This paper briefly outlines William of Ockham’s life and taking a historical approach, special focus will be on his involvement in the controversy in the Franciscan Order. This will involve the background and circumstances at the time he thrived, the gist of the matter at hand, how he handles the issue, Outcome and consequences. General Observations will be outlined leading to the conclusion.
William of Ockham was born at around 1287 in the village of Ockham in Surrey, East London in England. At a tender age of around 9 or 13 years Ockham was given to the Franciscan Order. William studied and later taught at the Oxford University. He was later controversially denounced by Pope John XXII for dangerous teachings as served a House detention in 1324 to 1328. William sided with the Franciscan General against the Pope. In 1328, he fled to Munich and was excommunicated. He died at around 1347 in Munich at Holy Roman Empire. As a Western Philosopher, he belonged to the Medieval Philosophy in the school of Scholasticism. William of Ockham’s notable ideas are Ockham’s Razor, Nominalism (Spade; Kaye).
It is noteworthy that William of Ockham was the most important schoolman after Thomas Aquinas. He was Duns Scotus’ student at both Oxford University and at Paris. Scotism and Scotus’ writings in general heavily influenced William but he later rivalled Scotism which was a realist approach by rejecting realism. He did this by being the greatest exponent of the Nominalist school, the leading rival of the Thomist and Schotist schools. As an English Philosopher and Scholastic Theologian, William’s intellectual life is replete with confident redefinition of existing philosophical concepts. William of Ockham is considered one of the most prominent figures in the history of philosophy during the High Middle Ages/ Late Medieval Period together with Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus. Ockham is usually considered in the patter of declining Scholasticism (Russell; McInery; Shand 67-8).
Among the things that greatly influenced Ockham is the keen Franciscan – Dominican rivalry that existed in the medieval times between the two orders. The Franciscans were less impeccably orthodox than Dominicans consequently the Franciscans were not inclined to accept the authority of Thomas Aquinas (Russell 463). For example on the incarnation, Scotism or the Franciscan thesis believes that Christ would have been made incarnate even if Adam had not sinned. Thomists (Some), on the other hand, believe that there would have been no need for Christ to have become incarnate if Adam did not sin. Scotism is Augustinian; differences from Thomism came of a larger admixture of Platonism (via Augustine) in their philosophy (Russell 466).
Shifting focus, how did William of Ockham end up getting involved in the Franciscan controversy? Ockham rose to prominence and quickly replaced Lutterell as Chancellor of Oxford University. Lutterell, a keen Thomist, set off to Avignon to blot Ockham’s name to...