Saturday, May 9, 2009

24a William of Ockham

It is so amazing...the whole debate began with one person, Plato and then after him his disciple, Aristoteles. Isnt is remarkable that just two individual persons were at the cradle of our thinking.

Is this still possible nowadays? Ok...when you get publicity your book might become a bestseller, but give it two years and its influence has faded.

Just those days in philosophical circles they only discussed a few books, literaly...maybe 10 in total...some from Plato and some from Aristoteles, one ot two from Augustine, Boethius, Anselmus and Thomas Aquinas. There were more books, but most of them comments on the forementioned..

And here again is a man, who too shaped our minds, William of Ockham, also a Fransciscan like Duns Scotus born about 1266....William just a 14 yearls later, he was in his 20s when Dunscotus died. Yet a fascinating moment in history: two men both Franciscans, one a realist and one a nominalist.

Let me explain what this means...Ockham is know of his 'razor': the principle of simplicity according to which the simpler theory is more likely to be true. He didnt invent find this idea also in Aristoteles and Aquinas. The expression 'Ockham's razor' was first used in 1852 by W.R Hamilton, a British mathematician.

But it was effective. Favoring the formulation “It is useless to do with more what can be done with less,” Ockham implies that theories are meant to do things, namely, explain and predict, and these things can be accomplished more effectively with fewer assumptions.

It all began with Heraclitus (c.400 B.C) who said, that the only thing that reallly is, is a constant flux, a permanent changing. But can we have certainty of knowledge, for what I know now for sure will be changed the next minute.

This is a straight road to skepticisme. Science wouldnt be possible. And man has trouble living with that idea and besides that reality shows that science is possible.

But then comes up the question, why dont we go under in the flux, but have constants in our observations and theories about the world. Either you accept that universals have real existence or you are convicted to skepticisme.

No, said Ockham, we dont need to postulate the existence of such things as universals. These universal essences are concepts in the mind only. And besides that he had difficulty to understand how a universal could be one thing (say 'humanity') and on the other hand could be many things...all humans.

His theory on knowledge acquisition is interesting. You obtain knowledge in four steps:
1. sensory cognition: receiving data through the five senses
2. intuitive congnition: the awareness a particular perceived exists and has the qualities it has
3. recordative cognition: the remembrance of past perceptions
4. abstractive cognition: we place individuals in groups of similar individuals

The intuitive cognition is a unique human quality according to Ockham. Intuitive cognition secures a causal link between the external world and the human mind. The human mind is entirely passive, according to Ockham, during intuitive cognition. Objects in the world cause us to be aware of their existence, and this explains and justifies our belief in them.

To summarize: what was Ockham's position so far? Reality isnt a permanent flux. We can have knowledge of reality. This comes through the senses and what we call universals are only concepts in our mind, only names for sets of individual we are nominalists (where nomina means name in Latin). We dont need to claim an extra set of entities called Ideas or Forms, like Plato did. Keep it simple.

This is just a tiny bit about Ockham....I have to get back to him next class to tell you why Rome prosecuted him and excommunicated him......

To be continued next class..:-)

The Discussion

[13:19] Herman Bergson: To be continued next class..:-)
[13:19] Qwark Allen: lol
[13:20] Maphisto Mapholisto: using a razor to slice up dogma
[13:20] Herman Bergson: that wasnt a joke Qwark..:-)
[13:20] Qwark Allen: i know
[13:20] Qwark Allen: but was funny
[13:20] Herman Bergson: yes I agree..:-)
[13:20] Qwark Allen: :-)
[13:20] Herman Bergson: Ockham is so modern in his philosophy
[13:20] hope63 Shepherd: as a nominalist he would have some problems expailing religious principles i think..
[13:21] AristotleVon Doobie: So to him univerals are just pests.
[13:21] hope63 Shepherd: and dogmas..
[13:21] Cailleach Shan: So is he saying we have to 'compartmentalise' to get a 'handle' on what is?
[13:21] Herman Bergson: yes he had.....was imprisoned four years by the pope in Avignon
[13:21] Gemma Cleanslate: i read abou this escape
[13:21] Gemma Cleanslate: and got a kick out of it
[13:21] Herman Bergson: compartmentalise..what does that word mean?
[13:22] Ze Novikov: How would he explain what intuition is ?
[13:22] hope63 Shepherd: ty herman..- same question..
[13:22] AristotleVon Doobie: calm down oola
[13:22] Herman Bergson: yes..on stolen horses...:-) Amen
[13:23] Herman Bergson: Intuition...
[13:23] Cailleach Shan: I was referring to the way he has divided obtaining knowledge...
[13:23] Herman Bergson: according to his theory of acquisition of knowledge he explains it as a pure awareness, I think
[13:24] Maphisto Mapholisto: hmmmm
[13:24] Ze Novikov: something everyone is born with?
[13:24] Herman Bergson: his four steps are the description of a process that can happen in a second
[13:24] hope63 Shepherd: does he think of intuition beeing subject to error?
[13:24] Cailleach Shan: How do we define 'awareness'?
[13:24] Cailleach Shan: Consciousness?
[13:24] Herman Bergson: yes....he knows the senses can cheat us..we can hallucinate
[13:25] Alarice Beaumont: i think he is not that wrong! ;-)
[13:25] Herman Bergson: I agree Alarice
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: I got the impressoim he means a perception of what we are seeing in his meaning of intuition
[13:25] AristotleVon Doobie: and prejudice can alter our perception
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: and understanding
[13:25] Alarice Beaumont: yes!
[13:25] Herman Bergson: but just think that this is a man living in 1300 or soo
[13:25] Herman Bergson: without all our knowledge
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:26] Alarice Beaumont: and prejudice one has because of the experience one makes!
[13:26] AristotleVon Doobie: Yes
[13:26] Herman Bergson: Hmm yes,,that is an issue
[13:26] Herman Bergson: but prejudice isnt knowledge
[13:26] hope63 Shepherd: experience can lead you to understand..
[13:27] Herman Bergson: it is wrong judgement
[13:27] AristotleVon Doobie: maybe maybe not
[13:27] Herman Bergson: and not confirmed by sensory experiences
[13:27] AristotleVon Doobie: but one person may be prejudiced correctly
[13:27] Rodney Handrick: prejudice is a learned experience
[13:27] Maphisto Mapholisto: he was on the right track though ... the great mystery is the interface between our inner world and the outer world ... how does 'reality' get in? ... and that really is a bigger question than just perception, for it also begs the question of the inner construction we make of external 'reality'
[13:27] Herman Bergson: no..that is a contradiction Aristotle
[13:28] AristotleVon Doobie: I do not know.
[13:28] hope63 Shepherd: prejudice is a lack of trying to see the things as they are..
[13:28] Cailleach Shan: I agree with Rodney.... no baby is born with prejudices.
[13:28] AristotleVon Doobie: Is bias always wrong?
[13:28] Alarice Beaumont: i agree!
[13:28] Herman Bergson: ok...just hold on....
[13:28] Gemma Cleanslate: back to the origin
[13:28] Herman Bergson: Hold on...
[13:29] Alarice Beaumont: :-)
[13:29] Cailleach Shan: I think we create our own reality Maff... from moment to moment.
[13:29] Herman Bergson: in fact Ockham already gives a help when we talk about prejudice
[13:29] Maphisto Mapholisto: how do we do that, Caill?
[13:30] AristotleVon Doobie: ok
[13:30] Herman Bergson: the fourth step is abstractive cognition..
[13:30] Ze Novikov: ahh
[13:30] Ze Novikov: yes
[13:30] Herman Bergson: plz..
[13:31] Rodney Handrick: Abstractive cognition...explain
[13:31] Cailleach Shan: I choose how I am 'being' in this moment.
[13:31] Maphisto Mapholisto: choose??
[13:31] AristotleVon Doobie: a struggle
[13:31] Maphisto Mapholisto: you are that free?
[13:31] Herman Bergson: ok....everybody ..calm down..:-).
[13:31] Maphisto Mapholisto: pant pant
[13:31] Cailleach Shan: Sure... I can change my reality.
[13:31] AristotleVon Doobie: :)
[13:32] Cailleach Shan: Sorry Herman.
[13:32] Herman Bergson: ok..private exchanges completed?
[13:32] AristotleVon Doobie: hmmm
[13:32] Cailleach Shan: Got a bit carried away there for a moment.
[13:32] Cailleach Shan: lol
[13:32] Herman Bergson: well..back to Ockham
[13:33] Rodney Handrick: Abstractive cognition...explain
[13:33] Herman Bergson: he already had some ideas about our knowledge proces
[13:33] Herman Bergson: yes..
[13:33] Herman Bergson: Ockham was an empiricist....step one in his process of knowledge acquisition
[13:34] Herman Bergson: putting all individuals in groups...which is making a generalisation is the final step
[13:34] Herman Bergson: prejudice is such a step too, but not based on sensory experience only
[13:35] Alarice Beaumont: well.. in our world that is done in every single moment.. shops put customers into groups.. banks their clients!
[13:35] Herman Bergson: it is based on biased sensory expereinces...
[13:36] Herman Bergson: yes Alarice..we have statistics
[13:36] Maphisto Mapholisto: prejudice is a generalisation based on selective empirical data with a resulting negative affect
[13:36] Herman Bergson: yes Maff...that is what I mean..
[13:36] Cailleach Shan: Are you talking about putting people into groups like.. 'The poor' ... 'The dumb' ... The Talented" etc.?
[13:37] Herman Bergson: but that result comes because the opinion came first and the sensory data are used to confirm it only
[13:37] Rodney Handrick: How does one acquire empirical data?
[13:37] Alarice Beaumont: yes!
[13:37] hope63 Shepherd: sorry.. missed some .. but i still have that question: as a nominalist one doesn't relfect on ethics or values-- how did he handle that question..
[13:37] Rodney Handrick: world of mouth...advertising?
[13:37] Cailleach Shan: You get it from the day you're born Rodney.
[13:37] Alarice Beaumont: you can ask people! or analyse data you already have!
[13:38] Herman Bergson: Next class your answer Hope..:-)
[13:38] hope63 Shepherd: ok:)
[13:38] Herman Bergson: For Ockham acquiring sensory data must have been very obvious: use your senses
[13:38] Herman Bergson: He had no instruments like we have
[13:39] hope63 Shepherd: got to have them together
[13:39] Rodney Handrick: We've been taught not too trust our senses
[13:39] AristotleVon Doobie: From our birth we become collection agencies.
[13:39] Maphisto Mapholisto: that is because you can't trust them, Rod
[13:39] Herman Bergson: That is such a statement..Rodney...what kind of statement is it I wonder
[13:40] hope63 Shepherd: of course you can trust them
[13:40] Cailleach Shan: I trust my senses.
[13:40] Maphisto Mapholisto: then there are no visual illusions
[13:40] AristotleVon Doobie: I like mine.
[13:40] hope63 Shepherd: what you can't trust is the reaction of your surrounding..
[13:41] Rodney Handrick: Well...looking at the teaching debates
[13:41] AristotleVon Doobie: trust and flux?
[13:41] Herman Bergson: ok....just hold on...!
[13:41] Rodney Handrick: Newspapers
[13:41] Alarice Beaumont: senses are valuable!
[13:41] Herman Bergson: Hold on....this is a lot Rodney says
[13:41] hope63 Shepherd: sometimes alarice :)
[13:41] Alarice Beaumont: :-)
[13:41] Herman Bergson: Here we have to make a stop...
[13:41] Maphisto Mapholisto: take 3 bowls of water - one hot, one tepid, one cold ... put left hand in hot, right hand in cold ... leave for 3 mins ... now put both in in the tepid ... now trust what your senses are telling you
[13:42] Herman Bergson: For historically we are at the threshold of real empirical science to develop
[13:42] hope63 Shepherd: senses say its water..
[13:42] Rodney Handrick: that...I can agree
[13:42] Herman Bergson: and Rodney questions the use of our senses.
[13:43] Maphisto Mapholisto: be an empiricist - try the experiment for yourself and draw your own conclusions
[13:43] Herman Bergson: but for that reason I asked..what kind of statement is that: dont trust your senses...
[13:43] hope63 Shepherd: i think our friend ockram didn't exclude rational thinking,...
[13:43] Maphisto Mapholisto: this is why science attempts verification by different observers
[13:43] AristotleVon Doobie: With the state of flux doent trust become past tense?
[13:43] Rodney Handrick: We're taught to ignore our senses and instead purchase a magic pill that's suppose to cure whatever it is that is ailing us
[13:44] Herman Bergson: I would ask everybody to stick to this statement...
[13:44] hope63 Shepherd: you talk about bush rod
[13:44] Herman Bergson: and analyze it
[13:44] Rodney Handrick: When our sense tell us that all we need to do is "rest"
[13:44] Alarice Beaumont: sorry... Rodney.. we are not taught to ignore our senses
[13:44] Cailleach Shan: ok ... let's hear it Herman..
[13:44] Herman Bergson: Hello?
[13:44] AristotleVon Doobie: Senses is what we are.
[13:45] Maphisto Mapholisto: common senses?
[13:45] Herman Bergson: When everyone starts talking you constantly loose the focus
[13:45] Gray Cardiff: non sense?
[13:45] Gemma Cleanslate: very true
[13:45] Ze Novikov: the statement is contradictory..
[13:45] hope63 Shepherd: bravo gray
[13:45] Herman Bergson: lol..ok ,,here we go again..:-)
[13:46] Maphisto Mapholisto: lol, lol, lol
[13:46] hope63 Shepherd: maybe we should listen to herman..
[13:46] Gemma Cleanslate: there are a lot of semantics going on here one picking up on one or two words of another person
[13:46] Cailleach Shan: Is this the statement you want us to focus on Herman: [13:45] herman Bergson: When everyone starts talking you constantly loose the focus
[13:46] Rodney Handrick: hehehehe...
[13:46] Herman Bergson: are a nice crowd..:-)
[13:46] Gemma Cleanslate: absolutely Cailleach
[13:46] AristotleVon Doobie: passionate chaos
[13:46] Herman Bergson: but now plz stick to the issue
[13:46] Maphisto Mapholisto: yes boss
[13:46] Alarice Beaumont: :-)
[13:46] Herman Bergson: good Maff
[13:47] Gemma Cleanslate: :-))
[13:47] AristotleVon Doobie: :)
[13:47] Herman Bergson: Ok...what we have at hand is the statement "Dont trust your senses"
[13:48] Herman Bergson: first of all we have to decide whether this is a real empirical, descriptive statement about a state of affairs in reality
[13:48] Herman Bergson: I think it is not...
[13:48] Herman Bergson: this statement has a extra meaning
[13:49] Rodney Handrick: ok...I have one for you...senses say your healthy for sexual activity...yet if you take "viagra"...
[13:49] Herman Bergson: Rodney...this really is a brilliant example...
[13:50] Rodney Handrick: *not healthy
[13:50] Herman Bergson: No let's stick to this statement..
[13:50] Herman Bergson: for Ockham has an answer to it...
[13:50] Alarice Beaumont: ?
[13:50] Herman Bergson: and I will deal with it in next class
[13:51] Herman Bergson: really great example...
[13:51] AristotleVon Doobie: Dont take it if you are dead.
[13:51] Herman Bergson: stop that issue, Hope
[13:51] Herman Bergson: not relevant
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: excuse the interruption
[13:52] Herman Bergson: Getting back to the subject at hand....
[13:52] Herman Bergson: We learned how Ockham isnt a realist....
[13:53] Herman Bergson: we talked about his theory of knowledge acquisition..
[13:53] hope63 Shepherd: 13.44: herman: i want you to stick to this statement .and anylyse it..-- what statement?
[13:53] Herman Bergson: next class I will elabotate more on his epistemological ideas and deal with Rodney's statement
[13:54] Rodney Handrick: I think it's a valid statement
[13:54] oola Neruda: herman Bergson: first of all we have to decide whether this is a real empirical, descriptive statement about a stat of affairs in reality [13:48] herman Bergson: I think it is not... [13:48] herman Bergson: this statement has a extra meaning
[13:54] Herman Bergson: Right oola...that will be our discussion
[13:54] Ze Novikov: splendid!
[13:55] Herman Bergson: Friends...this was the most amusing discussion sofar..:-)
[13:55] Herman Bergson: Thank you all..:-)
[13:55] Rodney Handrick: I agree...
[13:55] Ze Novikov: ty!!
[13:55] AristotleVon Doobie: Yes thank you Prof
[13:55] Rodney Handrick: thank you Herman...
[13:55] Herman Bergson: Where is OSrum by the way?
[13:56] Alarice Beaumont: oh.. already over?!
[13:56] Cailleach Shan: Thanks Herman.... sorry I won't be here for the next instalment.
[13:56] Gemma Cleanslate: LOL We love to get off track
[13:56] AristotleVon Doobie: Yes where is OS.
[13:56] hope63 Shepherd: pity i crashed in between..
[13:56] Cailleach Shan: Probably still chasing the rubbish truck...:)
[13:56] Rodney Handrick: hahahaa Gemma
[13:56] AristotleVon Doobie: lol
[13:56] Gemma Cleanslate: i think you should type in CAPITAL LETTERS
[13:56] Herman Bergson: lol
[13:56] Ludwig John: thank you
[13:56] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:56] Gemma Cleanslate: SO WE WILL NOTICE HERMAN
[13:56] Maphisto Mapholisto: can't run so fast in a kilt
[13:56] AristotleVon Doobie: Accosted in his kilt
[13:57] Herman Bergson: Hi Clarity
[13:57] Gray Cardiff: that’s what we need clarity
[13:57] Rodney Handrick: hmm...good point...let me know ahead of time so that I know we're not all shouting to each other
[13:57] Herman Bergson: lol
[13:57] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:57] Clarity Dagostino: I am sorry I am so late.
[13:57] Herman Bergson: yes we need that
[13:57] Gray Cardiff: welcome Clarity
[13:57] AristotleVon Doobie: but you must retain the passion.
[13:57] Clarity Dagostino: I try for clarity

Posted by herman_bergson on 2007-11-29 16:34:51

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