Practical Essays eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 299 pages of information about Practical Essays.



The University proper, however, can hardly be dated earlier than the 12th century; and the important particulars in its first constitution are these:—­First, the separation of Philosophy from Theology.  To expound this, would be to give a chapter of mediaeval history.  Suffice it to say that Aristotle and the awakening intellect of the 11th century were the main causes of it.  Two classes of minds at this time divided the Church—­the pious, devout believers (such as St. Bernard), who needed no reasons for their faith, and the polemic speculative divines (such as Abaelard), who wished to make Theology rational.  It was an age, too, of stirring political events; the crusading spirit was abroad, and found a certain gratification even in the war of words.  The nature of Universals was eagerly debated; but when this controversy came into collision with such leading theological doctrines as the Trinity and Predestination, it was no longer possible for Philosophy and Theology to remain conjoined.

A separation was effected, and determined the leading feature of the University system.  The foundation was Philosophy, and the fundamental Faculty the Faculty of Arts.  Bologna, indeed, was eminent for Law or Jurisprudence, and this celebrity it retained for ages; but the University of Paris, which is the prototype of our Scottish Universities, as of so many others, taught nothing but Philosophy—­in other words, had no Faculty but Arts—­for many years.  Neither Theology, Medicine, nor Law had existence there till the 13th century.

Second, the system of conferring Degrees, after appropriate trials.  These were at first simply a licence to teach.  They acquired their commanding importance through the action of Pope Nicholas I, who gave to the graduates of the University of Paris, the power of teaching everywhere, a power that our own countrymen were the foremost to turn to account.


Third, the Organisation of the primitive University.  Europe was unsettled; even in the capitals, the civil power was often unhinged.  Wherever multitudes came together, there was manifested a spirit of turbulence.  The Universities often exemplified this fact; and it was found necessary to establish a government within themselves.  The basis was popular; but, while, in Paris, only the teaching body was incorporated, in Bologna, the students had a voice.  They elected the Rector, and his jurisdiction was very great indeed, and much more important than speechifying to his constituents.  His Court had the power of internal regulation, with both a civil and criminal jurisdiction.  The Scotch Universities, on this point, followed Bologna; and that fact is the remote cause of this day’s meeting.



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