On Spiritual Creatures (De Spiritualibus Creaturis)

On Spiritual Creatures (De Spiritualibus Creaturis)

On Spiritual Creatures (De Spiritualibus Creaturis)

On Spiritual Creatures (De Spiritualibus Creaturis)

Excerpt

Since De Spiritualibus Creaturis belongs to that form to which the Scholastic philosophers applied the name disputation, it would seem well to examine in some detail the origin, the nature and the use of the disputation as a teaching device in the mediaeval universities.

During the Middle Ages methods of teaching were largely conditioned by a paucity of texts, for printing was as yet unknown and the only available books were in the form of manuscripts that had been laboriously copied by hand. These could only be obtained with the greatest difficulty either through purchase or rental. Consequently the master was forced to read (legere) those texts he wanted his students to know. During the course of such reading not all the thoughts or the implications of the passage were clearly understood. In order that he might insure his pupil's having a firm grasp of the thought, the master frequently made explanations of difficult passages either by a paraphrase or by still further exposition of the thought. At times the passage that was being read might raise a problem in a student's mind. In that case the student was led to ask questions or, failing that, the master himself might raise the issue that he wanted discussed, guide the pupil toward the desired solution or, if a pupil utterly failed to grasp the point, himself give the explanation or proof. As students advanced in knowledge and attainments, a capable master would often pose questions on dogmatic or moral theology, canon law, or liturgy. These could take the simplest form, that of question and answer, or the form of question that was known as a disputation (disputatio ordinaria; quaestio disputata).

By the thirteenth century the disputation had been entirely separated from the interpretation of any text and was a separate and public part of the master's lesson. The question or the thesis to be disputed was set in advance by the master who was to conduct the disputation. It, together with its date, was announced in the other schools of the faculty in order that the other faculty and student members of the university might attend. Usually the subjects chosen by each master varied, because ordinarily . . .

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