Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Medieval University & the Arts

In this graduation season, it is interesting to recall the Medieval origins of the University.  In these universities, there were four faculties -- each of which still retain their own hood colors in modern academic garb -- Arts (White), Theology (Red), Law (Purple), and Medicine (Green).  Historically, the highest degree in Arts was the Master's degree, while Law and Medicine, as today, terminated with a Doctor's degree.

File:Septem-artes-liberales Herrad-von-Landsberg Hortus-deliciarum 1180.jpg
The Seven Liberal Arts from Hortus deliciarum of Herrad von Landsberg (+1195AD)

These excerpts from the Old Catholic Encyclopedia give you an idea of the curriculum and course of study for those in the Arts faculty:
The studies leading to the Baccalaureate varied naturally with the length of time required. Those prescribed at Oxford in 1267 were as follows:

  1. The Old Logic: Porphyry, "Isagoge", the "Categoriae" and "De Interpretatione" of Aristotle, and the "Sex Principia" of Gilbert de la Porrée, twice; the Logical Works of Boethius (except "Topics", book IV), once.
  2. The New Logic: Aristotle, "Priora Analytica", "Topica", "De Sophisticis Elenchis", twice; "Posteriora Analytica", once.
  3. Grammar: Priscian, "De Constructionibus", twice; Donatus, "Barbarismus", once. Or, in place of Grammar, Natural Philosophy: Aristotle, "Physica", "De Anima", "De Generatione et Corruptione".
  4. To have "responded" "De Sophismatibus" for a year, or to have heard the "Posteriora Analytica" twice instead of once. [Anstey, "Munimenta Academica", 35, 36. Rashdall, "Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages", II, Pt. II, 455.]

The following list includes the books that were to be "read," or lectured on, by the Masters of the Faculty of Arts, at Paris in 1254. It covers the period of six or seven years from entrance, or matriculation, up to the Master's degree, and, were the "disputations" added, it might be regarded as typical of the Arts course in the medieval universities generally. A specific date was set for finishing the "reading" of each book.  
  1. Old Logic: Porphyry, "Isagoge" (Introduction to the Categoriae); Aristotle, "Categoriae" and "Perihermenia"; Boethius, "Divisiones" and "Topica," except Bk. IV.
  2. New Logic: Aristotle, "Topica," "Elenchi," "Analytica Priora," and "Analytica Posteriora."
  3. Ethics: Aristotle, "Ethica," (ad Nichomachum), four books.
  4. Metaphysics: Aristotle, "Metaphysica."
  5. Astronomy: Aristotle, "De Coelo," "Meteora," first Bk.
  6. Psychology and Natural Philosophy: Aristotle, "Physica," "De Animalibus," "De Anima," "Da Generatione," "De Causis (attributed at the time to Aristotle), "De Sensu et Sensato," "De Somno et Vigilia," "De Plantis," "De Memoria et Reminiscentia," "De Morte et Vita," Costa Ben Luca, "De Differentia Spiritus et Animae."     
  7. Grammar and Rhetoric: Priscian Major (16 books of his "Institutiones Grammaticae"), Priscian Minor (last two books of the same); Gilbert de la Porrée, "Sex Principia"; Barbarismus (third book of Donatus, "Ars Major"); Priscian, "De Accentu," (Cf. Chartularium Univ. Paris, Part I, n. 246.)
[Source: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01757a.htm]

Thus, the Arts degree assumed competence in both the Trivium (the "Arts" of Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric) and the Quadrivium (the "Sciences" of Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, and Astronomy).  I wonder how many holders of Master of Arts degrees are ready to lecture from Aristotle's Categories?

Live well!

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