Marsilio Ficino and William of Ockham

Ancient wisdom states,

…there is no new thing under the sun. – Ecclesiates 1:9 (New World Translation)

Did Renaissance philosophers invent philosophy? Of course not.

Marsilio Ficino was a Florentine philosopher, translator, and commentator, largely responsible for the revival of Plato and Platonism in the Renaissance. He has been widely recognized by historians of philosophy for his defense of the immortality of the soul, as well as for his translations of Plato, Plotinus, and the Hermetic corpus from Greek to Latin. Ficino is considered the most important advocate of Platonism in the Renaissance, and his philosophical writings and translations are thought to have made a significant contribution to the development of early modern philosophies. Ficino also composed extensive commentaries on Plato and Plotinus, wrote a practical medical treatise, and carried on a voluminous correspondence with contemporaries across Europe.



Marsilio Ficino (IEP)



Marsilio Ficino was born in Figline, not far from Florence, in 1433. He was the son of a physician, and Cosimo de’Medici—one of the richest and most powerful patrons of the fifteenth century—was among his father’s patients. Read more about him in the article on IEP here.

William of Ockham, also known as William Ockham and William of Occam, was a fourteenth-century English philosopher.

“Ockham did not invent this principle; it is found in Aristotle, Aquinas, and other philosophers Ockham read.” – Internet Encyclopedia of Philosopy

Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem (entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily). This, of course, is known as “Ockham’s razor, and it’s generally understood to mean that a simple solution to a problem is most often the correct one. In a closely related vein, Ockham also cited what he called the principle of economy: Frustra fit per plura quod potest fieri per pauciora (it is futile to do with more things that which can be done with fewer).



William of Ockham
William of Ockham (Occam, IEP)



Ockham’s Razor is the principle of parsimony or simplicity according to which the simpler theory is more likely to be true. Ockham did not invent this principle; it is found in Aristotle, Aquinas, and other philosophers Ockham read. Nor did he call the principle a “razor.” In fact, the first known use of the term “Occam’s razor” occurs in 1852 in the work of the British mathematician William Rowan Hamilton. Although Ockham never even makes an argument for the validity of the principle, he uses it in many striking ways, and this is how it became associated with him. Read more about him on IEP here.

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) (ISSN 2161-0002) was founded in 1995 to provide open access to detailed, scholarly information on key topics and philosophers in all areas of philosophy… The submission and review process of articles is the same as that with printed philosophy journals, books and reference works. The authors are specialists in the areas in which they write, and are frequently leading authorities.



“Marsilio Ficino,” The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ISSN 2161-0002,, 23 December 2017.

“William of Ockham,” The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ISSN 2161-0002,, 23 December 2017.





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