William of Ockham on the Instant of Change

in Vivarium
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Ockham’s approach to the problem of the instant of change as it is found in the Summa logicae i, chapter 5, and ii, chapter 19, is usually described as “purely logical,” narrowing the treatment of “begins” and “ceases” to simplistic cases. The aim of this paper is to complement our knowledge of Ockham’s position on the problem of the instant of change by analysing the treatment of the problem he gives in his questions on the Physics 98-101. In these passages, Ockham adopts a “physical approach” in order to deal with problems related to the continuity of alteration and the production of the form of the mix from elementary qualities. To solve these problems, he is compelled to give up one of the most important claims at the basis of the logical approach that he adopted in the Summa logicae, namely that the distinction between permanent and successive entities is not relevant in the assignment of truth-conditions to propositions containing the aspectual verbs “beginning” and “ceasing.”

William of Ockham on the Instant of Change

in Vivarium




N. Kretzmann“Incipit/Desinit,” in Motion and Time Space and Matter: Interrelations in the History of Philosophy and Scienceed. P. Machamer and R. Turnbull (Columbus oh 1976) 101-136 at 102.


Kretzmann“Incipit/Desinit” 117.


P. Spade“How to Start and Stop: Walter Burley on the Instant of Transition,” Journal of Philosophical Research 19 (1994) 193-221at 196.


Kretzmann“Incipit/desinit” 110.


On this subject see E. Sylla“Averroes and Fourteenth-Century Theories of Alteration,” in Averroes’s Natural Philosophy and Its Reception in the Latin Wested. P.J.J.M. Bakker (Leuven 2015) 141-192. For more on Burley’s position on the subject see E. Sylla “Walter Burley’s Physics Commentaries and the Mathematics of Alteration” Early Science and Medicine 6 (2001) 149-184. For more on Gregory of Rimini’s position see C. Loewe “Gregory of Rimini on the Intension and Remission of Corporeal Forms” Recherches de Théologie et de Philosophie médiévales 81 (2014) 273-330.


Sylla“Medieval Concepts of the Latitude of Forms” 234.


Sylla“Medieval Concepts of the Latitude of Forms” 252.


On this subject see L. Nielsen“Thomas Bradwardine’s Treatise on ‘incipit’ and ‘desinit’: Edition and Introduction,” Cahiers de l’Institut du Moyen Age grec et latin 42 (1982) 1-83at 29; Kretzmann “Incipit/Desinit” 110 n. 33; N. Strobach The Moment of Change: A Systematic History in the Philosophy of Space and Time (Dordrecht 1998) 95.


C. Trifogli“Thomas Wylton’s Question ‘An contingit dare ultimum rei permanentis in esse’,” Medieval Philosophy and Theology 4 (1994) 91-141at 108. For Wylton’s biography and works see L.O. Nielsen and C. Trifogli’s introduction to their edition of Thomas Wylton On the Intellectual Soul (Oxford 2010) vii-xii.


Trifogli“Thomas Wylton’s Question” 95.


On this subject see N. Kretzmann“Socrates is Whiter Than Plato Begins to be White,” Nous 11 (1977) 7-15at 5.


Kretzmann“Incipit-Desinit” 114-116. See also Nielsen “Thomas Bradwardine’s Treatise” 14-15 n. 5 and 19-20.


For Burley’s solution see Spade“How to Start and Stop” 204.


Spade“How to Start and Stop” 204-205.


Kretzmann“Incipit/Desinit” 108-114.


Normore“The Logic of Time” 279.


See especially WilsonWilliam Heytesbury31-56; Kretzmann “Incipit-Desinit” 103-121; J. Murdoch “Propositional Analysis in Fourteenth-Century Natural Philosophy: A Case Study” Synthese 40 (1979) 118-138; Knuuttila “Remarks on the Background of the Fourteenth Century Limit Decision Controversies” 251-258.


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