Stockholm Colloquium in Philosophy: Jenny Pelletier (Leuven/Gothenburg)


Datum: torsdag 15 februari 2024

Tid: 16.00 – 17.45

Plats: D289

Ockham on Social Ends: Willing the “Common Good"


On my reading, Ockham holds that social groups are structured aggregates, being collections of many individual persons, at least some of which are constituted by persons who have chosen to order themselves relative to one another in some determinate way. A consequence of this view is that social groups are artifactual insofar as they, like complex material artifacts, are pluralities of natural substances (i.e., human beings) that are produced by means of voluntary – and in their case, joint – human action. I have already argued elsewhere that the purpose the human artisan had in mind when she decided to make an artifact fixes the function of that artifact. This is how I interpret the thought that the end of the human artisan is the end of the artifact.

My presentation starts with the intuition that the members of a social group might analogously fix the function of that social group, that is to say the ends of group members might determine the end(s) of that social group. If this is right, then it would seem that the end of a social group is nothing more than an aggregate of member ends. Now, in his political writings, Ockham maintains the medieval status quo that the end of the political community is the common good. I will show how we can make sense of Ockham’s understanding of the common good as the end of the political community, even if that understanding is ultimately an aggregate of group member ends. To do so, I turn to Ockham’s account of final causes and their role as motivators in voluntary human action, particularly his take on the distinction between love of friendship (amor amiticiae) and love of desire (amor concupiscentiae). Moreover, I will attempt to argue that his understanding of the common good is less self-interested than it may appear at first glance if we consider it in light of his account of final causality.