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The Development of Ethics: Volume 1From Socrates to the Reformation$
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Terence Irwin

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780198242673

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198242673.001.0001

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(p.701) 27 Ockham
The Development of Ethics: Volume 1


Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses how William of Ockham answers some questions that John Duns Scotus appears to leave unsettled. Ockham has become notorious for holding views that, from a later philosophical perspective, have appeared to undermine the Aristotelian outlook that is expounded by Thomas Aquinas. This is true in ethics as in other areas of philosophy. Ockham believes he rejects the insufficiently Aristotelian elements in Aquinas and others. He believes, for instance, that Aristotle's rejection of Platonic Forms supports the metaphysical priority of the particular, and that the views of Aquinas and Scotus on universals concede too much to an un-Aristotelian Platonic realism. In moral philosophy, Ockham agrees with Scotus' view that Aquinas' intellectualism and eudaemonism conflict with the freedom and contingency of human action. Since Aristotle insists on these features of human action, a plausible defence of Aristotle should, in Ockham's view, reject Aquinas' position. Similarly, Ockham gives Aristotelian reasons for rejecting Aquinas' claims about virtue, practical reason, and prudence.

Keywords:   William of Ockham, John Duns Scotus, Thomas Aquinas, Aristotle, virtue, practical reason, prudence

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