Friar Billy Ockham and the Blooming Obvious
We’ve recently returned from a visit to our families in England.
Our first stop was in Surrey, which is a most underrated county. We were in Horsley, between Guildford and Leatherhead. It’s only about 25 miles from Waterloo station, but in delightful wooded country on the North Downs. Just 100 yards from my sister’s house is a forested area, the Sheep Leas, where there is a viewing platform from where you can make out the taller buildings of London, including the Shard. They say you can see St Pauls as well, but I couldn’t make it out.
The next village to Horsley is Ockham, which has a lot to answer for. William of Ockham, a 14th-century Franciscan, was an advocate of Nominalism, the philosophical system said to have prepared the fertile soil for Martin Luther. Indeed, Luther once said that Ockham was the only scholastic who was any good. As I’m not a philosopher, I’m not qualified to give you a proper definition of Nominalism, but I think it means that ideas don’t have any real valid existence. (Any philosophers out there, please correct me if I’m wrong.) The contrary view, favoured by most Catholic philosophers, is Realism.
Er, isn’t that just Blooming Obvious?
Once on the RTE newsroom notice board I put up a flyer for Doris Manly’s Ballintrillick Review, which she described as “a magazine for Catholic Realists”. The station’s Economics Correspondent, an ardent admirer of Mao Tse-tung, scrawled the following across my notice: “How can you be a Realist and a Catholic?” He may have known a lot about Marxian economics, but he hadn’t a clue about either Realism or Catholicism. He thought the latter was just a crutch for brainwashed people who couldn’t face reality. I think much the same about Marxism.