St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica has a very distinctive and consistent style. It seems as though his style of writing starts with a proposition and then lists some objections, then a reply, then a refutation of the objections and finally a conclusion. What is it called?

  • I saw it somewhere on the internet, but can't remember what I was looking at, it wasn't Wikipedia. I think the word starts with a Q. Sep 15, 2011 at 15:10
  • Aquinas wrote in the style that they conducted debates in while he was in university. I can't remember the exact name or my source, but that may help you find it
    – user18961
    Mar 11, 2012 at 17:20

3 Answers 3


I think the word you are looking for is quodlibet or quodlibetal. This comes from Latin words meaning "whatever you want".

The Wikipedia entry for Scholasticism explains

Scholastic schools had two methods of teaching. The first was the lectio: a teacher would read a text, expounding on certain words and ideas, but no questions were permitted; it was a simple reading of a text: instructors explained, and students listened in silence.

The second was the disputatio, which goes right to the heart of scholasticism. There were two types of disputationes: the first was the "ordinary" type, whereby the questions (quaestiones) to be disputed were announced beforehand; the second was the quodlibetal, whereby the students proposed a question to the teacher without prior preparation. The teacher advanced a response, citing authoritative texts to prove his position. Students then rebutted the response, and the quodlibetal went back and forth. Someone took notes on what was said, allowing the teacher to summarise all arguments and present his final position the following day, riposting all rebuttals.

The term is now used in music; OED has the meaning as "A musical composition combining several different melodies (usually popular tunes) in counterpoint, often in a light-hearted manner." It says there that the academic "quodlibet" originated at the University of Paris in the 1230s; Aquinas lived from 1225 to 1274.


The following is from a note on Wikipedia:

"St. Thomas Aquinas used the "Grand Commentary" of Averroes as his model, being, apparently, the first Scholastic to adopt that style of exposition..." — Turner, William. "Averroes." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company (1907).

  • Yeah, that is very similar. But is "Grand Commentary" the name of a particular work of Averroes or the style of the work? See: muslimphilosophy.com/ir/tt/tt-ch2.htm Sep 15, 2011 at 15:36
  • @P.AlanPhillipTurner: I believe Averroes wrote three kinds of commentaries on the (translated) works of Aristotle, intended for students of various levels of students. The most advanced kind he apparently called the Grand/Major commentaries, and they were apparently written in the style imitated by Thomas. Sep 15, 2011 at 16:21

The name of the style is "disputation". "Quodlibetal" is the adjective applied when the disputation could be about anything.

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