Brother William of Ockham

Brother William of OckhamArticle

Scholastic philosopher and controversial writer. Entering the Order of Saint Francis, he became a teacher at the University of Paris, 1320. He composed works on Aristotelean physics and on logic; later contributed pamphlets and treatises to the polemical literature of the day; and advocated secular absolutism and a reform of Scholasticism both in method and in content. The aim of this reformation was simplification, and with it was united a tendency towards scepticism. In the process of simplification he went too far, and sacrificed much that was essential in Scholasticism, while trying to rid Scholasticism of faults which were incidental. His best known contribution to Scholastic philosophy is his theory of universals, a modified form of nominalism. Although Ockham’s attitude toward the established order in the Church and the recognized system of philosophy was one of protest, nevertheless, in his polemical writings he recognized the authority of the Church in spiritual matters, and never did anything to diminish that authority. Similarly, although he rejected the rational demonstration of several fundamental truths in Christian theology, he held firmly to the same truths as matters of faith, and his effort to simplify Scholasticism was undoubtedly well-intentioned.

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MLA Citation

  • “Brother William of Ockham”. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 11 November 2019. Web. 5 March 2021. <>