William of Ockham and the Divine Freedom by Harry Klocker

By Harry Klocker

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The result for metaphysics is disastrous. It can no longer be—as it was for St. Thomas—the expression of an insight into the existential structure of the real. Metaphysics, as Ockham conceived it, can only represent the mental relationships which the mind itself establishes between its various conceptualizations of a myriad of concrete singulars. This is a science of concepts, a logic, which enables one to think consistently and coherently about reality, but which gives one no assurance that reality is in any way like the concepts which one forms of it.

Otherwise Adam could be called the cause of me. 13 What he means is that not only must cause and effect exist simultaneously, but that they must also be experienced simultaneously. But is even this simultaneous experience of what he calls cause and effect enough to guarantee that the one thing is really the cause of the other? The answer is No. 14 Accordingly, it cannot be demonstrated that any effect is produced by a secondary cause. Although in my experience it always happens that, when fire is brought near to something inflammable, that inflammable thing always burns, it could still be true that fire is not the cause of that combustion.

The converse is also true. He is insisting again that what is apprehended is first one thing and then another. Because they are apprehended habitually in association with each other, or as following one upon the other, we can call one a cause and the other an effect. Neither cause nor effect signifies anything in the real order distinct from the things themselves. Cause and effect are contingent predicables which have meaning only in the mind. It can be admitted, I think, that Ockham’s analysis of causality was taken from the physical order.

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