William of Ockham: ’A Letter to the Friars Minor’ and Other Writings

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The thirty-fourth is that the commandment given to the apostles of not possessing gold etc. The thirty-fifth is that after their return from preaching the apostles had bread, fish, money, cloaks, and swords, in respect of ownership or lordship. The thirty-sixth is that it was permissible for the apostles to contend and litigate in court for temporal things as for their property, The thirty.. The thirty-ninth is that in l Corinthians 6[: I-9J the Apostle forbade or dissuaded the Corinthians only from frauduJent and unjust actions or litigation in the courts of unbelievers and did not reprehend Or even recommend against other litigations, but instead wished them to litigate.

The fortieth is that the key of knowledge is in no way a key of the Church or of the kingdom of heaven, because it is neither the same as, nor distinct from, the key of power. The forty-first is that the Roman pontiff can in respect of things pertaining to faith and morals revoke the definitions and determinations of the pontiffs his predecessors and define contrary assertions. The first of these is that in the divinity there are not three distinct persons, The second is that God can do by his absolute power nothing except what he does by his ordinate power; and that the statement] that God may do something other or otherwise than he does includes a contradiction; and that all things happen of necessity, so that [the statement] that something not pre-ordained by God may happen includes a contradiction.

The third is that the souls of the saints in heaven do not see God and win not see him before the daylS of general judgment.


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The fourth is that the souls of the reprobate are not and will not be in hen before the day of general judgment. The fifth is that the demons are not punished and will not be punished before the day of general judgment. The sixth is that Christ will not be king after the day of judgment. For it has been shown to me evidently by men of outstanding learning that because of the above errors and heresies this heretical pseudo..

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William of Ockham (Occam, c. 1280—c. 1349)

To prove these things several volumes have been published, and concerning the heresies and errors listed and those annexed to them I myself, from my slender abilities, have written by my hand fifty sexterns of the common form of paper, and I still have forty and more to write. For before I would regard all the above errors as compatible with the faith, I would think that the whole Christian faith, and all Christ's promises about the Catholic faith lasting to the end of the age, and the whole Church of God, could be preserved in a few, indeed in one; and I would judge that all other Christians erred against the Catholic faith, on the example of the prophet Elias, who, though he believed that he was God's only worshiper left," nevertheless did not at all desert the true faith: though I do not doubt that in fact many "thousands of men" and women "have by no means bent the knee" of their faith "before Baal, H20 Anyone, therefore, who wishes to recall me or anyone else of those withdrawing from the obedience of the pseudo-pope and his supporters should attempt to provide a basis for his constitutions F A sextern consists of sir sheets folded together to form twelve fol ios , i.

These rwo works. N See 3 Ktn85, t 9: TO. Let him not allege the multitude of his adherents or rely on insults. For those who try to ann themselves with a multitude, lies, insults, threats, accusations, and calumnies show themselves to be naked of truth and reason. Let no one think, therefore, that because of the multirude of this pseudo-pope's supporters or because of arguments that are common to heretics and to the orthodox, I would wish to abandon acknowledged truth. For I prefer the divine Scriptures to a man who is a simpleton in sacred literature, and I prefer the teaching of the holy fathers reigning with Christ to the deliverances of those living in this mortal life.

And I consider that the general chapter of Perugia, in which the brothers acted, though with fear, yet from conscience, should be preferred to all later gatherings of the brothers, in which they were moved by fear, ambition, or hatred, and that all the brothers, each and every one of them, at the time when they held the truths of faith and of the Order, are worth more than themselves if they have abandoned those tru ths, But if someone shows me plainly that the constitutions and sermons of the pseudo-pope do not deviate from Catholic truth, or, alternatively, that one should obey an heretical pope knowing that he is a heretic, I will not be slow to return to the brothers who support him.

Ockham+ +Letter+to+Friars+Minor

No one, however, who can prove neither of these things either by argument or by authorities should be hostile either to me or to anyone who does not obey the said heretic. For I think I have learned" more in these last four years about the characters of our contemporaries than if I had had continual dealings with them for forty years without this quarrel. I understand better the generalizations of the sacred Scriptures describing the characters of men, when I see them being 11 Substituting me adcertisse for 't'n1isst the sole manuscript reads ecemsse.

TS Minor verified by experience every day. For in this time of testing, the thoughts of the hearts of many are being revealed. But do not "blow the nose" too much,22 for, since he who now reigns is mortal, you do not know what the days to come wiH bring forth, May the Omnipotent deign to turn evil portents to good! N An allusion to Proverbs Jt "He that In things consumable by use neither a right of using nor a use of fact separate from ownership or lordship of the thing can be established or had.


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  7. That they conflict with sacred Scripture is proved clearly from chapters 2 and 4 of Acts. They sold their possessions and property and distributed them to individ For those who possessed fields and houses sold them and brought the price of the things they sold and put it at the feet of the apostles. They distributed to individuals as each had need The word 'his' the saints explain thus: 'His that is, proper fbelonging exclusively to him],' as is dear in r z, q.

    Scimus, c. Nolo, and c. Non diauis, and para. Sic ergo, and in Augustine's Rule near the beginning. For they sold their things not consurna. From this he concludes that "the said assertion and reaching contained in the said constitution goes against divine Scripture and destroys and confounds every religious order that has a vow renouncing the ownership of temporal things, for it implies that when any religious used things consumable by use he wou1d have to be regarded as an owner.

    We wiU answer them in what follows. This part begins the body of the constitution, which is divided into three main parts. The first part answers objections against the constitution Ad conditarem, the second answers objections against the constitution Cum inter, the third answers objections against the constitution!

    The second part begins at U Again, this heretic tries to attack the constitution Cum inter nonnullos" [chapter 8z], the third begins toward the end, at "Agaln, this heretic tries to attack the constitution!

    History of Christian theology - Wikipedia audio article

    The first part is further divided into seven parts, answering the seven objections against the first assertion taken from the constituti on Ad conditorem. The first parr is further divided into two parts.

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    In the first part, then, it is shown that in things consumable by use neither use of fact nor use of right can be separated from ownership or lordship. This is asserted in the constitution Ad amditorem, and in his appeal brother Michael attacks it by means of the statement of chapters 2 and 4- of Acts, U Among them all things were common" [Acts.

    For he says that since according to the truth of Scripture "Among them all things were common, n they did not have ownership of any thing consumable by use; yet certainly they had use of fact of things consumable by use; in things consumable by use, therefore, use of fact can be separated from ownership and lordship. This is the force of the attack reported above, which the attackers try to defend.

    Concerning the first, namely what is meant by use, they say that writers take the word "use" in various, ways.

    William of Ockham: A Short Discourse on Tyrannical Government

    It can be taken in four ways. In one way "use" is taken as distinguished from enjoy- 21 WUUam of Ockham ment, insofar as use and enjoyment are acts of will by which something is taken in the faculty of will. It is seldom or never taken in this way in legal science. In another way use is taken for the act of using some external thing, and it is taken in this way in every discipline which uses the word "use.

    It is taken in this way in I Kings 17[], when David, when he put on the armor, said, "I cannot go like this, for I do not have the use. H It is also taken this way in dist. Cum tonsuetudinis. In a fourth way "use" is taken for a certain particular right by which one can use things belonging to another, preserving their substance. They say that "use" is taken this way in the legal sciences and in writings which imitate the manner of speaking of the legal sciences. They do not recall, they say, that "use" is ever taken this way in theology Or philosophy. They say, therefore, that the noun "use" can be taken in these ways, without denying that it may be found taken in some other way.

    Concerning use of fact, they say that use of fact is the act of using some external thing - for example, an act of living in, eating, drinking, riding, wearing clothes, and the like. They illustrate this from divine Scripture, from legal science, and also from sayings. For Judges 19 quoted above says, "Having bread and wine for use by your maidservant and myself": this use was, certainly to eat the bread and drink the wine; ' use' therefore is sometimes taken for the act of eating or drinking.

    Again, Inst. I habitationc, para.

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    I, says: 'tv.. But the act by which someone uses vegetables and fruit is the act of eating.


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    The act of eating is therefore called "use" also in the civil s Substituting pro for qtUJ. I The Work of Ninety Days law, and by the same argument the acts of drinking and wearing and the like can be called use. Again, that the act of eating may be called "use of fact" is shown also by statements of the attacked himself. For in this constitution Quia vir reprobus he says: "Use of fact is proper to me user in such a way that it cannot be said to be another's or to be communicable to another; for it is dear that Peter's act of eating was in such a way proper to him that it could not be said to be common to others.

    Thus, therefore, every act anyone performs in relation to an external thing, such as eating, drinking, wearing, writing, reading in a book, riding, and the like, is caUed a use of fact, "fact" being added to distinguish such use from use of right. Concerning use of right, they say that use of right is a certain determinate positive right, established by human ordinance, by which one has the licit power and authority to use things belonging to anomer, preserving their substance.