Neoplatonism Through the Renaissance

Other Important Medieval Philosophers

How well were Ockam’s ideas first received?

John Lutterell, former chancellor of Oxford University, extracted over 50 heretical claims from Ockam’s writings and sent them to Pope John XXII (1249–1334). Ockam was summoned to a papal commission in Avignon, where French cardinals had moved the papacy from Rome. (This relocation, which lasted from 1309 to 1377, was known as the “Babylonian Captivity” of the papacy.) Fifty-one of Ockam’s offending theses were censured after two years, although no charges were brought against him. However, while he was in Avignon, Ockham conducted his own investigations of papal concessions to the Franciscans about collective poverty. He concluded that John XXII had contradicted these prior concessions in his own opposition to clerical poverty and that he was “no true pope.”

When Ockam heard that Pope John XXII intended to condemn his written judgment and defense of clerical poverty, he fled to the protection of the antipapal regent in Bavaria. While he was there, the pope excommunicated him in absentia. The Black Plague was at that time rampant in Bavaria and William of Ockam is thought to have died of it.


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