.

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