Sunday, December 31, 2017

Some Thoughts on 2018

The NY Times has a piece on the lack of any accuracy on financial or economic projections. I have said this of economists for the past decade here. Economics is not a science it is at best a forum for political opinions shrouded in numbers, often incomprehensible numbers.

They note:

If one were to avoid the straight-line projections, political biases and single factors that so often distort forecasts, what would a 2018 forecast look like? Not like the consensus, which is euphoric over the current combo of high growth and low inflation. Usually staid Wall Street economists are giving their 2018 forecasts headlines like “Boom Shaka-laka-laka” and “As Good as It Gets.” Inspired by a cocksure consensus, investors are holding less money in cash than they ever have before — meaning they are all-in on risky investments. Confidence this solid is a warning sign of complacency. For one, gross domestic product growth is at the top end of the range that has prevailed over the past decade, so it is more likely to slip than accelerate. That should be sobering for every major power, including Trump’s America. But please, it’s not all about him. For better or worse, Mr. Trump had less impact on the global economy than most experts expected in 2017. The lesson — the inevitable rarely happens, the unexpected often does — applies as well to forecasting 2018.

 What can we say about 2018? I think, and most likely I am wrong as well:

1. Russia will be unpredictable.
2. China will be upset
3. North Korea will be a threat
4. Iran will be unstable
5. The Stock Market will go up or down
6. The Press, especially the NY Times, will continue to attack Trump
7. Twitter will survive as a Government sponsored network like NPR
8. Government employees will continue to get overpaid and will be under-worked
9. Taxes will increase, yes increase
10. New Jersey will go Bankrupt with its pension fund

Otherwise Mrs. Lincoln what did you think of the play? Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Vienna Circle

The book by Sigmund, Exact Thinking in Demanding Times, is a singular contribution to understanding the Vienna Circle. I recall reading Ayer back in the 1950s and trying to see this school of philosophy as an adjunct to scientific understanding. The mix of Mach, Wittgenstein, and others presented an alternative view of philosophical understandings. Having been educated in the scholastic metaphysical world, but becoming an Ockhamist as I became more technically educated, I was attracted to this collection of minds as they exchanged their ideas.

Sigmund brings each of them to life, for better or worse. Having lived in Prague and travelling frequently to Vienna I often wondered how this group met, managed their flow of ideas, and in many ways transformed the way we think. I saw Vienna in the 21st Century as no reflection of what it had been during the time of the Vienna Circle.

Remnants of their influence are in Popper, Wittgenstein, Kuhn, and to a degree even in Russel. Sigmund brings all of these people together in a highly readable and logical manner. One begins to better understand the group.

Atoms exist! This was the first battle that set the groundwork for the ideas that came forth. Sigmund does a brilliant job of bringing this to the fore. It was Einstein in 1905 in his paper on Brownian motion who put forth the model that allowed for the calculation of the number of atoms in a mole, the Avogadro number. For Einstein, by the power of thought, he was able to set forth a theory whose demonstration would yield a verifiable Avogadro's number. Then using this Sigmund (see p 47) can weld together the battle between Mach and Boltzmann, which pre-dated Einstein and his brilliance, and which was between the disbeliever in the atom and the believer.

Mach was in his disbelief in the atom a paradigm of the 19th century physicist, whose understanding of thermodynamics, such as enthalpy and Gibbs Free energy were constructs based on gross properties of a collective mass without any underlying structure. It was then Boltzmann whose understanding of the atom developed what we have in statistical thermodynamics based on fundamental physical constructs secured in the reality of the atom. Mach had to relent, almost. But the ability to predict and then measure, using what could be seen, became a cornerstone to the principals in this group. Sigmund does a splendid job of exposing this change and in doing so by explaining each individual and their interactions.

Sigmund then in Chapter 4 starts the beginning of the Circle. The players such as Neurath and Hahn, post WW I characters which made for the flavor of post war Vienna. Then he introduces Schlick, whose participation will catalyze the Circle. Schlick was one who managed to bridge the world of Kant and Einstein, of the metaphysical and real. Schlick and Einstein struck up a friendship which helped both (see p 102). Schlick started the Circle, if such be the case, with the ability to idolize and promote such figures as Einstein, Hilbert, Planck and Russell (see p 108). Sigmund does a wonderful job in bringing all of these elements out in a highly readable and well flowing manner. Unlike many authors who present facts in an assaulting staccato manner, Sigmund presents his characters and their interactions and contributions in a symphonic manner, one building upon the other. That is what makes this a joy to read.

The discussion by Sigmund on Heidegger on pp 156-157 is superb. It is the discussion of Heidegger and "the nothing". He does allude to the Davos lectures and does not mention the Cassirer debate of 1929. That would have been useful but perhaps a bit afar from the Circle discussions as Sigmund has them evolve.

The discussions on the work of Neurath and Red Vienna and their use of images for propaganda purposes was also quite enlightening (see pp 180-181). This clearly was a blending of the Wittgenstein "picture theory" of language and the beginning of semiotic theory. Neurath exults pictures as a means to communicate, to propagandize, and Sigmund uses this as a sounding board for the Wittgenstein theories.

On pp 210-212 the discussion of the excluded middle opens the door for Godel. Sigmund moves from physics, to philosophy to mathematics to logic, and back again, but the flow is smooth and connected.

The best sentence in the book is on p 262:

"A former schoolmate of Ludwig Wittgenstein had become the chancellor of Germany and he had no intention of stopping with this."

This is the opening sentence but it lays out all that is happening at this time. No six degrees of separation in Vienna, brilliance and savagery often found themselves in the same coffeehouse.

On p 294 there is the one and only mention of A J Ayer, the Brit whose works managed to popularize the Circle as well as its logical positivism. It would have been useful to have expanded this discussion a bit more for those of us whose initial introduction was through Ayer.

In the later chapters Sigmund introduces Popper and Kuhn, Popper and his falsification construct and Kuhn and his paradigms. He also provides details on Godel up to his death, from starvation.

Overall this is a brilliant work and worth reading for anyone interested in the intellectual culture of the first half of the twentieth century. This is Vienna when there were coffee houses and collections of intellectuals. To repeat, Sigmund has created a symphonic approach to blending the collection of intellects who circled one another at this time. This is one of the best descriptions of this place and time.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Medicine in the World of the Smart Phone

Some nine years ago as Obamacare was being started and electronic health records were being promulgated I suggested that the patient "own" their health record not the physician and that an entity like then then benevolent Google could enable it. Google eventually dropped the idea and became less benevolent. But the idea still as merit. That is a patient owned and provider accessible data set not owned or operated by the Government. Like the Internet could have been until the FCC came along. It seems the Government besides being incompetent, remember Obamacare web sites, is also invasive, think NSA and FBI.

Now the NY Times reports Apple and others using smart phones for clinical data and trials. They note:

People often learn about new research studies through in-person conversations with their doctors. But not only did this study, run by Stanford University, use a smartphone to recruit consumers, it was financed by Apple. And it involved using an app on the Apple Watch to try to identify irregular heart rhythms. Intrigued, Mr. ..., who already owned an Apple Watch, registered for the heart study right away. Then he took to Twitter to encourage others to do likewise — suggesting that it was part of a breakthrough in health care. “It’s not inconceivable, by the time I graduate from medical school,” Mr. ... said, “that the entire practice of medicine can be revolutionized by technology.”

Unfortunately using this approach can introduce massive biases in any clinical data. Clinical trials have evolved to test hypotheses and must be highly regulated. The FDA does extensive audits to ensure compliance and accuracy, and just casual consumer testing is rant with risks of distorted data. There are no standards for procedures for such trials and no acceptance of the results. 

There is potential....but. Take an EKG, or ECG if you will. I admit my age. To determine a cardiac problem one needs all twelve leads taken under controlled conditions. A single lead may tell you something but hardly enough. In fact biases from a single lead could bias a whole study.

Medical data is not like other data. It is patient dependent and patient history dependent. We still need a trustworthy, secure, capable patient centered health record.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas

Factum Est Autem In Diebus Illis Exiit Edictum A Caesare Augusto Ut Describeretur Universus Orbis
Haec Descriptio Prima Facta Est Praeside Syriae Cyrino
Et Ibant Omnes Ut Profiterentur Singuli In Suam Civitatem
Ascendit Autem Et Ioseph A Galilaea De Civitate Nazareth In Iudaeam Civitatem David Quae Vocatur Bethleem Eo Quod Esset De Domo Et Familia David
Ut Profiteretur Cum Maria Desponsata Sibi Uxore Praegnate
Factum Est Autem Cum Essent Ibi Impleti Sunt Dies Ut Pareret
Et Peperit Filium Suum Primogenitum Et Pannis Eum Involvit Et Reclinavit Eum In Praesepio Quia Non Erat Eis Locus In Diversorio
Et Pastores Erant In Regione Eadem Vigilantes Et Custodientes Vigilias Noctis Supra Gregem Suum
Et Ecce Angelus Domini Stetit Iuxta Illos Et Claritas Dei Circumfulsit Illos Et Timuerunt Timore Magno
Et Dixit Illis Angelus Nolite Timere Ecce Enim Evangelizo Vobis Gaudium Magnum Quod Erit Omni Populo
Quia Natus Est Vobis Hodie Salvator Qui Est Christus Dominus In Civitate David
Et Hoc Vobis Signum Invenietis Infantem Pannis Involutum Et Positum In Praesepio
Et Subito Facta Est Cum Angelo Multitudo Militiae Caelestis Laudantium Deum Et Dicentium
Gloria In Altissimis Deo Et In Terra Pax In Hominibus Bonae Voluntatis
Et Factum Est Ut Discesserunt Ab Eis Angeli In Caelum Pastores Loquebantur Ad Invicem Transeamus Usque Bethleem Et Videamus Hoc Verbum Quod Factum Est Quod Fecit Dominus Et Ostendit Nobis
Et Venerunt Festinantes Et Invenerunt Mariam Et Ioseph Et Infantem Positum In Praesepio
Videntes Autem Cognoverunt De Verbo Quod Dictum Erat Illis De Puero Hoc
Et Omnes Qui Audierunt Mirati Sunt Et De His Quae Dicta Erant A Pastoribus Ad Ipsos
Maria Autem Conservabat Omnia Verba Haec Conferens In Corde Suo
Et Reversi Sunt Pastores Glorificantes Et Laudantes Deum In Omnibus Quae Audierant Et Viderant Sicut Dictum Est Ad Illos

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Facts or Fantasy

The VoxEu site has writings from generally far left academics. This one from VoxEu is rather disconcerting. They state:

Differences in ability, as measured by test scores in early childhood, explain very little of these disparities. Children at the top of their 3rd grade mathematics class are much more likely to become inventors, but only if they come from high-income families. High-scoring children from low-income or minority families are unlikely to become inventors. Put differently, becoming an inventor relies upon two things in America: excelling in mathematics and science and having a rich family....

 Children who grow up in areas with more inventors – and are thereby more exposed to innovation while growing up – are much more likely to become inventors themselves. Exposure influences not just whether a child grows up to become an inventor, but also the type of inventions he or she produces. For example, among people living in Boston, those who grew up in Silicon Valley are especially likely to patent in computers, while those who grew up in Minneapolis – which has many medical device manufacturers – are especially likely to patent in medical devices. Similarly, children whose parents hold patents in a certain technology class (e.g. amplifiers) are more likely to patent in exactly that field themselves rather than in other closely related fields (e.g. antennas).

 The data they used seems to be from the 19th century. If one looks at any entrepreneur, almost all, they are smart, yes, but are both risk takers and self assured. The rich kids all too often go into secure slots such as Law or Banking. Rich kids are not great risk takers. They are wealth expanders not wealth creators. All one need to do is examine the Silicon Valley set. Perhaps the rich kids do politics, and we see what happens there, but in doing something which requires risk, not for a rich kid.

Look at Corporate executives, they get there by having others take risks. If it works they then take credit, if it does not they have a victim.

I feel in my opinion and based on my experience that the conclusions in the noted piece are baseless when one looks at the current environment.

After all, what should one expect from academics.

Also having a patent is often a distraction. Patents work for large companies as strategic competitive tools. For a lone entrepreneur that can be a mill stone. Defending a patent is costly and often fruitless.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Bad Data, Been There Done That

I read a piece in The Harvard Gazette which tries to explain the use of the Harvard herbarium, or plant collection, to try to validate global warming. They note:

With their records of flowering times and details on how plants have adapted to climate over more than a century, herbarium collections play a key role in understanding how climate change impacts the natural world and how those effects might be felt by humans.

Now I have been doing this for over a quarter of a Century and have a massive data base on flowering times and variances for a multiplicity of species. The problem is micro climate. Namely if there is a tree in front of the plants after twenty five years the tree can change the micro environment and thus alter bloom time. They continue:

“Plants are at the beginning of the food chain,” ..... “So if there is a disruption in flowering time, it effects everything that depends on that. It may be that 100 years ago bees came to pollinate plants in May, but now that flowering time has shifted to earlier, into April, then there is potentially a mismatch in terms of timing … and everything is affected downstream.”

A truism in part but it is a very complex issue. First is local variation. Second is seasonal impacts such as prior year water shortages, changes in soil texture, and so forth. Note that all herbaria are for single location and time samples. You really must sample over at least a quarter century and at multiple locations and record any micro environmental changes.  Frankly the study above is fatally flawed just for this reason. Just because a plant flowered on June 10th in 1875 but then on May 21st in 2017 means nothing! There are so many variables that it is truly meaningless. I have done this and still I wonder with almost 30 years of data what variables must be accounted for.

Junk in is junk out! Perhaps Harvard needs someone doing real field work.

Some Interesting Cancer Metrics

There has been developed a set of slides depicting cancers categorized by a variety of metrics. We present a few here just for interest.

From Tomasetti and Vogelstein we have the chart showing the risk of cancer by type based on the number of stem cell divisions. Namely certain types of cancer arise from cells where there are many stem cell divisions thus allowing for genetic errors.

In contrast we have a similar chart from which depicts incidence versus methylation for various cancers. Methylation is a common element of epigenetic cancers. It is interesting to compare these two charts.

Finally we have the chart depicting incidence versus the number of somatic mutations in base pairs over a large stretch of DNA as obtained from Yarchoan et al. This is a compelling chart is we look at cancer from the perspective of mutations.

Thus we have three factors; number of stem cell generations, methylations, and mutations of somatic cell locations in DNA. Thus we ask; what is the most important?

Good question!


1.     Tomasetti and Vogelstein, Variation in cancer risk among tissues can be explained by the number of stem cell divisions, Science, 2 January 2015 • Vol 347 Issue 6217
2.     Yarchoan et al, Tumor Mutational Burden and Response Rate to PD-1 Inhibition , NEJM 377;25, Dec 21, 2017
3.     Klutstein et al, Contribution of epigenetic mechanisms to variation in cancer risk among tissues, PNAS | February 28, 2017 | vol. 114 | no. 9
4.     Vogelstein et al, Cancer Genome Landscapes, 29 March 2013 Vol 339 Science

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Happy 9th Birthday

Well this Blog is now 9 years old. There have been almost 300,000 visitors over that period from hundreds of countries. Hopefully those who came received something of interest.

A while back I read that people found this a very idiosyncratic site. It made me pause and think just what that meant. It was a word I knew from my SAT tests but had never incorporated into my expression. Now I think I understand it if I have become one.

What makes this idiosyncratic:

1. A diversity of topics. We had examined economics, healthcare, international politics, nuclear weapons, taxes, philosophy, religion and the like. Generally the approach was to focus on some recent news article and then make an assessment.

2. We have been fortunate to have seen certain advances before others. Take CRISPRs. I actually taught my grandchildren's 6th grade class about then some five years ago. Instead of "plastics" I told them about CRISPRs. Not that any will ever remember. My second focus was on CAR-T cells. That exploded even faster than CRISPRs. I now wonder about Gene Drives.

3. Politically I am an Ockhamist, which is an individualist somewhat reminiscent of de Tocqueville's observation. There is a great deal which flows from that view. History is critical to understanding the human beast. Great ideas are not all recent, they come from a long process of give and take and one must examine their progression. Individualism came from an understanding that each individual was responsible for their own actions and that each individual had the same rights. For Ockham that meant Natural Rights, and what flowed from that.

4. Cancer had become a focal point. Not that I am a hypochondriac, I guess I leave that to Woody Allen et al, but because I saw that understanding it and controlling it had become a "systems" problem. I was fortunate to live long enough to see the beginning of treatments of this set of diseases. Namely they must be understood as a system not as a cell only problem. I expect that even more advances will occur in the next none years.

5. I have really become annoyed with the plethora of opinionated folks who are telling us how to deal with our health. Take the collection of women writers telling men not to treat their prostate cancers. In the NY Times, the  most trusted source of truth II am really kidding), we have some woman telling men that they should just forget about their prostate cancers. The author writes:

With prostate cancer, doctors today try to reduce the harm by offering men with early-stage disease “active surveillance” instead of immediate treatment. A study published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine found that men are just as likely to survive 10 years whether they choose to be treated or monitored. ....... was found to have a low-risk prostate cancer last year. Since then, his doctor has monitored him with additional tests. He’ll be treated only if tests suggest his cancer has become more aggressive, an approach that aims to spare him from long-term side effects. Among men who have had prostate cancer surgery, 14 percent lose control of their bladders and 14 percent develop erectile dysfunction.

 Words mean something. You must note they changed "Watchful waiting" to "active surveillance" which tells you something. Every time they "power that be" change the in word they are losing the battle. The NEJM analysis mentioned above is flawed since as we have discussed herein we have about 5-8% of PCa patients with an aggressive form, which we unfortunately cannot identify. Thus the result is dominate by the massive amount of benign types. The statistical analysis was flawed due to a small sample size. Welcome to statistics 101 folks.

6. Politics. Here we have a plague on all houses. It seems that every time Congress does something it gets messed up. Take the ACA. Is healthcare any better? Not really. The costs have exploded due to the increased administrative overhead, massive. Now to taxes. This recent bill was almost a disaster. Fortunately we save the medical expense deduction as well as the Graduate Student exemption for tuition assistance. These two we discussed in this Blog. So we are 2 for 2. The SALT taxes frankly may be good. If you do not like New Jersey taxes then move! Go to Florida, Texas, or New Hampshire. Definitely not California!

Well some thoughts on being 9!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Some Thoughts on Today's Students

The recent discussion on the House version of the Tax Bill, where graduate students would have to pay tax on tuition, led to its collapse, but the reason was logic not the whining of students like those in Science who wrote:

As engaged members of the scientific community, we must urge our academic institutions to take action. Universities should lobby elected officials, make public statements, and amplify graduate student organization efforts. If the repeal of 117(d) passes into law, our top priority will then be reworking tuition schemes to protect graduate student research and teaching. However, while the tax bill is still in committee, we have a more pressing goal: to unequivocally oppose the repeal of 117(d). We can call our elected representatives [some of whom seem open to the change] to voice opposition, sign petitions, and advocate for safeguarding graduate studies. This legislation will devastate productivity and innovation in higher education. As a scientific community, it is our duty to embolden young people to think and create. We can never recuperate the costs of lost potential.

There is no description of the strategic risk to the country,  to the impact of foreign students who will be supported by tax dollars etc. These are just a bunch of millennials whose argument is that as "engaged members" to have the University urge Congress. No reasons why other than they "feel" it should be so. 

Where did logic go, rhetoric, or even basic grammar. We need a return of the Trivium, not the self serving sniffles of children whose view of the world is as an entity that owes them something. By the way, Congress did get to recognize that Yamamoto did go to Harvard and did send his forces to Pearl Harbor! That my young millennials is why we need to have more citizens partake productively of our tax payer funded Universities, despite their abusive overhead, due to prior Government mandates.

One of the Most Incompetent Companies in the Universe

AMTRAK, yes that Government owned and managed train company, the one where trains speed along sharp turns killing passengers, the one which closed New York City for three months, the one where there are two CEOs each getting a bundle for doing nothing. Today, as usual the message is:

Train service in and out of PSNY remains subject up to 90 min. delays due to earlier single tracking following an Amtrak overhead wire problem.

Yep, a wire problem indeed. You see the bridge across which this wire goes one must cross to get to New York. It is on the verge of collapse. Any progress? Nope, it will take a deadly event and then the folks in charge will get more money for more loss of life!

And where is our Secretary of Transportation? Good question folks.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Conversation with Ockham

The following is a recollection penned by a Franciscan Friar, one Brendan of Dublin, a physician trained at Oxford, Montpellier, and Bologna, and serving the Court in England. It recounts a trip to visit William of Ockham in the Spring of 1347, just prior to the massive outbreak of the plague. This is a translation from the original Latin, although it has been converted into a twenty-first century American-English dialect. Certain phrases were difficult to translate and certain English words are employed to best reflect the mid-Fourteenth Century intent.

It was the Spring of 1347, and I went to see Ockham on my way to Prague. He was still being protected by Ludwig and resided in his castle grounds in Munich. I had left London in early February, and had a rough crossing of the Channel and then a circuitous route down the Rhine, then cross to Munich. It was a six week journey when I arrived in mid-March, and Spring had yet to arrive. Ludwig was at war with some and aligned with others. He was close with Edward, King of England, and this allowed him some leverage, since he had positioned himself against the French King John, the rather stumbling egoist who was attempting to rule France. Although I was off to see King Charles in Prague, a putative adversary of Ludwig, as a Friar I could hopefully navigate amongst these competing players. The Battle of Crecy had been a bloody mess with so many killed and yet there was no peace between England and France. It encompassed almost all the Principalities and Kingdoms in Christendom.

Added to this was the continual turmoil in Avignon with the Popes in residence. John XXII was dead several years now and despite attempts to come back to a sense of normality after his extremely arrogant dicta, some thought his rulings even heretical, and having the Bishop of Rome appointed by French Cardinals rather than the people of Rome, had always been a stumbling block. Worse yet, this Bishop of Rome refused to go to Rome. Instead this Bishop built a massive castle in Avignon, surrounded by riches and staffed with enough people to populate a small country.

It was Ockham, my old teacher and friend, who had spent the last twenty years under the protection of Ludwig, with his writings had introduced concepts in political governance, secular as well as religious, which I saw as the basis for dramatic changes, whose time would eventually come.

Ockham had examined several areas whose influence was slowly penetrating the minds and thoughts of those would in turn were to spread it across our domains. First was his understanding of nominalism. Namely that there are only individuals, and there is no ultimate single essence, man is nothing more than a collection of people, men and women, and there is no abstract whose existence we refer all to. Namely individuals are the elements of the world, and individuals who are born free, no matter what their ultimate state may be, individuals who are equal as humans.

Second, the derivation from the poverty debate with the Pope. Namely, poverty if it were to be observed needed to have a clear definition of property, and property meant the understanding of rights. Rights in turn linked to individuals, since ownership inured to a person not some class.

Third, was the concept of how our leaders should be chosen, namely by the people. For it was for centuries that the Pope was the Bishop of Rome selected by the people of Rome. The people selected a Pope, a leader. Now we had a "Pope" selected by a class of incentivized "Cardinals" who were also selected by Kings and Princes in most cases.

Fourth, and furthermore, the Pope had managed to interject himself into secular matters in contradistinction to the Gospel.

Fifth and finally Ockham had stressed Faith and the Bible as the two elements of our religious belief. It was not to be left to the complexities of reason as attempted by Aquinas and the Bible is and must always be the cornerstone of what we believe in.

These elements had been mulling in my mind over the past decades, even though my focus as a Friar was to be a physician to the body, rich and poor alike, but Ockham was always in the back of my mind. He had a sense of clarity and a sense of correctness that was overwhelming. All one had to do was to see to what irrational ends John XXII went to try to silence him, and then to see that Ockham's assertion of the heresy of such actions of John, for all this was enlightening. The Pope was not infallible, he was a man and as a man prone to error. As our Saint Francis has said to his followers more than a century ago, we must follow our vows of poverty and chastity, and we must be obedient only to the extent that it does not conflict with our Faith. Obedience for Francis was the delimited vow, poverty and chastity had bright lines.

Francis also was a believer of the individual. Charity was an individual to another individual. It was not the "Church" as a group, nor the "King" as a ruler to dispense to the poor. My practice of medicine was a "giving" to the individual whose body I served as a healer.

I thus looked forward to seeing Ockham again. I suspected that like many of us he was aging, and although a somewhat healthy man he was always somewhat on the frail side. Ockham resided in a residence aside the main castle. Munich was an interesting city, it has its strong Germanic ties, and the people were themselves Germanic but lively. They lived in relative peace and there were many craftsman resident in the city. What amazed me each time I came here was that beer was consumed like water. There were open halls where men would congregate and consume what appeared to be volumes. Even in winter one saw this phenomenon.

I came to Ockham's residence and asked the young man who greeted me for Ockham and told him who I was. In a matter of mere seconds Ockham came forth with a great smile on his face. I was a bit set aback because the gaunt man I knew well had put upon himself a great girth. I gathered it may have been the beer. Yet it may also have been the proximity to good food and the lack of the arduous travel I have set myself upon over the years. He was cheerful, a ruddy face with a grey beard, and he retained his tonsured and word his Franciscan attire. We embraced and he ushered me to the rear, which was a small room with a fire looking out onto a small garden area, still barren from the winter.

We sat down in front of a large fireplace in a heavily beamed room. It was warm, pleasant, and a far cry from the rather Spartan quarters we had in London at Greyfriars. Ockham asked how I was doing and what news I had. I recounted the past few years and he was a bit surprised as to my proximity to King Edward. I reminded him that I had spent time as his tutor and knew his mother, the Dowager Queen. Ockham expressed his concern as to Isabella and her reputation as a rebel who had worked to overthrow her husband with her lover, Mortimer. I muted my reply saying that royalty seems always to be at each other's throats. Ockham smiled and said it reminded him of theologians as well. I smiled and said it did, the difference is that royalty hacks each other to death, theologians burn each other to death! To that he let out a hearty laugh. I let it sink in a bit and then continued:

"Yet William, although Royalty use the ax, sword, and arrow as means to death, they fight equally, no side claiming Divine correctness. In contrast, and perhaps this is from my associations with Gui and the Inquisition, the battle between believers, over differences in interpretation, is a bit one sided, with the Church having the ultimate say, and any new voice silenced by fire."

His smile disappeared and he looked at me and replied:

"I know that all too well. Yet I have continued to write, excommunication and all. Now tell me, I gather you were at the Battle of Crecy, a bit of a hero on the battle field, a physician at war, so they say. Tell me some details."

I now began to understand the phrase, "War stories". Those not there want to hear what they want to hear, perhaps glory, perhaps fine deeds. I replied:

"William, I was there as a physician to the King and his son the Prince of Wales. Yet the brutal battles, the blood shedding, the dismemberment, left me more as a priest administering Last Rights to dying men than a physician healing wounds. William, there is no glory in war, no dignity in a battle. The Knights take glory of a conflict, in the killing of an adversary. In reality it is an argument between two men, the King of England and King of France, over who is to claim what under what conditions. All that will change with the next succession, yet men go to kill each other. The reality as I saw it was that the battle enriched hose who survived, taking whatever they could, and often choosing who they would slay based upon what they could get in ransom if they kept their captive alive. On one hand it was a battle of Kings, on the other, and this I believe is the true reality, it was a barbarian assault of one group upon another. The men at arms as they went to battle, and then upon their return, took freely from those whose lands were in their path. They committed acts that they confessed as they died in my arms, and as a priest I gave them absolution, knowing full well that these men if allowed to live by God, would continue their barbaric acts on a successful return. William, war brings out the evils of the human soul, and I can do more as a physician than as a priest, that at times is truly terrifying. The beasts of the forest are often more gentle that a good Christian soldier."

I gathered that Ockham was a bit taken aback by my response. It had been but a year from Crecy but I, at times, still has the scent of the spilled human blood in my nostrils, the sight of hacked limbs in my eyes, and the screams of dying men in my ears.

We sat quietly for a while, Ockham drinking a large stein of beer, and I a cup of a white wine, for I never truly had a taste for beer, the drink that was everywhere. I then told him of my travel to Prague and my meeting of King Charles. He said he had never been to Prague and that he heard it was a beautiful place. He knew little of the Czechs, the Slavic people, yet he did indicate they were unlike the Germans, more quiet and thoughtful. We had dinner and rested.

Over the next few days we had long conversations regarding the development of his thought. My objective was to distill what he had developed in a manner in which I may be able to convey to other people, those not trained in the Scholastic manner. Ockham's work was elegant but ponderous, enlightening, but demanding too great a preparation to absorb. The following recounts my discussions. I have left it in a dialog manner to demonstrate my own need for clarity. Although trained under Ockham, my reach was as a Bachelor of Arts, a mere tyro in a land of giants. Yet perhaps to spread his insight, such a simplification was demanded. Besides, as I was to spend time in Prague with Charles and the many who would come and go there, this would be an opportunity to develop a precis, as accurately as I could, regarding Ockham and his work.

We started our discussion on his now somewhat accepted understanding of nominalism. I began by phrasing what I saw as his proposition:

"William, as I recall, your acceptance of nominalism, namely that there are no universals and that the terms we general use as a universal is nothing more than a name, thus nominal. There is no ideal "red rose", there is only this red rose and that red rose. That the accident of redness is merely an attribute of a specific red rose and not a manifestation of some ideal, some abstract essence of redness. Is that a reasonable approach to your thought?"

Ockham replied:

"Yes. One can also say that "The red rose is a plant" and yet this does not imply the existence of some universal essence called a plant. It is a plant because it has a root, it grew from a seed, in a soil, and it needs the sun to exist. Now even more deeply, it needs this specific soil, or perhaps that soil over there. It needs a specific embodiment of soil, not a universal called soil. Indeed the universal does not exist. It is not the argument between Plato and Aristotle, that the universal flow from the individuals or the individuals are manifestations of the universals. There are just individuals. The rest are just names we throw about to try to get the listener to stay attuned to what we are arguing or explaining. Redness is an abstraction, the reality is the specific red we observe. Remember that when we say red, we can hold in front of our eyes say a dozen roses, and each we call red, but each may be slightly different from each other."

"Then is it fair to say that the redness of the rose is the result of what specific rose plant I have, and what sol I have grown it in, and how much I may have watered it, and how much sun it is exposed to?" I continued, "Thus indicating that the redness is an accident at best but one based upon some specific set of processes in the growth of the flower over time."

"Interesting" he replied, "Indeed we can always take this accident related to color and explain it more so in terms of things, individual things, that impact and result in that color. Yes indeed, this is a good simple example."

"Now on to the issue of Individualism." I replied, "You have essentially used the term regarding individuals as individualism. The meaning here is that each human is an individual, and individual person. You then investigate this inn terms of individual rights, or Natural Rights coming from Natural Law. You also argue if I am correct that the Bible focuses on individual salvation, individual good deeds, individual redemption. Christ did not demand that Rome and the Emperor follow the Gospel teachings, only those who were individual Christians. In fact the Gospel teaching separates the Church and the State, more so, the individual's commitment to God from the individuals commitment to Rome or the State. It was even Saint Francis who in his rule of obedience gave a caution that the individual member of the order would have to make the individual decision. Finally, in the argument regarding poverty, it was driven by the individual possession and use of property, use such as consumption of food, and ownership of that food. It was the individual member of the Order, be they a Friar, a Third Order, a Poor Sister, we were equally and individually so obliged. From this amalgam of insights, we then can understand that the individual person, be they man or woman, free or slave, have a duty but moreover we have individual rights, Natural Rights, given equally by God to all people. Is that a reasonable articulation of what you have said William?"

He sat back and smiled. He then said:

"Brendan, you have simplified my many words, you sound like a preacher. Yes that is the non-academic answer."

I then replied:

"The advantage that one has with many hours riding a horse, a boat, waiting in a battle field, is that one thinks. I have tried from time to time to explain your thinking, but I learned that most men have to be fed simple yet compelling ideas. The do not sit for long periods of contemplation. I have an opportunity with King Charles to perhaps convey some of these ideas, yet simply. I have tried in the Court of Edward, not the best place to convey my thoughts, I have even tried with good Queen Isabella, the strongest supporter of royalty I have seen, but a willing listener."

"Your approach, William, takes a person from a subject to a citizen, from a part of a collection to a separate and independent individual. As Marsilius of Padua had also noted, I believe, the individual has both status and rights."

"Indeed" replied Ockham, "And there is both a civil as well as theological issue here. For being just a subject one has to obey no matter what. As a citizen, one has a duty and in return certain rights. Thus a Knight may have a duty to serve the Lord but he in return has the right to ownership in land. The same is our relationship with God. It is the individual who has that relationship as, if you will, a citizen in the family of Christ. We are held individually to account for our deeds. We are individually given Grace for redemption."

"Then I would ask, if this is the case, why then do we have such a concern for Original Sin?" I asked, "Why have this communal guilt for which Christ came and died for us? After all we as an individual, with no nexus to our deep dark past, may have had no part in that sin, and thus how does one look back and retain that sin?"

"Your question has merit. But allow me to return to it when we discuss Faith. The day is long, I am getting old. Perhaps a good dinner?" Ockham smiled and went forth to eat.

We spent a bit longer simplifying the idea of individualism. It was not an idea of selfishness, not an idea of separation, but an idea of individual duties and rights. Duties as regards to the understanding of what the individual was obliged under the law of the land and the law of God. The rights were rights rendered by God to the individual. These were Natural Rights. There were other rights, such as those that the King or other ruler may give to their subjects, but those were not Natural Rights, they could be taken away, changed, or even negated without reason. Natural Rights superseded these and were the result of Natural Law.

I began by asking Ockham:

"William, in your work, Decretum, you articulate three types of Natural Law. May we discuss them a bit. I understand that a great deal of your motivation was directed at the choosing of and powers relegated to a Pope. But let us leave that to the side for a moment, let us discuss just the definitions of natural Law, and then we can move to Natural Rights."

Ockham replied:

"Excellent, this is always a complex issue but a critical one for the understanding of the Pope and his powers."

"There are three types or understandings of Natural Law. The first understanding is based upon law in conformity with natural reason which never fails. Gratian uses this definition. It means that "thou shall not kill" is understood by all by means of our natural reason as a human. This First Natural Law definition is one concomitant with the existence of humans."

I interjected:

"However, and excuse me if I am inferring incorrectly, but your define Natural Law as something from Natural Reason. This seems to me to have the risk of circular logic, for in both cases the predicate "Natural" infers it is part of our nature as a human, all humans. You then relate it to say, "Do not kill" and unfortunately I have seen much too much slaughter. It thus raises two questions. First if something is "Natural" then it must be inherent in our nature, and our nature must somehow be the same in all humans. Does this not then conflict with individuals? My second point, is that again if in all humans, we see what we understand to be humans slaughtering incessantly then are then they not humans or are they then just sinning all the time?"

Ockham smiled and replied:

"Brendan, you have spent too much time in the real world. Let me continue with my other two definitions. You raise valid concerns. On the second, yes indeed this is sinful, unless it is dealt with as an unjust aggressor issue. That you know. It is the basis of a valid war. The first question is perhaps at first sight circular, but as we would have started with natural reason as a philosophical construct we would not have found a circular reasoning. Let me continue to the issue of the other definitions."

He continued:

"The Second Natural Law is the one where one uses only natural equity without reference to any human law or custom. For example it is the law that was present in nature when first initiated. It was the law at the time of the Fall of Man, yet this Natural Law definition can be mutable. Again the definition here is as Rufinus and others has agreed to. It may be disturbing as to its mutability. And yes Brendan, it relies on natural equity, fairness, or even justice if you will. My usage here is I believe consistent with the Gratian and the Decretum. But here in the Second Natural Law, that consistent with the Decretum, I also find that one sees that such things as property were thus created after the Fall, were part of the evolving Natural Law."

"Now the Third Natural Law builds upon the above two. In this case Natural Law is defined as that which can be ascertained by evident reason from the law of nations or some other law or even from some divine or human act, unless the evidently contrary can be established by those concerned. This I call the natural law by supposition. This is a conditional natural law, derived from rational responses to contingent situations. I was to understand this from a statement by Isidore of Seville. He noted that "the common possession of all things" and "the return of a thing deposited or money loaned" These he relates to Natural Law. Thus this refers to property, to the individual ownership of property. Moreover the repayment refers thusly to actual private property. Finally, private property as instituted by man. We thus have both common property by understanding the Second Natural Law and private property as understanding the Third Natural Law. Private property is an alienation concept, the taking of what was in common and making it private. Yet it is a Natural Law. A law based upon a temporal evolution of agreed principles with agreed to equity. As I will argue later, this Third Natural Law also is the basis by which we individuals have the right to elect our leaders, civil and spiritual."

I replied:

"I believe we can relate this one. Yet there is a concerning note. You state that it may be changed if "the contrary to those concerned". Thus this Natural Law is not only a contingent law but one which is changeable, and changeable by those concerned, namely I would gather the people?"

"Yes and the point then leads to the understanding of Natural Rights." Ockham replied. "If one can alienate, change, refine, then one has a right. Can you see where I am going? I am working with those who came before, working within the law as we know it, consistent with the Bible, and from this we can now start to understand the scope of Natural Law and from it the clear presence of Natural Rights. A very basic right is to elect our leaders. That include the Pope, as was the case from the time of Christ. We elect the leader, not some appointment by those of political stance."

I returned to the issue which had led to the fact that Ockham was here in Munich and not back at Oxford. Namely the issue of poverty, and the driving issue of property and use versus ownership. Until John XXII entered the fray, Franciscans and the Pope were satisfied with the vow of poverty as one where Franciscans had use of things but their ownership was held by the Pope. Now I always felt that this was a splitting of hairs but everyone was comfortable. It was when the conservative Franciscans, called the Spirituals, took the position that poverty was the way of Jesus and the Apostles and it was that way that they were following. That put John XXII in a bit of a tight spot. Here he was turning Avignon into a palatial estate, a castle to compete with any King or Emperor, clothes that shamed all of them, jewels, food, wines, while the poor wandered about helpless. The Spirituals walked about barefoot and with rags, often unclean as well. As Franciscans we spent our time not in a monetary hidden from the world but as an integral part of it. As a physician I was intimately so involved. Ockham was an academic and not truly a Spiritual but when he saw the arguments that the Pope was promulgating he began to study it and in no time saw the Pope was in error.

Ockham being Ockham then went and exposed this to the Pope, as well as the Order, and then all Hell broke loose. Popes as it would seem do not like being told they are wrong, after all they are Popes. Academics also enjoy an intellectual battle. Thus off it went. But no sooner than telling the Pope he was wrong, and having is reasonable well accepted the Pope rebelled. But to Ockham, and many others, this made the Pope a heretic. Thus did Ockham state. On to Munich he went. Excommunicated. But many felt Ockham was correct. The Pope is a man, he can err, and he is not infallible. Popes have made errors again and again, and if precedent is any claim, then Popes seems to err more frequently than most. Yet one does not tell the Pope this to his face, especially an English Friar to a French Cardinal, now Pope.

I had gotten to know John, the current Pope, quite well when I worked with Umberto Gui, helping him with those who were ill. John was imperious, arrogant, and prone to dicta which were baseless in fact but subsumed in form. He knew the techniques of a Canon lawyer, the Code of Justinian, the twists and turns of battles at court. None of that related to reality. Frankly many who I knew about this man disliked him, yet the feigned recognition as well as adulation. That was the way at Court, it was the way at Avignon.

I replied:

"William, it would be of interest to consider the following. It is an example from commerce called bailment. Bailment is the process whereby a third party take possession but not ownership of an item. For example, my mother's family had ships, and they carried goods from Bristol to Marseille or Brest or Bordeaux. At no time did they "own" the property, they just held it in the possession to transport. At the other end another party held a contract to receive the property in payment. Then my uncle for example would return with the payment, which may have been other goods, again having possession but not ownership. Now consider the case of the "locked chest", tried at Court in 1315 under Edward II.

The locked chest case was one where the bailee had a chest which was locked and the goods or property was in the locked chest. The chest was stolen but while locked. If the goods had been stolen with the chest open the bailee was liable but since the chest was closed when stolen then the bailee had kept his duty and was not liable. Thus in the understanding is that if the bailee keeps his duty of care and security then he has no liability if the property is lost or stolen. However it does not release the bailee or carrier from a duty. The have been several other similar cases recently just before my departure under Edward III our current King. Specifically the case was of a pledge which came up, which seems always to have been regarded as a special bailment to keep as one's own goods.

The defense was, that the goods were stolen with the defendant's own. The plaintiff was driven to reply a tender before the theft, which would have put an end to the pledge, and left the defendant a general bailee. The issue was taken which confirms the other cases, by implying that in that event the defendant would be liable. Thus the issue of property and possession is a key to commerce and frankly it supports your position regarding Franciscan poverty! Frankly it may also presage why England may develop an excellent system of commerce, where in France the rules are still too complex and dated."

Ockham replied:

"Yes, I see, and this is an example of the law being reflective of the Third Natural Law definition. It is reflexive and adjustable. As new facts are ascertained it adapts to the facts. This is an intriguing approach, yet so foreign to Roman Law, or worse Canon Law. Gratian would never have considered this. It is a law of cases not of codes. The Civil Law tends to have the ability therefore to adapt. The basic Law from the Bible provides core elements but it too is open to interpretation. One must just think of the tale of the prostitute who sought forgiveness, of the thief who sought the same at the crucifixion."

He continued:

"If you recall, part of my arguments were related to two issues. The right of use, or ius utendi, was the legal right of an individual, one not expressly not the owner, to utilize some external entity, which if not warranted by the owner would be illegal. The second id ownership itself, or dominium, which is the right of the individual owner who lays claim to an entity and furthermore has the right to deny access or use by any third party. You see that here I have included two elements. First the element of the individual, for the property has been now associated with this person, not the Prince, the Lord, the state, but the very singular person. Second, and this I believe is most critical, is the fact that this is a right, in fact a Natural Right, as we have already discussed. If everything was common in the Garden of Eden as is understood, then after the Fall, mankind began to acquire individual ownership, usually perforce of labor, such as the clearing of a field, the planting of a crop, the raising of a sheep, the building of a house. The result then of man's actions was ownership, by the individual, and then the natural right resulting from that action allowed for an alienation in the use by others."
We would spend time discussing rulers and their powers. I recall my discussing with him my observations of the city states in Italy. I stated:

"William, I understand some of your thoughts on rulers and their powers, and what is the best form of rulers. But allow me to give you some observations which I have made in my travels. As you know, I had spent time in Bologna, and as I went about the northern cities in Italy, I found a new form of rule, let us call it leadership. People chose their rulers, not everyone participated in the process, but it often was enough to make many feel they had a voice.  Rulers thusly chosen had then a sense that their duty was to the people whom they governed. Unlike Kings, who often believe that they have a Divine Right of ruling, somehow being chosen by God, and the result is that their acts are beyond reproach."

Ockham replied:

"You are aware that it my contention that monarchy is the best form of governing. My reasons are many, but ultimately it comes down to the inability of the masses to act reasonably. The masses become the mob and mob rule is always the worst kind. Your argument of city states has merit, but it does so because of two reasons. First the populace in those states who select their leaders are educated and enlightened. The selection is not open to all, only those who have an interest in good governing. The second reason is size. These are rulers of city states, small with common interests. Now take England, a King must deal with a massive and disparate set of interests. He cannot reflect the interests necessarily of all, but must seek a common good. Furthermore in England, France, and many other locales, the people have no knowledge of what the needs of a kingdom are, they see at most their local and personal needs, their individual needs if you will."

"Brendan, you recall my fundamental thesis. The people cannot render more power to a ruler than that which they possess themselves. There are thus limits to the power of any ruler. The people fundamentally have conveyed willing the power to a ruler, if that ruler be selected directly by them or via kingship, or even if you will the Pope himself."

I interjected:

"But William, as regards to a Pope, we have the biblical dictum that Peter has the power to bind, namely Christ has given Peter, and perforce of continuity, the Pope a set of powers supra to that of a civil ruler. For in Mathew 18:18 we have:

Verily I say to you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on the earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on the earth shall be loosed in heaven.

How then can we delimit the powers of a Pope? Does this not give to a Pope almost an unlimited power?"

Ockham replied:

"Your point has been well taken. In my work Contra Benedictum and An princeps I noted that it is accepted Canon Law, as evidenced in Gratian, that evangelical liberty limited papal power. The very natural and civil rights we possess delimit the powers as presented under Mathew. If this were unlimited power, religious and civil, then the Pope could overthrow a King, and in contrast Christ also said to give to God what is God's and to Caesar what is Caesar's. There is a natural liberty whereby men are free and not slaves. In Dialogus I extended this by the argument with my Student, my interlocutor. The Pope cannot regulate or command things, that would be against our liberty, our free will. Each individual gains or loses redemption by their individual acts, by their individual choices. Not by Papal dicta.

After discussing civil rulers we had finally got to the ultimate ruler, the Pope. I had read and re-read Ockham's "Work of Ninety Days", the brutal and brilliant response to John XXII attack on the Franciscans. It left any who read it with the clear understanding of John's heresy and of Ockham's correctness. It was so compelling that the Popes would pretend it did not exist so as not to confront it.

I began by asking:

"William, when discussing the Papacy you said:

We are left with the conclusion that papal principate was instituted for the utility of its subjects and not for its own utility or honour, and. in consequence is worthy to be called not 'of lordship' but 'of service' ٠ In which ... it is assimilated (more than any worldly principate instituted in practice) to the most noble form of royal principate ... and m which it excels all other principates in dignity.

This clearly is consistent with what Gregory I said of himself, namely he was the "Servant of the Servants of God". Namely he was there for the utility of the Faithful, not to rule them. He eschewed the trappings of a religious ruler, at least in his sayings. He entered into dialogue with those with whom he disagreed. The most famous to us Irish is he dialogue with Columbanus on the argument on the choice of the date of Easter. Columbanus and the Irish state, at the time the only remaining stable and educated state in what was left of the Western world, sided with the Greek Patriarchs, and it was Gregory who stood alone, rejecting their selection of a date. But that debate became a debate on frankly a scientific basis of a new calendar, solar versus lunar, and Columbanus gracefully acceded to Gregory. Thus we have a clear precedent of Papal authority and behavior. Yet we have had Popes since who have taken the "purple" if you will. Whereas Gregory was a Benedictine, eschewing the riches, John XXII was regal, and covering himself and his office with unlimited wealth. How do the Faithful come to deal with the changing disparity?"

His response:

"We have a Pope, and originally that Pope was the Bishop of Rome, and that Bishop was selected as were all Bishops by the people they represented. Like your City State examples Brendan. For Gregory I was himself so selected, despite his please against being so. Yet Gregory was also delimited by the Emperor in Constantinople. So with Gregory we have an example of a saintly monk, selected by his people, approved by his Emperor. Now we have a Pope selected by Cardinals which in turn he has the authority to appoint. It is circular reasoning, and the Pope now tells the Emperor what to do, and unlike Gregory sees all the Faithful as his servants. The Pope does not see individuals, he sees a mass of people who must comply with his every word, and that often includes the controlling of Kings and Princes. Just look at Ludwig, he was duly appointed but Pope John did not want him. What power does the Pope have to overthrow a leader? Frankly what power does a Pope have over any leader. The leader is an individual and has a moral responsibility as an individual. The King will face God alone, not with his armies."

It was clear that as Ockham spoke he had not only hardened his position but had dramatically strengthened it as well. We began a discussion regarding faith and reason. Ockham commenced:

"Brendan, you have known for quite a while the limits of human reason, do you not?"

I replied:

"William, more now than ever. I am a physician by practice and education. Unlike many, I have taken a Bacon like approach, namely I must observe what is there, not just rely upon what is written, and less upon reason. Medicine is akin to philosophy. It often rested upon the ancients. But for example, when at Bologna, under Mondino, we studied anatomy, and in that context I saw things that Galen had said which were false. Had I relied upon Galen and just reason, rather than facts, I would have made great errors. For example, I have seen men whose hearts are on the right side, very few, but they exist. Reason would have told me otherwise. Actually hearing and feeling and understanding tells me otherwise. There are many things which are well beyond reason. Cancers, the growths that kill, I have seen many, what is their cause, how do I treat them. They are not a result of bad humors, that are unknown but I firmly believe are knowable, yet only with a better understanding of the facts. Moreover, permit me an example. Tools, instruments, which allow me to examine what before one could not see. Each time I get a new tool, such as a lens, I can see more and understand more. It is the reality of what I observer rather than the internal process of just reason which allows me to expand my understanding.

Ockham replied:

"Yes then I have asserted that human reason is not up to many tasks and especially many that relate to our religion. I take the example of the Trinity. It lies beyond any reason. The same holds for the Eucharist. The complexity of the Trinity requires, no demands, faith, not reason. In the case of the Eucharist one believes via Faith that Christ is present. To reason a process which we cannot either understand no less demonstrate makes the result a farce. Thus sola fide, by faith alone, do we come to this and many other mysteries of the Faith. We have had many, especially amongst the Dominicans, who try to create what are at best word games to explain these Mysteries. They are Mysteries of Faith and by Faith alone can we accept them."

"In many such cases we see a dilemma." I replied, "A dilemma in that adherence demands belief but that belief is to be buttressed by reason, and yet faith abandons reason and is then the only door to belief. We must abandon reason, and thus our very humanity if you will, if not also our very individualism. Are you saying then that we must accept all just by faith?"

"No," he replied, "like you and your medicine, reason is a tool, to use the tool you need something tangible to work upon. Your lens is an example. You mention the man sick with what you say are worms. You can examine his droppings without a tool and you see nothing. There are no worms. Yet you use the lens as a tool and you get to see the worms, what was small is now large, what was unseen is now seen. In my view faith is such a tool. What was unseen in the Trinity, faith allows us to see, what was unfathomable in the Eucharist, faith allows us to accept. Moreover as you note, these tools evolve, improve, overtime, and as we the Faithful do likewise, we will be better able, through Faith, to grasp these facts of our belief."

As we got to the end of our discussions I raised a critical issue with Ockham. Namely the issue of words and their meaning, especially as they may change over time. I began by asking Ockham the following:

"William, as we have been discussing these issues, and I believe that now in our later years they become more clear and concise, I have noticed that we often use words, such as ius, in a manner which is not necessarily what it may have meant not a millennia ago but even a century ago. As such this raises several issues. First, and this is most critical, when reading the Bible, are we seeking understanding in the words as they are understood now or as they were understood then? Furthermore, if we seek clarity, who has such clarity to give, a Pope, a Council, or is it to be left to each person. All have faults, all are subject to error. Second, when looking to the Bible as God's word, we look at translations. Not only in Latin do words change over time, namely the same word gets a different meaning, but in translating we get a double problem; first the selection of a Latin word for a Hebrew or Greek word, and then the time at which the Latin word was selected may have been of such a past that we no longer accept its meaning now. How do we ever try to reconciles these issues?"

"You raise a very good point. I give you a simple example. Take the word fundus, a field, a piece of land. To the Romans a fundus was not just the earth, the field, but it entailed all rights we have to a field." he continued, "Yet to may in our current time, depending on where one lives, it is merely a thing, a piece of land, and the rights of use accrue from laws which are enacted apart from the piece of dirt. We have managed to separate rights and even obligations from the thing itself. Thus in this simple example, we are using the simple word fundus and over time its meaning has changed dramatically."

I responded:

"Then it is important to understand that time, and in a sense history if you will, is a progression and reflection of human understanding. The more we learn, and even the more we may forget, changes the way we see the world, the meanings we give to words, which are merely a reflection of our combined understanding of this reality."

As we finished our discussions on philosophical issues Ockham proceeded to ask me about the wars. He had heard a great deal but he had never been a part of a battle, had not seen the carnage that I had. As a philosopher he inquired about the issue of a "just war" which was the theologians way to justify this carnage. This was not an area for which he had any exposure or understanding, and mine was limited to that of a physician trying to heal or as a priest trying to comfort.

I told Ockham:

"William, war is as close to hell as one can consider. One side attacks the other. That I can see, armed men trying to overcome one another. But what I cannot understand is the brutality on poor people, unarmed peasants, where the men at arms ride horses, setting fire to homes, crops, killing the farm animals, poisoning the water, salting fields. This is a tactic to deprive the Lords and Kings from profiting from the taxes on these poor people. Frankly William I can see how there could ultimately be a revolt, a revolt against the privileged Knights and Lords, whose sole interest is self-aggrandizement."

Ockham's response was as one would expect from a theologian and philosopher. He came back with the "just war" theory. He said to me:

"Brendan, I understand your intensity. But often war is justified. Is it not, to defend one's own subjects. From my understanding a war is just if it were to meet the five requirement. Permit me to discuss them. They are persona, res, causa, animus and auctoritas. That is the persona must not be religious. I assume that you were brandishing a sword. The second is res, the fundamental cause of the action would be defence of the country or the seeking return of a purloined possession or person, causa was the necessity of the act of war in that there was no other alternative, animus or the spirit in which the war was executed was to be one of justice and avoiding hatred and unjust acts, and finally auctoritas, namely the war must be waged under the authority of a prince or similar accepted lord. If these are met then is not this a moral and just act?"

I replied:

"William, in a world where all is logic and all men are rational and act according to both reason and God's law, then yes, a just war exists and can be a moral act. But I have seen men act as beasts, nay beasts are more kind and moral. God does not permit the bear or wolf to slaughter for pleasure, leaving decaying men, women and children in barren fields. The chevauchees wherein the men at arms ride their massive steeds through peasant lands slaughtering all violates the very rules you have just presented. Yet the Popes never protest. In fact the Popes often embolden the Lords in such acts as they do in attacks in Crusades. The result is often bilateral butchery. Then again, William, who is to say that the cause of action is correct and not just an excuse to engage in war, is the decision of a cause solely in the eyes of the beholder? As to the causa, the necessity to act if you will, if there be a just cause is there then a true necessity to act, that there is not alternative. I await the day when a Pope leads an army!  Indeed, with some of the Bishops and Cardinals in the Italian states, I can see that as a possibility also. That would I believe be a fundamental violation of the persona clause, would it not?"

Ockham burst into laughter and noted:

"A Pope leading an army! Yes, that would perforce of definition be an Unjust War!"

We both laughed but I privately wondered if the Church would ever be exposed to such. I have seen Kings, Princes, leading charges, being slaughtered and laying in pools of their own blood. I have heard the same voices from Popes, and wondered what it would take to get them to the field of battle. At least in Avignon they were too comfortable and not inclined to act personally. Yet.

I would bade Ockham farewell soon as I went forward to Prague. Spring was on its way and the Bavarian country side was just about to turn green. I wondered how I would tell Charles some of these things. Kings are not the best of listeners, and as we have found Popes are even less so. Thus far I have seen three Popes, and John XXII was clearly the most intransigent. A lawyer, Canon Lawyer, trained in the Justinian tradition with the Decretum of Gratian. Ockham, a Theologian, and Philosopher. Each talking past each other, each with strong egos. I knew enough to understand some of the moves, some of the games. As one would say, my main task was as a physician, and yet even there I could often do so little. I tried to follow Friar Bacon and his method of scientific proof, namely deal with facts, observables. I took it a bit further and tried to measure and quantify, compare and contrast, but always built upon observables. The metaphysician has no solid ground, no independent fact checker, the theologian in contrast has the Word of God, and the believer has but Faith.