Matteo Giangrande

Agricola’s Theory of Dialectical Disputation

  • Abstract

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Keywords: Agricola, disputation, dialectics, heuristic, topics

This paper provides an account of Rudolf Agricola’s disputation theory in De inventione dialectica. Five Agricola’s key remarks will be illustrated. a) Disputation is an intellectual instrument: its pedantic and eristic abuse versus its heuristic and critical use depends solely upon teachers and scholars. The adversarial nature of disputation is the most powerful antidote to eristics. b) Disputing properly is an epistemic duty of the scholarly community because disputing both sides of a question is the most effective method to find new, priority, decisive research questions. c) Disputation investigates the truth shining in contradiction. The disputant’s duty is to force the opponent to contradict himself. So, it is preferable that in disputation: argumentation is as complete as possible; it is developed as reductio ad absurdum; refutation is addressed to the substance of the arguments and carried out through distinctions; exposition is designed to clarify and describe the state of affairs appropriately. 4) Prerequisite for taking part in disputations is mastering the inventio method, i.e., possessing the capability to find the middle term spontaneously. 5) The method of disputing becomes a second nature to students/scholars.

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