ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

231. The Study of Philosophy and Theology. -- Just as philosophy was subordinate to theology, so was mastership in the arts a necessary preparation for degrees in theology.{1} Non est consenescendum in artibus, sed a liminibus sunt salutandae. The teaching organization of the University is a faithful reflex of the general social condition of the Middle Ages: its underlying idea is the view of secular knowledge as leading up to the sacred science. But the master of arts (magister artium), when he became a theologian, was not likely to lay aside the habits of mind engendered by his philosophical training. And moreover, the growth of the dialectic method in theology encouraged the professors to make long and frequent incursions into the domain of philosophy. Add to this the absence of a sufficient philosophical grounding in many of their auditors, thereby necessitating a recapitulation, in theology, of arguments and matters that should have been assumed as already known. All this explains the fact that the philosophical teaching of the Paris masters must be sought in their theological, as well as in their philosophical, lectures.

Two features characterize the university teaching at Paris: internationalism of students and masters, and freedom of instruction. Students flocked to Paris from every country of the West. There was no matriculation: the student selected a master; and he was known to his university only through his master. "Nullus sit scolaris Parisius qui certum magistrum non habeat."{2} It was in the master's school and under his direction that the student should accomplish all his scholastic acts and exercises. The freedom of teaching enjoyed is manifest from the phenomenal extension of the mastership or professorial office. By fulfilling a few easy formalities, whoever had talent enough could become a professor. The university studies were in fact a long apprenticeship to the professoriate, and the student might be described as a candidate for the latter. He became professor by professing. Another index to this freedom of teaching is the language used by some of the masters -- as testified by the questions sometimes discussed at the quodlibetic disputations.{3}

The series of academic acts varied with the epoch. In 1215, Robert de Courçon laid down as the minimum age for teaching: twenty-one for the arts, thirty-five for theology; and as the minimum term of preparatory studies: six years' study for the arts, eight years' study for theology. The bachelorship or baccalaureate (baccalareatus, determinantia) was the lowest degree in the arts faculty. In the beginning of the thirteenth century the candidate was examined by a board of three masters of the arts faculty: later on there were four. If considered sufficiently qualified, he was admitted to the determinatio, a solemn academic test which took place about the next pasch following the examination; under the direction of his own master, the bachalariandus undertook a public defence of a number of theses proposed for discussion. The ordeal was a long one: it was supposed to commence infra octavas cinerum and to last per totam quadragesimam. In a concluding session the candidate summed up his conclusions, he "determined" the solutions to be given to the various questions raised, and answered difficulties (quaestionem determinare); thereupon he received the title of determinator, determinans.{4} Between the baccalaureate and the second degree, the licence, there usually elapsed an interval of two or three years: although often, especially in the earlier days, we find instances of candidates who obtained all three degrees of the faculty within the space of a single year. The recipients of the second degree, the licentiati, were qualified by its reception to give their first or inaugural lecture as masters (incipere in artibus). On delivering this lecture they became entitled to be called incipientes, and the procurator of the nation admitted them to the rank of mastership (magister). Most of the "incipient" masters of arts never delivered a second lecture in Paris: they either went elsewhere to teach, or else betook themselves to other studies at the University: these were called the magistri non regentes. The magistri actu regentes were the masters actually appointed by the nations for the regular work of teaching: they gave the ordinary university courses in the public class-halls of the various nations or in their own private halls.{5}

The degrees in the Faculty of Theology were conferred in much the same way. To the baccalaureate there were three stages: the student became successively biblicus ordinarius, sententiarius and bacchalarius formatus. In the fourteenth century "each 'formed' bachelor undertook four defences of theses against his colleagues: one 'aulica' (in aula episcopi), a second 'vesperalis,' a third 'sorbonica,' during the holidays at the Sorbonne, and a fourth in Advent 'de quolibet' ".{6} Not till then was he entitled to be presented to the chancellor for his licence: then, after a mere formal examination, the chancellor conferred upon the aspirant, with much pomp and ceremony, the licentia to undertake the office of teaching and preaching. Having gone through all those stages the licentiatus was admitted to the full and official exercise of the duties he had been hitherto discharging as an apprentice. As for mastership, or incorporation in the group of masters, the academic acts which qualified for it (vesperiae, aulica and resumptum) were rather of an honorary character. As Thurot well remarks, "the mastership was to the licence what the nuptial festivities are to the marriage blessing". The masters actu regentes, or those who, after obtaining their mastership, continued to teach and were not content with the mere honorary title of masters (actu non regentes), went on giving their public lectures and conducting disputations like the bachelors.

Lectures and disputations may be distinguished as two forms of teaching. The professor read (legere, we have still the German Vorlesungen), that is, he took up as the basis of his instruction some text which he explained and developed. In theology the first text was the Bible, which was studied from the literal standpoint (lectores biblici). Then came the Sentences of the Lombard (bachalarei). Finally the masters (magistri) undertook the real or scientific exposition of the Bible.{7} In the Faculty of Arts the programme of lectures or lectiones was roughly outlined in Robert de Courçon's constitution of 1215. We know it in detail from two sources dating from the middle of the thirteenth century: the statutes of the English nation (1252) regulating the conditions for the admission of bachelors to the Lenten determinatio{8} and especially a statute of the Faculty of Arts (1255) "de modo docendi et regendi in artibus deque libris quae legendi essent".{9} We learn from this latter document that the following books were read: the Vetus logica (videlicet liber Porfirii, praedicamentorum, periarmenias divisionum et thopicorum Boëcii), Priscian (major and minor), the Logica nova (the topica, elenchi, priora and posteriora); the Nichomachaean Ethics (only the first four books are mentioned); the Liber Sex Principiorum of Gilbert de la Porrée; the treatise of Donatus on Barbarisms (the third book of his Ars Major), that of Priscian on Accentuation; Aristotle's Physics, Metaphysics, De Animalibus, Liber coeli et mundi, First Book on Meteors, De A nima, De Generatione, De Causis, Books on Senses and Sensations, on Sleep and Vigil, on Plants, De Memoria et Reminiscentia, Costa Ben Luca's De Differentia Spiritus et Animae,{10} and the Book De Morte et Vita. On comparing the branches enumerated in this programme with the classification of the philosophical sciences (given below), we can see the parallelism there is between them.

In the disputations, questions were treated by way of objection and answer: this was more animated, for all were invited to shed what light they could upon the matter under discussion. These dialectic exercises and disputationes magistrorum in studio solempni formed part of the ordinary curriculum in the arts schools.{11} Similar in character were the disputationes generales de quolibet in the schools of theology.{12}

{1} And also for studies in law and medicine. But at the Paris University philosophy and theology eclipsed all other studies.

{2} Organic articles given by Robert de Courçon in 1215 (Chartul. Univ. Paris., I., p. 79).

{3} The Quodlibeta of Godftey of Fontaines are significant in this connection. See art. Un preux de la parole au xiiie s., in the Rev. Néo-scol., 1904, p. 416.

{4} Chartul., i., p. 563, and ii., p. 673; Auctarium, i., p. xxix.

{5} Auctarium, i., p. xxviii sqq. Cf. Chartul., i., p. 530, the ordinatio facultatis artium de determinantibus, de baccalareis et de magistris, of 1275; the indexes of the Chartul. and Thurot.

{6} THUROT, De l'organisation de l'enseignement dans l'Université de Paris, Paris, 1850, pp. 149 and 150.

{7} DENIFLE, Quel livre servait de base a l'enseignement des maîtres en théologie dans l'Université de Paris? (Rev. Thomiste, 1894, pp. 149-61).

{8} Chartul., i., p. 228.

{9} Ibid., pp. 277 sqq. This statute dates from March 19, and settles a difficulty about "magistris aliquibus lectiones suas terminare festinantibus antequam librorum quantitas et difficultas requireret".

{10} Edited by BARACH, Bibtloth. Philos. Med. Aetatis, 1878, ii.

{11} The statute of 1252 lays down this condition of admission: "per duos annos disputationes magistrorum in studio solempni frequentaverit, et per idem tempus de sophismatibus in scholis requisitus responderit" (Chartul., i., p. 228).

{12} These are to be distinguished from the Quaestiones Ordinariae. They were "extraordinary disputations conducted by the masters once or twice a year, about Easter and Christmas. They differed from the ordinary disputations in this that the topics discussed at them were more numerous and varied; masters, students and auditors heing free to propose questions. The master, or the bachelor under his guidance, replied to the difficulties proposed on each topic; then, on the morrow or some subsequent day, the master summed up the questions and difficulties dealt with in his school: he arranged the topics -- often very varied -- in the best order possible and gave his definitive and final replies to the difficulties. This closing academic act was known as 'determining' or 'determination'. The voluminous literature that has come down to us from the second half of the thirteenth century under the general title of Quodlibeta, is nothing else than the product of those closing exercises, the extraordinary or 'quodlibetic' disputations" (MANDONNET, Siger de Brabant et l'averroïsme Latin au xiiie siècle, pp. xcix-c, Fribourg, 1899). Whilst the ordinary lectures of the masters and bachelors were of necessity confined to the Bible, the quodlibetic exercises ranged through all the known domains of science. Alongside questions on theology we find in them questions from philosophy, moral theology, canon law: also occasional questions on hotly disputed topics of the time. Those quodlibetic disputes became excessively common in the fourteenth century.

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