William of Ockham

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WILLIAM OF OCKHAM
BACKGROUND ON OCKHAM

Lived from 1280 to 1349
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Born in the town of Ockham in Surrey, England
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Member of Franciscan order
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Studied theology at Oxford
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Awesome with logic
A FEW DEFINITIONS…
Universals: a common name for objects or
things, like “redness” or “wealth”
 Metaphysical: beyond the physical realm
 Nominalism: theory of mind and language;
universals are just names for convenient
categorizations of the world for realistic
interaction with them
 Empiricism: true knowledge only comes
through the senses
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“The concept of the living thing subsumed under
intuition is the animal. For since this subsumption
itself is one-sided, not intuition subsumed under
the concept in the like way over again, life here is
an empirically real, infinitely dispersed life,
displaying itself in the most manifold forms. For the
form or the absolute concept is not itself unity or
universality again. Thus here there is an
individuality without intelligence, not, as in the case
of the plant, where each unit of the individual is
itself a mass of such units; on the contrary, here
there is indifference in more extended difference
and distinction.”
-Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Ockham was all about
OCKHAM’S RAZOR
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Way of thinking that would guide empiricists in
the future and influence the scientific method
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“Plurality is not to be assumed without
necessity”, “Do not multiply entities beyond
necessity”
EXAMPLES OF THE RAZOR
How a watch works
EXAMPLES OF THE RAZOR
Mom’s not home
RAZOR CONT’D

Many thought he was trying to do away with the
Trinity

ACTUALLY, he was trying to eliminate
metaphysics and prevent any limits to be set on
God’s true power

His thoughts strengthened theology: prevented
metaphysical ideas
HIS EMPIRICISM
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The only trustworthy knowledge available to
man was revealed knowledge or knowledge
acquired through the senses
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Therefore, there’s no such thing as the
metaphysical
MORE OF HIS PHILOSOPHY
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His logic went against Aristotle and his “formal
and final causes”
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He wanted a mechanistic view of causality:
parts affecting parts, like a machine
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Disallowed traditional proofs of God’s existence

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