- 1 I thank Giacomo Todeschini for organizing the conference, Cittadinanza e disuguaglianze economiche (...)
- 2 I consider all of these questions in detail in my forthcoming book, A History of Balance, 1250-1375 (...)
1My paper takes as its starting point the word « disuguaglianze » in the title of the conference that initiated this collection1. How were the words « inequality » and « equality » understood and applied in the time period (1200-1600) which our conference covered, and do the Latin words in use at the time (aequalitas/inaequalitas) map on to modern meanings ? In what follows, I hope to shed light on several ancillary questions : what were the range of meanings attached to aequalitas in the medieval period ; how was the concept and ideal of aequalitas understood and employed by Marsilius of Padua in his monumental political treatise, Defensor pacis, completed in 1324 ; how did Marsilius envision and theorize the process(es) of equalization that he located at the core of the well-functioning civitas ; and how might Marsilius’ training as a student of Galenic medicine at the University of Padua have shaped his understanding and application of aequalitas to his political thought2 ?
2When the idea of equality appears in the Defensor pacis (or in the medieval period in general), it has next to nothing to do with claims on behalf of an abstract and universalized equality of status, rights, and opportunities, which arose in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and are still voiced today. That is not to say, however, that the concept was not idealized and invested with immense value in the medieval period. Indeed, the condition of aequalitas was generally presumed to occupy a central place in the divine order of creation and, thus, a central place in the proper order of both nature and human society. Far from being a merely descriptive condition, its valence was overwhelmingly positive ; its presence was almost universally associated with health and good function as was its absence with disease and disorder.
- 3 In Latin translations of Galenic texts and in scholastic commentaries on Galen, these two forms are (...)
- 4 In the later thirteenth century, after the translation of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, medical c (...)
3The breadth of the concept can be indicated by the words that were at times employed in its place. On the one hand there were cognates such as aequalis, aequus, aequare, aequatio, adaequatio, aequivalentia, among others ; on the other hand, there were words with far richer and broader implications : medium, medietas, symmetria, aequitas, justitia, proportionalitas, temperantia, temperamentum, among others. As this second group indicates, aequalitas (like the modern uguaglianza) could signify either an absolute 1 :1 equality (such as that obtained through the mechanical scale) or a conditioned, proportional equality, determined with respect to particular contexts and circumstances. Indeed, from the mid-thirteenth century, these two senses of the term were sharply distinguished in scholastic culture3. It was this second, proportional, sense of the word that came to predominate in the scholastic discourse of Galenic medicine over the course of the thirteenth century. And it was this second, proportional sense that predominated as well in Marsilius’ Defensor pacis4. Aequalitas in this sense, was a process of equalizing unequals ; a condition that was judged to apply (or not to apply) between specific entities whose difference was presumed.
- 5 This concern has recently been noted by Brett 2005, p. xxi : « [Marsilius’] solution to excesses of (...)
4One major way in which the medieval meanings of the binary aequalitas/inaequalitas differed from (and extended beyond) modern meanings of equality/inequality was through its identification (in its proportional form) with the modern binaries of balance/imbalance and equilibrium/disequilibrium. Indeed, throughout the medieval period, the only way to express what we today express by « systematic balance » and « equilibrium » was either through the word aequalitas or its cognates and synonyms. Before the seventeenth century, the use of the word balance (Lat. bilancia) was restricted to the mechanical balance or scale, and equilibrium possessed only its literal meaning of « equal weight », the 1 :1 equality that the mechanical scale measured. Only in the seventeenth century did the words « balance » and « equilibrium » come to possess the meanings and metaphorical breadth they possess today when we routinely speak of fields, systems, multiple forces and multiple elements « in balance » or « in equilibrium ». And yet, many of the meanings we associate with these words were in play and active within multiple medieval discourses from the late thirteenth century, and very much in play within both scholastic medicine and Marsilius’ political writings. Indeed, the Defensor pacis is preoccupied with the question of how the civitas, and the community of citizens that comprises it, can succeed in establishing a systematic and dynamic balance between the diverse social and political elements that constitute it5. In what follows, I hope to indicate Marsilius’ great debt to his education in Galenic medicine for the way he came to understand the workings and potentialities of systematic equalization in a political context.
- 6 On medical education at the university of Padua in this period, see Siraisi 1973. For the status of (...)
- 7 On Marsilius’ years in Paris, see Courtenay 2004, p. 209-23. Courtenay proposes that Marsilius was (...)
- 8 Estimates for the dating of this letter written by his friend, Alberto Mussato, have ranged from 13 (...)
5Very little is known about Marsilius’ life (estimates of his birth date range from 1270 to 1290). The few facts we do have place him as a student of Galenic medicine at the University of Padua in the last decades of the thirteenth century, at a time when Padua was challenged only by Bologna and Montpellier as the pre-eminent center of medical education in Latin Christendom6. At Padua, he most probably studied under the influential medicus and Galenic commentator, Pietro d’Abano, with whom he remained in contact until Pietro’s death. It is most probable that Marsilius continued to practice medicine throughout his sojourn as a Master in Arts at the University of Paris, where he was in residence for more than a decade before the publication of the Defensor pacis in 13247. A letter dated to the second decade of the fourteenth century continues to refer to him as magistrum Marsilium physicum paduanum, and scattered references indicate that he remained a medical practitioner throughout his tumultuous life8.
- 9 Just as the word bilancia was restricted to the balancing scale in Latin, so too the Greek word iso (...)
- 10 The Latin word, aequalitas, appears again and again in the Latin translations of Galen’s writings ( (...)
6From ancient times through the medieval period, discourses on both medicine and political theory were constructed around the ideal of aequalitas. The Hippocratic association of bodily health with the proportional balance of varying interior qualities, powers, and elements was adopted by Plato and Aristotle, and after them by virtually every learned medicus for the next nearly two thousand years9. The theorization of balance/aequalitas within the body and its association with health and proper function reached its height in the prolific writings of Galen of Pergamum (129-c. 216 CE), most of which were composed during his long sojourn in the great city of Rome. Galen’s writings, and their focus on myriad levels of balancing both within the body and between the body and its ever-changing environment, remained authoritative in the field of medicine into the seventeenth century, as did his direct identification of balance/aequalitas with health – the primary goal of the physician10. No less prevalent, again from the time of Plato and Aristotle through the seventeenth century and beyond, was a parallel tradition, identifying good political function with the balance of a range of socio-political powers, interests, and elements within the civitas. This identification of political balance with political health was fortified by the continued linkage of law (the ultimate political instrument) and Justice (the ultimate political ideal) with the image of the balancing scale.
7But what is balance ? How is it imagined ? How is it determined ? How is it achieved ? Can the universality of the concern with balance over this long period, and the central place it has occupied for millennia in speculation within multiple disciplines, be taken as a sign that the sense of balance is also universal and unchanging ? I want to suggest something different : that balance has a history ; that within certain intellectual cultures – including the culture to which Marsilius belonged – new and sometimes very different apprehensions of what might constitute balance have emerged ; and that precisely because of its ideal status and its centrality to discourse formation, changes to the sense and modeling of balance can have, and have had, profound effects on thought, opening up entire new vistas of imaginative and speculative possibility.
8In my forthcoming book, I argue that in the last decades of the thirteenth century, a new way of imagining and modeling the potentialities of balance/aequalitas emerged within medieval university culture that differed markedly from all preceding models in Latin Christian culture. I posit further that to this new model of equalization the word « equilibrium » with its rich modern connotations of systematic self-equalizing and self-ordering can, for the first time, be applied. In this paper I want to suggest that the political writings of Marsilius of Padua reflect this new model of equilibrium to an exceptional degree.
- 11 I consider each of these influences in my forthcoming book, A History of Balance, 1250-1375.
9In my search for the possible influences on the profound re-visioning and re-modeling of balance that occurred over the period 1250-1350, I have come to look closely at the scholar’s daily interactions with and interventions in concrete social forms of equilibrium, e.g., the economic structures of the marketplace ; the institutional structures of the university community in which scholars came to maturity ; the political structures of the civitas with which they interacted throughout their lives ; and the social, physical, and technological structures of the living city itself, in which they were immersed, and in which they were required to establish their own personal equilibrium as they made their way in the world.11
10While I believe that each of these material contexts contributed to the formation of the new model of balance/aequalitas at the core of the Defensor pacis, and each is considered in A History of Balance, I also recognize the important contributions that texts and textual contexts made to this transformation. In my initial search for these textual contexts, I expected to find that the philosophical writings of Aristotle and his scholastic commentators and continuators would be primary. What I found instead is that the most important textual influence on the formation of the « new model of equilibrium » in the second half of the thirteenth century came not so much from Aristotle but rather from the medical writings of Galen and his scholastic commentators, which circulated widely in university circles in this period. While it is true that Galen inherited his most foundational physical principles from Hippocrates and Aristotle, he also envisioned the form and working principles of systematic equalization within the body in ways that were deeper, richer, and in almost every way more advanced than any that had come before him, whether in the sphere of medicine or philosophy.
- 12 In what follows, I will use the Latin vocabulary for Galenic medicine, since Marsilius would have s (...)
- 13 In her recent French translation of Galen's Ars medica, Véronique Boudon writes : « La médecine de (...)
11At the very center of the Galenic model of balance/aequalitas was the construct/concept of the complexion (complexio in Latin, krasis in Greek)12. The Galenic complexion is a proportionally balanced mixture or blend of the four primary qualities : heat, cold, wetness, and dryness13. The doctor’s main task is to help nature promote or maintain the proper balance (or proportional aequalitas in Galenic terms) of the body’s complexions, as determined by the proportional mixture of the four primary qualities proper to each. The body as a whole possesses its own « equal » complexion (equa complexio) as does each of the body’s individual working parts. In theory, the proportional balance of the four qualities that constitutes the « equal » complexion is unique to each individual. So too, the « equal » complexions of each of the body’s many parts are differently proportioned with respect to their proper function within the body as a whole : the brain is relatively cold, the heart and testicles are relatively hot, the bones relatively dry, the blood relatively wet, and so on. Moreover, the proper proportional aequalitas of the four qualities within each complexion (which Galen and his followers directly identified with health) is neither static nor singular. Rather, since the four qualities comprising the complexion were believed to exist in constant tension with each other, each working to supersede the other in the mixture, the resulting balance/aequalitas is essentially dynamic and ever-shifting, always re-proportioning itself, always either approaching or falling away from its optimally blended state of health.
12There are yet more layers to Galen’s model of bodily equalization. Consider that in the Galenic scheme, the ceaseless equalization through proportionalization occurring within every complexion, from that governing the body as a whole to those governing each bodily organ and part, was theorized to vary continually in response and in relation to the complexions in every other part of the body with which it interacts in every direction. Liver, blood veins, heart, lungs, muscles, nerves, brain, etc., all communicated through their complexions and all mutually affected each other through this communication :
- 14 Ars medica, fol. 179r : A substantia quidem ipsa tunc, quando corpus est secundum meliorem formam. (...)
13The sign of the healthiest bodies is that they are equally [proportionally] balanced in their members (aequalitas membrorum) with respect to the four elemental qualities : heat, cold, dryness, and wetness ; and that there is an equality in the organic members (aequalitas membrorum) in terms of their quantity, construction, number, and the form of their component parts, both with respect to their instrumental functions and in their relationship to the whole14.
14When one recognizes that the dynamic equilibrium governing the functioning complexio is multiplied over and over again through layer after layer within the systematic whole, one begins to appreciate the extraordinary complexity and coherence that marks the Galenic model of balance.
- 15 Ibid., fol. 177r : verumtamen ipsius temperantia et ipsius equalitas non sunt secundum meliorem dis (...)
15This dynamic process of many-layered relation, communication, and proportional equalization, part to part and part to whole, was expressed in Galenic texts by the Latin term coequalitas. The conceptualization of coequalitas points to a pivotal Galenic insight and principle : the equality and equalization proper both to the complexions and to the entire working system of the body is fully relativized. As Galen writes in the Ars Medica, « neither temperance nor equality are to be conceived in terms of some abstract optimum, but rather in terms of that which is optimum relative to the function of each particular part and body15. » Optimum proportional equality does indeed equal optimum health for Galen, but only relative to the optimum that can be achieved within each particular body or part. And as each body and part is different from every other, and each performs a different function, so the optimum proportional aequalitas for each is also always different.
16The proper proportional aequalitas identified with health, is further understood to shift with respect to the body’s age, its changing physical environment, and even its changing psychological and emotional states.
- 16 (Singer trans., 374, with last line modified), Ars medica, fol. 199r : quia necesse est corpori, ut (...)
17And if we make a classification of all the necessary factors which alter the body […] One category is contact with the ambient air ; another is motion and rest of the body as a whole or of its individual parts. The third is sleep and waking ; the fourth, substances taken ; the fifth, substances voided or retained ; the sixth, what happens to the soul. The body cannot but be altered and changed in relation to all these causes [my emphasis]16.
18In short, the aequalitas that Galen and his scholastic commentators were concerned with was essentially proportional and fluidly relational : never « equal » in the arithmetical sense of 1 :1 hot, cold, wet, or dry. Indeed, the balance that lies at the heart of the complexion – and of the Galenic system as a whole – always involves the interaction of quantitative inequalities, the proportional blending of quantitative unequals. In its production of a systematic aequalitas out of unequal, ever-shifting parts, the Galenic complexion works as a model of equilibrium in nuce, a functional unity (unitas) in which the interaction of unbalanced parts continually and systematically works toward the balance/aequalitas of the whole. The identification of bodily health and good function with the dynamic proportional equalization of unequal parts within the working whole is a critical link between Galenic medical theory and Marsilian political theory. So too is Galen’s presentation of a thoroughly dynamic interactive system in which proportionality, relativity, and flux are thoroughly intertwined.
19We are not used to thinking equality in these relativized and shifting terms. This would have been even truer for Galen's contemporaries, and truer still for his Latin Christian readers in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. It is not surprising then, that although Latin translations of some of Galen’s major works were in wide circulation from the late twelfth century, it was not until the 1270’s and 80’s, the most dynamic period of urban expansion in Europe, that the lessons and implications of his dynamic model of equalization (perfected in the urban context of late second- century Rome) began to be genuinely comprehended by scholastic commentators.
- 17 So Marsilius announces in DP I.1.8.
- 18 For this argument, see Garnett 2006, p. 14-45.
- 19 I note also Gewirth’s productive insight that only Discourse I has the Common Good of the civitas a (...)
20Finally to Marsilius and the Defensor pacis. In what follows I restrict my reading to Discourse I, the first of three « discourses » (dictiones) that compose the treatise. In this section, Marsilius penetrates the logic of social and political organization and equalization within the civitas through reasoned arguments17. Discourse II is no less important to Marsilius’ intent than Discourse I : indeed, it is arguably more so18. It is more than three times as long, and it contains Marsilius’ fiercest criticisms of the papacy, as well as his boldest arguments, based heavily in scripture, for stripping it of its landed property, its coercive power, and its primacy within the government of the Church. But because its arguments are based more on textual authority and supernatural revelation than on reasoned assumptions about the natural order, Discourse II is less suitable for my inquiry19. Less suitable too is the very short Discourse III, which consists of lapidary conclusions rather than reasoned arguments.
- 20 In the last several years, the recognition of Galenic influences on Marsilius’ thought has been gro (...)
21Only once in the whole Defensor Pacis does Marsilius mention Galen and cite one of his works. In contrast, he cites Aristotle scores of times as an authority, referencing the Politics at virtually every major point in his argument. The contrasting weight of citations, added to the fact that very few historians of medieval political thought have read deeply in Galen, has contributed to what I believe is the serious underestimation of Galenic influence on Marsilius’ most profound insights20. Since most historians of medieval political thought are more schooled in Aristotle than they are in Galen, few have been in the position to recognize that when Marsilius uses the words of Aristotle to support insights into the workings of political life that Aristotle never quite held, these insights often turn out to have been shaped by Galenic thought. Marsilius, after all, trained as a Galenic doctor at the University of Padua under the tutelage of Pietro d’Abano, and Pietro taught himself Greek so that he could read Galen in his native language, later translating a number of Galen’s works into Latin. But what was crucial, I want to suggest, to Marsilius’s adoption of Galenic equalization, is not simply that Marsilius read and internalized Galenic texts, but that he read and internalized them while inhabiting particular economic, social, and political environments in which they seemed vitally applicable to his own lived experience – the vibrant commune of Padua where he was born and schooled, and the great commercial city of Paris, where he lived and taught for more than a decade before writing the Defensor pacis.
22Those who recognize Marsilius’ debt to medical thought often cite his clearest statement of it, which appears near the opening of the Defensor pacis (Discourse I, chapter 2) :
- 21 DP, I.2.3 : suscipiamus cum Aristotele I et V Politicae sue capitulis 2° et 3°civitatem esse velut (...)
23Let us suppose with Aristotle in the first and fifth books of his Politics, chapters 2 and 3 respectively, that the city is like a kind of animate or animal nature. For an animal which is in a good condition in respect of its nature is composed of certain proportionate parts arranged in respect of each other, all communicating their actions between themselves and towards the whole (componitur ex quibusdam proportionatis partibus invicem ordinatis suaque opera mutuo communicantibus et ad totum) ; likewise too the city which is in a good condition (bene disposita) and established in accordance with reason is made up of certain such parts. A city and its parts would therefore seem to be in the same relation to tranquility as an animal and its parts is to health21.
24While Marsilius’ debt to medical thought here is unmistakable, note that even in this case he credits Aristotle’s Politics instead of a work by Galen or one of Galen’s Arabic or Christian commentators. It is, however, the Galenic body, the Galenic complexion, and the Galenic model of equalization that provides his exemplar.
- 22 This pivotal distinction breaks sharply with the commentary tradition on the Ethics and Politics es (...)
25The list of important insights and observations that Marsilius derived from his grasp of the potentialities of Galenic balance/aequalitas is quite long. Here my intent is merely to indicate the range of this borrowing by pointing to several crucial examples. The first involves Marsilius’ sharp departure from Aristotle in his position that humans are political not (as Aristotle has it) because it is in their very nature to be so, but because political life is their means to satisfying their natural desire for « the sufficiencies of life22. » This seems to be a surprisingly modest goal for political activity, but it is characteristic of Marsilius, following Galenic discourse, to reduce grand abstractions to their working parts. In this case, he reduces the potent ideal of the « common good » (bonum commune), with its theoretical roots in Aristotle’s Politics, to its physical and naturalistic dimension – the presence of those things necessary to support and promote life.
- 23 DP, I.1.1.
- 24 DP, I.1.3 : que velut animalis aegritudo, sic prava civilis regiminis dispositio fore dignoscitur.
26« Peace » is the name Marsilius gives to a political setting so ordered that individuals can obtain and maintain these sufficiencies23. From the outset, the simple word « peace » (concordia), is closely tied to what we today would call « balance » or « equilibrium ». In the Defensor pacis it is presented as an active rather than a passive state, achieved only through the systematic workings of the healthy political organism. Its opposite is discordia, which Marsilius frames in frankly medical terms : « Like sickness in an animal », he writes, « discordia can be diagnosed as the ill-disposition of a civil regime24. »
- 25 Marsilius (DP, I.3.4) defines law on its most basic level as the « equalization of injury » (equali (...)
- 26 DP, I.5.7. Note the similarity between this phrase and the phrase in the Latin Aristotle (Ethics, V (...)
- 27 DP, 1.13.6 : Verum horum omnium congregate multitude discernere potest et velle amplius commune ius (...)
27Marsilius pays particularly close attention to the function of law within the healthy civitas, and his treatment of it in the Defensor pacis represents another significant reflection of Galenic equalization. In his view, the law functioned as the instrument of equalization par excellence within the political organism25. But rather than locating the source of the law in a singular ruler or lawgiver, or in a ruling elite, he conceived of law as an internal, systematic product that results when the varied working parts of the community (ex quibusdam proportionatis partibus ) interact to produce, « the means through which excesses might be reduced to equality or due proportion » (et ad aequalitatem aut proportionem debitam reducantur)26. In his happy phrasing, the law is « an eye composed of many eyes » (oculus ex multis oculis). His faith here in the capacity of the civitas to produce its own forms of equalization within itself, is mirrored in his full-throated support of broad-based communal election. As he writes : « the universal multitude of the citizens as a body […] gathered together, can more fully perceive and will what is just and advantageous for the community than any of these parts by itself, however prudent it may be27. »
28This belief in the civic organism’s power to order and equalize itself through law and election is then, in turn, the basis of Marsilius’ pivotal and visionary concept of the legitimate « human legislator ». It is, he writes,
- 28 DP, I.12.3 : legislatorem seu causam legis effectivam primam et propriam esse populum seu civium un (...)
29the people or the universal body of the citizens (populum seu civium universitatem) or else its prevailing part, when, by means of an election (per suam electionem) or will expressed in speech in a general assembly of the citizens, it commands or determines, subject to temporal penalty or punishment, that something should be done or omitted in respect of human civil acts28.
30Marsilius once again cites Aristotle (Politics 3.6) as his source for this opinion, but Aristotle does not actually discuss the efficient cause of law at this point in the Politics, nor does he arrive at a conclusion in any way as certain as Marsilius’ about the central role of the « universal body of the citizens » in election and the making of law. Rather, at this point Aristotle actually questions the benefits of having the multitude make the highest civic decisions through election.
31As a final example, I offer Marsilius’ determination of « the productive causes » of the civitas. Near the conclusion of Discourse I, he identifies the causes thus :
- 29 DP, I.19.2 : haec nempe sunt civium conversatio mutua et communicatio ipsorum invicem suorum operum (...)
32the mutual interaction (conversatio mutua ) of the citizens and the common exchange of their work (communicatio ipsorum invicem suorum operum) ; their mutual aid and help (mutuumque auxilium atque iuvamentum) ; the power, unhindered from outside, to carry out both their own and the common tasks of the civitas (suorum propriorum operum et communium exercendi ab extrinseco non impedita) ; and their sharing in common conveniences and burdens (participatio quoque communium commodorum et onerum) in a measure fitting to each (secundum convenientem unicuique mensuram)29.
33I suggest that each of the elements in this definition (italicized here) speaks directly to the principles of Galenic coequalitas described above. Equalization here is the aggregate product of the internal dynamic of a healthy political organism. It comes not from the outside or from above but from within ; all citizens are equally responsible for attaining and maintaining it through the mutual interactions of their needs, labors, minds, and wills.
34To conclude, I would like to redirect my attention from equality to inequality (disuguaglianza), the subject of our conference and of this collection. The critical functioning « part » of the civitas that concerns Marsilius and that most effects the working of the whole in his scheme, is not the individual but the various orders and productive arts into which individuals group themselves as a result of their interests, needs, and functions. Here farmers, artisans, and traders are included right along with warriors, priests and judges, because all are functional parts of the civitas. Marsilius is, of course, well aware that individual citizens and individual occupations are unequal in wealth, status, and a host of other categories. But he looks past these inequalities because interrelation and intercommunication of diverse parts is the key, differentiation is the key, not the rigid hierarchization of values or functions, and not the exclusion of parts based on their inherent inferiority or inequality in economic, moral, social, or spiritual terms. Marsilius portrays the direct participation of unequals in legal and political life as a strength and as the basis of civic health, not (as was the case with many of his elite contemporaries) as a weakness. Each working part, although it might vary enormously in status or value judged from outside the system, nevertheless carries within it its own ratio and hence (on the pattern of the Galenic complexio) its own proportioned aequalitas, which it communicates to every other working part of the civic body and to the systematic whole of the body as well.
- 30 From DP, I.2.3, cited above : « For an animal which is in a good condition in respect of its nature (...)
35As Marsilius views it, insofar as unequal « proportionate parts » contribute to the good function of the whole, they share in producing the tranquillitas and concordia that guarantees the sufficiencies of life to all30 :
- 31 DP, I.2.3 : Sanitas autem, ut aiunt peritiores physicorum describentes ipsam, est bona dispositio a (...)
36Now health (sanitas) – as the more expert physicians say when they describe it – is that good condition of an animal, in which each of its parts is enabled perfectly to perform the operations appropriate to its nature [my emphasis]. If we follow this analogy, tranquility will then be that good condition of a city or realm, in which each of its parts is enabled perfectly to perform the operations appropriate to it according to reason and the way it has been established31.
- 32 On the subject of communal functionalism, see Nederman 1992.
- 33 The capacity to imagine a model of equalization in which the functioning whole can transmute unbala (...)
37In this political vision, which Cary Nederman has rightly labeled, « communal functionalism », I suggest that we can again see the naturalistic model of the Galenic body, which, through the dynamic co-equalization of its constituent members is similarly engaged in the continual balancing of its unequal but equally necessary working parts toward the production of good function and health32. In effect, following the model of the Galenic body, the grand interweaving system of Marsilius’ civitas has the capacity to equalize the unequal and to balance the imbalanced within the workings of the systematic whole33.
38Marsilius’s vibrant vision of the potentialities of civic equalization never carried the day. It was always counterposed by older models of political order that continued to situate « natural » hierarchies at their core ; that continued to elevate existing inequalities to the status of normative absolutes ; that limited citizenship on the basis of these inequalities ; and that could not imagine any civic body functioning, or balancing itself, without a « head » – without either a ruler, or an elite ruling group, or a ruling principle of balance and order imposed on the civitas from above. Moreover, the first part of Discourse I of the Defensor pacis (to I.14), which outlines the equalizing potentialities of the universitas civium, sits very uneasily with the second part of this same Discourse, which enumerates the ordering powers of the principate, and which in many ways re-introduces traditional hierarchies and traditional conceptions of political order. While the apparent backsliding in this second part is disappointing to the modern reader, it also brings into relief the immense scope of re-imagination and remodeling that characterizes the first part. Here, I think, the availability of Galen’s fully and beautifully articulated model of systematic equalization as applied to the human body, which formed the basis of Marsilius’ medical education, played a large role in making possible his visionary re-imagination of aequalitas within the body politic.