Preliminary comment                         


     The 33 manuscripts which contain all or portions of the First Part of Ockham’s Dialogus may be classified into 5 basic groups or traditions:


A.   Bb Fi An Ce Na*

B.   Vg Va Lb Pa Pb Pc Vb Ar* Sa Ko*

C.   Sm Vd Ca Lc La Un Ax*

D.   Ba  Di  To  Es  Fr*

      E.   Vc Vf Av Ox Br We


 Manuscripts fully collated for our critical Latin text of 1 Dial. 6.1-15 have been highlighted in green. The asterix has been affixed to witnesses evidencing substantial contamination.


 The main reason for assigning a manuscript to a specific group is the quantitative and/or qualitative preponderance therein of readings which are peculiar to the group in which it has been included, notwithstanding the presence of occasional conflations and/or idiosyncracies in a particular witness. Each manuscript has its own genetic peculiarities, which must always be kept in mind in the context of a conveniently simplified ordering system. Fr, for instance, borrows heavily from other traditions in many contexts, and thus does not belong to D in quite the same fashion as To or even Ba. Likewise, We does not belong to E in the same manner as Vc or Av (see further below).


 The complex nature of medieval manuscript copying (and the consequent difficulties in tracing definitive and clear-cut affiliations and developing consistent stemmas) is well exemplified by manuscript Na. This witness has been dated by Cenci to the 14th century. Independent examination by Prof. Doyle of Durham University (Offler Archives, Dialogus folder) has not fully confirmed this assumption, though it seems likely enough. My own analysis indicates that the manuscript’s reproduction of the First Part of Dialogus relies very strongly on exemplars of groups A (the preponderant model) and B, and exhibits only sporadically and in minor fashion certain characteristics of C and D. The utilization of all these sources does not always seem to have been properly co-ordinated. Thus in 1 Dial. 1.3, where groups A and B usually describe the authors of the Canon Law as “viri acutissimi”, and groups D and E as “viri eruditissimi”, Na has “viri eruditissimi acutissimi” (as do Ca Vd La Lc Fr). In the same chapter, where group B has “indices” and some exemplars of group D “determinares”, Na has “indices et determinares” (while groups A and E normally prefer “intimares”). In 1 Dial. 2.21, Na has the same major omissions that we find only in some group B (Pa Pz Ly Sa Lb Ko) and in a few group C (La Lc Vd) texts. In 1 Dial. 5.34 Na includes (as do Pb La and Sa) an additional appearance of the paragraph-beginning term “Discipulus” in the middle of a sentence elsewhere wholly attributed to the Master (whereas Bb Ca Un Pa Vb Lb Lc have a superfluous scripting of “Magister” in the same place). This particular oddity (its presence in Bb suggests but does not prove that it might have been present in the margin of Ockham’s own unedited text) is partially resolved in the text of  We, and of all manuscripts of group E (but not in those of group D, except for Ba which here borrowed from E), where the editor or editors of what I believe (see further below) to have been an early second edition of the prima pars Dialogi provided what he (they) felt was an appropriate equivalent of the “missing” segment implied by the intrusive term.   All this points to a very complex process of textual development and copying, and the gaps noticeable here and there in Na (e.g. in 1 Dial. 6.1, or in 1 Dial 7.60) possibly indicate an intermittent lack of interest in or capacity for proper editing.


 Na is but one instance of what can be observed in many other manuscripts. Va for example (copied in 1437) is a B group text with multiple but not comprehensive integrated corrections from an E group exemplar. From time to time (for instance in Pb and Lb) we may even catch these adopted corrections in statu nascendi as marginal and interlinear glosses. On the other hand, D group manuscripts (the most idiosyncratic of the 5 basic groups) sometimes have a significant number of readings in common with the B group tradition (as, for instance, in 1 Dial. 6.1-15). The same kind of relationship may be discerned (though not systematically or universally) between groups D and E.


 The leading exemplar of the D tradition (Ba, a mid-15th century manuscript) shares some very specific readings with Va (cf. the apparatus for 1 Dial. 6.1-15 at chs. 1 /thrice/, 5, 14 /four items/), readings which otherwise are only known to exist in the E tradition, and which cannot be found in any other exemplars of B or D. This demonstrates a fact proved in many other contexts, viz., that important elements of the E textual tradition were intermittently available to copyists for ad hoc use.


 If we focus on the extant manuscripts of the E tradition (leaving aside the Br fragment which John Scott links to Vc) we may recognize three sub-groups: (1) We  (2) Av Ox  (3) Vc Vf.  


We , which I and others once believed to be a multiple copy-hands compilation of the later 15th century put together on the basis of at least two, and perhaps three, distinct manuscript sources, but with highly visible and sustained though not quite comprehensive affinities to Av Ox Vc Vf, has now been proved by a team of Leipzig researchers (led by Matthias Eifler) to be one of the earliest extant manuscripts of 1 Dial. The verified identity of its paper’s watermark indicates, in my view, that it was edited ca. 1351. The remaining witnesses of the extant tradition E were produced much later. Both the Av Ox and the Vc Vf groups go back to the same original through at least one intermediary, and common place names in Av Ox Vc Vf (cf. 1 Dial. 5.22-24) associate this original with the March of Ancona (which, of course, suggests but does not necessarily imply that this is where it (the original) was composed). Each “Ancona” sub-group has been edited further, and the immediate ancestor of sub-group 2 (Av Ox) has provided chapter headings analogous to those of Ly. Vc and Vf are products of the 1470’s (Vc was the copy of Pope Sixtus IV), while Av and Ox are slightly earlier (Ox already existed in 1444). The common source of sub-groups 2 and 3, with its Table of Contents and Admonition to the Reader (both Table and Admonition were authored by one or more extremely competent though unfortunately anonymous editor or editors), would thus appear to be at least contemporary to the early Council of Basel. There is no evidence (as yet) to indicate the survival of an earlier E text of the Av Ox Vc Vf variety independent of Table or Admonition. It would seem on the basis of current evidence that tradition E was not much copied or referenced between ca. 1351 and ca. 1400, and that it was only briefly consulted by the initial editor(s) of tradition D, as shown by the comparatively poor quality of the latter’s early manuscripts.


 The textual archaeology of the Ancona subgroup of tradition E in 1 Dial. 6.1-15 intimates at first glance that its source either relied on an exemplar which had very little in common with tradition B, or else that, in this segment, the “Ancona” editor(s) of E (unlike tradition D in the same passages) deliberately chose not to draw on tradition B for assistance. Analysis of further segments where “Ancona” (whose contacts with D have been well-documented by John Scott) obviously and repeatedly borrows from B (cf. below at 1 Dial. 7.42-51 and at 1 Dial. 7.65-73) indicates the greater plausibility of the latter hypothesis. The clearcut and abundant evidence that both D and Ancona E  do rely on tradition B as convenience dictates, becomes a powerful argument in support of the view that D and Ancona E  are in many respects derivative and conflated texts rather than “pure” representatives of a neglected and subsequently rediscovered Ockham original. Certainly, neither D nor Ancona E as we have them can be anterior to B, even if we were to postulate that B was only sporadically available to the editors of D and Ancona E. There is also growing evidence that tradition D is closely linked to some manuscripts of tradition C, (which John Kilcullen’s analyses now permit to be classified as a distinct group) and may well have been a continuation and “correction” thereof (cf. Introduction to 1 Dial. 6.51-67).


 In any event, none of these groups is able on its own to provide an exclusive basis for reconstructing the text whence stem all of our extant witnesses. Furthermore, the fact that (unlike the case of Summa Totius Logice or of other purely philosophical and theological Ockham works) we do not possess a single manuscript of Dialogus which may securely be dated to the author’s lifetime [our oldest are We /group E/ and Bb, a mid-14th century group A exemplar which belonged to the Basel Dominicans] raises special issues of authenticity. All groups to a more or less evident extent share a common text in the incipits and explicits of individual books of the First Part, as well as of the treatise as a whole. The systematic reference in this common text to “Dialogi” (plural) rather than to Ockham’s preferred “Dialogus” (singular) strongly suggests that the original of all our surviving manuscripts was edited sometime after Ockham’s death by a person or persons who (as many other contexts indicate) was or were not always totally familiar with the Venerable Inceptor’s intentions. The antiquity and specific nature of We further suggests that there were two such editions in fairly quick sequence, and, as hinted earlier, that the second edition (We) was not initially widely published or utilized. There is no need to doubt that the reproduced texts remain substantially faithful to Ockham’s unavailable autograph, but the presence therein of occasional uncorrected errors (cf. for instance our Introduction to 1 Dial. 7. 65-73), as well as of additions, adjustments, or improvements some of which go back to the very beginning of the Dialogus’ textual history should perhaps make us more vigilant as to yet further “improvements” demonstrably or potentially attributable in the various groups to a significant number of post-Ockham editors. The most curious of these improvements are doubtless the “second prologue” (in We) and its homologue in Fr, which I earlier discovered in 1975. The text of this spurious if interesting prologue has been edited by my Australian colleagues.


 Group A contains some of the oldest manuscripts, but these have a few defective peculiarities and significant verbal omissions. Group B represents the 14th century tradition which evolved into the printed editions (Paris 1476 and Lyons 1494 [the latter reprinted by Melchior Goldast in 1614]) and is therefore the one most familiar to historical practitioners of the Dialogus. It is the group to which belonged the lost manuscript by reference to which Pierre d’Ailly composed his abbreviation of the Dialogus. This group’s text also has many defects. Group C is clearly posterior in origin to group B, whose readings “contaminate” its text throughout, and, as mentioned earlier in connection with Na, has a number of readings in common with D (some C manuscripts more than others), including four notable variants (also shared with E) which John Scott has studied separately in his important article. Groups D and Ancona E have some reasonably good late exemplars (though the text of D is on the whole obviously inferior to that of ABCE), but their tradition cannot be traced back much further in time than the beginning of the 15th century. The frequent excellence of the text provided by Ancona E needs to be balanced by concerns for authenticity which cannot in all instances be positively resolved. We can demonstrate that Simon de Plumetot corrected his group B Dialogus exemplar (Pa, originally copied in 1389) by reference to a group D text sometime in the second or third decade of the 15th century. We know that Henry of Zoemeren’s Epithoma Dialogi (c. 1460) was also based on a group D text. But, as mentioned, we lack any convincing evidence for the early existence of this tradition. There is even less evidence for the systematic continuity of the E tradition in the second half of the 14th century, indeed, well into the 15th, prior to the composition of the “Ancona” original ca. 1430. For these and other reasons mentioned above we cannot always fully identify the “good” readings shared by D and E (even those of We) with Ockham’s authentic words. Strict analysis indicates that only four of the “significant” DE variants reviewed by John Scott in his most useful study [these four variants are not the same as the four variants mentioned a few lines above] represent readings absolutely required for maintaining the integrity of Ockham’s text (viz. variants 3, 19, 20, and 32). Most if not all of the remaining variants could easily have been the work of learned editors, beginning with those who produced the two earliest traditions of the text: (1) an initial version of A (but at any rate posterior to 9 April 1348) which was the ultimate source of Bb/An/Fi etc. (edition 1); (2) a subsequent “corrected” version which was the source of We (E) as copied ca. 1351 (edition 2).


 It should also be pointed out that the textual adequacy of group E (especially “Ancona”) is not uniform or consistent, as the apparatus of 1 Dial. 6.1-15 (and that of 1 Dial. 7.52-73) clearly reveals. In many cases the “common text” of E has not been adopted in our critical edition, either because it is obviously defective, or because it is superfluous (sometimes awkwardly so, as in 1 Dial. 6.14). Group E is particularly strong (though not infallible) in the recording of Biblical, Canon Law, and Patristic citations, and is frequently our best general witness, yet it needs to be supplemented and corrected by the other groups if the intended text of Ockham’s Dialogus is to be adequately or nearly adequately approached. While the notion that tradition D and all of E may in fact have been as close in time to Ockham’s original as A and B, and that their 14th c. intermediary texts have been “lost”, is not entirely impossible (what is?), this seems a rather improbable ad hoc solution to the vexed problem of textual continuities, and the challenge of demonstrating the antiquity of the glaring systematic defects of D is abysmally daunting to say the least. In the current state of the evidence, and in the absence of clear indications to the contrary, it is much safer and much more probable to accept that a given tradition begins with the direct and demonstrable sources of its earliest extant exemplars.


 Whether or not to adopt subsequent editorial improvements into our final critical text is, of course, a distinct issue. It is arguable that Ockham might not have been averse to the inclusion of such improvements into the text he was still working on in his scriptorium when death came calling. Indeed, one might even go further and suggest that he constructed the Dialogus in such a way as to provoke appropriate “improvements” [See the Master’s comment in 1 Dial. 2.3: “Pro sententia quam reputo veram motiva quandoque demonstrativa, interdum probabilia tantum, nonnunquam vero solummodo apparentia, propter alios exercitandos aut probandos seu tentandos allego.”] We have, after all, the evidence of the famous chapter 51 of Part I of the Summa Totius Logice as an indicator of his attitude towards such matters, as well as the concluding sentences of 1 Dial. 7.73.


Chapters 1 through 15 of 1 Dial. 6 have therefore been reconstructed here on the foundation of a full collation of the 11 “best” and most reliable exemplars of our 5 manuscript groups, with occasional references to other witnesses. The two printed editions of the 15th century have also been carefully examined, though only that of Lyons (Trechsel) has been fully reported.


The “reliability” pattern which emerges in this first published segment of book 6 is quite interesting, but cannot as yet be fully conclusive for the entire book, and even less for the entire treatise. The manuscript which is closest to our critical text in these opening chapters is We (with an 87% rate of variants convergence), closely followed by An (86%), Fi, Vc, Vf, Bb (all at 85%), more distantly by Ox (83%, not counting a large textual omission at 1 Dial. 6.15), with Va, Vd, Vg and Ba trailing somewhat (all between 74% and 78%), and the historic Trechsel Lyons printed edition bringing up the rear at 72%. We should note however that many defective variants are unique to each discrete witness, whose value in confirming or denying most standardized readings is not drastically impaired by such erroneous idiosyncracies. Nor should we forget that, on balance, variant units and/or clusters only affect some 15% of the total text. A “reliability” rate differential of merely 13-15% between “best” and “worst” within that narrow 15% is hence contextually minimal.


 My colleagues John Kilcullen and John Scott have kindly reviewed the first pre-posted version of 1 Dial. 6. 1-10, as well as the first posted versions of 1 Dial. 6. 1-50 and of 1 Dial. 7.42-51, for which I am most grateful. They have, in some cases, convinced me to adopt tradition E (rather than my original options) as best for our critical text. I also thank my colleagues for verifying in a number of manuscripts the contexts of 1 Dial. 1.3 and 1 Dial. 5.34 mentioned earlier.


The anonymous 14th century scribe who copied our witness Vg recorded book 6 of the First Part as the “secunda pars” of this treatise. This is a useful perspective. For it is here, in this massive sixth book, that Ockham’s conflict with Pope John XXII begins to spill over into issues of immediate practical relevance to the dissident Franciscans of Munich. Is the Pope above the law? If not, how should one proceed to verify whether he is a criminal? How should one punish him if it turns out that he is? The very title of book 6 is pregnant with political passion. The tensions and not always restrained fury of this historic confrontation still reverberate through these pages, and Ockham’s powerful dialectic continues to fascinate and to inspire nearly seven centuries after the events to which it was applied.


The material presented by Ockham in this first segment of 1 Dialogus 6 had been utilized for doctrinal reconstructions in A.S. McGrade’s The Political Thought of William of Ockham, at p. 19 n.38, p. 88 n.23, p. 94 n.38, and p. 107 n. 78. It had been utilized for the same purpose in my Political Ockhamism, at p. 28 n.21, p. 35 n.34, p. 50 n.128, p. 96 n. 229, p. 98 n. 233, p. 158 n.249, p. 238 n.7, p. 261 n. 98, p. 263, p, 268, and pp. 290-292. A new perspective may be added to these earlier analyses. It is now arguable that Ockham knew the theories of Jean Quidort (“Johannes Parisiensis”, “John of Paris”), and may sometimes have quoted him verbatim in the Dialogus. The French Dominican thus plausibly joins Marsilius of Padua as a major source of the radical anti-papal doctrines discussed in 1 Dial. 6.6-9.


For the general context and meaning of 1 Dial. 6.1-15, see my Fragments of Ockham Hermeneutics, pp. 92-99.


George Knysh

Revised  February 2008