On Reading the Summa
Thomas Aquinas refers to the methods used in the theological schools of his day in declaring that he intended to improve upon them. In the general prologue to the Summa he notes that beginners in theology have been hampered in their study by two of the methods then in use. The "beginners" he is talking about here and addressing were students who had graduated from the faculty of arts in the university and entered the faculty of theology. The method and plan of teaching the Sentences is obviously complex and cumbersome. There are extant many records of disputations held in the medieval universities, including those that Thomas himself held. From these as well as from the laws and rules by which the universities were governed, especially those of the University of Paris, much can be learned about the actual conduct of these disputations. The disputation constituted the most solemn public academic exercise held in the university.