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C H A P T E R  12

 Medieval Philosophy

 Medieval Philosophy




John Duns Scotus (1266-1308)


William of Ockham (1288 – 1348)




He was an English Franciscan friar and scholastic philosopher who was charged with heresy.

He was excommunicated.

Ockham died of the Black Plague.




1.   Because God is omnipotent, creation was an act of free will - not rational necessity.

     The world could have been created differently.

      God could have created ice so it sank or became hot.

      Everything is contingent. This includes morality.

      There are no eternal essences to restrict God's will. (n0`ominalism)

2.   Universals are shorthand for similar particular things. For example:

      Humans are bipeds means Socrates was a biped, Plato was a biped, etc...

3.   Only experience can tell us about the world. (empiricism)

      Although every event has a cause, there are no necessary connections.

      Experience only provides probable knowledge of regularly occurring events.

      Proper reasoning tells us what does exist - not what must exist.

4.   Reason cannot prove a spiritual substance exist behind our perceptions.

5.   Ockham's Razor: (Also called the principle of economy.)

     "What can be explained on fewer principles is explained needlessly by more."

      This was original to Aristotle, and it was ironically used to replace Aristotle's science.

6.   Both humans and God have freewill.

      Freewill is the foundation of morality.

      If there is no freewill, we aren't responsible for our actions.





Although Ockham attempted to set the foundations of science, is science as he described?

Does science go beyond experience?

Does science assert necessary connections?

Does science believe in essences?



Buridan's Ass Example

John Buridan (around 1320-1382)

He was a student of Ockham.





"Only in quiet waters do things mirror themselves undistorted.
Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world."
Hans Margolius (1902-)




Meister Eckhart (1260-1327)
 Dominican friar and German mystic.


He was tried as a heretic. Just before his verdict he Eckhart disappeared.




1.   God is One, unified, and transcendent.

2.   God cannot be known by reason, categorical instances, or sense perception.

      Your soul cannot be known through reason or sense perception.

      Your soul, and the cosmic soul,  are known through a unified vision.

      We are one with God.

      This vision results from losing all individuality.

      The lose of individuality is caused by losing all mental content.

      The vision is that of an empty mind.

3.   God is the cause of all things.

4.   God is Being.

     All things are contained in God.





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