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A History of Philosophy - Ockham to the Speculative Mystics by Copleston, Frederick

By Copleston, Frederick

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His career falls into two phases, and in the second phase a side of Ockham manifests itself which had no occasion to show itself in the same way during the first phase; but it seems to me an exaggeration to imply that Ockham the logician and Ockham the politician were almost different personalities. It is rather that the same personality and the same original mind manifested itself in different ways according to the different circumstances of Ockham’s life and the different problems with which he was faced.

Various arguments have been produced to prove that the human soul is naturally immortal; but they are scarcely conclusive. Thus some people have argued ‘from the proportion of the object to the power’ or faculty. The intellect can know an incorruptible object. Therefore the intellect is incorruptible. Therefore the substance of the soul is incorruptible. But the reply might be made that in this case the eye would be incorruptible (presumably because it sees the incorruptible heavenly bodies) or that our intellect must be infinite and uncreated because it can know God, who is infinite and uncreated.

Correlative to the theory of universal ideas in God is the acceptance of some form of realism in the explanation of our own universal ideas. Indeed, the former would never have been asserted without the latter; for if a class-word like ‘man’ were devoid of any objective reference and if there were no such thing as human nature, there would be no reason for ascribing to God a universal idea of man, that is, an idea of human nature. In the second volume of this work an account has been given of the course of the controversy concerning universals in the Middle Ages up to the time of Aquinas; and there it was shown how the early mediaeval form of ultra-realism was finally refuted by Abelard.

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