See the Preliminary comment to Part 1, Book 6, chapters 1-15.

 The following sources have been universally collated for the reconstruction of 1 Dial. 6.68-75:

 Tradition A:      Bb An Fi Na

Tradition B:      Vg

Tradition C:      Vd

Tradition E:      Vc We

Incunabulum:    Ly


A representative of tradition D, the Dijon manuscript (Di), was also examined. But since here, as in other contexts, tradition D differed considerably from traditions ABCE, its readings were not comprehensively recorded as an element of the apparatus. To have done so would have needlessly overloaded a useful instrument of analysis with erroneous material. A number of illustrative variants from Di were nevertheless included, in order to demonstrate once again the very specific nature of this interesting if defective witness. The omissions and additions common to Di and Vd seem particularly significant (cf. Introduction to 1 Dial. 6.51-67).

 Otherwise, the critical reliability of the witnesses in this segment of the Dialogus continues, with one notable exception, to largely confirm the patterns noted in previous portions of Book 6. The best sources for our improved text are Fi (87.3% variant convergence accuracy level) and Vc (85.6%), closely followed by We (84.9%), Na (84.7%), and Bb (82.4%). Manuscripts of the B (Vg) and C (Vd) traditions are marginally less reliable (Vg at 74.8% and Vd at 75.1%), and it is no surprise to find the Trechsel edition (Ly) trailing as usual at 65.5%. What is somewhat unexpected is the sudden deterioration in the quality of An, whose reliability percentage drops from 83.1% in 1 Dial. 51-67 to a rather disappointing (for a class A manuscript) 72.7% in the current segment. This is not, apparently, due to any sudden parallel reliance on traditions alien to class A, but merely to internal scribal idiosyncrasies stemming from a combination of inattentiveness and exemplar decipherment difficulties (many of the challenging abbreviations the scribe unsuccessfully contended with may be scrutinized in the apparatus). An will recover its usual standard of reliability in Book 7.

 The central ideological importance of the topics surveyed in this portion of the Dialogus is self-explanatory. At no point in the course of their struggle with the Avignon popes did the Michaelists (and Ockham as their key spokesman) deviate from their foundational belief that heresy, as they understood it, automatically deprived the chief ruler of Christendom of all spiritual and temporal legitimacy. Once the “deed” occurred, reaction was merely a matter of “discovery”, not of undetermined blind “process”, save in some secondary psychological sense. This intensely radical position may have been intellectually and morally satisfying to the committed Franciscan dissident belligerents, but its practical consequences were clearly (and dangerously) marginalizing with respect to the issue of influencing society at large. And the parallel acceptance of human and divine sanction (Ockham personally preferred the latter) as  motivating resistance (1 Dial. 6.75), doubtless designed to appeal to pragmatists, made in fact little difference, since in both scenarios action was rigorously certain and decision logically inevitable. Exactly the same conclusions were required whether the justification for punishment came from the Gospel of John or from Innocent III’s Excommunicamus. The parameters of “what is to be done?” remained narrow in the extreme, leading relentlessly and ineluctably to an identical set of speedy resolutions, especially since the heresies involved in the Michaelist cause were always understood as being of the “explicit” rather than of the “implicit” variety. How paradoxical, then, that a position which so obviously sacrificed ample discussion to swift and inexorable action should have been expounded and defended in the longest political treatise of the Middle Ages.

 Leon Baudry, one of the premier interpreters of Ockham’s Dialogus, once remarked in conjunction with his analysis of Pars prima that “l’ouvrage a un contenu presque inepuisable” (Guillaume d’Occam, sa vie, ses oeuvres, ses idees sociales et politiques, Paris 1950, p. 163). One of the supporting manifestations of this entirely accurate perception are the many fascinating obiter dicta, some longer, some shorter, which accompany the main thrust of William’s treatment of his investigative sequences. Readers, of course, must decide for themselves which of these additional musings they might find more revealing or instructive. In the present segment, there are many passages which attract attention in that perspective. Two seem particularly noteworthy: (1) Ockham’s possible reference to his own Aristotelian commentaries when referring to a “quidam” ’s opinion in the 8th reason given for a heretic pope’s ipso facto fall from power (chapter 68); and (2) Ockham’s suggestion (in chapter 70) that the election of a female to the papacy would create worse technical problems for the Christian Commonwealth than even the presence of a heretic pope on the throne of Peter. Such comments are useful in that they clearly place boundaries on the political liberalism which many (including myself) occasionally, and not improperly, discern in his writings. Ockham was certainly an enlightened and progressive individual. In the matter of women’s rights, he went further than most writers of his time, indeed further than practically all political theorists since Plato. A little later on in Book 6 (in chapters 84 and 85) he will argue vigorously for the desirability of including women in the deliberations of the General Council. But such clear (if casually developed) notions of the insuperable problems associated with the emergence of another “Pope Joan” help us to remember that, after all, William of Ockham was a mediaeval thinker, with a scale of values more conservative than liberal, for all of his polemic radicalism.

 For some further comments on the context of 1 Dial. 6.68-75, see Fragments of Ockham hermeneutics, pp.103-104.

 George Knysh

 Revised February 2008