Swift and the Dialectical Tradition by James A. W. Rembert

By James A. W. Rembert

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This independent professional nature of the universities is reflected in their organisation under a corporate form of control, like guilds, and in the novel idea of degrees in education. The relatively unimportant bachelor's degree was awarded in arts for four years' study of the trivium and the master's degree, an authorisation and obligation to teach, for four years' study of the quadrivium. In theology at Paris the master's or doctor's degree, at first synonymous, required twelve or thirteen years' study beyond the master of arts degree, and the candidate had to have reached his thirty-fifth year.

The scholastics had brought the rationally ordered world of Dialectic since the Sixteenth Century 39 Aristotle's politics, ethics, nature and metaphysics into conjunction with Christian doctrine, and this comfortable and articulate synthesis appealed to the conservative mind threatened by Anabaptism. In one sense the division in British society in the seventeenth century was not along religious or political lines but along the social. The civil war was fought between two sections of the gentry, but they grew more and more to fear social radicalism as the war continued.

Cambridge has relatively few extant medieval records, 29 and although ample material relating to the university has been available since the Renaissance, only one complete disputation seems to have survived, a late sixteenthcentury defence of two theses, one about crime deterrence and one about possession of private goods, 30 which show more of the dialogic drama of the academic disputations than do the plodding examples of disputations in Magdalen College, Oxford, MS 38, 31 and in Lambeth Palace Library MS 221.

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