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
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 “
The textual archaeology of the
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
It should also be pointed out that the textual adequacy of group E
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.
Revised February 2008