William of Ockham

On Sin and Virtue

Introduction by John Longeway

William of Ockham says: “Whether only an act of will is of necessity virtuous. To this question I say that the exclusive proposition posed in the question has two explanations: one is negative, which is that no act separated from an act of will is of necessity virtuous; and the other is affirmative, namely that any act of will is of necessity virtuous. As far as the negative explanation goes, I say that it is true simply, because every act separate from the act of will, which is in the power of the will, is good because it can be bad, because it can occur with a bad goal and a bad intention. Similarly, every other act can be elicited naturally and not freely, and no such [act] is of necessity virtuous. Besides, every act separate from the will can occur by God alone, and consequently it is not of necessity virtuous for a rational creature. Besides, any other act that remains the same can indifferently be praiseworthy and blameworthy, and [can be] praiseworthy in the beginning and blameworthy afterwards, according to the fact that it can in succession conform to an honest and a sinful will; this is clear in the case of going to church at first with a good intention, and later with a bad intention.”

Original Latin