A History of Philosophy - Ockham to the Speculative Mystics - download pdf or read online

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47 48 Again, though it can be said with truth that Durandus’s assertion that universality belongs only to the concept and Petrus Aureoli’s and Henry of Harclay’s assertions that the universal concept is a fabrication of the mind and that universality has esse obiectivum only in the concept do not constitute a rejection of moderate realism, yet the tendency shown by Petrus Aureoli and Henry of Harclay to explain the genesis of the universal concept by reference to a confused or less clear impression of the individual does facilitate a breakaway from the theory of universals maintained by Thomas Aquinas.

Ockham called the concept or terminus conceptus a ‘natural sign’ because he thought that the direct apprehension of anything causes naturally in the human mind a concept of that thing. Both brutes and men utter some sounds as a natural reaction to a stimulus; and these sounds are natural signs. But ‘brutes and men utter sounds of this kind only to signify some feelings or some accidents present in themselves’, whereas the intellect ‘can elicit qualities to signify any sort of thing naturally’. Perceiving a cow results in the formation of the same idea or ‘natural sign’ (terminus conceptus) in the mind of the Englishman and of the Frenchman though the former will express this concept in word or writing by means of one conventional sign, ‘cow’, while the latter will express it by means of another conventional sign, ‘vache’.

It is true that he emphasized the qualitative similarity of things rather than the similarity of nature or essence; but he does not seem to have denied essential similarity as the foundation of the specific concept: rather did he presuppose it. We have seen that for Petrus Aureoli conceptual knowledge is of the extramental thing in its likeness to other things rather than of the thing precisely as individual. But it is better, he insists, to know the individual thing in its individuality than to know it by means of a universal concept.

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A History of Philosophy - Ockham to the Speculative Mystics (Christian Library) by Copleston, Frederick


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