Research Project: The Art of Reasoning: Techniques of Scientific Argumentation in the Medieval Latin West

We are grateful to Mariken Teeuwen for offering a description of her new research project. But we are also very much interested in publishing descriptions of your research projects, particularly new initiatives. If you have something you’d like to share, please get in touch.

Since June 2016, we started a new project, following up our previous one (Marginal Scholarship) but with a new main focus, with a new addition to our team and stretching out over a longer period. The title of the project is The Art of Reasoning: Techniques of Scientific Argumentation in the Medieval Latin West. The main focus of the project is to analyze how scholars dealt with their authoritative texts on rhetoric and dialectic, both before and in the period of the medieval universities. The techniques of dialectical argumentation, we argue, did not develop in the period of the universities, but were already used before that, only not in the shape of new texts, but rather in the shape of marginal annotations added to texts. A view on those marginal practices and texts, so we argue, will allow us to understand the historical roots of the dialectical method better.

For a full description of the project, click here.

The Art of Reasoning will soon be organizing events and lectures, of which we intend to keep you up to date via this blog. Meanwhile, allow me to introduce to to our small team of investigators:

Irene van Renswoude is the first Postdoc in the project. She will focus on manuscripts of dialectica and rhetorica from the period before the universities (c. 400-c. 1150), to chart the earlier responses to the main texts for the discipline: Latin translations of Aristotle’s Categories and On interpretation, Porphyry’s Isagoge, Cicero’s Topica and De inventione, the Rhetorica ad Herennium, Boethius’ translations and commentaries (e.g. his De topicis differentiis), the Categoriae decem and (Pseudo-)Augustine’s De dialectica.

Irene O’Daly is the second Postdoc in the project. She focuses on the later period, in which the active hub of education shifted from the monastery to urban schools and the first universities. She will analyze how the scientific instrument of the disputatio was shaped by earlier strategies of reasoning, and how it, in turn, changed older methods. She will focus on the medieval reflections to the same core texts as used by Irene van Renswoude, but will also include the new texts that came to play a major role in the Western art of reasoning: Aristotle’s TopicaFirst and Second Analytics and Sophistical Refutations.

Mariken Teeuwen is the principal investigator. She will bring the observations of the two projects together in a synthetic study. Whereas Irene and Irene will focus on leading scholars and the imprint they left in their manuscripts, Mariken will rather use the anonymous physical traces of studying, questioning and arguing left in the margins of medieval manuscripts, to see how the leading thinkers may have influenced (or failed to influence) the practices of scholarship of their time.