Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Why Ockham isn't a Nominalist

He is a terminalist. I know a LOT of people fall into the error of seeing Ockham as a nominalist...but it is impossible when one looks at his writings.

A nominalist is someone who sees a lack of universals, that it is not objective forms that give things their nature, but the words that we give them. So, a nominalist would say that when they see what most of us know of as a book, the meaning of what a book is is up to what he decides to call it. It's the word that gives meaning, it has nothing to do with the reality of the thing itself.

So, in order to over this quickly, I will give a very quick crash course in Ockham's thought.

Ockham believes in the existence of terms and believes they correspond to reality. I will start from the lower and go up to the higher level, as he has a definite hierarchy of terms.

The lowest is written terms. Written terms signify (they point one towards) spoken terms. Spoken terms signify mental terms. Now this is where people think that Ockham stops. That it is mental terms that give meaning to everything. But in fact there is one more level of terms...the term itself, that is, the idea of what the thing is. This is what is not expressible in any sort of language, whether it be written, verbal, or mental, it is pure idea. It is this idea that corresponds to reality. Thus the term as such gets its meaning only from the thing to which it corresponds to. Thus the term of what a book is, the idea of what a book is to use a different word, is only meaningful because there are actual books out in the world to correspond to. Thus there is a meaning in his language.

And multiple objects can participate (to use a platonic word) in the common idea of book. There are objective universals out there in which one can get the idea of book as the particular idea of a specific book, for example, signifies the universal idea of book, it points towards that universal idea of the book. It, in a certain sense, corresponds to that objective reality.

Any comments on this? Am I clear?


Thursday, October 12, 2006


I couldn't help it! I had to get on this thing! Needless to say it is a great way of keeping track of one's books. I've got 2 shelves of books on there already, only 13 to go. I'm especially fond of the tagging feature. It has gotten me very excited about my book collection and helping me see what I have on my bookshelf that I have forgotten about.

Here's my profile...if you have it let me know and I'll add you to my list on librarything and check out your library.


I should be posting a bit more as time goes on now...life SEEMS to be slowing down. I'm hoping to post, either tomorrow or on Saturday, a post on why Ockham is not a nominalist.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Intellectual Movement

I've been inspired by the words of the Pope's talk at Ragensburg. And it made me think of to where we see the greatest intellectual movements in the history of man. And sure enough, they all fall within 3 great periods. The following is from an e-mail I sent to a friend...May we all embrace Faith and Reason.

When one looks back at history, one sees the greatest achievements in history in times in which Faith and Reason are embrassed in their fullest. It is interesting to note to that the great cultural movements of Western History are all surrounded with the creation of schools.

The first period is the Patristic Period...in which the great Fathers of the Church defended the True Faith not using just Faith (as many of our Protestant brothers and sisters think) but with Reason. The greatest, of course, is St Augustine who states that belief is what gives rise to a proper use of reason. As St Anselm, in the later Middle Ages states "I believe so that I may understand". Faith is, of course, first, but faith is NOT irrational, but is in fact purely rational...for the Divine Logos, the Word, the Divine Reason, Christ, came down to Earth and took on human flesh. It is in the Incarnation that Reason and Faith come together...for before Christ, we see great thinkers like Plato and Aristotle who attained great truths with the use of reason, but were not able to come to THE TRUTH without the aid of faith. Now, it is easy to note that there were no "schools" during the Patristic period...things were still too scattered, but there were great centers of thought, especially in the East. The school was in the Church, in which the great homilies were given by the greatest of Saints. It is no surprise that St Augustine is ALWAYS studied as one of the greatest minds of history. St John Chrysostom, the Golden Mouth, taught people in the setting of the Church and through his writings as well...it was not in a formalized school, but the Church existed to educate those in the faith they accepted.

The next period is the 9th century Renaissance which, in my humble opinion, begins on Christmas Night in the year 800 in which Charlemagne, Charles the Great, or, as I lovingly call him "Chuck" was crowned by the Pope as the Holy Roman Empire. This was the light that the West needed. There was no such thing as a "dark ages", for that implies a total lack of advancement. Indeed, the period between 500 and 800 AD had less achievements, but that was due to the isolation of towns. There were still great thinkers like Boethius and Pseudo-Dionysius who had a great impact on thought in the Western Tradition, but I am getting off my topic here....

Chuck saw a problem. He saw lack of education in the clergy, he saw a lack of use of the gift of reason in the people in general in fact. It is thanks to Chuck that the idea of a formalized schooling system first comes into place. Chuck is responsible for the creation of the Liberal Arts...the study of Mathematics, Philosophy, Geometry and so forth, in which the Liberal Arts came under 2 titles, the Quadrivium and the Trivium (4 and 3 respectively). In order for the proper training of the priests, Chuck created the ideas of Cathedral Schools, the first VERY formal schooling system (though it MAY be possible to prove me wrong on that, but I argue for it). It is thank to him that we have Capital and minuscule letters in our alphabet and spacing in order to have a better flow on our page...there were numerous other advances as well, including an embracing of Classical thought and a re-immergance of the copying of scripts, to which we can thank for many of the books we have in our possession nowadays.

The next period is the 12th Century Renaissance, and guess which intellectual institution takes its rise from this great cultural advancement? The University. THe ideas of Law (to which the University of Bologna was so popular for), the philosophical and theological and many other traditions have their roots in the University. In fact, it's because our legal system has lost its roots in the Western idea of law (to which BXVI has been warning us so drastically about, the distancing ourselves from our Western roots) that our legal system is now in trouble, because it is so far beyond its original purpose.

The ideas about just wages, fair trade, and many other ideas we take for granted all have their roots in the 12th Century Renaissance, to which was all formed in the, you guessed it, the intellectual sphere of the University. It is there that ideas were formed and molded and put into practice. The thinkers formed the ideas for the way to live life for everyone. And this was all done in the name of truth.

In fact, the greatest common thing between these 3 periods is the fact that there was one common purpose: To discover the Truth in all things, because God who is the Logos, the Divine Reason, came into the world, and so, necessarily, there is a reason to everything in the world. By faith in the Logos, we use our reason to come to the great truths of everything.

I argue to that our society has yet to see such a remarkable and exciting time as those 3 periods. We can reach it again, if we listen to the cry of Pope Benedict, and unite ourselves in our true Western Roots, which is the Divine Logos, and thus would be able to pursue, once again, reason through the guidance of faith in the Truth, which is Christ and His Church.


Monday, October 02, 2006

I've been Tagged

I have been tagged to do this, so here I go...

"If an angel could take me back in time, what five things or occasions would I like to experience?"

5 - To be in the same room as St Augustine as he wrote his Confessions
4 - To be at a class at the University of Paris in the 12th century
3 - To have been able to hear the preaching of St Francis
2 - To have a theological discussion with Bl. John Duns Scotus
1 - To be present for the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ (you can't have one without the other)

I can't really tag anyone because I don't know who else who has a blog who reads this.....