Quaestio (literary genre)

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Quaestio ( Latin "question") denotes a sub-unit of a scientific treatise called Quaestiones . In the scholasticism of the Middle Ages , this literary form was widespread. It is based on a teaching practice at medieval universities. Perhaps the best-known example is the monumental Summa theologica of Thomas Aquinas , which consists of over 1000 individual quaestiones.


Quaestions have the following basic structure:

(1) the quaestio (the question, the problem)
(2) Arguments in logical form for the pros and cons
(3) Dissolution of the quaestio (determinatio) and the arguments of the opposing position as invalid or fallacies, in which z. B. an ambiguity in the premises occurs.

The typical structure of a quaestio is shown below using the example of the first quaestio of the sum of theology:

The title of the Quaestio is the question to be dealt with in the following, in the case of the example Utrum sit necessarium, praeter philosophicas disciplinas, aliam doctrinam haberi - "Whether one needs another science besides philosophy" (meaning theology) .

The following are the so-called Objectiones (objections). A first objection is introduced with videtur (“it seems”), others with praeterea (“also”). These objections seem to suggest a definite answer to the question. However, this is not the one that the author will give later. The first objection in the example is that there can be no science of things that are beyond reason.

The next section begins with sed contra (“but against (speaks)”). An authority is cited; H. either the Bible or a church father . This authority gives the opposite answer to the objectiones. In the example, the apostle Paul is quoted ( 2 Tim. 3, 16), who says that the Bible is the subject of teaching and argument.

The author then formulates his own answer, which agrees with the Sed Contra and contradicts the Objectiones . This part begins with respondeo (“I answer”). Thomas argues in the example that the correct orientation towards God, on which human salvation depends, presupposes the knowledge of what God wants. However, this knowledge is conveyed through a science, precisely theology.

At the end be with ad primum , ad secundum the pre-established Objectiones refuted one by one. Thomas, for example, answers the objection cited above that although God's will exceeds reason, revelation has been given to man in order to fathom it.

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  1. See for example Rudolf Peitz, Gundolf Keil : The 'Decem quaestiones de medicorum statu'. Observations on the medical class of the 14th and 15th centuries. In: Specialized prose research - Crossing borders. Volume 8/9, 2012/2013 (2014), pp. 283-297.
  2. Peter Schulthess: Scholastik. In: Jordan, Nimtz (Ed.): Lexicon Philosophy. A hundred basic terms. Stuttgart 2009, p. 240 (242).