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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K3579-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2015
Retrieved July 13, 2024, from

Article Summary

Ockhamism, so named because it was developed and defended by the fourteenth-century philosopher William of Ockham, is a long-enduring response to fatalist arguments. Fatalism, the thesis that it is impossible for anyone to act freely, comes in two varieties: logical and theological. Logical fatalists begin their argument with the assumption that no matter what anyone does, it has always been true that she does it, while theological fatalists begin by assuming that no matter what anyone does, God has always known that she does it. Fatalists go on to argue that, since no one can change what has always been true or what God has always known, no agent can ever do anything other than what she does; hence, no agent ever acts freely. The Ockhamist response, in brief, is that arguments for fatalism trade on a failure to distinguish between changing the past, on the one hand, and its being up to an agent what the past was like, on the other. Once the relevant distinction is drawn, Ockhamists contend, it is clear that fatalist arguments are unsound.

Though Ockham himself was primarily concerned with theological fatalism, his argument may just as well be formulated as a response to logical fatalism. It should be noted that there are many formulations of Ockhamism, just as there are many formulations of the fatalist argument.

Citing this article:
Finch, Alicia. Ockhamism, 2015, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K3579-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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