Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bodies, Animals, and Minds 9 --- Ockham 1

Aquinas was not the only medieval philosopher around back then, and his view about human beings was not the only view floating around either. In fact, it was a highly unpopular view. Most medieval philosophers disagreed entirely. Ockham, for example, finds the problem of the corpse decisive.

Suppose that I die a few seconds from now. As I said before, my body would fall lifeless to the floor, and you would be left with a corpse on your hands. But compare my body now with the soon-to-be corpse. How would they differ?

As Ockham sees it, they wouldn’t differ at all. On the contrary, they would be exactly similar in every way. They would have the same color, the same size, and so on. They would even have the same cells. Of course, the cells would start to decay after I die, but at the moment just before my death and the moment just after my death, there would be exactly the same cells (or very nearly). And that, thinks Ockham, gives us a very strong reason to think that they are, in fact, the very same body.


Edward Ockham said...

Where does Ockham say this.

Glad to see your blog is working again! I wasn't looking for a bit and then I came back and there are 500 posts.

JT Paasch said...

Here I'm looking at Ockham's Quod. 2, question 11. Ockham's argument there is a little more sophisticated than mine, for there he argues from the sameness of accidents to the sameness of primary substance (i.e., that it must be the same body).

But what I'm posting here is essentially just my notes for a lecture I gave to undergraduates with no training in medieval philosophy, so I've simplified things a bit.