The impact of Ockham's "Nominalism" on his understanding of human nature and the imago dei in man, in comparison with Aquinas, bonaventure and scotus

Williams, Anthony George (2011). The impact of Ockham's "Nominalism" on his understanding of human nature and the imago dei in man, in comparison with Aquinas, bonaventure and scotus. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000ed99

Abstract

This thesis focuses on the consequences for understanding of human nature in theology and philosophy arising from the 'necessitarian crisis' of the 13th century. This was caused by official reaction to misappropriation of Aristotle by some philosophers and theologians, resulting in the Paris 'Condemnations' of 1270 and 1277. Flourishing before the crisis came to a head, Aquinas and Bonaventure made use of Aristotle's eudaemonism (happiness-oriented ethics) and natural finality to produce their own accounts of the teleological 'ordering' of human nature to its ultimate perfection and goal in God. Scotus and Ockham represent progressive stages in the subsequent eclipse and loss of the teleological perspective and natural finality, and its replacement by a more voluntarist, juridical and legalistic outlook, with consequences for the understanding of human nature.

An assessment is made of the impact of the resurgence of philosophical nominalism in the person of its principal 14thcentury exponent, William of Ockham. Each chapter charts the change in outlook from Aquinas to Ockham, under the respective headings of 'nature', 'freedom', 'grace' and the imago Dei. The focus is particularly on the effects of Ockham's logic and semantics on his own account of these realities.

The research provides evidence that Scotus and, especially, Ockham can be seen as contributors to the devaluation of nature. It is suggested that there is in Ockham's accounts of nature, grace and freedom a diminution of the sense of 'receptivity' to the divine which would mark the disposition of a soul being sanctified. It is shown that this receptivity has its source in the Trinitarian relations, where being is both given and received. In spite of his nominalist account of the category of 'relation', Ockham's portrayal of the imago Dei accurately reflects the intra-divine relations.

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