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Thomas of Aquinas mentions Aristotle´s views at length in his writings. It seems that Aristotle who I understand did not teach about an intervening God, is nevertheless considered a skilled mechanics who´s concepts can be used freely in religious speculations without contaminating the outcome with heretical impurity.

William of Ockham was born only 60 years after Aquinas, but he was accused of heresy based on erroneous views. Can we assume that the doctrines were solidified so soon after Aquinas – that is to say it was not possible to think freely about these matters such as the concept of Universalism - or was the reason for the accusations against William of Ockham perhaps that Rome found an implied disrespect in his writings such as the case was for Galileo?

  • See Thomas Aquinas for an overview and for the primary role of Aristotle in Thomas's philosophy. And see also Condemnations of 1210–1277 for the complex issue of Aristotelian philosophy in the Middle Ages. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Jan 27 '17 at 15:54
  • "Aristotle ... considered a skilled mechanics" ??? He was considered THE Philosopher. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Jan 27 '17 at 15:55
  • See also William of Ockham for some details regarding the "heresy" accusation (if any) and the issue with the Pope (that I think has nothing to do with the 17th Century Galileo's trial. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Jan 27 '17 at 15:59
  • @Allegranza I really intended to in my question to be more general, i.e. whether there was a conflict visavis the papacy, rather than a visavis a philosophycal question. I didn´t think there was any other scientific issues such as for Galileo. I still wonder about the how Aristotle passed without scrutiny. It is a question about "historical" or "retrospective inquisition" of old masters of various kinds. Would Rome not be critical of some pre-christian philosophers? I realize this might be a somewhat separate issue. – Mikael Jensen Jan 28 '17 at 8:57
  • Aristotle didn't pass without scrutiny. Aquinas is considered a great synthesizer and adapter of Aristotle (and one of the best commentators on Aristotle, even by non-Catholics). Others specifically wanted to read Aristotle without synthesis and were called Averroists, and heretics. This led to a HUGE controversy surrounding Aristotle (google the Paris condemnations). Even Aquinas was under suspicion soon after his death. It also led to the divorce between theology and philosophy – Evans Mar 16 '18 at 9:46
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One view is that Ockham invented his Nominalism in order to justify his being against the papacy.

The Thomist semiotician John Deely, in his Four Ages of Understanding pp. 394 ff., shows how the Great Western "Schism" lead to the adoption of Ockham's nominalism, despite its weaknesses.

Ockham, a Franciscan, wrote—"at the end of his letter to the General Chapter in Assisi in the spring of 1334" (cf. Tractatus de Successivis translation p. 12), defending his opposition to Pope John XXII, who opposed the (then-material) dogma that the souls of the deceased destined to heaven behold the Beatific Vision immediately after death, defined by John XXII's successor Benedict XII in Benedictus Deus—that:

Because of the errors and the heresies mentioned above and countless others, I turned away from the obedience of the false Pope and all who were his friends to the prejudice of the orthodox faith. For men of great learning showed me that because of his errors and heresies the same pseudo-Pope is heretical, deprived of his papacy, and excommunicated by Canon Law itself, without need of further sentence. … In proof thereof several volumes have been published. … For against the errors of this pseudo-Pope I have turned my face like the hardest rock, so that neither lies nor calumnies nor any persecution (which cannot touch my innermost self in any bodily fashion), nor great numbers of men who believe in him or favor him or even defend him, shall be able to prevent me from attacking or reproving his errors, as long as I shall have hand, paper, pen, and ink. …

If anyone should like to recall me or anyone else who has turned away from the obedience of the false Pope and his friends, let him try to defend his Constitutions and sermons, and show that they agree with Holy Scripture, or that a Pope cannot fall into the wickedness of heresy, or let him show by holy authorities or manifest reasons that one who knows the Pope to be a notorious heretic is obliged to obey him. Let him not, however, adduce the great number of his adherents, nor base his arguments on reproaches, because those who try to arm themselves with great numbers of lies, reproaches, threats, and false calumnies, show that they are void of truth and reason. Therefore let none believe that I mean to turn away from the recognized truth because of the great number of those in favor of the pseudo-Pope, or because of proofs that are common to heretics and to orthodox men, because I prefer Holy Scripture to a man unlearned in holy science, and I have a higher esteem for the doctrine of the Fathers who reign with Christ than for the tradition of men dwelling in this mortal life.

The Church never condemned Ockham's theories, although Ockham was excommunicated for leaving Avignon without permission.

W. Turner writes in the old Catholic Encyclopedia "Ockham" entry:

Ockham's attitude towards the established order in the Church and towards the recognized system of philosophy in the academic world of his day was one of protest. He has, indeed, been called "the first Protestant". Nevertheless, he recognized in his polemical writings the authority of the Church in spiritual matters, and did not diminish that authority in any respect.

See also this SEP article on Ockham by the Catholic logician Paul V. Spade

Also, Ockham is known as the Venerabilis Inceptor ("Venerable Beginner") because he was a drop-out who remained a bachelor, never having obtained a higher degree.


Modified from my Christianity StackExchange question "Was William of Ockham the first sedevacantist?"

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The controversy surrounding Ockham was theological, political, and philosophical, and not due to the shoring up of doctrine.

He was never declared a heretic, but his defense of the position that Jesus and the Apostles owned no property was declared A heresy by the pope. Ockham defended his position philosophically and theologically in order to defend the Franciscans in the Poverty Controversy. The Pope countered him for political reasons but along doctrinal grounds.

Furthermore, there was division in Europe between those who followed after Ockham and Aquinas. Aquinas has continually and from early on been elevated as central in Catholic doctrine. The controversy around Ockham had nothing to do with this.

Side note: Ockham's defense of Franciscan poverty is what inserted the concept of human rights in the western mind.

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