Readings in the History of Education - Mediaeval Universities
by Arthur O. Norton
1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse




Assistant Professor of the History and Art of Teaching in Harvard University





These readings in the history of mediaeval universities are the first installment of a series, which I have planned with the view of illustrating, mainly from the sources, the history of modern education in Europe and America. They are intended for use after the manner of the source books or collections of documents which have so vastly improved the teaching of general history in recent years. No argument is needed as to the importance of such a collection for effective teaching of the history of education; but I would urge that the subject requires in a peculiar degree rich and full illustration from the sources. The life of school, college, or university is varied, vivid, even dramatic, while we live it; but, once it has passed, it becomes thinner and more spectral than almost any other historical fact. Its original records are, in all conscience, thin enough; the situation is still worse when they are worked over at third or fourth hand, flattened out; smoothed down, and desiccated in the pages of a modern history of education. Such histories are of course necessary to effective teaching of the subject; but the records alone can clothe the dry bones of fact with flesh and blood. Only by turning back to them do we gain a sense of personal intimacy with the past; only thus can we realize that schools and universities of other days were not less real than those of to-day, teachers and students of other generations not less vividly alive than we, academic questions not less unsettled or less eagerly debated. To gain this sense of concrete, living reality in the history of education is one of the most important steps toward understanding the subject.

In selecting and arranging the records here presented I have had in mind chiefly the needs of students who are taking the usual introductory courses in the subject. Students of general history—a subject in which more and more account is taken of culture in the broad sense of the term—may also find them useful.

Within the necessarily limited space I have chosen to illustrate in some detail a few aspects of the history of mediaeval universities rather than to deal briefly with a large number of topics. Many important matters, not here touched upon, are reserved for future treatment. Some documents pertinent to the topics here discussed are not reproduced because they are easily accessible elsewhere; these are mentioned in the bibliographical note at the close of the volume.

In writing the descriptive and explanatory text I have attempted only to indicate the general significance of the translations, and to supply information not easily obtained, or not clearly given in the references or text-books which, it is assumed, the student will read in connection with this work. It would be possible to write a commentary of genuinely mediaeval proportions on the selections here given; doubtless many of the details would be clearer for such a commentary. Some of these are explained by cross-references in the body of the text; in the main, however, I have preferred to let the documents stand for their face value to the average reader.

I have given especial attention to university studies (pp. 37-80) and university exercises (pp. 107-134) because these important subjects are unusually difficult for most students, and because surprisingly few illustrations of them from the sources have been heretofore easily accessible in English. In particular, there has not been, I believe, a previous translation of any considerable passage from the much discussed and much criticised mediaeval commentaries on university text-books. The selection here given (pp. 59-75) is not intended for continuous reading; but it will fully repay close and repeated examination. Not infrequently single sentences of this commentary are the outcroppings of whole volumes of mediaeval thought and controversy; indeed anyone who follows to the end each of the lines of study suggested will have at command a very respectable bit of knowledge concerning the intellectual life of the middle ages. The passage requires more explanation by the teacher, or more preliminary knowledge on the part of the student, than any other selection in the book.

The sources from which the selections have been made are indicated in the footnotes to the text My great indebtedness to Mr. Hastings Rashdall's "Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages" is also there indicated. Messrs. G.P. Putnam's Sons and Mr. Joseph McCabe generously gave me permission to quote more extensive passages from the latter's brilliant biography of Abelard than I finally found it possible to use. Mr. Charles S. Moore has been my chief assistant in the preparation of the manuscript; most of the translations not otherwise credited are due to his careful work, but I am responsible for the version finally adopted in numerous passages in which the interpretation depends on a knowledge of detailed historical facts. In conclusion, I have to thank Professor Charles H. Haskins and Professor Leo Wiener for information which has spared me many days of research on obscure details, and Professor Paul H. Hanus for suggestions which have contributed to the clearness of the text.






1. Teachers and Students of the Twelfth Century (a) Abelard 13 (b) John of Salisbury 25 2. The New Method 35 3. The New Studies 37 (a) The Works of Aristotle 40 (b) Roman Law 49 (c) Canon Law 55 (d) Theology 76 (e) Medicine 78 (f) Other University Text-books 78 4. University Privileges 80 (a) Special Protection by the Sovereign 81 (b) The Right of Trial in Special Courts 86 (c) Exemption from Taxation 88 (d) The Privilege of Suspending Lectures (Cessatio) 92 (e) The Right of Teaching Everywhere (Jus ubique docendi) 96 (f) Privileges Granted by a Municipality 98 (g) The Influence of Mediaeval Privileges on Modern Universities 101 5. Universities Founded by the Initiative of Civil or Ecclesiastical Powers 102


(a) The Lecture 107 (b) The Disputation 115 (c) The Examination 124 (d) A Day's Work in 1476 132 (e) Time-table of Lectures at Leipzig, 1519 132


1. Paris, 1254 136 2. Paris, 1366 138 3. Oxford, 1267 and (?) 1408 138 4. Leipzig, A.B., 1410 139 5. Leipzig, A.M., 1410 139 6. Leipzig, A.B. and A.M., 1519 134


1. Letters Relating to Paris 141 2. Two Oxford Letters of the Fifteenth Century 149




The history of education, like all other branches of history, is based upon documents. Historical documents are, in general, "the traces which have been left by the thoughts and actions of men of former times"; the term commonly refers to the original records or sources from which our knowledge of historical facts is derived. The documents most generally used by historians are written or printed. In the history of education alone these are of the greatest variety; as is shown in the following pages, among them are university charters, proceedings, regulations, lectures, text-books, the statutes of student organizations, personal letters, autobiographies, contemporary accounts of university life, and laws made by civil or ecclesiastical authorities to regulate university affairs. Similar varieties of records exist for other educational institutions and activities. The immense masses of such written or printed materials produced to-day, even to the copy-book of the primary school and the student's note-book of college lectures, will, if they survive, become documents for the future historian of education.

The known sources for the history of education in western Europe since the twelfth century—to go no further afield—are exceedingly numerous, and widely spread among various public and private collections; the labor of a lifetime would hardly suffice to examine them all critically. Nevertheless many printed and written documents have been collected, edited, and published in their original languages; and in some instances the collections are fairly complete, or at least fairly representative of the documents in existence. Assuming that they are accurate copies of the original records, many are now easily accessible to students of the subject, since these reproductions may be owned by all large libraries.

These records, rightly apprehended, have far more than a mere antiquarian interest. The history of mediaeval universities is profoundly important, not only for students, but also for administrators, of modern higher education. For to a surprising degree the daily and hourly conduct of university affairs of the twentieth century is influenced by what universities did six centuries ago. On this point the words of Mr. Hastings Rashdall, a leading authority on mediaeval universities, are instructive: "... If we would completely understand the meaning of offices, titles, ceremonies, organizations preserved in the most modern, most practical, most unpicturesque of the institutions which now bear the name of 'University,' we must go back to the earliest days of the earliest Universities that ever existed, and trace the history of their chief successors through the seven centuries that intervene between the rise of Bologna or Paris, and the foundation of the new University of Strassburg in Germany, or of the Victoria University in England."

Knowledge of the subject should, however, yield much more than understanding: it should also influence the practical attitudes of those who are concerned with university affairs. Here I take issue with those historians who hold that history supplies no "information of practical utility in the conduct of life"; no "lessons directly profitable to individuals and peoples." The evidence cannot be exhibited here, but such information notoriously has been of the utmost practical value in education, both in shaping influential theories and in determining even minute details of educational practice. There is no reason to suppose that it may not continue to be thus serviceable. Other utilities of university history are less direct, but not less important. The study of individual institutions and their varying circumstances and problems "prepares us to understand and tolerate a variety of usages"; the study of their growth not only "cures us of a morbid dread of change," but also leads us to view their progressive adaptation to new conditions as necessary and desirable. If such study teaches only these two lessons to those who may hereafter shape the course of educational affairs it more than justifies itself. For to eradicate that intolerance of variety in educational practice so characteristic of the academic man of the past, and to diminish in future generations his equally characteristic opposition to changes involving adaptation to new conditions, is to render one of the greatest possible services to educational progress.



During the twelfth century a great educational revival manifested itself in western Europe, following upon several centuries of intellectual decline or relative inactivity. Though its beginnings may be traced into the eleventh century, and though its culmination belongs to a much later period, the movement is often called the Renaissance of the Twelfth Century. In that century it first appears as a widely diffused and rapidly growing movement, and it then takes on distinctly the characteristics which mark its later development. The revival appears first in Italy and France; from these regions it spreads during the next three centuries into England, Spain, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Scotland.

Certain facts concerning this educational Renaissance should be clearly understood in connection with the following selections:

1. To men of the times it first showed itself as a renewal of activity in existing schools. Here and there appeared eminent teachers; to them resorted increasing numbers of students from greater and greater distances. In a few years some of these institutions became schools of international fame. The newly roused enthusiasm for study in France at the opening of the twelfth century is thus described by a modern writer:

The scholastic fever, which was soon to inflame the youth of the whole of Europe, had already set in. You could not travel far over the rough roads of France without meeting some footsore scholar, making for the nearest large monastery or cathedral town. Before many years, it is true, there arose an elaborate system of conveyance from town to town, an organization of messengers to run between the chateau and the school; but in the earlier days, and, to some extent, even later, the scholar wandered afoot through the long provinces of France. Robbers, frequently in the service of the lord of the land, infested every province. It was safest to don the coarse frieze tunic of the pilgrim, without pockets, sling your little wax tablets and stylus at your girdle, strap a wallet of bread and herbs and salt on your back, and laugh at the nervous folk who peeped out from their coaches over a hedge of pikes and daggers. Few monasteries refused a meal or a rough bed to the wandering scholar. Rarely was any fee exacted for the lesson given. For the rest, none were too proud to earn a few sous by sweeping, or drawing water, or amusing with a tune on the reed-flute; or to wear the cast-off tunics of their masters.[1]

This account refers to the study of logic and theology, which soon became dominant in Paris and in various cathedral schools in other parts of France. With slight modifications it would describe also the revival of interest in Roman law in Italy, especially at Bologna.

2. The revival was concerned mainly with professional, or—as later appeared—university, education. The prevailing interest was in Law, Medicine, Theology, and the philosophy of Aristotle. Schools of lower grade were much influenced by the intellectual activity of the times, but the characteristic product of this movement was the university. The universities, organized as corporations, with their teachers divided into faculties, their definite courses of study, their examinations, their degrees, their privileges, and their cosmopolitan communities of students, were not only the result of the revival, but they were institutions essentially new in the history of education, and the models for all universities which have since been established.

3. Between the latter part of the twelfth century and 1500 A.D. at least seventy-nine universities were established in western Europe. There may have been others of which no trace remains. Several of them were short-lived, some lasting but a few years; ten disappeared before 1500. Since that date twenty others have become extinct. The forty-nine European universities of to-day which were founded before 1500 have all passed through many changes in character and various periods of prosperity and decline, but we still recognize in them the characteristic features mentioned above, and the same features reappear in the "most modern, most practical, most unpicturesque of the institutions which now bear the name of 'University.'" This is one illustration of the statement on page 2 that the daily and hourly conduct of university affairs in the twentieth century is to a surprising degree influenced by what universities did seven centuries ago.

4. The term "University" has always been difficult to define. In the Middle Ages its meaning varied in different places, and changed somewhat in the centuries between 1200 and 1500 A.D. In these pages it signifies in general an institution for higher education; and "institution" means, not a group of buildings, but a society of teachers or students organized, and ultimately incorporated, for mutual aid and protection, and for the purpose of imparting or securing higher education. Originally, universities were merely guilds of Masters or Scholars; as such they were imitations of the numerous guilds of artisans and tradesmen already in existence. Out of the simple organization and customs of these guilds grew the elaborate organization and ceremonials of later universities.

There were two main types of university organization,—the University of Masters, and the University of Students. In the former,—which is the type of all modern universities,—the government and instruction of students were regulated by the Masters or Doctors. In the latter, these matters were controlled by the students, who also prescribed rules for the conduct of the Masters. Paris and Bologna were, respectively, the original representatives of these types. Paris was the original University of Masters; its pattern was copied, with some modifications, by the universities of England, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Scotland. Bologna was the archetypal University of Students; its organization was imitated, also with variations, by the universities Italy, France (except Paris), Spain, and Portugal.

In and after the thirteenth century, the place or school in which a university existed was almost always called a Studium Generale, i.e. a place to which students resorted, or were invited, from all countries. This term was used in contrast to Studium Particulare, i.e. any school in which a Master in a town taught a few scholars. In the Studium Generale instruction was given by several Masters, in one or more of the Faculties of Arts, Law, Medicine, and Theology. In time the term came to be synonymous with "University"; it is so used in this book.

5. The theoretically complete mediaeval university contained the four faculties of Arts, Theology, Law, and Medicine. These we find reproduced in some modern universities. Then, as now, however, it was not common to find them all equally well developed in any single institution; many possessed only two or three faculties, and some had but one. There are rare instances of five faculties, owing to the subdivision of Law. At Paris, the strongest faculties were those of Arts and Theology; Law and Medicine were in comparison but feebly represented. At Bologna, on the other hand, the study of Law was predominant, although the Arts, Medicine, and Theology were also taught there.

6. The studies pursued in the various faculties in and after the thirteenth century were in general as follows:

In the Faculty of Arts:

1. The "three philosophies"—Natural, Moral, and Rational—of Aristotle, together with his Logic, Rhetoric, and Politics. Of these, Logic and Rhetoric are included below.

2. The Seven Liberal Arts, comprising

{Grammar. (a) {Rhetoric. {Logic.

{Arithmetic. (b) {Geometry. {Music. {Astronomy.

In the Faculty of Law:

1. The Corpus Juris Civilis, or body of Roman Civil Law, compiled at Constantinople 529-533 A.D., under direction of the Roman Emperor Justinian.

2. The Canon Law, or law governing the Church, of which the first part was compiled by the monk Gratian about the year 1142. His compilation of the Canon Law is usually referred to as the Decretum Gratiani.

In the Faculty of Theology:

1. The "Sentences" of Peter Lombard. 2. The Bible.

In the Faculty of Medicine:

1. The works of Hippocrates. 2. The works of Galen. 3. Medical treatises of various Arabic and Jewish writers of the seventh century A.D. and later.

These studies will be described more fully in connection with the selections on pages 37-83.

Not all of the works mentioned under these divisions were included in the regular programme of any university; the actual studies required for the various degrees consisted rather in selections from these works. The selections chosen varied somewhat in different universities; moreover, the course in any given university changed from time to time. Consequently the degrees of A.B. and A.M., as well as degrees in Law, Medicine, and Theology, probably never represented exactly the same set of studies in any considerable number of universities, nor did they even represent exactly the same work for many years in any single university. This corresponds exactly with the situation in modern universities, although at present the variations in studies for the same degree are greater and the changes in any given university are usually more rapid than they were in the universities of the Middle Ages.

It is necessary to remember that all the text-books were in Latin. Those written originally in other tongues were translated into Latin. All university exercises were conducted in that language, and frequently the regulations required students to use Latin in conversation outside the lecture halls. Latin was, in short, the universal academic tongue. Obviously, the use of the same language everywhere facilitated the migration of students and teachers from one university to another.

7. Although the first universities were not established as organized institutions until the latter part of the twelfth century, the intellectual movement which gave rise to them was well under way a century earlier. It showed itself first in the rise of great teachers, some of whom were also notable scholars. There has never been a clearer demonstration of the central importance in education of the distinguished teacher:

At the beginning of the twelfth century three schools are distinguished in the contemporary literature above the multitude which had sprung into new life in France and were connected with so many of her cathedrals and religious houses. These three were at Laon, Paris, and Chartres. It would be more accurate to say, they were the schools of Anselm and Ralph, of William of Champeaux, and of Bernard Sylvester. For in those days the school followed the teacher, not the teacher the school. Wherever a master lived, there he taught; and thither, in proportion to his renown, students assembled from whatever quarter.... The tie was a personal one, and was generally severed by the master's death. A succession of great teachers in one place was a rare exception; nor is such an exception afforded by the history of any of the three schools to which we have referred.[2]

In these days, when education requires a more and more elaborate equipment of buildings, libraries, laboratories, and museums, it is no longer possible for teachers, however distinguished, to attract throngs of students to places absolutely unprovided with the resources for teaching, or to provide these resources anywhere on the spur of the moment In the twelfth century, on the contrary, the only necessary equipment consisted in the master, his small library which could be carried by one man; wax tablets, or pens, ink, and vellum or parchment for the students; and any kind of a shelter which would serve as a protection from the weather. Not even benches or chairs were necessary, for students commonly sat upon the straw-strewn floors of the lecture rooms. Thus the school might easily follow the teacher in his migrations, and easily sink into obscurity or disappear upon his death or cessation from teaching. The autobiography of Abelard (see page 14), recounts an experience unusual in itself, but perfectly illustrative of the point. After relating various misfortunes and persecutions he continues:

So I betook myself to a certain wilderness previously known to me, and there on land given to me by certain ones, with the consent of the Bishop of the region, I constructed out of reeds and straw a sort of oratory in the name of the Holy Trinity where, in company with one of our clergy, I might truly chant to the Lord: "Lo I have wandered far off, and have remained in the wilderness."

As soon as Scholars learned this they began to gather from every side, leaving cities and castles to dwell in the wilderness, and in place of their spacious homes to build small tabernacles for themselves, and in place of delicate food to live on herbs of the fields and coarse bread, and in place of soft couches to make up [beds of] straw and grass, and in place of tables to pile up sods.[3]


[Footnote 1: Adapted from Joseph McCabe, Abelard, pp. 7, 8.]

[Footnote 2: R.L. Poole, Illustrations from the History of Medieval Thought, p. 109.]

[Footnote 3: Petri Abaelardi Opera, edd. Cousin et Jourdain, I, p. 25.]



The influences contributing to the rise of universities were numerous, and in many cases obscure. The most important were: 1. Inspiring and original teachers, who gathered about them great numbers of students. 2. A new method of teaching. 3. A new group of studies. 4. Privileges granted to scholars and masters by civil and ecclesiastical authorities. 5. The direct initiative of those authorities in establishing universities by decree. The readings which follow are chosen to illustrate these influences.


(a) A Pre-University Teacher: Abelard

Among the teachers of the early part of the twelfth century, two were of especial significance in the later intellectual development of the period,—Irnerius (ca. 1070-1130) at Bologna, and Abelard (1079-1142) at Paris. They were the forerunners of the universities which began to take form at the end of the twelfth century in those cities. Irnerius marks a new epoch in the study of the body of Roman Law; following the traditions of teaching which he established, the University of Bologna became the most prominent school of law in Europe. In a similar way Abelard marks at Paris the introduction of a new method of teaching and investigation, an attitude of intellectual independence on theological questions, and a permanently influential position in scholastic philosophy; following his initiative the University of Paris became the leading school of Philosophy and Theology. These two institutions,—Bologna and Paris,—were in turn the models for all other mediaeval universities, not only in organization, but also so far as the study of Law, Theology, and Philosophy was concerned. Hence, indirectly, the influence of Abelard and Irnerius was widely diffused and long continued.

The documents relating to Irnerius are scanty. For a discussion of his influence on the teaching of Roman Law, see Rashdall, I, ch. iv, and especially pages 121-127. Concerning Abelard the records are abundant.

Abelard, the eldest son of a noble family of Pallet (Palais), Brittany, was in his day the most renowned teacher in France. Instead of becoming the head of his family and adopting the career of a soldier, he abandoned his birthright and the profession of arms for the life of the scholar and the battlefields of debate. His early life as a student wandering from school to school is thus described by himself:

The more fully and easily I advanced in the study of letters the more ardently I clung to them, and I became so enamored of them that, abandoning to my brothers the pomp of glory, together with my inheritance and the rights of the eldest son, I resigned from the Councils of War that I might be educated in the camp of Minerva. And since among all the weapons of philosophy I preferred the arms of logic, I exchanged accoutrements and preferred the conflicts of debate to the trophies of war. Thenceforward I walked through the various provinces engaging in debates wherever I had heard that the study of this art [logic] flourished, and thus became a rival of the Peripatetics.

At length [about 1100 A.D.] I reached Paris, where for some time this art had been prospering, and went to William of Champeaux, my instructor, distinguished at the time in this particular by his work and reputation as a teacher. Staying with him for a while, I was at first acceptable, but shortly after was very annoying to him, namely, when I tried to refute some of his opinions, and often ventured to argue against him and, not seldom, seemed to surpass him in debate.[4]

In scholis militare—to wage war in the schools—was the phrase aptly used to describe this mode of debate. William of Champeaux was then the head of the cathedral school of Notre Dame and the leading teacher of logic in France. "Within a few months Abelard made his authority totter, and set his reputation on the wane. In six or seven years he drove him in shame and humiliation from his chair, after a contest which filled Christendom with its echoes." By overcoming William in debate he established his own reputation as a teacher. At various times between 1108 and 1139 he taught in Paris, whither crowds of students came to hear him. His fame was at its height about 1117, shortly after his appointment to the chair which William himself had held. Few teachers have ever attracted a following so large and so devoted. His remarkable success in drawing to Paris students from all quarters is vividly described by a modern writer:

The pupil who had left Paris when both William and Abelard disappeared in 1113 would find a marvellous change on returning to it about 1116 or 1117. He would find the lecture hall and the cloister and the quadrangle, under the shadow of the great cathedral, filled with as motley a crowd of youths and men as any scene in France could show. Little groups of French and Norman and Breton nobles chattered together in their bright silks and fur-tipped mantles, with slender swords dangling from embroidered belts, vying with each other in the length and crookedness of their turned-up shoes. Anglo-Saxons looked on, in long fur-lined cloaks, tight breeches, and leathern hose swathed with bands of many colored cloth. Stern-faced northerners, Poles and Germans, in fur caps and with colored girdles and clumsy shoes, or with feet roughly tied up in the bark of trees, waited impatiently for the announcement of Li Mestre. Pale-faced southerners had braved the Alps and the Pyrenees under the fascination of "the wizard." Shaven and sandalled monks, black-habited clerics, black canons, secular and regular, black in face too, some of them, heresy hunters from the neighboring abbey of St. Victor, mingled with the crowd of young and old, grave and gay, beggars and nobles, sleek citizens and bronzed peasants....

Over mountains and over seas the mingled reputation of the city and the school were carried, and a remarkable stream set in from Germany, Switzerland, Italy (even from proud Rome), Spain, and England; even "distant Brittany sent you its animals to be instructed," wrote Prior Fulques to Abelard (a Breton) a year or two afterwards.[5]

What was there in the teaching of Abelard which brought together this extraordinary gathering? One may admit the presence of unanalysable genius in this master, and still find certain qualities indispensable to the efficient teacher of to-day,—a winning personality, fulness of knowledge, and technical skill as a teacher. These are admirably set forth in the following description:

It is not difficult to understand the charm of Abelard's teaching. Three qualities are assigned to it by the writers of the period, some of whom studied at his feet; clearness, richness in imagery, and lightness of touch are said to have been the chief characteristics of his teaching. Clearness is, indeed, a quality of his written works, though they do not naturally convey an impression of his oral power. His splendid gifts and versatility, supported by a rich voice, a charming personality, a ready and sympathetic use of human literature, and a freedom from excessive piety, gave him an immeasurable advantage over all the teachers of the day. Beside most of them, he was as a butterfly to an elephant. A most industrious study of the few works of Aristotle and of the Roman classics that were available, a retentive memory, an ease in manipulating his knowledge, a clear, penetrating mind, with a corresponding clearness of expression, a ready and productive fancy, a great knowledge of men, a warmer interest in things human than in things divine, a laughing contempt for authority, a handsome presence, and a musical delivery—these were his gifts.[6]

He takes his place in history, apart from the ever-interesting drama and the deep pathos of his life, in virtue of two distinctions. They are, firstly, an extraordinary ability in imparting such knowledge as the poverty of the age afforded—the facts of his career reveal it; and, secondly, a mind of such marvellous penetration that it conceived great truths which it has taken humanity seven or eight centuries to see—this will appear as we proceed. It was the former of these gifts that made him, in literal truth, the centre of learned and learning Christendom, the idol of several thousand eager scholars. Nor, finally, were these thousands the "horde of barbarians" that jealous Master Roscelin called them. It has been estimated that a pope, nineteen cardinals, and more than fifty bishops and archbishops were at one time among his pupils.[7]

Abelard's fame as a teacher, with the consequent increase of masters and students at Paris, undoubtedly paved the way for the formation of the University later in the century. This is not however his greatest distinction in the history of education. His most enduring influences came from (1) his independence in thinking, (2) his novel method of dealing with debatable questions, and (3) his contributions to scholastic philosophy and theology. The first two of these are considered below; the last belongs more properly to the history of philosophy.

(1) Nothing singles Abelard out more clearly among the teachers of his time than his intellectual independence. Most of his contemporaries accepted unquestioningly the view that in religious matters faith precedes reason. One might seek to justify one's faith by reason, but preliminary doubt as to what should be the specific articles of one's faith was inadmissible. As they supposed, these articles had been determined by the church fathers—Augustine, Jerome, and others—and by the Bible. Their view had been formulated by Anselm of Canterbury in the preceding century:

"I do not seek to know in order that I may believe, but I believe in order that I may know." "The Christian ought to advance to knowledge through faith, not come to faith through knowledge." "The proper order demands that we believe the deep things of Christian faith before we presume to reason about them."

With his keenly critical, questioning mind Abelard found a flaw in this position: on many questions of faith the authorities themselves disagreed. "In such cases,"—he said in effect,—"how shall I come to any definite belief unless I first reason it out?" "By doubting we are led to inquiry, and by inquiry we attain the truth." His attitude—as contrasted with that of Anselm, given above—is set forth in the prologue to his Sic et Non (Yes and No):

In truth, constant or frequent questioning is the first key to wisdom; and it is, indeed, to the acquiring of this [habit of] questioning with absorbing eagerness that the famous philosopher, Aristotle, the most clear sighted of all, urges the studious when he says: "It is perhaps difficult to speak confidently in matters of this sort unless they have often been investigated. Indeed, to doubt in special cases will not be without advantage." For through doubting we come to inquiry and through inquiry we perceive the truth. As the Truth Himself says: "Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you." And He also, instructing us by His own example, about the twelfth year of His life wished to be found sitting in the midst of the doctors, asking them questions, exhibiting to us by His asking of questions the appearance of a pupil, rather than, by preaching, that of a teacher, although there is in Him, nevertheless, the full and perfect wisdom of God.

Now when a number of quotations from [various] writings are introduced they spur on the reader and allure him into seeking the truth in proportion as the authority of the writing itself is commended ...

In accordance, then, with these forecasts it is our pleasure to collect different sayings of the holy Fathers as we planned, just as they have come to mind, suggesting (as they do) some questioning from their apparent disagreement, in order that they may stimulate tender readers to the utmost effort in seeking the truth and may make them keener as the result of their seeking.[8]

(2) The new method which Abelard formed for discovering the truth is presented in the "Yes and No." He first stated in the form of a thesis for debate the question on which doubt existed. The book contains one hundred and fifty-eight such questions. He then brought together under each question the conflicting opinions of various authorities, and, without stating his own view, left the student to reason for himself in the matter. There is no doubt that this method served his purpose to "stimulate tender readers to the utmost effort in seeking the truth." His boldness in considering some of these questions debatable at all, the novelty of the doubt which they imply, and their incisive challenge to keen thinking are evident from the following list:

1. That faith is based upon reason, et contra.

5. That God is not single, et contra.

6. That God is tripartite, et contra.

8. That in the Trinity it is not to be stated that there is more than one Eternal being, et contra.

11. That the Divine Persons mutually differ, et contra.

12. That in the Trinity each is one with the other, et contra.

13. That God the Father is the cause of the son, et contra.

14. That the Son is without beginning, et contra.

27. That God judges with foreknowledge, et non.

28. That the providence of God is the cause of things happening, et non.

32. That to God all things are possible, et non.

36. That God does whatever he wishes, et non.

37. That nothing happens contrary to the will of God, et contra.

38. That God knows all things, et non.

53. That Adam's sin was great, et non.

84. That man's first sin did not begin through the persuasion of the devil, et contra.

55. That Eve only, not Adam, was beguiled, et contra.

56. That by sinning man lost free will, et non.

69. That the Son of God was predestinated, et contra.

79. That Christ was a deceiver, et non.

85. That the hour of the Lord's resurrection is uncertain, et contra.

116. That the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children, et contra.

122. That everybody should be allowed to marry, et contra.

141. That works of sanctity do not justify a man, et contra.

144. That at times we all sin against our will, et contra.

150. That sins are not remitted without confession, et contra.

153. That a lie is never permissible, et contra.

154. That a man may destroy himself for some reasons, et contra.

155. That Christians may not for any reason kill a man, et contra.

156. That it is lawful to kill a man, et non.

How he brought out the conflict of opinions is shown by the following example:


Jerome on Isaiah, Bk. V. He who cuts the throat of a man of blood, is not a man of blood.

Idem, On the Epistle to the Galatians: He who smites the wicked because they are wicked and whose reason for the murder is that he may slay the base, is a servant of the Lord.

Idem, on Jeremiah: For the punishment of homicides, impious persons and poisoners is not bloodshed, but serving the law.

Cyprian, in the Ninth Kind of Abuse: The King ought to restrain theft, punish deeds of adultery, cause the wicked to perish from off the face of the earth, refuse to allow parricides and perjurers to live.

Augustine: Although it is manslaughter to slaughter a man, a person may sometimes be slain without sin. For both a soldier in the case of an enemy and a judge or his official in the case of a criminal, and the man from whose hand, perhaps without his will or knowledge, a weapon has flown, do not seem to me to sin, but merely to kill a man.

Likewise: The soldier is ordered by law to kill the enemy, and if he shall prove to have refrained from such slaughter, he pays the penalty at the hands of his commander. Shall we not go so far as to call these laws unjust or rather no laws at all? For that which was not just does not seem to me to be a law.

Idem, on Exodus ch. xxvii: The Israelites committed no theft in spoiling the Egyptians, but rendered a service to God at his bidding, just as when the servant of a judge kills a man whom the law hath ordered to be killed; certainly if he does it of his own volition he is a homicide, even though he knows that the man whom he executes ought to be executed by the judge.

Idem, on Leviticus ch. lxxv: When a man is justly put to death, the law puts him to death, not thou.

Idem, Bk. I of the "City of God": Thou shall not kill, except in the case of those whose death God orders, or else when a law hath been passed to suit the needs of the time and express command hath been laid upon a person. But he does not kill who owes service to the person who gives him his orders, for he is as it were a mere sword for the person who employs his assistance.

Likewise: When a soldier, in obedience to the power under which he is legitimately placed, kills a man, by no law of the state is he accused of murder; nay if he has not done it, he is accused of desertion and insubordination. But if he had acted under his own initiative and of his own will, he would have incurred the charge of shedding human blood. And so he is punished if he does not do when ordered that for which he would receive punishment if he did it without orders.

Idem, to Publicola: Counsel concerning the slaying of men pleaseth me not, that none may be slain by them, unless perhaps a man is a soldier or in a public office, so that he does the deed not in his own behalf, but for others and for the state, accepting power legitimately conferred, if it is consonant with the task imposed on him.

Likewise: It has been said: let us not resist the evil man, let not the vengeance delight us which feeds the mind on others' ill, let us not neglect the reproofs of men.

Idem, to Marcella: If that earthly commonwealth of thine keep to the teachings of Christ, even wars will not be waged without goodwill, for with pitying heart even wars if possible will be waged by the good, so that the lusts of desire may be subdued and those faults destroyed which ought under just rule to be either rooted out or chastised. For if Christian training condemned all wars, this should rather be the advice given in the gospel for their safety to the soldiers who ask for it, namely to throw aside their arms and retire altogether from the field. But this is the word spoken to them: Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.

He warns them that the wages that belong to them should satisfy them, but he by no means forbids them to take the field.

Idem, to his comrade Boniface: "I will give thee and thine a useful counsel: Take arms in thy hands; let prayer strike the ears of the creator; because in battle the heavens are opened, God looks forth and awards the victory to the side he sees to be the righteous one."

Idem: The wars to be waged we undertake either at the command of God or under some lawful rule. Else John when the soldiers to be baptized came to him saying, "And what shall we do?" would make answer to them: "Cast aside your arms, leave the service; smite no man; ruin no man."

But because he knew that they did these things because they were in the service, that they were not slayers of men, but servants of the law; and not avengers of their own injuries, but guardians of the public safety, his answer to them was: "Do violence to no man," etc.

Isidore, Etymologiae, Bk. XVIII, ch. iii: A righteous war is one waged according to orders, to recover property or drive back the enemy.

Pope Nicholas to the questions of the Bulgarians: If there is no urgent need, not only in Lent but at all times, men should abstain from battles. If however there is an unavoidable and urgent occasion, and it is not Lent, beyond all doubt preparations for wars should be sparingly made in one's own defence or in that of one's country or the laws of one's fathers; lest forsooth this word be said: A man if he has an attack to make, does not carefully take counsel beforehand for his own safety and that of others, nor does he guard against injury to holy religion.[9]

This example shows the scholastic method in its earliest form,—the statement of the thesis, followed by the simple citation of authorities, pro and con. Later writers added the conclusion which they wished to support, or at least indicated it in the statement of the thesis. This, of course, robbed the method of much of its stimulus to independent thinking. Other modifications also appeared. See the examples on pages 58 ff., 121 ff. The point to be noted here is that in the "Yes and No" Abelard struck out definitely the method which was followed for centuries in a large part of university instruction. How great a part it played can be understood only by an extended study of university history. A brief discussion of the subject is given on pages 35-37. The stimulating way in which Abelard used it was potent in drawing students to Paris. Among those who came to hear him was John of Salisbury.

(b) A Pre-University Scholar: John of Salisbury

John of Salisbury (c. 1120-1180), "for thirty years the central figure of English learning," "beyond dispute the best-read man of his time," is a good example of the more serious students among those who travelled abroad for study in the early days of the revival described above. He spent twelve years (1136-1148) at Paris and at Chartres. His "Metalogicus" (completed about 1159) is perhaps the best contemporary account of educational affairs in France in the twelfth century.

The book is interesting now mainly for its account of the writer's training, for its advocacy of liberal studies as a preparation for logic, and for its vigorous argument in favor of using all of the works of Aristotle then known, several of which had only recently become accessible. It was written originally, however, to discredit the educational practices of a certain person—designated by the pseudonym "Cornificius "—who was offering a short and showy education, and spreading it abroad through his disciples. The description of "Cornificius" and his school is not necessarily true, but some passages are quoted from it to illustrate a mode of educational argument thoroughly characteristic of the Middle Ages,—and not unknown to-day. They also give point, by contrast, to the education and views of John Salisbury himself. John begins by personal abuse of "Cornificius":

The shamelessness of his looks, the rapacity of his hands, the frivolousness of his bearing, the foulness of his manners (which the whole neighborhood spews out), the obscenity of his lust, the ugliness of his body, the baseness of his life, his spotted reputation, I would lay bare and thrust into the face of the public, did not my respect for his Christian name restrain me. For being mindful of my profession, and of the fraternal communion which we have in the Lord, I have believed that indulgence should be given to his person while, nevertheless, indulgence is not given to his sin.

Having fairly joined battle by several pages of vituperation, John proceeds to describe his opponent's manner of teaching:

But I object vigorously to his views, which have destroyed many, because he has a crowd that believes in him, and although the new Cornificius is more senseless than the old, yet a mob of foolish ones agrees with him. And there are in particular some of these who, although inert and slothful, are eager to seem rather than to be wise.

* * * * *

For my part I am not at all surprised if after being employed at a large fee, and beating his drum a long time, he taught his credulous hearer to know nothing. For he, too, was equally untaught by teachers, since, without eloquence, and yet verbose, and lacking the fruit of ideas, he continuously throws to the wind the foliage of words ... He feeds his hearers on fables and trifles, and if what he promises is true, he will make them eloquent without the need of skill, and philosophers by a short cut and without effort.... In that school of philosophizers at that time the question whether the pig which is being led to market is held by the man or by the string, was considered insoluble. Also, whether he who bought the whole cloak bought the cowl. Decidedly incongruous was the speech in which these words, "congruous" and "incongruous argument" and "reason" did not make a great noise, with multifold negative particles and transitions through "esse" and "non-esse." ... A wordy clamor was enough to secure the victory, and he who introduced anything from any source reached the goal of his proposition.... Therefore they suddenly became expert philosophers, for he who had come there illiterate delayed in the schools scarcely longer than the time within which young birds get their feathers. So the fresh teachers from the schools and the young birds from the nests flew off together, having lingered an equal length of time.... They talked only of congruity or reason, and argument resounded from the lips of all, and to give its common name to an ass, or a man, or any of nature's works, was like a crime, or was much too inelegant or crude, and abhorrent to a philosopher.... Hence this seething pot of speech in which the stupid old man exults, insulting those who revere the originators of the Arts because when he pretends to devote his energies to them he finds nothing useful in them.[10]

John's own training was in marked contrast to all this. Instead of remaining in the schools "scarcely longer than the time within which young birds get their feathers," he spent, as above noted, twelve years in study. Instead of devoting himself to logic and disputation alone, he received an extensive training in the classics and in theology. His first teacher at Paris was Abelard.

When I was a very young man, I went to study in France, the year after the death of that lion in the cause of justice, Henry [the First], king of England. There I sought out that famous teacher and Peripatetic philosopher of Pallet [Abelard], who at that time presided at Mont St. Genevieve, and was the subject of admiration to all men. At his feet I received the first rudiments of the dialectic art [logic], and shewed the utmost avidity to pick up and store away in my mind all that fell from his lips. When, however, much to my regret, Abelard left us, I attended Master Alberic, a most obstinate Dialectician, and unflinching assailant of the Nominal Sect. Two years I stayed at Mont St. Genevieve, under the tuition of Alberic and Master Robert de Melun.

Then follows a characterization of these teachers. The statement that one of them went to Bologna for the further study of logic indicates that that place was eminent for its teaching of dialectics as well as for the study of law.

One of these teachers was scrupulous even to minutiae, and everywhere found some subject to raise a question; for the smoothest surface presented inequalities to him, and there was no rod so smooth that he could not find a knot in it, and shew how it might be got rid of. The other of the two was prompt in reply, and never for the sake of subterfuge avoided a question that was proposed; but he would choose the contradictory side, or by multiplicity of words would show that a simple answer could not be given. In all questions, therefore, he was subtle and profuse, whilst the other in his answer was perspicuous, brief, and to the point If two such characters could ever have been united in the same person, he would be the best hand at disputation that our times have produced. Both of them possessed acute wit, and an indomitable perseverance, and I believe they would have turned out great and distinguished men in Physical Studies, if they had supported themselves on the great base of Literature, and more closely followed the tracks of the ancients, instead of taking such pride in their own discoveries.

All this is said with reference to the time during which I attended on them. For one of them afterwards went to Bologna, and there unlearnt what he had taught: on his return also, he untaught it: whether the change was for the better or the worse, I leave to the judgment of those who heard him before and after. The other of the two was also a proficient in the more exalted Philosophy of Divinity, wherein he obtained a distinguished name.

With these teachers I remained two years, and got so versed in commonplaces, rules, and elements in general, which boys study, and in which my teachers were most weighty, that I seemed to myself to know them as well as I knew my own nails and fingers. There was one thing which I had certainly attained to, namely, to estimate my own knowledge much higher than it deserved. I thought myself a young scholar, because I was ready in what I had been taught.

Evidence external to this narrative shows that he now went to the school at Chartres,—some sixty miles southwest of Paris,—which was one of three great French schools of the period (see p. 10). During the first half of the twelfth century it became famous under the teaching of the brothers Theodoric and Bernard Sylvester, who are both mentioned in the following passages. The school was distinguished in particular for its devotion to Grammar, Rhetoric, and classical Latin literature; in this respect it was in marked contrast to Paris, where Logic and Theology were the prevailing studies.

I then, beginning to reflect and to measure my strength, attended on the Grammarian William de Conches during the space of three years; and read much at intervals: nor shall I ever regret the way in which my time was then spent. After this I became a follower of Richard l'Eveque, a man who was master of every kind of learning, and whose breast contained much more than his tongue dared give utterance to; for he had learning rather than eloquence, truthfulness rather than vanity, virtue rather than ostentation. With him I reviewed all that I had learned from the others, besides certain things, which I now learnt for the first time, relating to the Quadrivium, in which I had already acquired some information from the German Hardewin. I also again studied Rhetoric, which I had before learnt very superficially with some other studies from Master Theodoric, but without understanding what I read. Afterwards I learnt it more fully from Peter Hely.[11]

In another chapter, which is here inserted in the narrative, John describes in detail the teaching at Chartres. This is one of the most complete accounts which we have of the manner and the matter of the teaching in a twelfth-century school. He begins by a general discussion of the importance of Grammar, which is the "foundation and root" of reading, teaching, and reflection. Throughout this discussion he refers constantly to Quintilian's "Institutes of Oratory." The study of Rhetoric and of other Arts prepares one for the proper understanding of Literature: "The greater the number of Arts with which one is imbued, and the more fully he is imbued with them, so much the more completely will he appreciate the elegance of the authors, and the more clearly will he teach them."

As to the study of Literature, care should be used in selecting the best authors. Bernard, he reports, "always said that unnecessary reading should be avoided, and that the writings of illustrious authors were sufficient; since to study whatever all that the most contemptible men have ever said results in too great torture or in idle boasting, and hinders and even overwhelms the intelligence, which is better left empty for other writings." The reading chosen was classical Latin literature; "in this reverent dependence upon the ancients, lies the main peculiarity of the school of Chartres," which under Bernard and his brother "enjoyed a peculiar distinction, continually growing until it became almost an unapproached pre-eminence among the schools of Gaul."[12]

This reading is in turn a preparation for Philosophy. "He who aspires to Philosophy should understand reading, teaching and reflection, together with practice in good works." "Search Virgil and Lucan, and there, no matter of what philosophy you are professor, you will find it in the making." All this is in marked contrast to the method of "Cornificius," who proposed to train philosophers "suddenly." John continues:

Bernard of Chartres, the most copious source of letters in Gaul in modern times, followed this method, and in the reading of authors showed what was simple, and fell under the ordinary rules; the figures of grammar, the adornments of rhetoric, the quibbles of sophistries; and where the subject of his own lesson suggested reading related to other arts, these matters he brought into full view, yet in such wise that he did not teach everything about each topic but, in proportion to the capacity of his audience, dispensed to them in due time the full scope of the subject. And because the brilliancy of any speech depends either on Propriety (that is, the correct agreement of adjective or verb with the substantive) or on Metathesis (that is, the transfer of the meaning of an expression for a worthy reason to another signification), these were the things which he took every opportunity to inculcate in the minds of his hearers.

And since the memory is strengthened by exercise and the wits are sharpened by imitating what is heard, he urged some by warnings, and some by floggings and punishments [to the constant practice of memorizing and imitation]. They were individually required on the following day to reproduce some part of what they had heard the day before, some more, some less, for with them the following day was the pupil of the day preceding.

Evening drill, which was called declension, was packed with so much grammar that if one gave a whole year to it he would have at his command, if he were not unusually dull, a method of speaking and writing, and he could not be ignorant of expressions which are in common use.... For those of the boys for whom preliminary exercises in imitating prose or poetry were prescribed, he announced the poets or orators and bade them imitate their example, pointing out the way they joined their words and the elegance of their perorations.

But if any one to make his own work brilliant had borrowed the cloak of another he detected the theft and convicted him, though he did not very often inflict a punishment; but he directed the culprit thus convicted, if the poorness of his work had so merited, to condescend with modest favor to express the exact meaning of the author; and he made the one who imitated his predecessors worthy of imitation by his successors.

The following matters, too, he taught among the first rudiments and fixed them in their minds:—the value of order; what is praiseworthy in embellishment and in [choice of] words; where there is tenuity and, as it were, emaciation of speech; where, a pleasing abundance; where, excess; and where, a due limit in all things....

And since in the entire preliminary training of those who are to be taught there is nothing more useful than to grow accustomed to that which must needs be done with skill, they repeatedly wrote prose and poetry every day, and trained themselves by mutual comparisons,—a training than which nothing is more effective for eloquence, nothing more expeditious for learning; and it confers the greatest benefit upon life, at least, if affection [rather than envy] rules these comparisons, if humility is not lost in literary proficiency.[13]

John's stay at Chartres (1138-1141) made him a permanent advocate of liberal education; but to no avail; the influence of Paris and the rising tide of Aristotelianism gained the day. As a champion of the newly-recovered works of Aristotle (see p. 42) he was more in accord with the tendencies of his time.

The concluding section of the account narrates John's return to Paris, his further studies there (1141-1148), and his visit to his old school on the "Mount":

From hence I was withdrawn by the poverty of my condition, the request of my companions, and the advice of my friends, that I should undertake the office of a tutor. I obeyed their wishes; and on my return [to Paris] after three years, finding Master Gilbert [de la Porree] I studied Logic and Divinity with him: but he was very speedly removed from us, and in his place we had Robert de Poule, a man amiable alike for his rectitude and his attainments. Then came Simon de Poissy, who was a faithful reader, but an obtuse disputator. These two were my teachers in Theology only.

Twelve years having passed away, whilst I was engaged in these various occupations, I determined to revisit my old companions, whom I found still engaged with Logic at Mont St. Genevieve, and to confer with them touching old matters of debate; that we might by mutual comparison measure together our several progress. I found them as before, and where they were before; nor did they appear to have reached the goal in unravelling the old questions, nor had they added one jot of a proposition. The aims that once inspired them, inspired them still: they had progressed in one point only: they had unlearned moderation, they knew not modesty; in such wise that one might despair of their recovery. And thus experience taught me a manifest conclusion, that, whereas dialectic furthers other studies, so if it remain by itself it lies bloodless and barren, nor does it quicken the soul to yield fruit of philosophy, except the same conceive from elsewhere.[14]

This was doubtless one of the experiences which led John to vigorous argument on the futility of devotion to Logic alone, and on the importance of a liberal education:

That eloquence is of no effect without wisdom is a saying that is frequent and true. Whence it is evident that to be of effect it operates within the limits of wisdom. Therefore eloquence is effective in proportion to the measure of wisdom which each one has acquired; for the former does harm if it is dissociated from the latter.

From this it follows that dialectic, which is the quickest and most prompt among the hand-maids of eloquence, is of use to each one in proportion to the measure of his knowledge. For it is of most use to him who knows the most and of least use to him who knows little. For as the sword of Hercules in the hand of a pygmy or dwarf is ineffective, while the same sword in the hand of Achilles or Hector strikes down everything like a thunderbolt, so dialectic, if it is deprived of the vigor of the other disciplines is to a certain degree crippled and almost useless. If it is vigorous through the might of the others, it is powerful in destroying all falsehood and, to ascribe the minimum to it, it is adequate for the proper discussion of all things ...

Now it is very easy for each workman to talk about his own art; but to do skilfully what the art requires, is most difficult. For what physician is there who does not talk often and much about elements, and humors, and complexions, and diseases, and the rest that pertain to physic? But he who gets well on such talk could well have afforded to be even sicker. What ethical teacher has not an abundance of rules for good living so long as they exist only on his lips? But it is clearly a much harder task to express them in actual life. Mechanics, individually, talk glibly about their own arts, but not one of them so lightly vies (in practice) with the architect or the boxer. It is the same in every other line. So it is very easy to talk about definition, arguments, or genus and the like, but to devise these same things within the limits of a single art for the purpose of performing fully the functions of the art, is far more difficult [i.e. to discuss logic in the abstract is easy, but to reason logically in any specific field of knowledge is difficult]. Therefore he who is hampered by a dearth of the disciplines will not have the power which Dialectic promises and affords.[15]

The views of John of Salisbury concerning the study of Aristotle are indicated on pages 42-44.


The new method of study and investigation, developed by Abelard, was a second influence of importance in the growth of universities. The method itself—later known as the scholastic method—is illustrated on pages 20, 58, 121 ff. The present section therefore merely indicates the ways in which it influenced the course of higher education.

(a) The new method was one cause of the awakened interest in study and investigation. Its effect is thus described by the most learned historian of mediaeval universities:

Paris and Bologna experienced before all other schools, and nearly simultaneously, at the beginning of the twelfth century, an unexpected, almost sudden development. For in these schools alone a definite branch of learning was treated ... by a new method, adapted to contemporary needs, but hitherto unknown, or insufficiently known, to other teachers of the period; and thereby a new era of scientific investigation was inaugurated. This new method had an attractive power for teachers and scholars of various countries ... In this way the cornerstones of permanent abodes of learning were laid. The continually growing number of scholars brought with it the increase of teachers; the desire of both classes for learning was awakened; and this desire, and the combative exchange of ideas in the disputations,—which now first became really established in the schools as a result of the new method,—were effective forces to keep investigation active, and the schools themselves from decline.

In Paris, it was the cultivation of Logic, but chiefly the new method in Theology, ... developed in various ways especially by Abelard and other teachers, and extended by his contemporaries and their disciples ... which caused the revolution in the schools of that city.[16]

(b) The new method of Abelard established a new form of exposition, and consequently a new mode of teaching, in Canon Law and in Theology. The earliest university text-book in Canon Law—the "Decretum" of Gratian—adopted this method, with some modifications. It was followed in portions of the chief text-book in Theology,—the "Sentences" of Peter Lombard. Variously modified, it became the method used in all subsequent scholastic philosophy and theology. It was widely used in connection with other university studies. In general, it was to mediaeval education what the method of experiment is to the study and teaching of modern natural science. A good illustration of its recent use is Thomas Harper's "Metaphysic of the School."

(c) The scholastic method became the basis of one of the most important university exercises,—the disputation or debate, which was employed in every field of study.[17]


During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the intellectual life of western Europe was enriched by the addition of a group of books, old and new, which were destined to influence profoundly the growth of the universities, as well as the whole course of mediaeval life and thought. Without some such addition to the stock of learning higher education could hardly have developed at all, for the materials available for it previous to the twelfth century were decidedly scanty. The books presently to be described furnished a body of advanced and solid instruction, suited to the needs of the times. They formed one of the permanent influences which both developed and maintained centers of higher education, for the new learning was not less potent in attracting students than the fame of individual teachers or the new method of study.

The greater number of the books which formed the body of university instruction were recoveries from the mass of ancient and long-disused Greek and Roman learning, together with a few works of Arabic and Jewish origin. To this group belong the works of Aristotle, the body of Roman Law, and the medical works of Galen, Hippocrates, and various Arabic and Jewish physicians. In the main, these had been hitherto unknown in western Europe, or at least practically for-gotten since the days of the Roman Empire. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries they were collected and made generally accessible to students. Those not originally written in Latin were now translated into Latin; manuscript copies were multiplied and widely diffused.

But the intellectual activity of the times accomplished much more than the recovery of some fragments of ancient learning; it also created two new fields of study,—Scholastic Philosophy and Theology, and Canon Law,—and produced the text-books which marked them off as distinct and professional studies. The book which established the method of these studies was Abelard's "Yes and No" (see p. 20); but the works which furnished the substance of university instruction were, in Theology, the "Sentences" (Sententiae) of Peter Lombard, and in Canon Law, the "Decree" (Decretum) of Gratian, which was also known as the "Harmony of Contradictory Canons" (Concordia Discordantium Canonum), and additions thereto, indicated on page 56.

Thus, during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the growth of universities was stimulated by the development of a great body of learning hitherto inaccessible or unknown. The striking nature of this development will be clearer if we recall that no addition to the learning of western Europe in the least degree comparable to this had been made during the entire seven centuries preceding.

The books above mentioned did not constitute the sole resources for higher education. Besides the already long-used text-books on the Seven Liberal Arts there were mathematical and philosophical works of Arabic origin, and as the revival progressed many new books were written on the old subjects. But the books already named were fundamentally important as furnishing not only the early intellectual impulse to the growth of universities, but also the main body of studies in the Faculties of Arts, Theology, Law, and Medicine down to the year 1500. Many of them were in use at a much later date, and some—with many revisions—are still standard text-books. No one can understand the intellectual life of the universities who does not have some acquaintance with the titles and contents of these works. It may be added that acquaintance with them is essential also to the understanding of European history and literature. This section is therefore devoted to certain details concerning the early history of university studies.

(a) The Works of Aristotle

The works of Aristotle were composed in Athens, 335-322 B.C. Their history, from the time of Aristotle's death to their appearance in Latin translations in western Europe, fifteen hundred years later, cannot be here detailed. The translations commonly used in the universities were nearly all made during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The earlier ones were made in Spain, from Arabic versions of the original Greek; the later, directly from Greek copies found in Constantinople, and elsewhere in the East. The Arabic-Latin translations were very poor, owing to the two removes from the original Greek and the incapacity of the translators. Those directly from the Greek were somewhat better, yet far from satisfactory; and new versions were repeatedly made down to the end of the fifteenth century. University reforms sometimes included the adoption of these better translations (see p. 48).

The works known by the year 1300 may be classified in four groups:

{1. Categories = {Predicamenta. I. Logical { {Categoriae. treatises {2. On interpretation = {De Interpretatione. commonly { {Peri Hermeneias. referred to {3. Prior Analytics = Analytica Priora. as the Organon {4. Posterior Analytics = Analytica Posteriora. or {5. Topics = Topica. Methodology {6. Sophistical} = Sophisticae Elenchi. { Refutations}

II. Moral {7. Politics. and Practical {8. Ethics. Philosophy {9. Rhetoric. {10. Poetics. {11. A Physical Discourse (Physics). {12. On the Heavens. {13. On Generation and Destruction. {14. Meteorologies. {15. Researches about Animals. {16. On Parts of Animals. {17. On Locomotion of Animals. {18. On Generation of Animals. III. Natural {19. On the Soul. Philosophy. {20. Appendices to the work "On the Soul." { (a) On Sense and Sensible Things. { (b) On Memory and Recollection. { (c) On Sleep and Waking. { (d) On Dreams and Prophesying in Sleep. { (e) On Longevity and Shortlivedness. { (f) On Youth and Old Age. { (g) On Life and Death. { (g) On Respiration.

IV. Rational {21. Metaphysics. Philosophy. {

This encyclopedic collection became accessible in Latin translations only by slow degrees. Abelard knew only the first two (possibly also the third and fourth) works of the Organon. John of Salisbury, in the next generation, was familiar with the six treatises of the Organon, but apparently not with the others. Little seems to have been added to these until the beginning of the thirteenth century, when the Ethics, the Physics, and the Metaphysics were mentioned at Paris,—the last two as forbidden works. The great era of translation seems to have been between 1200 and 1270, when both Arabic-Latin and Greek-Latin versions were made of most of the remaining treatises. The recovery of Aristotle thus occupied more than a century and a half. During that period the intellectual life of western Europe was stimulated by the influx of hitherto unknown works of that philosopher, and weighty additions were made to the list of available studies.

As usual, the world of scholars and the universities were slow to recognize the worth of the new studies. This was due partly to the natural conservatism of teachers, and partly to the fear of ecclesiastical authorities that the study of Aristotle would give rise to heresies. Thus in the documents of the time we meet, on the one hand, vigorous arguments by progressive scholars in favor of Aristotle, and on the other, university regulations prescribing what books shall or shall not be studied.

The attitude of Abelard toward Aristotle has already been cited (see p. 19).

His pupil, John of Salisbury, devotes a considerable portion of the Metalogicus to a discussion of the utility of the various portions of the Organon and to the defense of Aristotle, as is shown by the titles of various chapters of that work. It is important to remember that he is advocating the study of the newly translated books, as well as those already known:

That Logic, because it seeks the truth, takes the lead in all Philosophy.

On the usefulness of the Categories and their appliances.

What Conception is, and the usefulness of the Periermeniae or more correctly Periermenia. [Peri Hermeneias. On Interpretation.]

Of what the Body of Art consists; and on the usefulness of the Topics.

Why Aristotle deserved more than others the name of philosopher.

That Aristotle erred in many ways; that he is eminent in Logic.

John of Salisbury clearly recognized the supremacy of Aristotle among logicians. After naming Apuleius, Cicero, Porphyry, Boethius, Augustine, and others, he adds:

But while individually they shine forth because of their own merits, they all boast that they worship the very footsteps of Aristotle; to such a degree, indeed, that by a sure pre-eminence he has made peculiarly his own the common name of all philosophers. For by Antonomy [a figure of speech] he is called The Philosopher par excellence.

It is clear, however, that Aristotle had by no means attained, at the middle of the twelfth century, the authoritative position which he held a hundred years later. This appears in the chapter "On those who Carp at the Works of Aristotle":

I cannot sufficiently wonder what sort of a mind they have (if, that is, they have any) who carp at the works of Aristotle, which, in any case, I proposed not to expound but to praise. Master Theodoric, as I recall, ridiculed the Topics,—not of Aristotle, but of Drogo. Yet he once taught those very Topics. Certain auditors of Master Robert of Melun calumniated this work as practically useless. All decried the Categories. Wherefore I hesitated some time about commending them; but [there was no question as to] the rest of his works, since they were commended by the judgment of all; but I did not think that they should be praised grudgingly. Yet opposition is made to the Elenchi [Sophistical Refutations], though stupidly, because it contains poetry; but clearly the idiom of [the Greek] language does not lend itself readily to translation. In this respect the Analytics seem to me preferable, because they are no less efficient for actual use, and because by their easier comprehension they stimulate eloquence.[18]

The slowness with which these works made their way is described by Roger Bacon at the end of the thirteenth century.

But a part of the philosophy of Aristotle has come slowly into the use of the Latins. For his Natural Philosophy and Metaphysics, and the Commentaries of Averrhoes and of others, were translated in our times, and were excommunicated at Paris before the year of our Lord 1237 on account of [their heretical views on] the eternity of matter and of time, and on account of the [heresies contained in the] book on Interpretation of Dreams (which is the third book on Sleep and Wakefulness), and on account of the many errors in the translation. The Logicalia were also slowly received and read, for the blessed Edmund, Archbishop of Canterbury, was the first at Oxford, in my time, to lecture on the book of Elenchi [Sophistical Refutations] and I saw Master Hugo who at first read the book of Posterior Analytics, and I saw his opinion. So there were few [books] which were considered worth [reading] in the aforesaid philosophy of Aristotle, considering the multitudes of Latins; nay, exceedingly few and almost none, up to this year of our Lord 1292. So, too, the Ethics of Aristotle has been tardily tried and has lately been read by Masters, though only here and there. And the entire remaining philosophy of Aristotle in a thousand volumes, in which he treated all the knowledges, has never yet been translated and made known to the Latins.[19]

The last sentence of the account displays an ignorance of the number of Aristotle's extant writings which was doubtless shared by all of Bacon's contemporaries. Earlier writers, beginning with Andronicus of Rhodes (first century B.C.), had also placed the number at one thousand; Bacon probably copied the statement from one of these.

The attitude of ecclesiastical authorities toward the study of Aristotle at Paris is expressed in a series of regulations extending over nearly half a century (1210-1254). They indicate at first a fear of certain of the newly translated books on account of their heretical views, as is stated by Roger Bacon (p. 44). This suspicion gradually disappears; and by 1254 all the more important works of Aristotle are not only approved, but prescribed for study.

In 1210 a church council held at Paris sentenced certain heretics to be burned, condemned various theological writings, and added:

Nor shall the books of Aristotle on Natural Philosophy, and the Commentaries [of Averrhoes on Aristotle] be read in Paris in public or in secret; and this we enjoin under pain of excommunication.[20]

In 1215 the statutes of the Papal Legate, Robert de Courcon, for the University, prescribe in detail what shall, and what shall not, be studied:

The treatises of Aristotle on Logic, both the Old and the New, are to be read in the schools in the regular and not in the extraordinary courses. On feast-days [holidays] nothing is to be read except ... the Ethics, if one so chooses, and the fourth book of the Topics. The books of Aristotle on Metaphysics or Natural Philosophy, or the abridgments of these works, are not to be read.[21]

In other words, the Old and New Logic are prescribed studies; the Ethics, and Topics, Bk. IV, are optional; the Metaphysics and the Natural Philosophy are forbidden.

Sixteen years later (1231) the Statutes of Pope Gregory IX for the University prohibit only the Natural Philosophy, and even these works only until they are "purged from error":

Furthermore, we command that the Masters of Arts ... shall not use in Paris those books on Natural Philosophy which for a definite reason were prohibited in the provincial council [of 1210], until they have been examined and purged from every suspicion of error.[22]

The final triumph of Aristotle in the University is indicated by the statute of the Masters of Arts in 1254.[23] It must have had at least the tacit approval of the pope or his delegate. The statute is too long to quote effectively to the point. None of the works are forbidden, and a large number are prescribed. The list of works mentioned includes—

(1) The six logical treatises of the Organon; (2) Ethics, Bks. I-IV; (3) Physics, On the Heavens and the Earth, Meteorologics, On Generation, On Animals, On the Soul, On Sense and Sensible Things, On Sleep and Waking, On Memory and Recollection, On Life and Death; (4) Metaphysics. To these are added two other works then believed to be Aristotle's,—On Plants, and On Causes,—and numerous books by other authors (named on p. 137) which do not concern the present discussion. A comparison of the list above with the list on page 40 will show that nearly the whole range of Aristotle's works is prescribed. Comparison with the statute of 1215 will show not only a change of view regarding the works then forbidden, but also an immense broadening of the studies of the Faculty of Arts in the course of forty years.

The foregoing details are cited to give an idea of the first stage of the question of Aristotle in the universities. The statute of 1254 may be taken as closing the long struggle for the recognition of his works. The broad principle of their general acceptance had been established; thenceforward for nearly three centuries they remained the dominant studies of the Faculties of Arts everywhere.

These centuries include the second period of their academic history. Their authority is now hardly questioned; and woe to the questioner! They furnish the basis for the great structure of scholastic philosophy; they are reconciled with Christian doctrine. Aristotle is thenceforward "The Philosopher"—he is so styled even in modern scholastic philosophy; he is "the forerunner of Christ in things natural," "the master of those who know." In this period, then, academic debate concerned itself with matters of detail. What portions of his works should be studied for the various degrees in Arts? In what order should they be studied? What comments should be read? What translations should be used? So late as 1519 these are the chief questions considered in the reformed plan of studies in Arts at Leipzig. The reader will note the stress laid upon the study of the text itself; the exclusion of frivolous comments, and the use of the latest translations by Greek scholars.

Inasmuch as no good thing is more desirable than philosophy, as Cicero says, and none more advantageous has been given to the race of mortals, or granted by heaven, or will ever be given as a gift; in order that we may possess this too, we choose as our guide Aristotle, whom we cause to be commended for his knowledge of facts, the number of his works, his ability in speaking, and the acumen of his intellectual powers. Nor will we interpret the visions and involved questions of his interpreters, since it is characteristic of a very poor intellect to grow wise from commentaries only, in which, neglecting Aristotle's meaning, the Sophists dispute about empty trifles. But his works, translated in part by Archeropylus [Argyropulos], in part by Augustus Nipho and Hermolaus Barbarus and Theodoras Gaza, will be made clear in the order outlined below:[24] [Then follows the list of books, for which see p. 134].

The third stage of the debate concerning Aristotle began shortly after 1500. His works were less exclusively the subject of study: they were being displaced by the Latin and Greek classics. They were, moreover, the object of repeated attack. In 1536, in the University of Paris, which had so long maintained their study, Pierre Ramus successfully defended the startling thesis, "Everything that Aristotle taught is false." This was only one sign of their loss of prestige. New and improved text-books in Logic absorbed the useful portions of the Organon; the authority of the Natural Philosophy waned with the rise of experimental science; that of the Metaphysics yielded to the new philosophy of Descartes. By the end of the seventeenth century they ceased to be a potent factor in university studies.

(b) The Roman Law

The great compilation of the Roman Law known as the Corpus Juris Civilis (Body of Civil Law) constitutes a second important addition of the twelfth century to the field of university studies. It was probably more important as an influence upon the growth of universities than the works of Aristotle.

The greater part of the Corpus Juris was compiled at Constantinople, 529-533 A.D., by certain eminent jurists under the Roman Emperor, Justinian. The purpose of the work was to reduce to order and harmony the mass of confused and contradictory statutes and legal opinions, and to furnish a standard body of laws of manageable size in place of the unwieldly mass of incorrect texts commonly in use, so that "the entire ancient law, in a state of confusion for some fourteen hundred years and now by us made clear, may be, so to speak, enclosed within a wall and have nothing left outside it." The jurists entrusted with this work were also required to prepare an introductory book for students, as described below. After the completion of the whole work Justinian issued (533-565) many new statutes (Novellae) which were never officially collected, but which came to be considered a part of the Corpus Juris. The main divisions of the Body of Civil Law are—

(1) The Code, in twelve books, which contains statutes of the Emperors from the third century A.D.

Since [says Justinian] we find the whole course of our statutes ... to be in a state of such confusion that they reach to an infinite length and surpass the bounds of all human capacity, it was therefore our first desire to make a beginning with the most sacred Emperors of old times, to amend their statutes, and to put them in a clear order, so that they might be collected together in one book, and, being divested of all superfluous repetition and most inequitable disagreement, might afford to all mankind the ready resource of their unalloyed character.[25]

(2) The Digest, or Pandects, in fifty books, containing extracts from the opinions of Roman lawyers on a great variety of legal questions. This work was also undertaken to bring order and harmony out of the prevailing confusion:

We have entrusted the entire task to Tribonianus, a most distinguished man, Master of the Offices, ex-quaestor of our sacred palace, and ex-consul, and we have laid on him the whole service of the enterprise described, so that with other illustrious and learned colleagues he might fulfil our desire. [He is] to collect together and to submit to certain modifications the very most important works of old times, thoroughly intermixed and broken up as they may almost be called. But in the midst of our careful researches, it was intimated to us by the said exalted person that there were nearly two thousand books written by the old lawyers, and more than three million lines were left us by them, all of which it was requisite to read and carefully consider and out of them to select whatever might be best. [This was accomplished] so that everything of great importance was collected into fifty books, and all ambiguities were settled, without any refractory passage being left.[26]

In mediaeval university documents the Digest is frequently mentioned in three divisions, which probably indicate three separate instalments in which the MS. of the work was brought to Bologna in the eleventh and twelfth centuries: the Old Digest (Digestum Vetus) Bks. I-XXIV, title ii, Infortiatum Bks. XXIV, title iii-XXXVIII, title iii, and New Digest (Digestum Novum) Bks. XXXVIII, title iv-L. The meaning of the term Infortiatum is uncertain.

This distinction between the various parts of the Digest is purely arbitrary.... The division must have originated in an accidental separation of some archetypal MS.[27]

(3) The Institutes, in four books, an elementary text-book for students. The purpose of the book was to afford a simple, clear, and trustworthy introduction to the study of law, and to economize the student's time:

When we had arranged and brought into perfect harmony the hitherto confused mass of imperial constitutions (i.e. the Code), we then extended our care to the vast volumes of ancient law; and, sailing as it were across the mid ocean, have now completed, through the favour of heaven, a work that once seemed beyond hope (i.e. the Digest).

When by the blessing of God this task was accomplished, we summoned the most eminent Tribonian, master and ex-quaestor of our palace, together with the illustrious Theophilus and Dorotheus, professors of law, all of whom have on many occasions proved to us their ability, legal knowledge, and obedience to our orders; and we have specially charged them to compose, under our authority and advice, Institutes, so that you may no more learn the first elements of law from old and erroneous sources, but apprehend them by the clear light of imperial wisdom; and that your minds and ears may receive nothing that is useless or misplaced, but only what obtains in actual practice. So that, whereas, formerly, the junior students could scarcely, after three years' study, read the imperial constitutions, you may now commence your studies by reading them, you who have been thought worthy of an honour and a happiness so great that the first and last lessons in the knowledge of the law should issue for you from the mouth of the emperor.

When, therefore, by the assistance of the same eminent person Tribonian and that of other illustrious and learned men, we had compiled the fifty books, called Digests or Pandects, in which is collected the whole ancient law, we directed that these Institutes should be divided into four books, which might serve as the first elements of the whole science of law.

In these books a brief exposition is given of the ancient laws, and of those also, which, overshadowed by disuse, have been again brought to light by our imperial authority.

These four books of Institutes thus compiled, from all the Institutes left us by the ancients, and chiefly from the commentaries of our Gaius, both in his Institutes and in his work on daily affairs, and also from many other commentaries, were presented to us by the three learned men we have above named. We have read and examined them and have accorded to them all the force of our constitutions.

Receive, therefore, with eagerness, and study with cheerful diligence, these our laws, and show yourselves persons of such learning that you may conceive the flattering hope of yourselves being able, when your course of legal study is completed, to govern our empire in the different portions that may be entrusted to your care.

Given at Constantinople on the eleventh day of the calends of December, in the third consulate of the Emperor Justinian, ever August (533)[28]

(4) The Novellae (Novels), or new statutes issued by Justinian between the final edition of the Code and his death (534-565). These are really a continuation of the Code, but they were never officially collected.

The Code and the Institutes were known and studied in Italy throughout the Dark Ages, but the Digest, much the largest and most important part of the Corpus Juris, was almost wholly neglected, if not unknown, until the time of Irnerius of Bologna (c. 1070-1130). He and his co-laborers collected and arranged the scattered parts of the entire Body of Civil Law, and in particular introduced the Digest to western Europe. "Without the Digest the study of Roman Law was in a worse position than the study of Aristotle when he was known only from the Organon." In a most important sense, therefore, the recovery of the Corpus Juris was a contribution of the twelfth century to the group of available higher studies. Hitherto Law had been taught usually as a mere branch of Rhetoric, and as a part of a liberal education. The body of material now made available was sufficient to occupy the student's entire time for several years. It therefore attained standing as an independent subject, and as a distinctly professional study.

The effect of this newly recovered body of learning upon the rise of universities was very much like that of Abelard and his new method. Students flocked in thousands to study law at Bologna, and toward the close of the twelfth century the University was organized. Numerous other universities arose directly from the same impulse, and "Law was the leading Faculty in by far the greater number of mediaeval universities" (Rashdall). Except for Canon Law, the Corpus Juris Civilis remained the chief study of the Faculties of Law for more than five centuries. Roman Law is still very generally taught in European universities. Thus the impulse given by Irnerius and his co-laborers is influential in university affairs of to-day.

The influence of Roman Law upon the social and political history of Europe is far-reaching. The subject is beyond the limits of the present work; but it is to be noted that this influence was exerted as a result of its study in the universities (see Rashdall, Vol. II, Pt. II, pp. 708-709).

Rashdall and Denifle think that the example of Justinian inspired the first mediaeval grant of special privileges to scholars (see p. 82). If this is true, the Roman Law had a most important effect upon the history of universities themselves. Two important mediaeval privileges for masters and scholars were exemption from taxation and the right of trial before special courts. Whether or not these were copied from the Roman Law is a question; but the Code of Justinian, following the statutes of earlier emperors, explicitly grants both of these privileges to teachers. These are so often mentioned that it is worth while to present those bearing on the subject:


By this law we decree that those who serve in the individual schools, and who, after completing the curricula of their duties, shall have reached the rank of chiefs and through the adored purple of our divinity have won the dignity of most illustrious Counts, shall enjoy both the girdle and all the privileges open to them, and hereafter to their life's end shall be subject to the court of Your Highness only, nor shall they be compelled by the command of any one else whomsoever to undergo civil litigation.

Yet in criminal suits and in matters connected with public tribute we wish the appropriate jurisdiction of the rulers of the provinces to be recognized against even such men, lest, under the pretext of a granted privilege, either the influence of the wicked be increased or the public good be diminished.[29]


We direct that physicians, and chiefly imperial physicians, and ex-imperial physicians, grammarians and other professors of letters, together with their wives and sons, and whatever property they possess in their own cities, be immune from all payment of taxes and from all civil or public duties, and that in the provinces they shall not have strangers quartered on them, or perform any official duties, or be brought into court, or be subject to legal process, or suffer injustice; and if any one harass them he shall be punished at the discretion of the Judge. We also command that their salaries and fees be paid, so that they may more readily instruct many in liberal studies and the above mentioned Arts.

1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse