Saturday, May 9, 2009

24b Willam of Ockham

For Ockham the world consisted of individual, singular entities, which we perceive with our five senses. Abstract knowledge is induced by the mind and not directly perceived by our senses.

Thence, when we talk about "the elephant" or "democracy" there exists no such thing in reality, like an epistemological realist would claim. In our mind we have put observations of singular things into a group, created a concept.

It is interesting to see how close this view comes to the Logical Atomism of Betrand Russell, who lived about 600 years later.

Ockham makes an important distinction between absolute and connotavive terms. Absolute terms refer to real existing things of matter and form and make real essence definitions possible.

Connotative terms refer to real things, while connoting something else too. They therefore have nominal essence definitions (we only define a concept), meaning they are not existing things.

Take the statement "She is a parent". The 'she' is a real woman, but the word 'parent' doesnt refer to something else that also exists. It connotes also her children, that is to say...refers to the fact that she has children too. Or take "That is hot". It not only refers to a temperature, but also to the pain you will experience when you touch it.

When I say " Here I have one apple" the term 'apple' refers to a real entity, but what of the word 'one'. Is there something like Oneness? A Platonist would say yes. Ockham says: no. This word 'one' doesnt refer to something real; it simple connotes the absence of other appples.

This line of reasoning caused Ockham a lot of trouble with the Church, for when quantity is nothing but the substance itself, if the substance changes, then the quantity changes. If I change one apple in one pear, the quantity changes: apples zero, pears one. So, the qualities can not continue to inhere in the the same quantity. An apple is completely different from a pear.

Now apply this reasoning to a main issue of the Church: the transubstantiation, the changing of bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus during the consecration in a mass. Remember..we are in the Middle Ages. It is about 1300 AD. According to Catholic dogma this change really happens. I think you can imagine why Ockham was summoned by the pope to come to Avignon.

After all these considerations let's have a look at the statement of Rodney in last class:
"We've been taught not too trust our senses" A nice statement "One can not trust his senses" because it has a kind of paradoxal content.

The only way to come to this conclusion and obtain certainty of knowledge is through the senses. So you have to trust your senses at least once. Thinking in Ockham's terms we could say that this sentence has only a nominal meaning, for it doesnt only refer to unreliable senses, but connotes also a kind of warning. Something like "Look twice before you come to a conclusion."

Now Hope will definitely say "but i still have that question: as a nominalist one doesn't reflect on ethics or values-- how did he handle that question..?"

In next class I'll deal with a hot issue of the Medieval Scolastic debate: free will. This will involve ethics and it is a good moment to widen our horizon, which emphazised now mainly epistemological matters.

The Discussion

[13:23] Herman Bergson: Next class will be the conclusion of the scolastic aera
[13:23] Herman Bergson: we''ll enter then the age of the scientific mind
[13:23] AristotleVon Doobie: #rd part of William
[13:23] AristotleVon Doobie: 3rd?
[13:24] Herman Bergson: yes Aristotle...I have to deal with the free will issue
[13:24] Herman Bergson: it is essential to understanding ethics
[13:25] Herman Bergson: So Hope has to be a little patient..:-)
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: :-))
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: hope he reads this
[13:25] hope63 Shepherd: lol. can't move anyway..
[13:25] Herman Bergson: Hello Rodney
[13:26] Rodney Handrick: Hi Herman
[13:26] Rodney Handrick: I sorry..
[13:26] Rodney Handrick: I'm Sorry! I missed the discussion
[13:26] Herman Bergson: sorry to say you are late..
[13:26] Oakwood Nightfire: I'm sorry Herman .... but I'll have to leave. Hope to be back for another session. Thanks
[13:26] Rodney Handrick: I'll read the blog
[13:26] AristotleVon Doobie: When you say "look Twice' do you mean be analytical?
[13:27] Herman Bergson: Just a manner of speaking..
[13:27] Herman Bergson: the thing is that Rodney's statement was a paradox
[13:28] AristotleVon Doobie: Well senses are all we have but I agree we must be sure of what we perceive.
[13:28] AristotleVon Doobie: or as sure as possible.
[13:28] Herman Bergson: Yes..without question...
[13:29] AristotleVon Doobie: Based on many parameters that can change from one to another.
[13:29] Herman Bergson: seems you all absorb nominasilsm easily..:-)
[13:29] Qwark Allen: :-)
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: thinking about the whole thing
[13:29] Maphisto Mapholisto: i'm not happy
[13:30] Herman Bergson: You are not happy Maff?
[13:30] Maphisto Mapholisto: An apple is completely different from a pear, rather like unhappy Grumpy Maphisto and serene Wise Maphisto, but 'oneness' doesn't change when a pear is substituted for an apple. Maybe i'm a conceptaulsist rather than a nominalist like Willy O
[13:30] AristotleVon Doobie: I think William is right as far as universal go but the effect of the universals are concrete.
[13:30] AristotleVon Doobie: Anger for one.
[13:31] Herman Bergson: To respond to Maff....
[13:31] Herman Bergson: for Ockham there didnt exist a concept like oneness
[13:31] Herman Bergson: to him there was the connotation of the absence of other apples
[13:32] Herman Bergson: that is an essential thing.....there dont exist universals for him
[13:32] AristotleVon Doobie: Seems like oversimplification.
[13:32] Maphisto Mapholisto: being is created by absence, but by existence
[13:32] Herman Bergson: What do you mean Aristotle?
[13:32] Maphisto Mapholisto: not created
[13:33] AristotleVon Doobie: As far a quantity goes.
[13:33] AristotleVon Doobie: The effect is still on.
[13:33] Maphisto Mapholisto: nor for me, but the concept of 'one' exists in the human mind
[13:33] AristotleVon Doobie: one
[13:34] Herman Bergson: a concept...
[13:34] hope63 Shepherd: the concept of one exist by reference to other numbers maff..
[13:34] Maphisto Mapholisto: sure
[13:34] Herman Bergson: but it has no existence outside the mind according to Ockham
[13:34] Maphisto Mapholisto: but my by the absence of elephants
[13:34] hope63 Shepherd: my?
[13:34] Maphisto Mapholisto: but not
[13:34] Maphisto Mapholisto: sorry
[13:34] Maphisto Mapholisto: lol
[13:34] Maphisto Mapholisto: bad day here
[13:35] Maphisto Mapholisto: lol, lol
[13:35] Herman Bergson: I think the main issue here is that we have a lot of words
[13:35] Herman Bergson: they all refer to something
[13:35] Herman Bergson: and the epistemological question is....what do they refer to
[13:35] hope63 Shepherd: so stick to the apples maff..-no elephants
[13:35] Herman Bergson: some words refer to real things we perceive by the senses
[13:36] AristotleVon Doobie: So quantity is subjective?
[13:36] Herman Bergson: let Maff enjoy his elephants..:-)
[13:36] hope63 Shepherd: he's got only one lol
[13:36] Maphisto Mapholisto: no apples, no elephants, no etc etc etc .... for william to eat one apple, he had to eat no pears, no elephants, no cars
[13:36] Gemma Cleanslate: one does get tired of apples and pears
[13:37] AristotleVon Doobie: The no pears certainly did not exist.
[13:37] Herman Bergson: the real fruits of knowledge here is the debate on reference
[13:37] Maphisto Mapholisto: therefore they existed
[13:37] Herman Bergson: it will be with us for the next centuries
[13:37] Maphisto Mapholisto: fruit , lol
[13:38] AristotleVon Doobie: who's a fruit?
[13:38] Herman Bergson: as I said....lots of words are obvious in their reference
[13:38] Herman Bergson: and it is amazing that already in 1300 someone was wondering about it
[13:39] AristotleVon Doobie: He had time to think in four years of house arrest.
[13:39] Ludwig John: please let herman complete his lesson - and then discuss
[13:39] Herman Bergson: and came up with questions and answers...not so much appreciated in his time, while it is common knowledge in our time
[13:40] Herman Bergson: And reading your arent shocked at all..:-)
[13:41] Herman Bergson: easy class today..:-)
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: no
[13:41] Maphisto Mapholisto: easy ... fruits
[13:41] AristotleVon Doobie: It is hard to think about.
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: just stuck trying to relate it all to thought
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:42] AristotleVon Doobie: You grab for it and it slips away.
[13:42] Gemma Cleanslate: i agree Aristotle
[13:42] Herman Bergson: I guess a lecture on the existence of free will might stir your brains some more..:-)
[13:43] Maphisto Mapholisto: i think William got in trouble over apples and pears because they are an example of waffer and jesus in transubstantiation
[13:43] Osrum Sands: Think I should re read 'The Tao of Poo'!
[13:43] AristotleVon Doobie: You are right Maff
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:43] Herman Bergson: Ockham really got into trouble...
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: of course he did
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: as a friar with such thoughts
[13:44] Herman Bergson: his way of thinking is so common to us...but in those new
[13:44] AristotleVon Doobie: Yanked out of school...
[13:44] AristotleVon Doobie: They must have been afraid of his thoughts.
[13:45] Gemma Cleanslate: i am more than sure they were
[13:45] Herman Bergson: He was a non conformist...a kind of philosophical rebel..
[13:45] AristotleVon Doobie: I think I like this guy too.
[13:45] Osrum Sands: I would think that the clasic catholic position still is!
[13:45] Herman Bergson: but in my opinion he was on the right track
[13:45] Gray Cardiff: anger is often related to fear
[13:45] Rodney Handrick: I agree...
[13:46] Herman Bergson: Yes you are right Osrum
[13:46] AristotleVon Doobie: A response
[13:46] Maphisto Mapholisto: they said, "he's a rebel and he'll never ever be any good"
[13:46] AristotleVon Doobie: response
[13:46] hope63 Shepherd: bill ended up in munich.. 3 hurrays for the bavarians!
[13:46] Maphisto Mapholisto: lol
[13:46] AristotleVon Doobie: I guess they were wrong.
[13:46] Maphisto Mapholisto: Os and i are singing from the same hymn sheet
[13:47] Herman Bergson: maybe we could sing together..:-)
[13:47] AristotleVon Doobie: After William the worm was out of the can.
[13:47] hope63 Shepherd: who's responsable for the lyrics..
[13:47] Osrum Sands: so are you refering 'one' hymn sheet or the hymn sheet
[13:48] Maphisto Mapholisto: you could transubstatiate that into an mp3
[13:48] Herman Bergson: The lyrics will be written by another 75 philosophers to come
[13:48] Maphisto Mapholisto: lol
[13:48] Osrum Sands: yes problem solved
[13:48] hope63 Shepherd: herman -would you interdict voice in class.. just in case they really want tosing..
[13:49] Herman Bergson: I dont know anyting about voice...
[13:49] Osrum Sands: despite all out rambling thought it is still a wonderfull conversation of which we are a part here
[13:49] hope63 Shepherd: sl voice
[13:49] Herman Bergson: never heard of..:-)
[13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:49] Maphisto Mapholisto: Hope is hearing voices
[13:49] Herman Bergson: and I dont want to hear about it either
[13:50] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:50] hope63 Shepherd: l best keep it that fortunately i'm not hearing them..
[13:50] Herman Bergson: Yes..I guess you are right Maff...another effect of these classes I guess
[13:50] Maphisto Mapholisto: phew
[13:50] Gemma Cleanslate: the old professor
[13:50] AristotleVon Doobie: I am listening now.
[13:50] Herman Bergson: I think class is over now...and fun begins..:-)
[13:51] Maphisto Mapholisto: too late, we started early
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: thank you again Herman for your patience
[13:51] Herman Bergson: next time on free will from the scolasics on till...
[13:51] AristotleVon Doobie: Yes thank you.
[13:51] Maphisto Mapholisto: yes, herman is the best
[13:51] Rodney Handrick: yes Herman, thank you!
[13:51] Herman Bergson: Gemma talk like a Linden
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:51] hope63 Shepherd: free will- with free speech-- this class will end in chaos..
[13:52] AristotleVon Doobie: Loose lips.
[13:52] Herman Bergson: We'll see Hope..
[13:52] Immin Babii: when is the next class? What time day etc
[13:52] Maphisto Mapholisto: maybe that is determined, Hope
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: maybe i have adopted it from their constant repeating
[13:52] Osrum Sands: now thats a good one determined
[13:52] Herman Bergson: Yes may be right again
[13:52] Osrum Sands: or could we say it is predestined ?
[13:52] Maphisto Mapholisto: again?? moi?
[13:52] AristotleVon Doobie: lol

Posted by herman_bergson on 2007-12-02 17:44:03

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