Thursday, September 01, 2005

Nominalism vs. Catholicism

An excellent essay. Note that Libertarianism's philosophical home-base is targeted. Moreover, so is the premise underlying much (if not almost ALL) "conservative" commentary.

Don't be put off by the "Vatican II" title stuff. Here's the money quote:

The internal problems for which the Council was an appropriate remedy were subtler, deeper, and more difficult to discern. Following such scholars as Louis Bouyer, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Servais Pinckaers, I see these problems as ultimately stemming from the influence of nominalism on Catholic thought in the late Middle Ages, an influence that gave rise to Protestantism, and that in the emergency of contriving a Catholic response to Protestantism was not properly eradicated.

This noxious influence, which affected the whole spectrum of Catholic life and spirituality, consisted in a particular understanding of happiness and the will, which can be seen by contrasting the thought of St. Thomas and William of Ockham on these subjects.

For St. Thomas, the will is directed by its nature toward goodness itself, the enjoyment of which constitutes happiness. Freedom consists in the ability to achieve this end; so the virtues confer freedom, and vices are enslaving. For Ockham, on the other hand, there is nothing the will seeks of necessity, and freedom consists purely in the ability to choose between contrary alternatives. Natue and virtue drop out of the picture, and the sole basis for morality is the obligation imposed by divine commands. Because God's freedom must be absolute, it is the simple fact of His commanding something that makes it good; if He had commanded murder, sodomy, or idolatry, these things would have been good and their opposites evil.

Although these extreme views did not become generally accepted, the basic idea of seing religion and morality in terms of obedience to commands, rather than in terms of fulfillment of the end of man, persisted.

..and that "obedience to commands" ontological myth persists to this very day.

Our thanks to Professor Blosser!!

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