Ockham on the Virtues

Ockham on the Virtues

Rega Wood
Copyright Date: 1997
Published by: Purdue University Press
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  • Book Info
    Ockham on the Virtues
    Book Description:

    Ockham's views on many subjects have been misunderstood, including his views on ethics. This book is designed to avoid pitfalls that arise in reading medieval philosophy generally and Ockham in particular.

    eISBN: 978-1-61249-040-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. PART ONE: Introduction
    • CHAPTER ONE Ockham’s Life
      (pp. 3-11)

      William of Ockham was born about 1287 near London in the village of Ockham, the county of Surrey, and the diocese of Winchester. His date of birth is calculated on the basis of information on his probable age when he was ordained a subdeacon and when he was licensed to hear confessions and first lectured on theology. In Ockham’s day, subdeacons were ordained at eighteen; at thirty priests heard confessions for the first time and Franciscans lectured on theology. Ockham became a subdeacon in 1306 and heard confessions in 1318;¹ if he was eighteen in 1306 and thirty in 1318,...

    • CHAPTER TWO Ockham’s Influence and the Origins of His Intellectual Isolation
      (pp. 12-18)

      The intellectual climate changed a great deal in Ockham’s time. The English intellectual milieu between 1315 and 1325, when Ockham was most active as a philosopher-theologian, was much more hospitable to his views than it was a decade later. As William Courtenay has shown, Oxford in the early fourteenth century was less characterized by schools than was the later period. Views about what was and was not orthodox changed, as did attitudes toward Bl. John Duns Scotus and St. Thomas Aquinas.

      Some of Ockham’s most controversial views related to the Aristotelian categories—specifically, the categories of relation and quantity. Many...

    • CHAPTER THREE Ockham’s Thought
      (pp. 19-39)

      Ockham has sometimes been hailed (or denounced) as the founder of modernity—emphasizing freedom, individuality, and economy of thought. He has been made responsible not only for modern progress in the sciences, but also for modern anxiety and uncertainty about the universe and the role of human reason.¹ Though he emphasized our complete dependence on God’s will for salvation, he has been condemned not only as a Pelagian but also as a forerunner of the Protestant Reformation, whose leaders were extreme in their rejection of Pelagianism.

      Most sweeping pronouncements on Ockham’s philosophical radicalism and epoch-making historical significance are based on...

    • CHAPTER FOUR The Medieval Debate on the Connection of the Virtues
      (pp. 40-60)

      Some people can be counted on to do the right thing. They enjoy good food and take pleasure in their bodies, but they are not intemperate. They are not incontinent and at the mercy of their emotions, but bravely face adversity. They are not greedy, but treat other people fairly. Day in and day out, they know what needs to be done to lead a worthy life. We describe people who behave this way as morally virtuous—their actions are dictated by the cardinal virtues of temperance, courage, justice, and prudence.

      Are those virtues essentially connected? If someone is just,...

  6. PART TWO: Text
    • [Art. I: Conclusiones ad propositum necessariae]
      (pp. 62-73)

      Circa istam quaestionem¹ sunt quattuor facienda: p r i m o, praemittendae sunt aliquae conclusiones necessariae ad propositum; s e c u n d o, aliquae distinctiones; t e r t i o, respondendum est ad quaestionem; q u a r t o, movenda sunt aliqua dubia, et solvenda.

      Quantum ad primum est prima conclusio,² quod quanta est distinctio habituum tanta est actuum, ita quod aequalis est. Hoc probatur primo, quia omnia individua aeque perfecta inclinativa, sive elicitiva sive receptiva, si sint eiusdem rationis, possunt in effectus eiusdem rationis, et si non possunt in effectus eiusdem rationis, illa principia non...

    • [Art. II: Distinctiones praeviae]
      (pp. 74-89)

      Circa secundum articulum est prima distinctio, quod prudentia accipitur quadrupliciter:¹ u n o m o d o, accipitur pro omni notitia directiva respectu cuiuscumque agibilis mediate vel immediate, sicut accipit A u g u s t i n u s prudentiam, IDe libero arbitrio.² Et isto modo tam notitia evidens alicuius universalis propositionis quae evidenter cognoscitur per doctrinam, quia procedit ex propositionibus per se notis, quae notitia scientifica proprie est scientia moralis, quam notitia evidens propositionis universalis quae solum evidenter cognoscitur per experientiam, quae notitia etiam est scientia moralis, est prudentia. Exemplum primi: ‘omni benefactori est benefaciendum’; exemplum secundi:...

    • [Art. III: responsio ad quaestionem]
      (pp. 90-141)

      Circa tertium articulum principalem sunt quattuor articuli: p r i m u s est de connexione virtutum moralium inter se; s e c u n d u s est de connexione earum cum virtutibus theologicis; t e r t i u s est de connexione earum cum habitibus partis sensitivae; q u a r t u s est de connexione earum cum prudentia.

      Quantum ad primum articulum est una opinio T h o m a e, prima secundae, q.65,¹ quod aliquae sunt virtutes quae perficiunt hominem secundum communem statum, quantum ad ea quae communiter omni homini occurrunt, cuiusmodi sunt virtutes...

    • [Art. IV: Dubia circa quaestionem]
      (pp. 142-188)

      Circa quartum articulum sunt aliqua dubia movenda. Primum est utrum¹ aliquis actus voluntatis sit indifferens, sic quod primo sit indifferens ad bonum et malum, et post idem numero fiat bonus vel malus. Videtur quod sic, quia omnis actus elicitus conformiter reetae rationi est simpliciter virtuosus; sed potest aliquis primo elicere actum indifferentem sine ratione recta, et post continuare eundem cum ratione recta; igitur etc.

      Et² eodem modo potest probari quod actus primo et intrinsece bonus potest fieri intrinsece malus, quia si primo elicitur conformiter rectae rationi, et post continuetur contra rectam rationem, erit primo intrinsece bonus et postea erit intrinsece...

  7. PART THREE: Commentary
    • INTRODUCTION On Medieval Psychology
      (pp. 191-193)

      Ockham begins by establishing six basic conclusions regarding virtuous acts. A medieval Aristotelian, he assumes that virtues are states or habits; he distinguishes between acts and habits of virtue. Ockham speaks of eliciting acts and producing habits. Habits are modifications in a subject produced naturally by acts; they are the effects of acts on the soul. But habits are also dispositions that act as causes; they incline the soul to elicit the same kind of acts that originally produced the habits in question. ‘Habit’ can refer to any modification of a faculty, including the behavioral dispositions of athletes. In moral...

    • ARTICLE I Prefatory Conclusions
      (pp. 194-204)

      9. Ockham’s first conclusion establishes his basic principle: Different acts produce different habits. But where the effects are different, their causes must be different. On this basis he will argue that each of the different degrees of virtuous acts that he posits is specifically different from the others.

      Ockham proves inductively that habits in regard to intellectual objects differ.¹ Everyone acknowledges that a simple, abstract intellectual apprehension of an individual donkey differs from knowledge of complex general conclusions about donkeys—such as ‘donkeys are mammals.’ Here the word ‘complex’ does not mean “complicated”; it refers to mental constructs, produced by combining...

    • ARTICLE II Prefatory Distinctions
      (pp. 205-218)

      2. Article 2 is a second beginning toDe connexione. Ockham defines degrees of virtue and distinguishes the different meanings of prudence and moral science. He also distinguishes efficacious acts of will from good intentions. Finally, in the last three distinctions, he argues again for the same theses established in conclusions 3–6 of article 1.

      Most generally understood, ‘prudence’ refers to any and all practical moral knowledge. Ockham distinguishes different definitions or modes of prudence in terms of its causes or its results. Does it proceed from our understanding of universal self-evident propositions or from particular experiences? Does it result...

    • ARTICLE III Reply to the Question
      (pp. 219-251)

      2. Ockham divides the third article into four subordinate articles. The first sets out seven conclusions about the relation of the moral virtues to each other after presenting the opinions that Ockham sets out to refute; the second article lists eight conclusions dealing with the special problems introduced by theological virtues; the third article argues briefly for the almost total independence of virtues from sensitive habits; the last article, which deals with the relation between prudence and the moral virtues, is the longest. It includes seven proofs of the second of six conclusions in support of view that prudence without virtue...

    • ARTICLE IV Doubts
      (pp. 252-282)

      Here there are eight doubts, or rather eight objections against Ockham’s position. Only the first two get significant treatment, though a number of the other doubts are answered implicitly in the course of the reply to doubt 1. A rather miscellaneous list, these eight doubts probably represent objections actually raised at Oxford when Ockham was speaking. Doubt 1 raises objections against Ockham’s position that would be raised by a Scotist. Scotus believed that moral virtue depended on appropriate external circumstances, and he regarded time, place, and purpose as external circumstances; an act is virtuous if it is done for the...

  8. INDEX
    (pp. 283-296)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 297-297)