IN THE year 1290, England saw another brilliant thinker in the person of William of Ockham; he was born in county Surrey.
At a young age, he became a Franciscan friar. Noticing their highly intelligent young Franciscan friar, his superiors sent him to study at Oxford University where he started taking up theology and ending up as a lecturer in scriptures.
At this well-known university, he angered scientists by accusing them of using merely words (nomina, hence “Nominalism”); he accused science of dealing with mere words and statements or scientific propositions without knowing the reality behind them. He offended philosophers by insisting on less talk, more ideas; thus his Principle of Parsimony (“Entities should not be multiplied without necessity”) This principle is also called “Ockham’s Razor.”
Surprisingly, in politics when there was a struggle for supremacy between Church and State this Franciscan sided with the Emperor against the Pope. To the disappointment of many, this Franciscan from Oxford raised a turmoil when he dared to go against Pope John XXI. Ockham said that, in spite of their religious vow of following strictly Christ in evangelical poverty, Franciscans could still own some property, as for example clothes, shoes and even religious houses in keeping with the Natural Law. Furthermore, Ockham claimed that the Papacy does not have absolute superiority over the State.
However, when his protector, the Emperor Ludwig of Bavaria died, Ockham quickly changed loyalties and allied himself with the Pope.
While trying to reconcile himself with the still very much angry Pope, William of Ockham unfortunately fell victim to the dreaded plague: The Black Death. He passed away in 1349: victim of the dreaded pandemic.