From Razor to Rebellion
Volume 7 in the Ideas Explained™ series
On May 26th, 1328, under cover of night, a group of figures moves in darkness, preparing for a long journey. Their apartments in the old episcopal palace of Avignon, France, are otherwise quiet and still. Among the items in their small bundles is the official seal of the Franciscan Order, necessary for the Order to conduct its official business. These men are going to steal it, and take it with them, as they slip out of the compound.
But they are not simple thieves, in fact they are all Franciscans themselves, and one of them is the Minister General of the Order. Another is a forty-year-old Englishman, the greatest European thinker of his day, whose career is about to be wrecked by his defiance of the Pope and flight into exile. William of Ockham was very original and provocative. He had a new and uncompromising approach to logic and language. Some people claim he invented the idea of church-state separation. Others call him the first modern philosopher or the skeptic who put an end to the harmonious medieval alliance of faith and reason.
In Ockham Explained, Rondo Keele gives us a vivid, accurate picture of Ockham, his life, his thought, and his contribution to philosophy.
“A lucid introduction to William of Ockham that, in fitting tribute to its subject, is philosophically engaging from start to finish.”
—Jack Zupko, co-author of Stoicism: Traditions and Transformations
“A handy introduction to the main themes of Ockham’s philosophy: nominalism,Ockham’s famous Razor, his philosophy of language, physics, ethics, and political theory. Keele writes with admirable clarity, informed by the latest scholarship. The book includes an account of Ockham’s life, his educational training, and his subsequent influence.”
—Paul Vincent Spade, editor of The Cambridge Companion to Ockham
“Rondo Keele offers the non-specialist a readable presentation of Ockham’s ideas in a work that skillfully weaves together the English Franciscan’s life and his intellectual development. Keele makes even the most abstruse arguments readily comprehensible by offering imaginative examples taken from everyday life, and he makes clear the true nature of the much used but often misunderstood term ‘Ockham’s Razor’.”
—Jean D'Amato Thomas, Professor of Classics, Northwestern State University
“Though Professor Keele’s approach is popular rather than heavily academic (purposefully avoiding footnotes, for example) the simple truth is that one will learn a great deal about Ockham and the medieval philosophical world before one realizes it. Ockham Explained does great service in knocking down the barriers of language and form that so often keep non-specialists from exploring medieval philosophy on their own.”
—Charles Bolyard, Associate Professor of Philosophy, James Madison University
Rondo Keele is an assistant professor of philosophy at the Louisiana Scholars’ College at Northwestern State University, Louisiana.