Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Those Rakish Scholastics

(Hopefully Brandon will appreciate this:) Jame Overfield mentions a humorous episode from the Wegestreit.

The Wegestreit was a debate between two groups of intellectuals in the late fifteenth, early sixteenth century. Two groups of scholastics differed of the realilty of universals:
Nominalists followed William of Occam in rejecting the position of Aquinas and other thirteenth-century realists that univerals had any existence outside of the mind; universals, they argued, were mere names, and reality was to be found in particulars or individual entities rather than in common nature.
Overfield explains that contemporary scholars differ on the exact field in which the debate played out. Some historians have suggested that it was a controversy over teaching methods: realists read and commented on the text, nominalists questioned it during the course of lectures.

The Wegestreit heated up enough to become violent.
In 1497 realists complained to the university senate at Heidelberg that nominalist students had stormed through their bursa shouting: "We thirst realist blood! Our swords must devour at least three realists! I'll not leave this place until I have chopped off the limb of a realist."
If my undergraduate days were only so adventurous!

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