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

281. Didactic Methods. -- These were the fruit of a long and laborious elaboration: the ripening process reaching its completion in the thirteenth century. With the forms of oral teaching we are already familiar: the LECTIO, in which the text of some book was analyzed for the purpose of explaining it, either by way of exegesis (St. Thomas) or of paraphrase (Albertus); and the QUAESTIO, or freer method of treatment, availed of in discussions and disputes (231). To these we might add SERMONS, which often -- in the thirteenth century -- embodied philosophical dissertations.{1}

The BOOKS which have come down to us, reveal this threefold oral method. But besides those there are numerous treatises not written for teaching purposes: miscellaneous monographs and pamphlets in abundance.{2}

The thesis to be expounded is always submitted to a triple process (the pro, the contra and the solution) which is in logical connection with the Aristotelian doctrine of the aporia (cf. 38, 174, 249). In the exposition of the pro and contra, the scholastics draw from the history of philosophy. In fact the sole use of the latter was to furnish reasons in defence of what was regarded as the true teaching. History was not studied for its own sake; and this accounts somewhat for the uncritical attitude of the scholastics as regards the accurate determination of the historical fact, and for their anxiety to interpret texts in favour of their theses even at the risk of misrepresenting the testimony invoked. Here, too, the syllogistic form of reasoning holds undisputed sway. Finally, the intermingling of philosophical and theological questions is still in evidence; for its causes are deeply rooted in the teaching organization of the universities no less than in the very genius itself of medieval civilization. It was of most frequent occurrence in the theological courses; the "artists were forbidden over and over again (more especially in 1272) to trespass on the theological domain.

{1} See, e.g., St. Bonaventure's Sermon, De Humanae Cognitionis Ratione, etc., p. xiii (257).

{2} The freer forms of philosophical teaching make their appearance later on: sermons, poetic pieces and prose writings in the vernacular. Dante and Eckhart are exceptions in the thirteenth century.

<< ======= >>