February 11, 2018

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By Frederick C Copleston

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On our sense organs. However, it must be remembered that Ockham distinguished evidence, which is objective, from certitude as a psychological state. Possession of the latter is not an infallible guarantee of possession of the former. (v) In any case one must remember that Ockham is not speaking of the natural course of events. He does not say that God acts in this way as a matter of fact: he simply says that God could act in this way in virtue of His omnipotence. That God is omnipotent was not, however, for Ockham a truth which can be philosophically proved: it is known only by faith.

6. 6. I I Sent .. 41, I, E. THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY 68 But what I meant was this. If the order of the world is entirely contingent on the divine choice, it is obviously impossible to deduce it a priori. If we want to know what it is, one must examine what it is in fact. Ockham's position may have been primarily that of a theologian; but its natural effect would be to concentrate attention on the actual facts and to discourage any notion that one could reconstruct the order of the world by purely a priori reasoning.

It does not seem to me very easy to synthesize all the elements of his thought; but perhaps it might be as well to remark immediately that one of Ockham's main preoccupations as a philosopher was to purge THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY Christian theology and philosophy of all traces of Greek necessitarianism, particularly of the theory of essences, which in his opinion endangered the Christian doctrines of the divine liberty and omnipotence. His activity as a logician and his attack on all forms of realism in regard to universals can thus be looked on as subordinate in a sense to his preoccupations as a Christian theologian.

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A history of philosophy by Frederick C Copleston


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