The Disputatio

The new type of question at first was tied to the text it studied to arrive at a deeper understanding of it. It examined, for example, the biblical text, and raised questions as they would naturally arise while reading the scriptural text in its order of presentation. The magistri, however, as they became more sure of the natural path of their rational efforts to understand better, began to see the need to introduce a logical order to replace the textual order of questions suggested by a biblical narrative. The exercise of the new logically ordered collection of questions took the name disputatio as its title. The results of these disputations were gathered together to form a summa—that is, a summa quaestionum.

The disputatio itself also evolved. For example, when Odo of Sois-sons taught at Paris around 1164, his quaestiones were separated from the lectio inasmuch as they were entertained at a different session from the reading of Scripture. The themes, however, of these separated quaestiones still followed the scriptural text. By the time of Simon of Tournai (around 1201), the separation of the quaestiones disputatae from the lectiones was complete. The disputatio had become a work of a separate rational discipline. It still dealt with the issues raised by the biblical text, but it was no longer the exegesis of the scriptural text. It was a rationally organized treatise involving many questions dealing with a common subject matter.

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