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THE OCKHAM EDITION: WILLIAM OF OCKHAM'S OPERA PHILOSOPHICA ET THEOLOGICA William of Ockham, called the Venerable Inceptor, was born circa 1285 in Oak Hamlet (Ockham), in Surrey County, England, and died April 9/10, 1347, in Munich. He was one of the greatest philosophers, theologians and political thinkers of the fourteenth century. Such prominent philosophers as Adam of Wodeham (d. 1358), Peter d'Ailly (d. 1495), and Gabriel Biel (d. 1495), were deeply influenced by him. Sir Isaac Newton (d. 1727) quoted Ockham's razor: "Frustra fit per plura quod fieri potest per pauciora," in his discussion of the first rule of reasoning in philosophy.1 Ockham's Scriptum or Ordinatio on the first book of the Sentences of Peter Lombard, which contains the most important part of his philosophical and theological teaching, was edited for the first time in Strasbourg, in 1483, and reedited in Lyons, in 1495, together with the Reportatio of books H-IV. His Quodlibeta Septem, together with De sacramento altaris, was printed in Strasbourg, in 1491; the Summa logicae in Paris, in 1488; the so-called Expositio aurea in Bologna, in 1496; the Summulae in libros Physicorum in Bologna, in 1494. With the exception of his works dealing with Aristotle's Physics, all of Ockham's philosophical and theological works, were printed between 1483 and 1496. Some of them were reprinted five or six times in the following centuries, but only the De sacramento altaris appeared in the twentieth century. Consequently, scholars interested in medieval philosophy and theology, felt the need for a new and critical edition of all the philosophical and theological writings of the Venerable Inceptor. The first attempt to prepare a critical edition of Ockham's commentary on the four books of the Sentences of Peter Lombard (book I: Ordinatio; books H-IV: Reportatio) was made shortly before the First World War by the Belgian Jesuit, Paul Doncoeur. He called it a work of capital importance, inaccessible to the modern 1 See Isaac Newton, Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, ed. 3, III: Regulae PhUosophandi, Regula 1 (2, Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1972) 550. 84GEDEON GAL, O.F.M. AND REGA WOOD reading public.2 Disaster struck for the first, but not the last time; at the beginning of the First World War, P. Doncoeur's young collaborator, Dr. Mangers, of Louvain, fled on foot before the invading Germans, from Bruxelles to Ostende, from Ostende to Dunkerque, and from Dunkerque to Paris, carrying the incunabula edition of Ockham's Ordinatio and an almost completed transcription. When he finally arrived at Paris, he collapsed and died of exhaustion. The edition had to be abandoned. Seven years later, P. Doncoeur sadly noted: "L'heure n'est pas venue de reprendre ce project."3 The time for a second attempt came at the dawn of the Second World War and almost ended—as the first attempt had—in disaster. The initiative came from Fr. Philotheus Boehner (d. 1955), a brilliant German Franciscan from the Holy Cross Province of Saxony, who was very much interested in the philosophy, and especially in the logic, of the Venerable Inceptor. By translating three of his most important works (on St. Bonaventure, St. Augustine and St. Bernard) into German, Boehner became a close friend and collaborator of the renowned medievalist, Etienne Gilson. It was Boehner who suggested that Gilson undertake the critical edition of William of Ockham's Opera Philosophica et Theologica at the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies in Toronto, Canada, founded by Gilson in 1929. Although Gilson, an independent Thomist, vehemently disagreed with the philosophy of the Venerable Inceptor, he was very much aware of Ockham's importance and of his influence on the philosophy and theology of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In 1938, Gilson invited Boehner to the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies to teach paleography and to undertake the edition of Ockham's works. Boehner accepted the invitation. Gilson was elated, and wrote to his friend, G. B. Phelan: "If we procure an edition of at least the prologue of the first book, the Institute will rank among the indisputable seats of medieval learning.4 2 See "La théorie de la matière et de...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 83-101
Launched on MUSE
2013-07-03
Open Access
No
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