Search Results for William of Ockham
David Hume (1711-76) was a Scottish philosopher who developed a naturalist perspective on all aspects of human life.
For Hume, the highest good is based on the pursuit of happiness. We are personally happy when we’re good to others, not due to some high spiritual reward but because this approach leads to a harmonious social whole. So personal and social well-being go hand in hand.
This means that morality isn’t based on austere rational principles but on the desire for enjoyment. Accordingly, Hume believes that reason cannot determine anything without experience. And he goes as far to say that reason is the “slave of passion.”
Hume’s metaphysics, in particular his critique of the belief in cause and effect, remains an important challenge to our conventional way of seeing. All we can be sure of, says Hume, is that certain events occur one after another in a given region and for a certain duration.
In billiards, for instance, the white ball appears to cause the motion of other balls when impacting them on the gaming table. But here’s the radical part. Hume says that all we can truly know is that, in the past, the first ball impacted and the other balls moved. We cannot prove that the first ball’s impact will always be followed by movement of the other balls. And for Hume, there is no rational way to demonstrate a causal connection:
Reason can never shew us the connexion of one object with another, tho’ aided by experience, and the observation of their constant conjunction in all past instances. When the mind, therefore, passes from the idea or impression of one object to the idea or belief of another, it is not determin’d by reason, but by certain principles, which associate together the ideas of these objects, and unite them in the imagination.¹
Put differently, from prior experience we build up a series of expectations and habitual ways of interpreting observations. Hume calls these “ideas.” But ideas they simply are. Although we expect the billiard balls to move, we have no way of proving or knowing that they always will.
At first, this may seem absurd. But Hume’s critique of causality had a profound effect on one of the most important thinkers in the history of Western philosophy, Immanuel Kant. Mortimer Adler says “…Kant tells us that David Hume awakened him from his dogmatic slumbers.”²
In addition, on a quantum level of reality, contemporary physicists claim that observations of subatomic particles support the ideas of probability and simultaneity instead of linear causality.
However, some say it’s invalid to compare quantum and macroscopic levels of reality because subatomic particles exist in an entirely different arena, and behave in different ways than the larger aggregate objects which they make up.
This debate continues to this day, the answer to which might depend on one’s core beliefs and related worldview. Or in Hume’s terms, one’s “customs of thought.”
¹ David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature (1896 ed.), SECTION VI.: Of the inference from the impression to the idea, paragraph 278.
² Adler, Mortimer J. (1996). Ten Philosophical Mistakes. Simon & Schuster. p. 94, cited at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critique_of_Pure_Reason#cite_note-2
- Link blog: philosophy, hume, atheism, david-hume (pw201.livejournal.com)
- Causality becomes increasingly elusive (boingboing.net)
- Of the Delicacy of Taste and Passion by David Hume (belladeluna.wordpress.com)
- David Hume on Causation (socyberty.com)
- Hume on Rousseau (cafehayek.com)
- “Cause Is Not a Fact”: (brothersjuddblog.com)
- Of Hume and Bondage (opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com)
- On David Hume (myintelligentlife.wordpress.com)
John Locke (1632-1704) was a British philosopher who had a profound influence on the school of empiricism.
Locke believed the human infant enters the world with a tabula rasa (i.e. a blank slate). Accordingly, we inherit nothing more than physical characteristics and a basic sense of goodness. This makes the mind free and equal among different individuals.
Although this may seem somewhat speculative today, Locke, himself, argued against abstract speculation in favor of recognizing the limits of knowledge through direct experience.
For Locke, we can only know about an object’s “primary qualities” of size, shape and motion. These qualities exist independently of perception. We can never know anything about an object’s “secondary qualities” of color, taste, smell, warmth, texture and sound because these are products of the object’s interaction with our senses–i.e. qualities that don’t inhere to the object itself.
Locke’s pragmatism didn’t close him off to the possibility of God’s existence. In his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) he argued for the “reasonableness” of the idea of God.
- Lévi-Strauss, Claude (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- New ‘Lost’ Promo Photo Turns Locke Into Jesus (buddytv.com)
- Lost WTF Moment of the Week: Where You Goin’, John Locke? [Clips] (gawker.com)
- ‘Lost’ Recap: Locke Recruits a New Jacob (buddytv.com)
- Semiotics (kosmix.com)
- Paul Vallely: The referees’ strike? I blame John Locke (independent.co.uk)
- The Voice Mails of Charles Habermann, the Man Accused of Threatening to Kill Congressman Jim McDermott (slog.thestranger.com)
- Threats to the north (ridenbaugh.com)
- The Behind the Scenes Pic of the Day looks like a hood ornament! (aintitcool.com)
- How GOP Fascism Screwed Texas (current.com)
Medieval is a term that usually but not always describes a period of European history. Historical references are sometimes made, for instance, to Medieval India. So this makes the term a bit difficult to define.
The term is also difficult to define because it may be determined by various criteria. Are the dates for the Medieval period set by achievements in art, economics, technology, standard of living, morality, social issues or critical thinking?
Also called the Middle Ages, the Medieval period is generally seen as running from about 1000 CE to 1500 CE, a time when a relative few kings, notables, literati and Church leaders had a firm, exploitative and sometimes ruthless grip on the masses. As for the people who made up the masses, they for the most part were of dramatically lower economic and educational status.
Some say the Middle Ages differ from the Medieval period, with the former beginning about 600 CE. Others use the terms interchangeably, with the Medieval period also beginning in 600 CE or 1000 CE. And yet some see the Medieval period beginning somewhere between the Council of Nicea (313 CE) and the Sack of Rome (410 CE), and extending to the fall of Constantinople in 1453 CE.
The term ‘Middle Ages’ was first used in the 16th century by Renaissance writers describing the period from 600 CE to about 1400 CE because they viewed their own civilization as a reinstatement and elaboration of themes prevalent in ancient Greece and Rome.
Recent views of the Medieval period, whatever it may be, question the idea that it was backward. Several innovations were made, although they were not necessarily as dramatic, technologically speaking, as they were within the periods before and after medieval times. Medieval theologians such as Duns Scotus, William of Ockham and St. Thomas Aquinas, for instance, came up with some of the most amazingly subtle thinking, on a variety of topics, known to mankind. Likewise, Christian polyphonic devotional music underwent dramatic innovations during this time.
Search Think Free » à Kempis (Thomas), Alchemy, Archangel, Aristotle, Astrology, Avatar, E-mail, Epicureanism, Epicurus, Francis of Assisi, (St.), Henry of Ghent, Holy Grail, Homer, Judaism, Lewis (C. S.), Lilith, Marx, (Karl), Mercury, Narcissus and Goldmund, Occam’s razor, Proclus, Quiddity, Scholastics, Tokugawa, Vaisya, Werewolf, Zodiac
- Plan for New US Embassy Includes Design Features from Medieval Castles (neatorama.com)
- A Brief History of the Latin Language: Medieval Latin (brighthub.com)
- The Sims Medieval Announced (cinemablend.com)
- The Sims goes medieval in 2011 (geek.com)
- Inside The Medieval Mind: Knowledge (camelswithhammers.com)
- What’s ‘medieval’ about stoning people to death? (blogs.telegraph.co.uk)
- Get Medieval with New Series from EA’s Award-Winning the Sims Studio (eon.businesswire.com)
- Medieval legal history panel at the Kalamazoo medieval conference (volokh.com)
- Archaeologists say Hartlington Stones in Yorkshire Dales were Medieval furnaces (marklord.info)
- Sheep to Sheet (of Parchment) (finebooksmagazine.com)
Add more, report errors or voice your opinion by posting a comment
Churchmen-scholars in the Middle Ages who engaged in elaborate theological issues and debates.
Although the scholastics never asked “how many angels can stand on the head of a pin,” this question is often used to lampoon the usefulness of their thought.
The influential scholastic St. Thomas Aquinas adapted into a Christian framework arguments from the Greek, pre-Christian Aristotle, whose works were translated from Greek to Latin by Arab scholars.
After a some kind of direct encounter with God near the close of his life, Aquinas apparently said that his voluminous writings were like a “house of straw.” Nevertheless, his arguments, many of which seem to be constructed in ancient and medieval modes of understanding, are often cited to illustrate Catholic teachings.
Arguably the abstract intellectualism and intense quibbling of the scholastics lost sight of Christian teaching, which in essence is quite simple–i.e. love God and one another. And for one person to believe he can definitely speak about God, no matter how cleverly, may also be viewed as a bit arrogant.
» Anselm (St.), William of Ockham, Henry of Ghent
Add more, report errors or voice your opinion by commenting
1) In theology this is the idea that everyone will be saved in the fullness of time.
Recent versions of this theology exclude for need for Jesus and argue that all persons will be saved in all religions, paths and life-situations.
2) In philosophy universals are ideals like Plato‘s forms.
It’s often debated as to whether universals exist in themselves or merely as a product of language (i.e. conceptualism). » Origen, William of Ockham
Add to this, report errors, suggest edits or voice your opinion by posting a comment
Universals » Plato, Universalism, William of Ockham
Add to this, report errors, suggest edits or voice your opinion by posting a comment
Nominalism is a philosophical position developed in the Middle Ages. The intricate debates and resulting variations of this idea can get quite complicated.¹ So for instructional purposes nominalism is usually boiled down to two main forms.
One form of nominalism rejects the existence of abstract concepts.
Another form of nominalism contends that eternal, universal essences of things (e.g. cat, boat, diamond) are not real in themselves but merely concepts devised by human beings.
This second type of nominalism arose in response to one form of realism in which universal essences are taken as more real than any individual temporal manifestation.
In rejecting realism, William of Occam (circa 1288-1348) maintained that only individuals exist, and universal substances are only constructions from vocal sounds.
While this might seem an esoteric and irrelevant point at first, it’s important to realize that the claims of some contemporary skeptics and poststructuralists are quite similar to Occam’s, even though some say that poststructuralism and, more generally, postmodernism represent entirely new developments in the history of ideas.
Poststructuralists do, however, emphasize the role of social power in defining allegedly universal truths. Poststructuralists also examine the role of social power in creating, reproducing and legitimizing stereotypes.
But even this isn’t a particularly new development. For centuries writers and poets have done much the same—that is, they’ve deconstructed taken-for-granted truth claims, be these supposedly “eternal” or “natural” truths.
¹ Probably the best secondary source covering these complexities is Frederick Copleston’s A History of Philosophy, Volumes 2-3.
On the Web:
Search Think Free » Deviance, Idealism, Linguistics, Normal, Occam’s Razor, Skepticism
Add to this, report errors, suggest edits or voice your opinion by leaving a comment