Vision and Certitude in the Age of Ockham

Optics, Epistemology and the Foundation of Semantics 1250-1345


When William of Ockham lectured on Lombard’s Sentences in 1317-1319, he articulated a new theory of knowledge. Its reception by fourteenth-century scholars was, however, largely negative, for it conflicted with technical accounts of vision and with their interprations of Duns Scotus.

This study begins with Roger Bacon, a major source for later scholastics’ efforts to tie a complex of semantic and optical explanations together into an account of concept formation, truth and the acquisition of certitude. After considering the challenges of Peter Olivi and Henry of Ghent, Part I concludes with a discussion of Scotus’s epistemology. Part II explores the alternative theories of Peter Aureol and William of Ockham. Part III traces the impact of Scotus, and then of Aureol, on Oxford thought in the years of Ockham’s early audience, culminating with the views of Adam Wodeham. Part IV concerns Aureol’s intellectual legacy at Paris, the introduction of Wodeham’s thought there, and Autrecourt’s controversies.

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Vision and Certitude is the joint winner of the John Nicholas Brown Prize for 1992 of the Medieval Academy of America.
'...For decades, every medievalist has known that fourteenth century epistemology was ravaged by a terrible beast called Ockhamism. In a huge, dense and magisterial study Katherine Tachau drives a stake into the heart of that beast. It is a resilient creature and will probably rise again, but that will not be Tachau's fault.'
David Burr, Church History, 1990.
'...sorgfältige Analyse des vorhandenen Textmaterials...'
Matthias Kaufmann, Philosophische Rundschau, 1991.
'This is a very densely argued scholarly book, which contains a wealth of information about Schoolmen both well-known and virtually unknown.'
History and Philosophy of Logic, 1991.
'...richly documented and impressively traced history of theories of cognition from 1250 to ambitious revision of well-known authors.'
Archives Internationales d'Histoire des Sciences, 1990.
'Im ganzen gesehen darf man die Studie von Tachau als recht nützlich bezeichnen.'
Jakob Hans Josef Schneider, Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie, 1994.
List of Abbreviations, Sigla, and Technical Vocabulary

Part One: From Perspectivist Optics tto Intuitive Cognition: The background to Fourteenth-Century Epistomology

I. The Multiplication of Species: The Legacy of Roger Bacon
II. From the Baconian Synthesis to the Epistomology of John Duns Scotus
III. John Duns Scotus

Part Two: Interpretation and Reconception

IV. Peter Aureol
V. William of Ockham

Part Three: The Rejection of Ockham's Theory of Knowledge in England

VI.Oxford Between Scotus and Ockham
VII. The Early Reaction to Aureol and Ockham: the Views of Walter Chatton
VIII. Oxford in the 1320s
IX. Oxford in the 1330s
X. Adam Wodeham at london and Oxford

Part Four: The Introduction of English Theories of Knowledge to Paris

XI. Paris 1318-1245: The Interpreters of SCotus and Aureol
XII. Epiloguw: Adam Wodeham's First Parisian Readers

Index manuscriptorum
Index personarum et rerum
This book is intended to be of use to scholars interested in late medieval philosophy, science and theology.
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