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. 7.42-51:


Tradition A:     Bb  An  Fi

Tradition B:     Va Vg

Tradition D:     To

Tradition E:     Vc We

Incunabulum:   Ly


The “reliability rate” of the witnesses is slightly different here from what it had been in 1 Dial. 6.1-35. The best source for our critical text is Fi (86% variants convergence), followed by Bb and We (both at 84%), An (82%), Vc (78%), Vg (77%), Ly (74%), Va (72%), with To trailing significantly at 64%. The reason for the notable deterioration of the Ancona E [Vc] tradition’s accuracy at this juncture (We remains excellent, as always) is due primarily though not exclusively to its consistent borrowing of inauspicious and defective variants from the B tradition (this can be verified in no less than 67 contexts). By contrast, tradition D shows few similar borrowings in this segment, and otherwise maintains practically none of the specific affinities to E discernible in other sections of the First Part. To’s deviations from the “standard” text are mostly idiosyncratic and not always erroneous. We have retained a few of its unique readings, as well as those of other less accurate manuscripts, where upon careful analysis they seem to provide a better rendition of Ockham’s original intention than what is available in the normally more reliable sources.


Two passages are of special textological interest. There is an error common to all traditions at 1 Dial. 7.45.6, a transcription glitch where a scribe initially omitted a line, and then upon resumption of the correct connection neglected to cancel the prematurely scripted phrase “quod non videtur”, leaving it to dangle its way into posterity. Secondly, there is an odd redundancy [“celatum” “si celaretur”] also present in all traditions at 1 Dial. 7.44.97-102. Both of these passages have been repaired in We, and neither in its erroneous state seems plausibly attributable to Ockham’s autograph. The hypothesis of an independent pre-publication editorial effort at the source is thus correspondingly strengthened, and so is a skeptical evaluation of the normative textological priority of traditions D and E compared to A and B. Reparations would seem appropriate in a number of other contexts, including 1 Dial. 7.48.141-145 and 1 Dial. 7.48. 150-151, but for the time being I have let the consensus of the best extant manuscripts stand.


What is reproduced here is part of a large segment of Book 7 where Ockham systematically reviews the duties (and criticizes the potential failings) of all members of Christian Society (communitas fidelium) in the struggle against a heretic pope. The “catholic army” (exercitus catholicorum) involved in “war” (bellum) with this most powerful antagonist is made up of distinct “estates and ranks” (status et gradus). Their full and organized mobilization is essential for the success of the cause. Whether they are ecclesiastical prelates (bishops, abbots et sim.), lay rulers (kings, princes, city state officers et sim.), or ordinary people, artisans or peasants, they all have a role to play and a contribution to make in the spiritual and physical conflict with their sovereign betrayer. 1 Dial. 7.42-51 examines the situation and proposed activism of the verbalist professions (preachers and academics of all categories) in the contest. It was of course the group to which Ockham himself belonged.


The links between the apparently abstract statements of 1 Dial. 7.48 and the historical circumstances of the Dialogus’ composition are obvious enough. The nature and method of Ockham’s master political work easily fit into the action parameters recommended here to protesting intellectuals. It has not, however, been fully realized that 1 Dial. 7.50 likewise contains highly significant Ockham biographical material. It is one of the rare contexts (another would be 1 Dial. 6.80) where Ockham’s psychological attitude to his academic persecutors is made crystal clear, and the relationship between his commitment to support Michael of Cesena’s understanding of Franciscan values and his (Ockham’s) own theological and philosophical difficulties at Avignon strongly underscored. What is completely missing from the Littera ad Fratres of 1334, and only surfaces marginally in the Opus Nonaginta Dierum of early 1332 (Ockham, OP II, c. 95, p. 719) is here at center stage. Ockham’s deep resentment of professional colleagues who betrayed their calling as intellectuals (so he thought) and deliberately twisted and misrepresented the sense and catholicity of his theology and of his philosophy in order to please a “heretic” (and Thomist) Pope spills over into a strong if somewhat strident denunciation of their personae. The punishment he had in mind for individuals such as John Lutterell and John Paynhota among others (none are in fact named in 1 Dial. 7.50 but we know certain identities from the documents of Ockham’s Avignon case) was of the utmost severity, as befitted “sinners against the Holy Spirit”. The last known official denunciation of Ockham’s theology was issued in a bull of Pope John XXII dated 4 January 1331 [cf. Franciscan Studies 46 (1986), p. 73]. Ultimately this attack failed, and the commentaries on the margins of a 1333 manuscript [Vat. Lat. 3075: cf. Ockham, OTh IX, pp. 7*-8*] adequately symbolized the exculpatory judgement of most Western theologians as to the unfair accusations of heterodoxy levelled against Ockham’s academic work by his enemies. By the spring of 1334, when he wrote his Littera ad Fratres, all of this was beginning to fade into history as a closed chapter. But 1 Dial. 7.50 was initially written (though not published) sooner, and it remains an appropriate personal commentary to those turbulent early years.


For a brief interpretation of 1 Dial. 7.42-51, see my Fragments of Ockham Hermeneutics pp. 112-115.


George Knysh


Revised February 2008