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The disputation is a scientific debate that, as a defense, is one of the forms of examination for obtaining academic degrees . In Austria the form is called Defensio . Such discussions begin with a statement or thesis that is doubted or to which a counter thesis is made. This is then discussed until a common understanding or solution is found.


The term disputation can be derived from the Latin disputatio and quaestio disputata ( Quaestio ) and the Middle High German disputazie . In the academic context, this meant a public battle of words between the scholars on a fixed topic - a kind of “panel discussion”.

In Luther's time, for example, when theology was still the dominant discipline at universities, his doctoral theses were defended with a disputation. The theses were posted publicly in the “neighboring” university towns, for example on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church . This notice on the “bulletin board” was the invitation to the disputations, which was initially printed as a single-sheet woodcut and in the 17th century also as a thesis sheet in large-format copperplate engraving . Whoever wanted to come came along, and one scholar was always specially invited to dispute with the candidate. The minutes of these disputations were also mostly published, mostly not by the candidate but by the examiner. Every scholar had to pass a disputation at least once in his career; but you also invited to further public disputations yourself if you were already a doctor: in the early modern period this was the usual way of scientific exchange.

In the disputatio , the proponent , also respondent or defendant, made an assertion or represented a thesis that the opponent tried to refute through a counter thesis or antithesis. The audience ( corona ) stood behind the barriers ( carceres ). The procedure of a disputation was based on the teaching method of scholasticism :

  • doubt
  • examination
  • Understanding
  • objection
  • solution

The disputation was the usual method for clarifying scientific disputes from the Middle Ages to modern times . The Leipzig disputation between Luther and Eck in 1519 at the Pleißenburg in Leipzig is famous .

At the same time, the disputation was also a kind of test for obtaining scientific degrees. There was a

in front of the assembled faculty .

In the late Middle Ages , the disputation was also used to improve the eloquence of pupils and students. However , as early as 1781 Christian Wilhelm Kindleben said that the disputations would become less frequent. In Germany, before the Second World War , the disputation was only common in the theological, philosophical and law faculties and was otherwise mostly replaced by the colloquium or rigorosum .


In contrast to the Rigorosum , today's disputation as an oral doctoral examination at many - but not all - universities relates to the topic of the dissertation or habilitation . It is used for scientific discussion and the weighing of arguments (for and against) and is not personal . The disputation as an oral doctoral examination is (unlike the Rigorosum) generally public; However, details also differ from case to case on this point. In order to obtain the academic degree of Bachelor or Master , a disputation is now required in some courses.

The disputation is now being reintroduced at many universities, not least because of its traditional use at universities and colleges in Central and Eastern Europe . The defense of the doctoral thesis at Czech and Polish universities takes place exclusively in the form of a public disputation.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: dispute  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Information from the University of Vienna ( Memento from May 21, 2016 in the Internet Archive )