Recognizing the rights of infidels in William Ockham’s ideas on secular government


Forthcoming in Bulletin de philosophie médiévale, Brepols 2016.

The article examines the theoretical (i.e., legal and theological) basis for the status of infidels as rights-bearing persons in medieval society by focusing on William Ockham’s ideas on constitutional secular government elucidated in his Breviloquium de principatu tyrannico (A Short Discourse on the Tyrannical Government) composed in 1341–1342. This work is the first essentially rights-based treatise on political theory. In the Breviloquium, Ockham’s aim is to defend the rights of “all peoples” (whether Christians or non-Christians) against the tyranny of the supreme pontiff, namely Pope John XXII (1316–1334) arguing that also the authority and power of the pope (as well as of emperor) ought to be limited by the same rights as the others.