European Philosophy – Ockham


William of Ockham (1288-1348), unlike Aquinas, followed Avicenna and argued that only objects and individuals are real, all else is mental construction and conception.  He is sometimes called the first modern thinker because of this, but Avicenna put this idea forward centuries earlier.  His nominalism says that concepts are just our names for things, our labels.  Just like Avicenna, he argued that only Being (God) is not contingent, not dependent on other things.  Ockham is also known for ‘Ockham’s razor’: the simplest explanation is often correct.  This fits with his Avicenna-like position: if how a thing works is a conception in our heads, then the simplest conception will often be the most useful.

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