Friday, May 31, 2013

The 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.)

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?

The following is a letter of Pope Gregory IX written to the University of Paris in 1231.  It makes an interesting read, giving insight into the structure and challenges of a University in the 13th century -- and a University with a papal charter, as at Paris:

"Gregory, the bishop, servant of the servants of God, to his beloved sons, all the masters and students of Paris - greeting and apostolic benediction.

Paris, the mother of the sciences, like another Cariath Sepher, a city of letters, shines forth illustrious, great indeed, but concerning herself she causes greater things to be desired, full of favor for teaching and students...

...Wherefore, since we have diligently investigated the questions referred to us concerning a dissension which, through the instigation of the devil, has arisen there and greatly disturbed the university, we have decided, by the advice of our brethren, that these should be set at rest rather by precautionary measures, than by a judicial sentence.

Therefore, concerning the condition of the students and schools we have decided that the following should be observed: each chancellor, appointed hereafter at Paris, at the time of his installation, in the presence of the bishop, or at the command of the latter in the chapter at Paris - two masters of the students having been summoned for this purpose, and present on behalf of the university - shall swear that, in good faith, according to his conscience he will not receive as professors of theology and canon law any but suitable men, at a suitable place and time, according to the condition of the city and the honor and glory of those branches of learning; and he will reject all who are unworthy without respect to persons or nations. Before licensing anyone, during three months, dating from the time when the license is requested, the chancellor shall make diligent inquiries of all the masters of theology present in the city, and of all other honest and learned men through whom the truth can be ascertained, concerning the life, knowledge, capacity, purpose, purpose, prospects and other qualities needful in such persons; and after the inquiries in good faith and according to his conscience, he shall grant or deny the license to the candidate as seems fitting and expedient. The masters of theology and canon law will give true testimony on the above points. The chancellor shall swear, that, he will in no way reveal the advice of the masters, to their injury; the liberty and privileges being maintained in their full vigor for the canons of at Paris, as they were in the beginning. Moreover, the chancellor shall promise to examine in good faith the masters in medicine and arts and in the other branches, to admit only the worthy and to reject the unworthy.

In other matters, because confusion easily creeps in where there is no order, we grant to you the right of making constitutions and ordinances regulating the manner and time of lectures and disputations, the costume to be worn, the burial of the dead; and also concerning the bachelors, who are to lecture and at what hours and on what they are to lecture; and concerning the prices of the lodging or the interdiction of the same; and concerning a fit punishment for those who violate your constitutions or ordinances, by exclusion from your society. And if, perchance, the assessment of the lodgings is taken from you, or anything else is lacking, or an injury or outrageous damage, such as death or the mutilation of a limb, is inflicted on one of you; unless through a suitable admonition satisfaction is rendered within fifteen days, you may suspend your lectures until you have received full satisfaction. And if it happens that any one of you is unlawfully imprisoned, unless the injury ceases on remonstrance from you, you may, if you judge it expedient, suspend your lectures immediately.

We command, moreover, that the bishop of Paris shall so chastise the excesses of the guilty, that the honor of the students shall be preserved and evil deeds shall not remain unpunished. But in no way shall the innocent be seized on account of the guilty; nay, rather if a probable suspicion arises against anyone, he shall be detained honorably and, on giving suitable bail he shall be freed, without any exactions from the jailers. But if, perchance, such a crime has been committed that imprisonment is necessary, the bishop shall detain the criminal in his prison. The chancellor is forbidden to keep him in his prison. We also forbid holding a student for a debt contracted by another, sine this is interdicted by canonical and legitimate sanctions. Neither the bishop nor his official, nor the chancellor shall exact a pecuniary penalty for removing penalty for removing an excommunication or any other censures of any kind. Nor shall the chancellor demand from the masters who are licensed an oath, or obedience, or any pledge nor shall he receive any emolument or promise for granting a license, but be content with the above mentioned oath.

Also the vacation in summer is not to exceed one month, and the bachelors, if they wish, can continue their lectures in vacation time. Moreover, we prohibit more expressly the students from carrying weapons in the city, and the university from protecting those who disturb peace and study, And those who call themselves students but do not frequent the schools, or acknowledge any master, are in no way to enjoy the liberties of the students.

Moreover, we order that the masters in arts shall always read one lecture on Priscian, and one book after the other in regular courses. Those books on natural philosophy which for a certain reason were prohibited in a provincial council, are not t be used at Paris until they have been examined and purged of all suspicion of error. The masters and students in theology shall strive to exercise themselves laudably in the branch which they profess; they shall not show themselves philosophers but strive to become God's learned. And they shall not speak in the language of the people, confounding the sacred language with the profane. In the schools they shall dispute only on such questions as can be determined by the theological books and the writings of the holy fathers.


It is not lawful for any whatever to infringe this deed of our provision, constitution, concession, prohibition and inhibition or to act contrary to it, from rash presumption. If anyone, however, should dare attempt this , let him know that he incurs the wrath of almighty God and of the blessed Peter and Paul, his apostles.

Given at the Lateran, on the Ides of April [April 13], in the fifth year of our pontificate."
from Statutes of Gregory IX in Dana C. Munro, trans., University of Pennsylvania Translations and Reprints, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1897), Vol. II: No. 3, pp. 7-11 . cf:

The medieval period was, indeed, that of the flowering of the University.  Prior to the 12th century, only a handful had been founded: Constantinople, Bologna (1088), Paris (1150), and Oxford (1167); while the 1200s added: Cambridge (1209), Salamanca (1218), Padua (1222), Toulouse (1229), Siena (1240) [Pope John XXI taught there], Valencia (1245), Seville (1254), and Lisbon (1290), to name a few.

For more, you might note: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Universities

Live well and ever seek the truth in the noblest tradition of the University!

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