Category Archives: Nominalism

Islam, Asharites, Asharitism, Averroes, Averrosim, Ockham, Ockhamism, Nominalism, Luther

“Two divergent and opposing schools of Islamic thought emerge. One school is called the Mutazilites, whom we will call the reason party. On other side are the traditionalists, known as the Asharites, (Asharitism, aka voluntarism, occasionalism) whom we will call the irrational party.

The reason party embraces Greek philosophy and attempts to interpret Islamic revelation to fit reason. It proposes that truth can be known not only through the Quran, but also through human reason and through the consideration of creation. The irrational party sees Greek philosophy as un-Islamic. Its members insist that Allah is so transcendent that he can be known only through Islamic revelation, not reason, nor can reason uncover any truths about God.

The divide between the two parties will not only affect the future of Islamic countries, but also ultimately culminate in a full-blown revolt against reality in Western civilization…

Separating God’s will [what He chooses to do] from his nature [reason/will/wisdom/intellect/Who He is] effectively separates God’s will from His wisdom and his wisdom from creation. If God creates however He wishes, then our ability to know God through his creation is snuffed out. Everything would depend on the unknowable God’s disposition, and the only way to know that is through positive revelation. (Ed. i.e. Natural Law does not exist and God cannot be known by anything except what He strictly reveals. Creation is not indicative of God. God is just, but does not need to be just in His actions. God is good, but God does not need to be good because of His nature. God is just, but does not need to be just. God’s will takes on an extreme position even in violation of Who He is, His nature.  There is no philosophy.  Name your favorite Muslim philosopher?)

…The Asharites oppose [the concept of free will]. People, like the rest of creation, live under divine compulsion. God’s will makes it so. To suggest something like free will would be tantamount to claiming there is something beyond the power of the Almighty. Seeing human freedom as somehow in competition with the sovereignty of the Creator will return during the Protestant Reformation…

…Since things in the Asharite view have no nature, however, one cannot apprehend them in this way; they are only momentary assemblages of atoms…When pushed to its logical limits, God’s unbounded will destroys the possibility of science. Since God’s will does not necessarily reflect His nature, creation reflects only what an unbounded will wished to produce. A thing’s nature, therefore, has no innate power. Everything is immediately caused by God. This means that the combination of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen makes water, not because of the nature of the atoms, but because Allah wills it to be water. Allah could equally will that the combination of these same elements make a donkey or an orange…

…The laws of nature, therefore, are not effects produced by the overall structure and properties of things in the universe, but merely a pattern of occurrences that God habitually causes through his arbitrary will for reasons known only to Himself. Therefore, God [can have the appearance of] two kinds of will: one that is regular and orderly [only because He seems to will things to be in a consistent way, but could change His will at any moment] and [consequentially] another that [could seem] unpredictable [Ed. water is no longer water it at any moment because God changed His mind]. But if everything around us is a projection of God’s changeable will, then the only the thing that really exists, despite appearances, is God…

If God is the only reality; then accepting the reality of the world becomes a form of polytheism—placing the real in competition with the only real.

The expansion of Islam brought new Greek philosophical works to the Latin West, along with Islamic commentaries on them. The reception of these texts, and especially Aristotelian philosophy, was so positive that many teachers and students began to embrace uncritically everything Aristotle taught. True, Aristotle was a great philosopher, but he made some serious errors (pantheism, the uncreated eternal cosmos, all humans share one intellect, etc.). The confusion was compounded by Islamic commentators, such as Averroes, who followed Aristotle in some of these errors.

Double Truth

One way academics try to avoid the contradiction of embracing both Aristotle and the Faith is to adopt something called double truth (also known as hard Averroism). Double truth separates faith and reason into exclusive spheres of knowledge [Ed. i.e. faith OR reason, NOT fides et ratio, faith AND reason.  Truth is truth.  First principle of non-contradiction, truth CANNOT contradict truth, otherwise it is an oxymoron.  There is no such thing as truth.  God is truth.  Wherever and however truth is or can be found, God is there and revealed in it.  There is no distinction between truth and God, since God is the source and author of all truth.]

God’s Unconstrained Will

Like the irrational party (the Asharites) in Islam, according to the Franciscan [fraticelli, or] spirituals, God’s will is separated from His nature. God wills the good not because He is goodness itself, but rather because He decided to will it at that moment. Later, God could call the same thing evil…The spirituals argued that God could will that property is a good in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament, He chose to will the opposite. Ockham’s thought has striking implications: There is no immutable law or reason. Every order is simply the result of God’s absolute will and can be disrupted or reconstituted at any moment. Indeed, Ockham even maintains that God can change the past if He so desires.

According to this view, reality is not a coherent whole, like a fabric comprising individual threads woven into a tapestry. Reality is more like a computer screen made up of individual pixels. Each pixel is isolated, disconnected, and separate from the others and can change to produce different pictures on the screen.

Therefore, God’s establishment of creatures “according to their kind” is turned into a kind of fiction. Universals (like animality and triangularity, 2+2=4, etc.) are nothing more than names (Latin, nomina) we assign to things for the purpose of comprehending the incomprehensible multitude of radically individual things. For Ockham, “divine omnipotence, properly speaking, thus entails radical individualism.” By rejecting the God of reason and replacing Him with a god of will, Ockham—like the Asharites—essentially rules out the possibility of knowing God through the things He has made.

Divine Deception

There is a deeper and more insidious implication to Ockham’s view. It opens the possibility that God can deceive us: Divine omnipotence, however, raises a fundamental epistemological problem, since it opens up the possibility of divine deception. . . . For Ockham, the idea of divine omnipotence thus means that human beings can never be certain that any of the impressions they have correspond to an actual object. Heaven and earth separated by God’s unbounded will make it impossible for us to know what anything truly is.

Ockhamism (also known as nominalism) separates God’s wisdom [intellect/reason] from His will [what He chooses to do] and God from creation, and it dissolves our ability to know what is real. [And opens up the potential for God to deceive.]

Revelation Alone

If God cannot be known through the things He has made, the only way to know the unbounded will of God is through revelation. The outward appearance of things becomes meaningless…Ultimately, our union with God is reduced to faith alone…

…Christ’s humanity isn’t denied, but it is seen as arbitrary. When Ockham’s nominalism is pushed to its logical conclusion, there can be no real (ontological) union with Christ, since Christ’s humanity is merely something God willed with no rhyme or reason. He could have assumed a nature that is radically different from our own. And if Christ’s humanity is arbitrary, then the apostolic witness of what was seen, heard, and touched is meaningless. Christ’s body—the Church—is nothing more than a name we give to a collection of similar individuals. [Ed. there is also the implication that while God could have saved in any infinite number of ways, His choosing to become human has direct implication to the redemption of humanity, and, ergo, any alternative suggests less or a lesser redemption of the children of Adam & Eve and Original Sin.]

The Moral Law

The natural law and the moral law fare no better under Ockham’s nominalism:

“The moral law is in this sense radically subordinated to divine choice and completely beyond the capacity of human reason to deduce or explain. . . . God is indifferent to what He chooses and the moral law is good not in itself but only because He wills it. Moreover, there is no limits set upon what God can demand. He can even command that we hate Him. Whatever His commandments may be, they are by definition good and binding. God’s will alone determines what is good and evil, and He is not even bound by His own previous determinations.” [Ed. a fickle, capricious god, just like the pagan gods of myth]

Lastly, nominalism ushers in a new form of radical individualism that mirrors the nominalist god. “For Ockham, individual human beings have no natural end, and there is no natural law such as Aquinas had imagined to govern human actions. Man, like God is free . . . opening up this realm of freedom not merely by rejecting the scholastic notion of final causes, but also by rejecting the application of efficient causality to men. For Ockham, man in principle is thus free from nature itself.”

The outworking of nominalism will ultimately come to full bloom in the twenty-first century with the insanity of feminism, bodily autonomy, abortion, and gender identity. The god of Ockham is the antithesis of Christ, Emmanuel, God with us. The Incarnation proposes that God’s wisdom permeates all and that His love binds us as one body.

[The Holy Roman Emperor, Louis IV, Ludwig of Bavaria, 1282-1347, begins a revolt against the papacy going so far as to invade Rome on January 11, 1328, crowning himself emperor as the pope had refused to do so.]

The pope fights back against Ludwig with the spiritual sword. He issues a series of excommunications extending down to kindred with Ludwig to the fourth degree. He also places whole countries under the interdict.

“Germany alone was under interdict for twenty years, which means that no public religious service could be held, no sacrament could be publicly administered, no bell could sound. The more often these ecclesiastical penalties were imposed, the blunter grew the spiritual sword. Inevitably the religion and morality of the people suffered serious damage, their sense of the Church was weakened, their sympathies were alienated from Christ’s vicar.

The pope also fills all the vacant sees and offices in Germany with his supporters, which fosters more alienation between the German people and the Church.

Martin Luther

Martin Luther (1483–1546) is the son of a peasant miner. His father hopes young Martin will become a lawyer, but his direction changes at Erfurt, where he decides to study philosophy and religion. Erfurt is considered a via moderna stronghold. It is here that Luther encounters nominalism and, to a lesser extent, scholasticism…

“In his [Luther’s] later words, “Life is as evil among us as among the papists, thus we do not argue about life but about doctrine. Whereas Wycliff and Hus attacked the immoral lifestyle of the papacy, I challenge primarily its doctrine.” Or to put it in a more startling way, even if the ecclesiastical hierarchy had been exhibiting exemplary holiness at the time, Luther would, it seems, have attacked its doctrine as fundamentally flawed.”

Luther holds to the same nominalist distinction God’s unbounded absolute [unrestrained/capricious/fickle] will and His habitual ordained [according to His nature, reflecting Who God is] will.  [Ed. I know the stove is hot, but I, somehow, choose to touch it anyway.]

Scripture Alone

It’s not surprising that Luther’s nominalism, as with the Islamic Asharites before him, leads to restricting our knowledge of God to positive revelation alone. This is the first step toward displacing the perpetual witness of Christ’s visible body, the Church, as the norm through which we have fellowship with God (1 John 1:1–2) with the Bible. No longer do we hear Christ by hearing the apostolic Church; we are to hear Christ solely through inspired Scripture.

HUMAN INTEGRITY AND VALUE
Faith Alone and the Body-Soul Dichotomy

Luther’s view of God also affects his view of how sinners are made acceptable to God in justification:

“The Church’s classical doctrine of grace, presents grace as a movement of divine love, entering into the penitent soul and delivering it from the bonds of its fallen nature. In contrast with this, grace in Ockhamism remains strictly transcendent. Justification consists solely in a relatio externa, a new relationship of mercy between man and God established by God’s love, by means of which all man’s religious and moral acts, though remaining in themselves human and natural, are accounted as salvific acts in the eyes of the merciful God. . . . Human activity only becomes salvific by God’s recognition of it, by his act of acceptance. But this recognition and validation does not in any way affect man’s spiritual powers. It remains completely outside him and is simply seen and assented to by faith.”

According to nominalism, God gives us the Law to follow and subsequently approves whatever moral acts we do, as He pleases—a view that comes close to denying the doctrine of original sin. Luther’s struggle to earn salvation, the nominalist way, pushes him to the point of hating God. His crisis is alleviated by reading Romans 3:28: “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law.” The law, Luther thinks, is given to drive us to our knees in despair, knowing we can never be righteous in the sight of God and that when we place our faith in Christ, He declares or treats us as if we were righteous.

Catholicism teaches, however, that the just God wills justly. Therefore, when God calls an individual just, the individual is changed and becomes just because God’s Word is a creative Word (Rom. 5:18–19; 1 John 3:1). [Ed. That is the great distinction between the divine and the human word.  The divine word creates reality in being spoken.] Being united to Christ in justification, as a branch to a vine, we bear good fruit—that is, good works that are pleasing to God (John 15:1–6; 1 John 3:7)—because it is God Who produces these good works that are pleasing to Him (1 Cor. 15:10; Eph. 3:8–10; Phil. 2:12–13).

Luther considers justification, as the nominalists do, as completely external to us: God declares us righteous even though we remain unrighteous in ourselves. Unlike Ockham, however, Luther asserts that man is incapable of doing any truly good work, since Adam’s sin utterly corrupted our nature.

By reducing justification to faith alone, we—as soul-body composites—are treated in a dichotomous way. Fidelity to God is split into two opposing camps: faith alone (i.e., trust in God’s promises) is what pleases God and justifies us, as opposed to anything we do. God accepts the soul’s assent of faith. As for our bodily acts of obedience, God either ignores them or takes offense at them.

Luther’s Contrary Truths

Since justification is an external decree of God, Luther describes those justified as being simultaneously “just and sinner” (simul justus et peccator). As Luther writes in his Lectures on Galatians (1535):

“Thus a Christian man is righteous and a sinner at the same time, holy and profane, an enemy of God and a child of God. None of the sophists will admit this paradox, because they do not understand the true meaning of justification.”

In this view of justification, God is said to treat us as if we were righteous and worthy of salvation even though in reality, we are unchanged (profane, sinful, damnable). The Church teaches something very different: a real transformation occurs in justification, where the sinner ceases to be a profane enemy of God and, being grafted to the New Adam (Jesus), becomes holy and righteous.

Luther’s view vaguely parallels the dualism we saw earlier with the Gnostics, whose salvation consisted of the soul discarding the materiality of the body by obtaining secret knowledge.

Free Will

Where Ockham believed that man had a bestowed freedom, Luther denies free will outright, famously likening it to a beast of burden:

“If God rides it, it goes where God wills. . . . If Satan rides it, it wills and goes where Satan wills; nor can it choose to run to either of the two riders or to seek him out, but the riders themselves contend for the possession and control of it.”

We saw a similar error with the Islamic irrational party, who claimed that everything except God acts under compulsion.”

-from Michuta, Gary. Revolt Against Reality: Fighting the Foes of Sanity and Truth- from the Serpent to the State (p. 77-79, 81, 83-84, 104, 108-111, 113, 118-122). Catholic Answers Press. Kindle Edition.

Love & truth,
Matthew

A Little History of Thought: Nominalism, “Ideas have consequences.” They do.

quote-occam-s-razor-no-more-things-should-be-presumed-to-exist-than-are-absolutely-necessary-i-e-the-william-of-occam-372636

We are creatures of conditioning and history.  All human beings are and ever were…with the exception of One, through His Divine nature.  This former part of this proposition is the antithesis of popular American thought.  American thought implies all ideas, let alone people, are equal.  It’s easier, much easier to think THAT.  🙁  We know the latter is factually untrue, other than politically, and it DOES make for delicious political philosophy.  Thank you, TJ!!!!  🙂  What of the former?

Americans, like the empires before them, in the vacuum of their success, all believed they were right; morally, especially, but in all other ways, too, due to their success; a circular, self-affirming logic.  For immediate relief, I propose a trip outside the country.  There is another world.  Really.  Trust me.  And, (gasp), they don’t think like us.   And, they don’t see the world the way we do.  Also, while abroad, catch some news on the BBC/Al Jazeera, and see what it is like to have a WORLD view.

If we dare to adjudicate the, as we perceive/see them, errors of our time, intellectual integrity requires we first critique our own biases and context for making such judgments.  Otherwise, our conclusions bear no merit whatsoever.

First, some terms, gentle reader, to whet the appetite and salt the fare:

Can you smell the skepticism?  The relativism?  Can you taste it?  It is in the wind, in the very air, that we breathe.  A little sulfurous, no?  Acrid?  🙂

“What is this thing?  Called Love?

Modernism is a philosophical movement that, along with cultural trends and changes, arose from wide-scale and far-reaching transformations in Western society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among the factors that shaped Modernism were the development of modern industrial societies and the rapid growth of cities, followed then by the horror of World War I. Modernism also rejected the certainty of Enlightenment thinking, and many modernists rejected religious belief.

Modernism, in general, includes the activities and creations of those who felt the traditional forms of art, architecture, literature, religious faith, philosophy, social organization, activities of daily life, and even the sciences, were becoming ill-fitted to their tasks and outdated in the new economic, social, and political environment of an emerging fully industrialized world. The poet Ezra Pound’s 1934 injunction to “Make it new!” was the touchstone of the movement’s approach towards what it saw as the now obsolete culture of the past. In this spirit, its innovations, like the stream-of-consciousness novel, atonal (or pantonal) and twelve-tone music, quantum physics, genetics, neuron networks, set theory, analytic philosophy, the moving-picture show, divisionist painting and abstract art, all had precursors in the 19th century.

A notable characteristic of Modernism is self-consciousness, which often led to experiments with form, along with the use of techniques that drew attention to the processes and materials used in creating a painting, poem, building, etc.  Modernism explicitly rejected the ideology of realism and makes use of the works of the past by the employment of reprise, incorporation, rewriting, recapitulation, revision and parody.

Some commentators define Modernism as a mode of thinking—one or more philosophically defined characteristics, like self-consciousness or self-reference, that run across all the novelties in the arts and the disciplines.  More common, especially in the West, are those who see it as a socially progressive trend of thought that affirms the power of human beings to create, improve and reshape their environment with the aid of practical experimentation, scientific knowledge, or technology. From this perspective, Modernism encouraged the re-examination of every aspect of existence, from commerce to philosophy, with the goal of finding that which was ‘holding back’ progress, and replacing it with new ways of reaching the same end. Others focus on Modernism as an aesthetic introspection. This facilitates consideration of specific reactions to the use of technology in the First World War, and anti-technological and nihilistic aspects of the works of diverse thinkers and artists spanning the period from Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) to Samuel Beckett (1906–1989).

Postmodernism is a late-20th-century movement in the arts, architecture, and criticism that was a departure from modernism.  Postmodernism includes skeptical interpretations of culture, religon, literature, art, philosophy, history, economics, architecture, fiction, and literary criticism.

from http://nominalismdenounced.blogspot.com/ (Disclaimer:  I DO NOT concur with the author’s overall positions, nor, hardly, conclusions, however, he makes SOME points well to support his arguments. Romans 5:20.  Which I, in turn, use to make my own.  I do accept responsibility, in general, for what I have quoted below from the author’s article.  God help me, always.)

-by Joseph Andrew Settanni

“The advance of postmodernity, into the 21st century, has seen the full fruits of the results of the rabid pursuit of what had been regarded as modernity, often called the modern project, which includes abortion, artificial contraception, infanticide, euthanasia, sexually transmitted diseases, homosexuality, pornography, etc., meaning the vindication of human hubris.

The postmodern thrust is most clearly seen, therefore, in the expanding and intensifying worship of death, usually called the culture of death; the human race, denying the rights and existence of God, actively seeks self-extermination with its normally decreasing birthrates and increased sterility observed around the world; it is, thus, a manifestly manmade demographic nightmare nihilistically engulfing a much too willing humanity.

Of course, the cancerous roots of this profoundly spiritual crisis, meaning the nihilistic choosing of a completely intramundane-immanentist eschatology, go deep. What started as an intellectual tendency much earlier in the history of Western thought became first “codified” in philosophical terms by an aberrant English Franciscan Scholastic, William of Ockham or Occam (c. 1287–1347), with his subjectivist and relativist advocacy of nominalism, which, later in time, was also fairly called (appropriately enough) Occamism. And, as Richard M. Weaver had noted long ago, ideas have consequences.  (Ed. Ask the victims of the Nazis, the Communists, the Khmer Rouge, if they do, fair reader?)

Admittedly, nominalism, which ultimately leads to nihilism, is very epistemologically seductive and even most of its adherents rarely, if ever, become conscious of its supremely thoroughgoing hold upon them.

For instance, the needed denunciation of the gigantic religious/theological heresy of Modernism, by Pope St. Pius X, would have been impossible to truly comprehend (as to the precise reason for the condemnation’s vital need) without the prior success of the development of the important intellectual error known as nominalism in cognition, for there is no greater deception than self-deception…(Ed. nor none more rampant, gentle reader.)

The Matter Itself Defined

But, what is nominalism? Simply put, it is the explicit denial of there being any universals; the doctrine that general ideas or abstract concepts, meaning as being mere necessities of thought or conveniences of language, are simply names without any true corresponding reality and that, in fact, only particular objects exist; there are, therefore, no universal essences whatsoever.

The nominalist contends, e. g., that one can see an individual man, a human being, but there can be no universal term that talks about man as an abstract category as if it possessed any reality. Thus, an individual person has a human nature qua real being; but, the universality of a human nature qua nature of humanity does not philosophically exist. There are, as other examples, individual dogs or cats; there is, however, no universal “thing” that can be specified as dog or cat. Words such as liberty, freedom, truth, beauty, justice, etc. are said to be mere abstractions qua semantic devices having no true substance whatsoever.

The inherent and integral and unavoidable contradictions and conundrums, involved in such a bold contention, get rudely pushed aside in the subjective-relativist rush toward upholding the nominalist asseveration, meaning totally regardless of the actuality of the matters discussed. Objectivity and subjectivity, among other basic noetic results, get necessarily reversed within the scope of human understanding and comprehension, not surprisingly. It is, in short, Occam’s Razor gone mad.

Thus, ultimately, it is the extremely anomalous positing that metaphysics can exist without any reference to a metaphysical order (as if a river could be composed without any water); a once truly radical or extremist point of view that, today, is held to be completely normal. It is, therefore, as to its logical consequences, a world seeking to be entirely bereft of God and, finally, of sanity itself in the cause of pursuing nominalism to its final epistemological conclusion.

One can see, as with, e. g., Communism, how an ersatz religion (or the oddity of a secularist religion) qua ideology can induce people to murder millions of their fellow human beings, though not ever thinking that such slaughter is clearly indicative of insanity. If this can be understood, however, then the true meaning, implications, and ramifications of modernity are then revealed.

Objective knowledge, unfortunately, becomes difficult to grasp whenever Occamism operates on the human brain. And, further, objectivity itself has its very existence questioned when this kind of “logic” gets worked upon over time; both philosophy and political philosophy, as consequences, have become progressively corrupted as the centuries have passed such that, for the vast majority of people, nominalism has simply become an unrecognized pandemic attitude and accepted orientation of thought within all of modern civilization.

But, there are continuing philosophical problems left unresolved. How can, in fact, the particularity of a particular being, said to be human, be then held to be possible or plausible without a prior paradigmatic conception of what it is that gets properly defined as human, especially a human nature? How could, by extension, someone be said to possess a human nature without there being the definition of a nature that is applicable, by definition, to a human being and, thus, to all human beings who have ever lived or, of course, are alive now?

The moderate realism approach of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, along with most of Platonic thought, gets weirdly turned upside down and inside out in the effort to create an Occamist worldview where there are no universals imaginable (read: permitted). There were, as to the reductionist mentality involved, many consequences, as could be guessed, in the field of intellectual or political-intellectual history.

For instance, the 18th century Enlightenment’s deification of Reason witnessed a modern form of (liberal) tyranny (or insanity) then known as enlightened despotism; this fitted in well, in turn, with Rousseau’s contention, e. g., that men had to be forced to be free, which logically originated, of course, the concept of democratic despotism as a means of (insane) progressive liberation, of creating the New Eden on earth, Utopianism. (The logical end results, in their turn, lead to both Nazi death camps and Communist gulags in the 20th century, for the road to Utopia always takes the path toward necessary dehumanization, due to the ideological rationalization of murder on a grand scale.)

By the early 19th century, Jeremy Bentham, the father of utilitarianism, could gratuitously, meaning just passingly, dismiss all of Natural Law as being only “Nonsense on Stilts” in his aggressive efforts at the totalist (insane) rationalization of human life, culture, law, civilization, and society. Modernity, thus, vigorously so spreads philosophical/metaphysical ignorance and, therefore, continuously incapacitates the human mind from reasoning correctly about fundamental matters concerning the human condition and the consequences of the thoughts and actions of fallen creatures living in a fallen world; sin itself gets ignored, of course; rationality qua right reason gets wrongly confused with Rationalism, a form of ideological insanity…

Thus, e. g., Martin Luther, educated primarily by nominalist-inspired teachers of theology, was then supplied with many currents of reasoning that conformed easily toward the creation of Protestantism, the truest theological expression of nominalism ever fashioned or conceived by mortal man: sola Scriptura and sola fide. Someone can actually think of himself as being a good Protestant who, in effect, constitutes his own church and acts as his own pope, in the spirit of individualism writ large.

The metaphysical order qua Supreme Being becomes flexible and adaptable to the variable and various (read: Protestant) belief needs or values of diverse kinds or types of Christians. From the Catholic point of view, however, it was obviously blasphemous to the nth degree for the so-called Reformers to, thus, reform God; Protestant converts to Catholicism get the point. But, one ought to be able to plainly see how Protestantism blends in quite well with the flow and logic of modernity.

The Protestant Revolt was and necessarily remains, therefore, the vainglorious and forever dubious theological effort at (supposedly) achieving the reformation of the Lord. This is easily proven empirically in how dozens of sects had expanded into, first, hundreds and now continuingly thousands upon thousands of sects that continue to multiply; the so-called Reformation is endless because God must be made to conform to the dictates of a multiplicity of divergent and disputational consciences, which process displays the forever inherent and integral irrationality of Protestantism, of course…

What is meant? All the ideologies of modernity, meaning inclusive of Conservatism, Communism, Nazism, Fascism, Liberalism, Anarchism, Libertarianism, Feminism, etc. can be then traced through many kinds of philosophical attitudes such as materialism, hedonism, secularism, humanism, subjectivism, pragmatism, positivism, nihilism, reductionism, etc. back to their root or fundamental cause: Nominalism.

Unsurprisingly, every heresy attacking Catholicism can be drawn, either directly or indirectly, to the same source or, rather, mental contagion; and, moreover, the desacralized and neopagan West, without a doubt, is now intellectually and morally disarmed in the face of an increasingly militant and aggressive Islam. In turn, postmodernism in thought (deconstructionism, etc.) would be inconceivable without a prior modernism in cognition; both modernism and postmodernism, as popularly understood, are ultimately traceable to the germinal nominalist point of view…

Br_Thomas_Davenport_OP
-by Br Thomas Davenport, OP

“At heart, Nominalism is an attempt to explain why we call a cat a cat. It’s not concerned with the etymology of the word “cat” but with why it is even possible to give a single name to all of these animals. The central claim of Nominalism is that only individual realities exist; there is only Fluffy and Garfield and Mittens, and each is completely singular and unique in its existence. Universals, like the word “cat,” are simply useful labels that we humans can apply to things that we perceive as being similar, but do not correspond to anything in reality. There is no such thing as cat nature that is really shared by each cat and gives a real basis for grouping them as a species. There is simply a name. Of course, this goes beyond felinology to all universals. Most troubling is that Nominalism claims there is no such thing as human nature, simply individual, unrelated human beings.

When considered from a theological perspective, Nominalism has a drastic effect on our relationship to God. Whatever order and structure we may observe in the world cannot be rooted in the real relationship between different types of things, because there are no types of things to relate.

Whatever order we find can only be rooted in God’s free choice. Thomists absolutely agree that God created and continues to maintain creation with absolute freedom, but they see the result of that freedom as an expression of God’s providential wisdom.

For the Nominalist, the majesty of the created order is not really a glimpse at God’s wisdom but simply of the way he wants things to be for the moment. In the moral order, if there is no such thing as human nature, there is no such thing as natural inclination towards happiness or natural law. There is no rational reason behind what makes a particular action good or bad; there is only God’s free choice.

William of Ockham, the founder of scholastic Nominalism, took this extreme Voluntarism, this overemphasis on God’s free will, so far as to claim, “God can command the created will to hate him,” and by that command, the hatred of God would be good. He saw this as possible not simply in this world. Rather, “just as hatred of God can be a good act in this world, so can it be in the next.”

Ockham never claimed that God had ever commanded this, and Ockham recognized a customary order in things. But he held on to the idea that there was no guarantee that this order would not completely change tomorrow.

As influential as Nominalism was in the 14th century and continues to be in various guises today, the phrase “anything can signify anything” isn’t really expressing medieval Nominalism. It is expressing a sort of New Nominalism* that we see in today’s culture, a sort of modern amalgamation of Nominalism and Voluntarism, but without even God as the ultimate arbiter.

There seems to be a growing trend that assumes not only that universals are merely names with no real significance, but even that the meaning of these names is entirely up to the free will of each individual. What it means to be a man or a woman is becoming something subjective and self-defined. Whether a slur is really a slur or a sign of affection is simply up to the one who uses it or who hears it.

Further, this personal Voluntarism ensures that no one need be bound by their past opinions on a word from one moment to the next. What was once, in the moment, a life-long vow “for better or for worse” might eventually become simply a nice turn of phrase, said on a day long ago but that never really meant anything…

While Nominalism tended to cut us off from God’s wisdom and the well-ordered plan of salvation, the New Nominalism introduces a sort of man-made Babel, cutting us off from one another and even from our very selves.

When words, including universals, lose their connection to an objective reality, we lose the ability to speak honestly about truth and goodness. While it may be true on some abstract level that “anything can signify anything,” only certain things actually signify the truth, only certain statements actually correspond to the reality they are conveying. Without trust in the reality underlying our words, the truth about ourselves and about God will always escape us, no matter how hard we will otherwise.”

Love,
Matthew