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. 6.16-35:

Tradition A:    Bb An Fi

Tradition B:    Va Vg

Tradition D:    Ba

Tradition E:     Vc We

Incunabula:      Pz Ly  

Edition:           Gs

The “reliability rate” of witnesses remains very close here to what it had been in 1 Dial. 6.1-15. The manuscript which comes nearest to our critical text is An (87% variants convergence), followed by Fi (86%), Vc and We (both at 84%), and Bb (83%). Vg (76%) and Va (72%) are further removed, as are the 15th century incunabula (68%). Ba is comparatively remote at 63%. Again one must emphasize that this does not necessarily indicate that the old printed editions or Ba are “bad” or “very bad” exemplars, but only that they appear to have marginally drifted away from what we judge to have been Ockham's original editorial intentions.

For a brief interpretation of 1 Dial. 6.16-35, see Fragments of Ockham Hermeneutics, pp. 99-100.

While the date of 1 Dialogus will be discussed in another context, we might note that it is difficult to imagine Ockham writing the arguments of chapter 19 as original text after 26 July 1333, when Pope John XXII officially proclaimed a crusade against the Moslems. In chapter 34, apart from a general hint at the Beatific Vision sermons of 1331-1332, Ockham refers in all but words to the sermon “Gaudete in Domino semper delivered by Pope John XXII on 17 December 1329, in which the dissident Munich Franciscans discovered Sabellian heresy (cf. OP III, p. 14; John Kilcullen transl. in A Letter to the Friars Minor..., p. 12.) Ockham's argumentation in this context is practically identical to that of Bonagratia of Bergamo in his Appeal of 10 April 1332 (Ms. Vat. Lat. 4009, fo. 207r). While other significant Appeals published by the Michaelists make some reference to the issue of Antichrist (usually attacking Pope John as the “mystical” Antichrist) none seem as involved in this matter as Bonagratia's in 1332. In more radical circles (the Provencal Beguins for example) the year 1332 was heavy with the possibility of Antichrist's advent, following perhaps the turn of the century prophecies of Arnold of Villanova, and some speculative mathematics by Olivi in his Commentary on the Book of Revelation. There is no other work by Ockham save 1 Dialogus which reflects similar focuses and concerns (especially in books 4, 5, and chapter 19 of 6). The dating implications are quite suggestive.

The struggle over Evangelical Poverty between the Franciscans and the Avignon Popes was highlighted by many Appeals, some launched even before Ockham and other notables fled from the papal Curia on 26 May 1328. The longest and theoretically most informative were the so-called “major” Pisan Appeal promulgated on 18 September 1328 (with a “minor” version on 12 December of the same year), and the Munich Appeal (dated 26 March 1330 but probably reworked in the summer of 1331). Ockham was an explicit party to the Appeal of Pisa (as the documents show and as he himself pointed out in his Letter of May 1334). But interestingly enough, the Venerable Inceptor never issued an appeal in his own name or on behalf of the group which he headed after the death of Michael of Cesena in November 1342. The reasons for this reluctance are made reasonably clear in the texts reproduced here, which read in part like a quiet polemic against his fellow dissident Bonagratia. What seemed technically necessary to a jurist “of outstanding learning” (as Ockham characterized his friend in A Letter..., transl. cit., p. 13) appeared much less so to the leading theological logician of the Franciscan Order. This is only one of the areas where Ockham's personal views did not exactly coincide with those of his General and of the latter's primary advisor. As usual, his dialectic was equal to the task of sublimating these differences into a practical viewpoint all could be comfortable with. We shall see a similar approach at work in Dial. 1.6.68-75, where Ockham resolved the question of a heretic pope's “instant” illegitimacy, a topic already announced in chapter 19.

The interesting discussion about St. Athanasius' alleged appeal to a pagan in connection with issues of Christian belief (chapter 22) is not based on real history (though Ockham's Master does refer the Student to “the deeds of those times”) but on Vigilius Tapsensis' 6th century fictional theological romance “Altercatio Athanasii contra Arium coram Probo iudice”[PL 62, cols. 179-238].

The issue of the work referred to in 1 Dial. 6.17 as “De optimo genere addiscendi has intrigued scholars for a long time. While a preliminary hypothesis has been offered in my Ockham perspectives (pp. 30-31) which would identify this with a portion of the Summa totius logice, there remains sufficient doubt to prevent incorporating such a solution into our critical text. The reading of Sm is rather late, and might not be anything more than an inspired guess. What is clear is that this work presented a problem to every editor and copyist of the Dialogus. In 1 Dial. it seems to be made up of distinct books, though how many is uncertain. The 1 Dial. 6.17 readings of “105” and “145” are almost certainly erroneous, and already in the 14th c. Vg attempted to interpret this as “book 1 chapter 5”. The Fi reading could mean either “book 10, chapter 5” or “book 15”. All manuscripts agree in 1 Dial. 7.73 about a “book 9” of the same work, but here “9” could well have been a misread “4”. The third part of the Dialogus no longer speaks of “books” but of “treatises” (3 Dial. 2.1.17. See A Letter..., p. 279), yet here too there is uncertainty. Are the treatises “de modo addiscendi legalia and “de modo addiscendi moralem philosophiam part of the “opus” “de optimo genere addiscendi, or are they separate works altogether? It does not seem likely that the obscurity surrounding this “mysterious” piece (thus Lagarde felicitously described it in his La naissance de l'esprit laique..., 1962, IV, p. 16) will soon, if ever, be lifted. Much that Ockham indubitably wrote in 1328-1348 has not survived. Much that remained in his scriptorium at his death was eventually taken over by the Franciscan authorities, and never fully released to the public (Woodford was already complaining about this in the 1390's). It seems reasonable to suppose that Ockham continued his teaching activities in some form while at Munich and in Germany, and produced texts to accompany these. We know of at least one late treatise on logic which has resurfaced (the “Elementarium Logice” of ca. 1344-1345, printed in OPh VII). Already in the Preface to Summa totius logice (OPh I, 1974, p. 6) and later in some passages of Opus nonaginta dierum (OP, 1974, pp. 363-364) Ockham emphasized the importance of logic as a means of accessing, and profiting from, all the “real” sciences. It does not seem farfetched to suppose that he actually began the realization of some such project under the general title of “De optimo genere addiscendi and wrote at least some chapters and/or outlines. The existence or proposed existence of such a corpus might also explain Ockham's consciously stated desire (cf. for instance 1 Dial. 5.5) to avoid burdening the Dialogus with technical logical discussions. But we cannot move much beyond surmise in the present state of the evidence.

George Knysh

Revised February 2008