William Ockham (1285-1349 AD), in the treatise On the Connection of the Virtues and other works, elaborates a will-based ethics, where acts of will (intentions), and not actions have ethical value:
Human beings have a natural tendency to achieve their ultimate good, like at Aristotle [1.3.17] and Augustine [2.6.5]
The human will creates acts of will (intentions), which on their turn initiate ethically neutral actions. Acts of will can be virtuous and evil.
Virtuous acts of will manifest moral virtue, and are subordinated to the ultimate good. Ockham “measures” moral virtue in a five-grade scale. Even pagans can have moral virtue, howeve that is not enough for salvation.
Despite the human inclination towards the ultimate good, the human will is free to deliberately go against the zltimate good, and the choose evil. This theory antagonizes with the view on the limitations of the will held by Aquinas [4.9.9], [4.9.13].
The following OntoUML diagram presents Ockhams’s model of virtues and free will:
A human person
“Ockham [..] is very suspicious of the notion of final causality (teleology) in general, he thinks it is quite appropriate for intelligent, voluntary agents such as human beings. Thus the frequent charge that Ockham severs ethics from metaphysics by denying teleology seems wrong. Nevertheless, while Ockham grants that human beings have a natural orientation, a tendency toward their own ultimate good, he does not think this restricts their choices.”
participates in VirtuousActOfWill
“Ockham’s ethics combines a number of themes. For one, it is a will-based ethics in which intentions [will] count for everything and external behavior or actions count for nothing. In themselves, all actions are morally neutral.”
component of Human; creates ActOfWill
For Ockham, acts of will are morally virtuous either extrinsically, i.e. derivatively, through their conformity to some more fundamental act of will, or intrinsically. On pain of infinite regress, therefore, extrinsically virtuous acts of will must ultimately lead back to an intrinsically virtuous act of will. That intrinsically virtuous act of will, for Ockham, is an act of “loving God above all else and for his own sake.”
ActOfWill initiates Action
“In themselves, all actions are morally neutral.”
“For Ockham, acts of will are morally virtuous [virtuous act of will] either extrinsically, i.e. derivatively, through their conformity to some more fundamental act of will, or intrinsically.”
inherits from ActOfWill
“On pain of infinite regress, therefore, extrinsically virtuous acts of will must ultimately lead back to an intrinsically virtuous act of will. ”
inherits from VirtuousActOfWill; leads to IntrinsicalVirtuousActOfWill
“That intrinsically virtuous act of will, for Ockham, is an act of ‘loving God above all else and for his own sake.’“
inherits from VirtuousActOfWill
“moral virtue is possible even for the pagan, moral virtue is not by itself enough for salvation. In short, there is no necessary connection between virtue—moral goodness—and salvation. Ockham repeatedly emphasizes that ‘God is a debtor to no one‘; he does not owe us anything, no matter what we do.”
manifests in VirtuousActOfWill
In his early work, On the Connection of the Virtues, Ockham distinguishes five grades or stages of moral virtue, which have been the topic of considerable speculation in the secondary literature: 1/ The first and lowest stage is found when someone wills to act in accordance with “right reason”—i.e., because it is “the right thing to do.” 2/ The second stage adds moral “seriousness” to the picture. The agent is willing to act in accordance with right reason even in the face of contrary considerations, even—if necessary—at the cost of death. 3/ The third stage adds a certain exclusivity to the motivation; one wills to act in this way only because right reason requires it. It is not enough to will to act in accordance with right reason, even heroically, if one does so on the basis of extraneous, non-moral motives. 4/ At the fourth stage of moral virtue, one wills to act in this way “precisely for the love of God.” This stage “alone is the true and perfect moral virtue of which the Saints speak.” 5/ The fifth and final stage can be built immediately on either the third or the fourth stage; thus one can have the fifth without the fourth stage. The fifth stage adds an element of extraordinary moral heroism that goes beyond even the “seriousness” of stage two.
“For Ockham, as for Aristotle and Aquinas, I can choose the means to achieve my ultimate good. But in addition, for Ockham unlike Aristotle and Aquinas, I can choose whether to will that ultimate good. The natural orientation and tendency toward that good is built in; I cannot do anything about that. But I can choose whether or not to to act to achieve that good. I might choose, for example, to do nothing at all, and I might choose this knowing full well what I am doing. But more: I can choose to act knowingly directly against my ultimate good, to thwart it. I can choose evil as evil. [choice of evil]“
inherits from ActOfWill
All citations from: Spade, Paul Vincent and Claude Panaccio, “William of Ockham”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2019 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
William Ockham (1285-1349 AD), in the treatise Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard writes about the relationship between types of supposition and types of sciences:
Propositions (sentences) are made up of terms.
Terms in a proposition refer to other terms – the suppositum (or supposita); this relation is called supposition. The supposition of a term always occurs in a propositional context and can be entirely different from its signification (see [4.0.1]).
The relation between the term and the suppositum in the propositional context is called supposition (reference).
Ockham defines three kinds of supposition: personal, simple, and material.
For Ockham, science is a collection of true propositions. These propositions shouldn’t exclusively be about (1.3.10) universal knowledge.
“Traditionally, there were three kinds of sciences people distinguished: (a) the so called ‘real’ sciences: physics, metaphysics, and mathematics; (b) the so called ‘rational’ science: logic; and (c) ‘grammatical’ science: grammar.” (Spade)
Real science has personal supposition; rational science has simple supposition; grammatical science has material supposition.
The following OntoUML diagram presents Ockhams’s model of the relation between supposition and sciences:
A proposition or sentence is made up of terms.
component of Science
A mental, spoken, or written term.
component of Proposition; supposits for Suppositum
Suppositumis “whatever a term supposits for’ or refers to.”
role of Term
“What sort of relation is supposition? Well, the first thing we can say about it is that suppositionis a semantic relation. To a first (but pretty good) approximation, supposition in this first part of the theory is what nowadays we call ‘reference.’ It is the relation between the terms used in a proposition and the things those terms are used to talk about inthat proposition. […] supposition occurs only in a propositional context. And this is the first main difference between supposition and signification, which can occur outside a propositional context according to almost any author. The second main difference is this: We do not always in practice use terms in propositions to talk about what those terms signify. We use them in a variety of other ways too. Hence supposition also differs from signification insofar as a term may signify one thing, but supposit on a given occasion for something entirely different.” (Spade – History of the Problem of Universals in the Middle Ages)
relates Proposition; Supposition; Suppositum
“Going with the ‘real’ sciences, there is what is called ‘personal’ supposition (which has nothing especially to do with persons — although it perhaps originated in theorizing about the persons of the Trinity). There terms stand for the things they signify. For example, in the sentence ‘Man is an animal’, the subject term ‘man’ is in personal supposition, and stands for individual human beings. They are the ones who are animals. The spoken or written word is not an animal, and neither is the concept.” (Spade)
subkind of Supposition
“Going with the ‘rational’ science of logic, there is what is called “simple” supposition. There terms stand for concepts they do not signify. These concepts are the genera and species that logic talks about. For instance, in the sentence ‘Man is a species’ (in the sense in which it is true), the subject term ‘man’ stands for the concept “man,” which is a species — that is, a species-concept. It definitely does not stand for any real universal man.” (Spade)
subkind of Supposition
“Going with ‘grammatical’ science, there is what is called ‘material’ supposition, in which terms stand for words they do not signify. For example, in ‘Man has three letters’, the subject term ‘man’ is in material supposition — at least in the sense in which the sentence is true. (But don’t make the mistake of thinking that Ockham’s “material supposition” is just what we do with quotation marks. It is more complex than that.)” (Spade)
subkind of Supposition
For Ockham, the object of a science is simply sentences with general terms in them. That’s how he accommodates Aristotle’s dictum that science deals with the universal. This of course doesn’t mean that we can never, in our knowledge, get beyond the level of language to things. For Ockham, there are two senses of the term ‘know’ (= scire in Latin, from which comes scientia = science”): (a) As we just said, the sense in which to know is to know a sentence, or a term in that sentence. In this sense, the object of a science is universal. (b) We can also be said to know what that sentence is about, what the subject-term in it stands or supposits for. What we know in this sense is invariably the individual, metaphysically speaking, since there is nothing else for Ockham. This is not the object of science in the sense Aristotle is talking about. […] Traditionally, there were three kinds of sciences people distinguished: (a) the so called ‘real’ sciences: physics, metaphysics and mathematics; (b) the so called ‘rational’ science: logic; and (c) ‘grammatical’ science: grammar. For each of these kinds of science, Ockham distinguishes a kind of ‘supposition.’” (Spade)
“Traditionally, there were three kinds of sciences people distinguished: (a) the so called ‘real’ sciences: physics, metaphysics and mathematics” (Spade)
subkind of Science; has PersonalSupposition
“Traditionally, there were three kinds of sciences people distinguished: (b) the so called ‘rational’ science: logic” (Spade)
subkind of Science; has SimpleSupposition
“Traditionally, there were three kinds of sciences people distinguished: (c) ‘grammatical’ science: grammar. For each of these kinds of science, Ockham distinguishes a kind of ‘supposition.’” (Spade)
subkind of Science; has MaterialSupposition
Spade, Paul Vincent, “History of the Problem of Universals in the Middle Ages”, Indiana University 2009