Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ockham Quodlibet I.6-7

Can one angel speak to another? No of course not, because they can't hear; obviously they don't have ears! [This is actually the first argument in the question.]

But seriously, folks. Angels converse with mental speech and mental hearing, in other words by pure thought. For a concept, a mental word, is nothing but the act itself of cognition. Mentally speaking, then, is nothing other than to think in such a way that oneself or someone else can understand what is being thought about, and mental hearing is nothing other than to apprehend someone else's act of thought.

Ockham gives authorities for his view that concepts are nothing other than thought-acts, but his attempts are not convincing. Before he held this view Ockham had held his so-called fictum theory, according to which concepts are mental entities "feigned" or invented by the mind to signify its objects, but obviously he's abandoned that by the time of his quodlibet.

One interesting point in this question is his claim that in the ordinary course of nature neither an angel nor a man is able to hide his thoughts from other angels. Rather angels do not access our thoughts only because God does not allow it.

The seventh question also seems motivated by Ockham's anti-concept stance. He asks whether an angel can pass on to another knowledge which he has habitually, without actually thinking it in the process. He says that hit can, so long as the object about which the receiving angel is learning is something it already has some actual knowledge about. Ockham appears to be saying something to the effect that one angel can remember something he has actually experienced by means of another angel's memories, which strikes me as odd.

About things of which the passive angel does not have direct experience, however, only the actually-thought thoughts of the teaching angel can give him knowledge, especially about singulars.

Finally, Ockham says that angels can have discursive thought.

No comments: