Intuitive cognition did not originate with William of Ockham, although it did receive what can only be described as a revolutionary treatment at the hands of the inceptor. However, Duns Scotus had already given intuitive cognition an unprecedented importance and even before Scotus the doctrine of notitia intuitiva was inchoately present.1 The motives for developing the notion stemmed from the problems generated by the Franciscan belief in direct knowledge of individuals, a belief that became officially sponsored in 1282.2 This created a problem, as Scotus advocated a form of species theory which seemed to provide little, if any, direct cognition of actual substances, since species only communicated accidents and these were only 'represented'. The fact of mediation, it seemed, introduced an epistemic gulf between the species and the objects which generated them. As Tachau says, 'it introduced the probability that perceptions of extramental reality were not only sometimes, as in the case of sensory illusion, but inevitably inaccurate or approximate'.3 Scotus sought to resolve this by utilising the idea of intuitive cognition.4
Along with abstract cognition there was concurrent intuition that provided the knower with direct existential knowledge. This form of cognition was immediate, and it occurred both in the intellect and in the senses. Aristotle had insisted that the intellect knew universals while the senses dealt with individuals. Both Duns Scotus and Ockham thought to interpret this inclusively, viz., the intellect did indeed know the universal but it also knew the individual. This interpretation was given some weight by another Aristotelian doctrine that superior powers could always do what inferior powers did. To Scotus and Ockham it would be a breach of this principle not to allow the superior power, that is, the intellect, to enjoy the abilities of the inferior power, the senses. However, this cognitio singularis was for the viator (pro statu isto) a knowledge of existence, not of singularity per se. For a knowledge of singularity one would have to wait for heaven (in patria). As Scotus says, 'there can be such an intellectual cognition, which is called "intuitive"; otherwise the intellect would not be certain concerning the existence of any object. Nor can this intellectual intuition (or intuitive intellection) be had by means of a species present, because the species represents indifferently an existent or non-existent thing'.5
For Scotus the two modes of cognition differ according to their 'object'. For abstract cognition this object is the species, which is similar to the extramental object that is itself the cause of intuitive cognition. The latter type of cognition is rather conditional upon the presence and existence of the object (praesentialiter existens). It is this prerequisite which enables Scotus to introduce a further distinction, namely, that of perfect and imperfect intuitive cognition. Perfect intuitive cognition is the aforementioned cognition of a present and existing object, and imperfect intuitive cognition is a cognition that involves intuitions of objects that were once present and existing, but are no longer so. It is this type of cognition that enables memory. But this was bound to generate problems. As Tachau says, even 'a sympathetic reader may find that the notion of imperfect intuitive cognition retains aspects of the notion of abstractive cognition'.6 The problem was the possibility of discernible difference, a problem to be resolved by Ockham's use of habitus.7
William of Ockham accepted Scotus' doctrine of intuitive cognition, but only did so by radically transforming it. Furthermore, according to Paul Vignaux the distinction between abstract and intuitive cognition may be 'le point de départ de la théorie de la connaissance, peut-être de toute la philosophie de Guillaume d'Ockham' .8 As was generally the case, Ockham employed the dichotomy between sensation and intellect. Each of these has corresponding abilities, but generally everything the sense can cognitively do so also can the intellect; the converse is not held to be true. Cognitive powers are divided into acts that are apprehensive (apprehensivus) and acts that are adjudicative (iudicativus). This distinction is, for Ockham, primary and will shape his whole understanding of cognition. Adjudicative acts only occur in the intellect, because they are complex, while apprehensive acts occur both in the intellectual and in the sensitive faculties, as they are incomplex or complex.9
With regard to the intellect Ockham says there are two acts. The first of the two possible intellective acts is that of apprehension. This relates to anything that can be a term for either an incomplex or complex intellective act. Both incomplexes and propositions can act as a terminus for apprehension. One can apprehend a thing but one can also apprehend a demonstration or a proposition. The second act is that of adjudication, but this is only of complex objects as it will always involve either dissent from or assent to that complex object. If you do not have the assent or dissent you quite obviously do not adjudicate, but only apprehend. Because this act involves this definitive element it perforce excludes incomplexes because one cannot assent or dissent to an incomplex; one can only use an incomplex to construct a complex which can then enable judgement. For example, if I apprehend a ball I cannot assent or dissent to that ball until it is used in a complex, such as 'this ball does not exist'. It is for this reason that Ockham insists that our 'intellects do not assent to anything unless we believe it to be true, nor do we dissent from anything unless we believe it to be false'.10
This is why 'every act of judgement presupposes in the same faculty a non-complex cognition of the terms; for it presupposes an act of apprehension and the act of apprehending a proposition presupposes non-complex cognition of the terms'.11 It is this intellective act that enables scientific knowledge (scientia). What is essential for an understanding of Ockham's doctrine of notitia intuitiva is that the act of apprehension is absolutely separate from judgement. This is because 'ontologically' speaking, for Ockham, that which it is not a contradiction to conceive apart is actually apart. In this sense every non-relative reality is a res absoluta. It is, as Ockham argues, possible to imagine the apprehension of a proposition and yet the withholding of assent or dissent. It is for this reason that the two acts are indeed absolutely distinct, and it is this distinction that will give rise to the accusation of scepticism.
The intellect can have two distinct non-complex apprehensive cognitions of things. One of these cognitions causes evident knowledge; the other cannot, no matter as Ockham puts it, 'how intense'.12 These cognitions do not necessarily differ in terms of the object cognised. In fact, for Ockham, they have the same object. He states clearly that 'the same thing is known fully under the same aspect by either cognition'.13 The reason that Ockham insists on this point is to unify the cognitive process with regard to its object, disabling the requirement of extra metaphysical entities which he is at pains to eradicate. The mention of 'aspects' is explicitly to counter Duns Scotus' demand for the formal distinction, which is employed to consider individuals under the aspect of universality. By arguing that both cognitions afford the same object there is little need for the generation of (hypostasised) metaphysical entities.
These two cognitions, one of which can cause evident knowledge while the other, although being the same in 'appearance', cannot, are intuitive and abstract respectfully. Abstract cognition is defined by Ockham as a cognition which is 'indifferent to existence', as that cognition which 'abstracts from existence and non-existence and from all other conditions which contingently belong to or are predicated of a thing'.14 But this will have to be qualified when it becomes apparent that, in one sense, intuitive cognition is also indifferent to existence in so far as it can cognise non-existents. What will start to become obvious is that there is a conceptual, rather than perceptual, difference at work in the distinction between the two cognitions. For Scotus, abstract cognition had been perceptually different from intuitive cognition as its object was different
- one cognised species and universal concepts, while the other cognised the actual existence of these. But, as already mentioned, this distinction
- as far as Ockham was concerned - generated unwanted metaphysical entities. Because of this he shifted the distinction from a perceptual to a conceptual plane. Abstraction is, in this sense, perceptually identical to intuitive cognition, the difference residing in the conceptual approach each took to 'objects'.15
Ockham defines intuitive cognition as cognition 'that enables us to know whether the thing exists or does not exist'.16 So even here it 'looks' the same as abstract cognition for it considers both existence and non-existence. Ockham argues that intuitive cognition, necessarily, and in- and of itself, is neither more of existence than of non-existence, nor does it more consider the existence than the non-existence of a thing. Instead it considers the existence as much as the non-existence of a thing. . . . Abstractive [cognition] however considers neither the existence nor the non-existence of a thing, since the judgement either that a thing exists or that it does not exist, cannot be had by means of abstraction.17
It is the possibility of adjudicative acts that distinguishes the two, not abstract cognition's indifference to existence or non-existence because this, in a sense, would 'look' the same as an intuitive knowledge's cognition of either an existent or a non-existent. It seems to have been Ockham's intention to make the two types of cognition 'look' the same so that no positive metaphysical entities are generated. These would allow for the possibility of reality which is otherwise than individual, and for Ockham everything outside the mind is by definition individual.18 It would be because of a perceptual difference that metaphysical entities would be generated as they would be employed to both describe and unify the cognised object.
Ockham articulates five reasons upon which the distinction between abstract and intuitive cognition cannot be based, these being mistakenly employed by Duns Scotus. The first is the assertion that the two differ according to the presence or existence of the object (res praesens et existens in se). This cannot be the case because, as will be discussed below, God can conserve the intuition of an object in both its absence and non-existence: 'whatever God produces by means of secondary cause, God can produce and conserve immediately and without their aid'.19 From this we know that the act of intuition itself can be the terminus of an intuitive cognition. The second reason is that the two cognitions are supposed to cognise the object in different degrees, abstract cognition only presenting the object in a diminished likeness. This is not the case. Instead, they attain the same object under the same aspect (sub eadem ratione). The third reason was that they differed according to formal cause. Scotus had argued that there were two rationes formales motivae', one which moved the intellect to intuitive cognition, the other to abstract, the object and the intelligible species respectively. But because for Scotus they can both be caused by God without an object, they do not have 'ontologically' distinct formal causes. The fourth reason is that intuitive cognition has an annexed real and actual relation with the object, while abstract cognition has only a potential relation. But the argument against this again stems from divine omnipotence. A real relation, as Scotus agrees, cannot have non-being for an object, but as an intuitive cognition is possible de potentia absoluta every supposed real relation is separable (or reducible, as it is only a connotative term). Consequently, real relations are inessential and so unable to function as a distinction. The fifth reason is that the presence of the object known distinguishes the two cognitions, it being perfectly represented in an intuitive cognition. For Ockham, this is incoherent, as God can provide us with intuitive cognition of what is not present.20 Instead of these five reasons, abstract and intuitive cognition differ in themselves (seipsis): hence, as already said, it is not a perceptual difference. (Not only is there no perceptual difference between these two different types of cognition, there is also no perceptual difference within those cognitions, as will be argued below.)
Just as Ockham adopted and adapted the Scotist dichotomy of intuitive and abstractive cognition, he also utilised and adjusted the distinction between perfect and imperfect intuitive cognition. Natural perfect intuitive cognition is cognition of what is now present; hic et nunc, while imperfect, or recordative, cognition is that 'through which we judge a thing to have been or not to have been'.21 This differs from abstract cognition in being temporal, as it involves what does or does not exist. Imperfect knowledge is the result of a habit, which results from a sequence beginning with perfect knowledge. There is an exegetical debate that does not concern us here except to say that it involves the role of abstract cognition. There appear to be two incompatible positions put forward by Ockham. The first interpretation ascribes to abstract cognition the role of partial cause of the cognitive habit. The second attributes causation to perfect knowledge alone. Boehner argues that the first version was actually developed after the second.22 Gordon Leff finds Boehner's arguments confusing but agrees that the first version was the one adopted by Ockham.23 It seems that at the same time as one has a perfect intuitive cognition, one simultaneously has an abstract cognition. This abstract cognition, along with the intellect, is partial cause of a habit that allows imperfect intuitive cognition. The temporality of the cognition stems from the coincidence of the abstract cognition, as partial cause of it, with perfect intuitive cognition. Yet it remains purely abstract because it is caused by abstraction and not intuitive knowledge, and it is an Aristotelian axiom that like acts produce like habits.24
This brings us to William of Ockham's notorious doctrine; the notitia intuitiva of non-existents. For Ockham there are a number of fundamental principles which shape his work. One of these is, 'God is able to produce the proper effects of secondary causes in the absence of those secondary causes';25 another, 'anything is to be attributed to the divine power, when it does not contain a manifest contradiction'.26 These enable the principle of annihilation, which states that every non-relative reality can, without contradiction, exist without any other non-relative reality by virtue of divine power. This is Ockham's 'ontological' isolationism, which is governed by the principle of non-contradiction. Consequently, identity is based on numerical unity. Because of this one can have intuitive cognition of a non-existent, as the act of cognition is itself the terminus for the cognition. It must be, for we know de potentia absoluta that God can offer us intuitive cognitions in the absence of the cognised objects. If this were not the case then God would not be able to dispense with secondary causes, in the way already suggested, and this would seriously threaten God's omnipotence as conceived by Ockham.27 An act of cognition is itself a non-relative reality. It is certainly caused by extra-mental objects, but these are secondary influences in that they are only partial causes of any cognition. If Ockham could not assert the possibility of an intuitive cognition of non-existents then he would have to allow for a perceptual difference between abstract and intuitive cognition, and, as said above, this would give licence to the likes of Duns Scotus to posit the existence of metaphysical entities, other than individuals, which possess some form of reality outside the mind (in terms of not being mind dependent). Consequently, Ockham deems intuitive cognition to be distinct in terms of its ability to cause evident knowledge, which is the basis of all contingent facts.
Ockham's concern for metaphysical parsimony is enforced by the principle of non-contradiction, a principle elevated to a position which it had never before occupied. Combining this principle, which is now taken to define identity in terms of numerical unity, with the principle of annihilation, metaphysical 'stalwarts' such as essence and, in a sense, existence, are dissolved. They become nominal, or more accurately connotative terms, and so are reducible to an individual. For example, if there is such a thing as an essence that is not connotative, then, Ockham argues, God would be unable to destroy one man without destroying all that which participates in the essence of man. It is important to realise that the belief in intuitive cognition of non-existents provided Ockham with a conceptual arsenal to use against his more metaphysically prolix predecessors.
If indeed the defining characteristic of intuitive cognition is the ability to cause evident knowledge, that is, contingent propositions, then we can see how non-existents do not disturb this criterion. If a cognition can supernaturally exist in the absence of a cognised reality then it will, being intuitive, still be able to cause evident knowledge; the knowledge, in this case, being negative. This is why Leff calls intuitive cognition 'existential in the full sense'.28 Ockham's only guiding principle as to what can actually be cognised is that it not be repugnant to existence. This is the development of the modality discussed above. Such an expanded existentiality generates a number of significant shifts in our understanding of what it means to exist.
As Boler comments, 'Ockham was not fully in control of the implications of his having defined intuitive cognition in terms of true propositions.'29 It seems that intuitive knowledge comes to be less existential and more about evidential propositions. Leff, who was quoted above extolling the full existentiality of notitia intuitiva in his book on Ockham, in an essay published a year later says that it is only 'secondarily and contingently existential' - its primary concern being that it is evidential.30 This, it seems, is what he means by a conception of truth as logical and conceptual, a notion he attributes to Scotus and Ockham.31 This re-orientation, according to Leff, was taken by Ockham to its 'literal' and logical conclusion, in substituting a conceptual and logical order for a metaphysical one.32 Intuitive cognition appears to reside less and less in actuality and more and more in factuality.33
Ockham is factualising actuality, an event that gives credence to Gilson's contention 'that human knowledge would be practically indistinguishable from what it is, even though all its objects were destroyed; nothing is necessarily required to make knowledge possible, but the mind and God'.34 Existence matters little in the Ockhamite world, where facts are the units of knowledge, and these are logical, not metaphysical, 'entities'. Below, however, I will examine this accusation that Ockham's work leads to scepticism.
After the publication of Étienne Gilson's Harvard lectures in the 1930s a controversy ensued.35 In that publication Gilson had a chapter entitled 'The road to skepticism', the contents of which argued that William of Ockham's work led to a particular form of scepsis. This was vigorously denied by a number of academics, the most notable being Fr Boehner and E. Moody.36 Boehner published an article on Ockham's doctrine of notitia intuitiva, concentrating on intuitive cognition of non-existents, as this had been the source of most of the claims for Ockhamian scepticism.37 In this article Boehner had defended Ockham, vigorously contesting Gilson's interpretation of the 'Venerable Inceptor'. This article prompted Anton Pegis to write a reply defending the accusation of scepticism levelled at Ockham by Gilson.38 Fr Boehner returned the compliment by attacking Pegis' stance on the subject.39 Pegis did not reply for a number of years, but was finally encouraged to do so by the publication of Fr Sebastian Day's book on intuitive cognition in Scotus and Ockham, a book written under the supervision of Fr Boehner.40 This book criticised Gilson's interpretation and asserted that Pegis' failure to respond to Boehner's second paper indicated defeat. Consequently, Pegis did respond by publishing another paper. The legacy of this debate can still be witnessed in the work of revisionist writers who side with Moody, Boehner, Day et al., while the likes of Maurer write under the influence of both Gilson and Pegis. Below I briefly examine the main tenets of Anton Pegis' interpretation, before moving on to more contemporary versions of the debate.
It was argued that intuitive cognition of non-existents allowed for false existential judgements, because one could never be sure if the object intuitively cognised was actually there or not. This possibility for error lay in Ockham's definition of intuitive cognition, as found in his commentary on the Sentences.41 Pegis correctly divides this definition up into two parts. The first speaks about judgements of existence, the second about judgements of non-existence. Ockham says, 'Through intuitive knowledge we judge a thing to exist, and this in general, whether the intuitive knowledge is caused naturally or by God alone supernaturally.'42 If this cognition is caused naturally a suitable degree of nearness is required. But if it is caused supernaturally this proximity is superfluous. God is able to cause an intuitive cognition of an object in Rome - in doing so we will judge that it exists thus and so. Here already, Pegis contends, Ockham has crossed his Rubicon.43 It is the redundancy of presence and existence as a prerequisite for intuitive cognition that Ockham utilises to differentiate his doctrine from that of Duns Scotus'. As we already know, Scotus requires both presence and existence for intuitive cognition. Pegis' point is that this reconception of notitia intuitiva is the moment of scepticism.
Ockham states, 'it is compatible that the object be nothing, or that it be at a very great distance; and however far away be the intuitively known object, I can immediately judge through it that the object exists, if it exists in the above way'. Pegis' argument, at this point, rests upon the contention that there are two parts to the definition of notitia intuitiva at work here. The first is 'per cognitionem intuitivam judicamus rem esse quando est'. The second is 'eodem modo per cognitionem intuivam possum iudicare rem non esse, quando non est'.44 The first allows one to have a supernaturally caused intuitive cognition yet still judge that the object or the cognition exists, because at this point the second part of the definition has not been introduced. An intuition caused a solo Deo still gives rise to positive judgements, but as this is supernaturally caused, the 'object' is a purum nihil'. The only condition this purum nihil will have to meet is that it is possible, viz., that it is not repugnant to being.
Is the supernatural causation of the intuitive cognition, in the first part of the definition, only referring to proximity and not to non-existence? If so there is never actually a false judgement, only a miraculous one. The example given in this section is of an object beyond a suitable nearness. But when differentiating his position from Scotus, Ockham says that neither 'presence nor being suitably near' is required. As this is still dealing with the first part of the definition, one could interpret it in Pegis' favour. For presence is not the same as proximity so it may well refer to existence. But immediately below this Ockham distinguishes, whether deliberately or not, between existence and presence. He speaks of a thing 'present and existing'. This does not scupper Pegis' interpretation because even if there is this differentiation, what is thus differentiated can still accommodate his view. Ockham explicitly states that neither existence nor presence is required for an intuitive cognition, and it does appear that at this point we are still only defining notitia intuitiva as that by 'which we judge a thing to exist when it exists'.
There may well be a confusion here, one which resides in conflicting understandings of what it means to exist. For Pegis it is a presently existing metaphysical subject; for Ockham it is to be a fact, to employ an anachronistic term. So if there is a supernaturally caused intuitive cognition of something which does not exist and a judgement of existence, according to the first part of the definition, this judgement will be the existence of an act of cognition. In this case it will be an abstract cognition which is still conditioned by the possible. If we assent to the existence of a non-existent we do so only in terms of how it exists. As Ockham says, we will judge it to exist 'if it exists in the above way'. This way to exist is as a non-existent, which is a pure nothing. Pegis would be happy with this, as it appears to confirm his accusation of scepticism. But, for Ockham, this would not be sceptical because, as Pegis observes, Ockham has rendered the distinction between the possible and the actual useless.45 So to be thinkable is to exist in the manner of a possible; this is why Alanen says that for Ockham things are 'possible absolutely'.46 So, as McGrade says, the purum nihil 'turns out to be a very rich and plentiful nothing'.47
Gilson's charge that, according to Ockham, it does not matter for human knowledge whether the extra mental world exists or not, is correct. But Pegis, when delivering Gilson's charge, must take into consideration the modality employed by Ockham. When Pegis insists that Ockham does at least in one place allow for a judgement of existence to be assented to, he must be aware that the possible does 'exist'. And Ockham will insist that he is able to discern the difference between an intuitive cognition of a possible (with a judgement of existence in terms of how a possible exists), and an intuitive cognition of an object that presently exists, not in the manner of a possible but in the manner of a realised possible; in this sense both are evident cognitions, but they are two different evident cognitions. This difference is not a difference of perception, but the difference of an event. The two cognitions are two different events. But are they generically different? The first is a type of cognition that lacks any secondary causation, viz., an object, and so it is unable to give rise to the cognitive event that is the second cognition. The first cognition is intuitive because it is of what is possible - one can never intuitively cognise a chimera;48 it is able to tell us that this possible exists, but does not exist in a realised sense. The second cognition tells us that the intentional object exists both as a possible and as a realised possible.
In the Quodlibetal Questions Ockham asserts that God cannot cause in us an evident cognition of that which does not exist, as that would be a contradiction.49 Furthermore, Ockham clearly spells out why we have different judgements:
It is not absurd that some cause with another partial cause will cause some effect, and nevertheless that the former cause alone without the latter partial will cause the opposite effect. And hence intuitive cognition of a thing with the thing itself causes the judgement that the thing is; when however, the thing itself is not, then the same intuitive cognition without the thing will cause the opposite judgement.50
This passage concerns the second part of the definition of intuitive cognition where it is defined as that which enables both the judgement of that which is and of that which is not. This would seem to contradict the first part which, as Pegis rightly argues, does seem to allow for a positive judgement of existence even though one is dealing with an unrealised possibility. However, the judgement of non-existence means the judgement that it does not exist in actuality. Here Pegis concedes to Boehner that God does not in this instance trick us like a conjuror with an illusion: however, Pegis rightly points out that Ockham does describe the fully intuited possible at times as 'non existent'. With Gilson, in the Thomist tradition, Pegis rightly asks whether one can reduce contingent actuality to a kind of simulacrum within possibility in this fashion, without thereby covertly invoking actuality.
Another criticism levelled at Ockham with regard to scepticism is that his doctrine of intuitive cognition is circular. The point at issue is whether it is a vicious circularity or not. As Wengert says, 'Ockham holds that the reliability of intuitive cognition is established by the relation of intuitive cognition to evident cognition.'51 But this means that the veridicality of this mode of cognition is retrospective. We are able to know that we have an intuitive cognition when evident cognition occurs. The problem with this is that we only know that what we have is evident when we know that it is caused by intuitive cognition. It would be reasonable to expect that intuitive cognition determines evident cognition, as it is this form of cognition which is supposed to cause evident knowledge. But Ockham, as we see, has reversed the order. This forces Ockham to anchor the process in the security of formal definitions. As Wengert says, 'evident cognitions as [Ockham] defines them are by definition true'.52 But this simply shifts the problem. If the only distinction is one of definition, then intuitive cognition cannot but be retrospective, and indeed rather occult. Streveler points to this retrospective element when he says that 'when an existential judgement turns out to be false, it is then based upon abstract cognition'.53 Richards makes exactly the same point, namely that 'any kind of cognition which leads to deception would by definition not be an intuitive cognition'.54 This circularity makes distinction impossible or, as Scott puts it, it is a distinction without determinable difference.55 Ockham appears to reconceive cognition in only logical terms; in a sense, it only occurs within terms. Streveler declares that this was Ockham's crucial insight: reconceiving epistemology as a logical problem.56 Likewise, Boler argues that Ockham's 'analysis . . . is controlled directly not by any observation of the parade of cognitive activity but rather by the demands of the analysis of propositions'.57 Finally, Vossenkuhl explicitly states that 'to know the meaning of a thing is equivalent to the intuitive knowledge of it . . . to posit the intuitive cognition of a nonexistent thing is therefore equivalent to stating the meaning of a term or name which stands for that thing'.58
Cognition is, then, retrospective because we must look at that which comes after it to determine which type of cognition it 'was'. But even such a retrospective recognition exists only formally. This becomes more obvious when we hear Ockham in the Quodlibetal Questions saying that 'God can cause assent which is of the same kind as evident assent. But this assent is not evident because what is assented to is not as it is in fact'.59 Ockham's reassurance rests purely on a matter of definition. And we must ask, with Richards, 'how effective a definitional procedure is at avoiding skepticism'.60 These assents, which are eiusdem speciei as evident cognition, disable any notion of introspective discernment, because as creditative act (actum creditivum) they will appear at every level, apart from a strictly formal one, indistinguishable from an evident cognition. So not only is intuitive cognition dependent on retrospective recognition, this belated identification is impossible a priori. For what it identifies as evident could just as easily be merely creditive, especially when we remember they are of the same 'kind' as each other. In this sense intuitive cognition is only 'nominal', as it only occurs within the formalism of logical terms and functional definitions. As Woznicki says, 'Ockham's metaphysics became a pure logic'.61 It may be recalled that intuitive cognition is called by both Scotus and Ockham 'perfect', but it seems that its only perfection is that of tense. If this is indeed the case then we can see that it is more similar to the cognition of an existent possibility, which we can think of as having an imperfection also only in terms of tense.
The above is exacerbated when we consider that in the Ockhamian world we cannot rely upon the omnipotent God not to deceive us. Adams makes just this point when discussing Fr Boehner's defence of Ockham.62 She argues that Boehner 'fails to show that Ockham's admission of the logical possibility that God could deceive us, does not really lead to skepticism'.63 Furthermore, Adams continues, 'Ockham's assertion of the divine omnipotence, together with his grounding of ethical distinction in the concept of obligation, rule out an a priori demonstration that God is no deceiver'.64 This is especially problematic when you consider that, for Ockham, goodness is by definition that which God does, so that if God were to deceive he would not fall short of perfect goodness.65
It has already been noted that a fundamental distinction for Ockham is that between apprehension and judgement. Because each of these acts is a non-relative reality they can, as we already know, exist without the other. This means that we can have intuitive apprehension and still a judgement need not logically follow. Consequently, we are returned to the problems of retrospective recognition and merely definitional intelligibility.66 In actuality, or in factuality as it is here becoming, this means that cognition is indeterminable. An apprehensive intuitive cognition of an existent 'looks' exactly the same as that of a possible existent. What is required to introduce distinction is judgement, but it must rely on this intuitive cognition to provide it with that which it judges. In this sense apprehensive intuitive cognition sees, but sees darkly, because what one sees may not have been seen, while judgement without apprehension sees only in the dark. And even when the two are combined there is still obfuscation (from fuscus meaning dark), as judgement must rely upon indistinct apprehension. For there is never any perceptual difference; it must be remembered that cognition is an act without appearance. Ockham asserts 'that we have a cognition proper to one singular thing, not on account of a greater likeness to one than to another'.67 So the two modes of cognition presuppose each other. This circularity will again take us to seek veridicality in the logic of formal definitions. It seems that we cognise in the dark; that which we cognise is always dark matter, or a matter only for the dark. Science becomes a 'noctuary'.
We have just observed that existence and non-existence 'look' the same to apprehensive intuitive cognition. It seems that this may be the case because, as intimated earlier, Ockham has factualised actuality. What it means to exist has radically altered. Existence now means to be either possible or to be a realised possibility. Ockham wishes to dismantle any metaphysical community, and this is why actuality becomes factualised; a fact is ontologically isolatable, and it does not require metaphysically sophisticated ideas, such as being and essence (which require an identity other than a purely numerical one). Were being and essence admitted then both the principle of annihilation, with its 'ontology' of singulars, and Ockham's notion of omnipotence would be impossible. Ockham must, therefore, dilute the difference between existence and non-existence. He does this by making the abstract and intuitive perceptually indistinct, in allowing an extension of intuitive cognition's remit to include non-existence. This means that existence is a matter of fact, viz., it is a singular cognitive event which is without appearance. In this sense, a fact will remain the same as it did before it existed. That is, it will remain as nothing. (Again we see that univocity really is one of non-being.)
An Ockhamian individual must not allow 'nothing' to become a positive privation, otherwise a metaphysical existentiality will arise, along with its requisite metaphysical community, which resides within and beyond numerical unity. If nothing becomes a positive privation, the individual will no longer be 'simple' in the manner Ockham requires it to be. For the individual to be an absolute thing it must not be externally determined. Instead it must, as itself, contain or be its own factual intelligibility (this is to be found in its formal definition). The only difference between this fact as a real-possible and as a realised-possibility can be the will of Ockham's omnipotent God. This means that the nothingness which resides outside every absolute thing must become part of that thing. Of course it would be a contradiction, even for Ockham, to make the nothing something, but it is not contradictory to make the nothing part of the something as the something. In this sense nothing becomes a connotative term, signifying the something primarily and the absence of all else secondarily. This nothing is all important for Ockham's ontology because it is the nothing that surrounds the factuality of the absolute thing which defines it, if not constitutes it. Only through the possibility of this nothing outside the individual do we have the individual. Ockham would, of course, complain that this interpretation forces him to hypostasise the nothing, but this is exactly what Ockham does. Nominalism requires, contradictorily, just this one (non-)universal. But this hypostasised nothing is, I suggest, in effect none other than Ockham's omnipotent God, who is ripe for development into the immanent nullity of Baruch Spinoza's Substance.
The next chapter examines Spinoza's book The Ethics, in an effort to locate the nothing operating more openly as something. Hegel accuses Spinoza of acosmism, but the chapter below argues that it is wiser to think of Spinoza as an advocate of pan(a)theistic acosmism. Spinoza's God may absorb the cosmos, but Nature also absorbs God.
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