Mandeville, LA – One may be accused here of oversimplifying the historical process, but I take the view that the conscious policies of men and governments are not mere rationalizations of what has been brought about by unaccountable forces. They arc rather deductions from our most basic ideas of human destiny, and they have a great, though not unobstructed, power to determine our course.For this reason I turn to William of Occam as the best representative of a change which came over m an’s conception of reality at this historic juncture. It was William of Occam who propounded the fateful doctrine of nominalism, which denies that universals have a real existence. His triumph tended to leave universal terms mere names serving our convenience. The issue ultimately involved is whether there is a source of truth higher than, and independent of, man; and the answer to the question is decisive for one’s view of the nature and destiny of humankind. The practical result of nominalist philosophy is to banish the reality which is perceived by the intellect and to posit as reality that which is perceived by the senses. With this change in the affirmation of w hat is real, the whole orientation of culture takes a turn, and we arc on the road to modern empiricism.
It is easy to be blind to the significance of a change because it is remote in time and abstract in character. Those who have not discovered chat world view is the most important thing about a man, as about the men composing a culture, should consider the train of circumstances which have with perfect logic proceeded from this. The denial of universals carries with it the denial of everything transcending experience. The denial of everything transcending experience means inevitably— though ways are found to hedge on this— the denial of truth. With the denial of objective truth there is no escape from the relativism of “m an the measure of all things.” The witches spoke with the habitual equivocation of oracles when they told man that by this easy choice he might realize him self more fully, for they were actually initiating a course which cuts one off from reality. Thus began the “abomination of desolation” appearing today a a feeling of alienation from all fixed truth. – Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences