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William of Ockham

William of Ockham (c. 1285–1349), also spelled Occam, English philosopher, member of the Franciscan order. Like other great thinkers of the Middle Ages, he was a Scholastic—one who uses reason to understand faith. He broke, though, with other great Scholastics—especially the church-supported St. Thomas Aquinas. Ockham did not believe that reason could deepen understanding of faith. He did advance ideas associated with modern scientific thought in that he believed conclusions should be drawn from things observed by the senses and reasoned through logic. The saying “less is more” describes Ockham's Razor—the belief that a problem should be stated as simply as possible and supported with appropriate evidence. Pope John XXII brought charges of false theological teaching, or heresy, to William of Ockham (1324), which resulted in Ockham's self-imposed exile to Bavaria (1328).

See also: Scholasticism.

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