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The study of medieval philosophy is flourishing, as witness the selective bibliography for this book. And yet, from some philosophical viewpoints – analytic, continental, or science-oriented – the subject of this volume can still seem remote. Where ontology recapitulates philology, or Dasein replaces being and essence, or naturalism needs no arguing, the immersion of medieval thinkers in questions about eternity, God, and the immateriality of intellect can seem incomprehensible, if occasionally intriguing. This Companion seeks to enhance fascination while diminishing incomprehension. The contributors hope to bring readers into medieval discussions as directly as possible, enabling them to appreciate for themselves the philosophical motives instigating these discussions and the boldness, subtlety, and analytic rigor with which they were carried on. The aim is to exhibit the variety and freshness of medieval approaches to problems rather than to evaluate solutions. This is not to deny that timeless truth can be found in the material presented. Many students of medieval metaphysics would hold that the discipline had entered on “the sure path of a science,” in Kant’s phrase, several centuries before Kant restricted its scope to laying bare the conditions of possible experience (and would attribute Kant’s dismissal of earlier efforts as “random groping” to typical Enlightenment ignorance of medieval thought). We are convinced, however, that the insights of medieval philosophy appear most clearly in the midst of the discussions in which the medievals themselves sought them.
The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Philosophy, first published in 2003, takes its readers into one of the most exciting periods in the history of philosophy. It spans a millennium of thought extending from Augustine to Thomas Aquinas and beyond. It includes not only the thinkers of the Latin West but also the profound contributions of Islamic and Jewish thinkers such as Avicenna and Maimonides. Leading specialists examine what it was like to do philosophy in the cultures and institutions of the Middle Ages and engage all the areas in which medieval philosophy flourished, including language and logic, the study of God and being, natural philosophy, human nature, morality, and politics. The discussion is supplemented with chronological charts, biographies of the major thinkers, and a guide to the transmission and translation of medieval texts. The volume will be invaluable for all who are interested in the philosophical thought of this period.
What follows is as much reconstruction provoked by Ockham as a study of Ockham. My main aim is to provide a framework to accommodate various things Ockham said but did not put together as neatly as we might wish.
What provokes this project is the apparent tension between obedience to divine will, which figures so prominently in Ockham's academic writings, and the nonsacral reasonableness so prominent in his political works. Granted, both divine command ethics and a demonstrative science of morals are found in the academic writings, and extensive references to God's will as well as astute Aristotelian political analysis are found in the political works. Ockham did not abandon God's will in favor of philosophical reason when he abandoned John XXII for the protection of Ludwig of Bavaria. Yet there is, I believe, something to the impression that Ockham, especially the earlier Ockham, held God's will to be a uniquely supreme, comprehensive, unrestricted moral principle, and also something to the impression that the later, political Ockham was distinctive in arguing for a secular political order operating according to a rationally ascertainable natural law but lacking any inherent religious orientation. At any rate, such impressions set the problem I want to grapple with in this chapter.
The great Elizabethan divine Richard Hooker has occupied a prominent place in the intellectual history of the Church of England and sixteenth-century Protestantism but his wider significance has often been neglected. In his introduction to this selection of books from Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Professor McGrade demonstrates clearly the continued relevance and importance of the particular politico-religious project Hooker undertook and shows that The Laws offer far more than simply an apologia for the Elizabethan religious settlement. The text of this version is based on the authoritative Folger edition and presents those sections of The Laws most important to an understanding of Hooker's wider aims and context.