LECTIO - Leuven Centre for the Study of the Transmission of Texts and Ideas in Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
The Leuven Centre for the Study of the Transmission of Texts and Ideas in Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance conducts research in the domain of intellectual history, with a focus on authority. Its researchers concentrate more specifically on the following research programme.
It has become fashionable to understand the rupture of the 16th century as a transition from the authority of texts and authors (auctoritates), towards the authority of empirical data. This view is, of course, inspired by what early modern thinkers themselves asserted. But are they to be taken at their word? And how exactly did the authority of texts function? Was there a single unchanging view concerning authority? Convictions about the way in which one deals with authoritative texts, the way in which authorities are invoked in arguing, the importance attributed to the reception (or commentary tradition) of the authoritative texts, etc., are all pointers to understanding what it means to be an authority. These convictions can be shown to vary throughout history, thus indicating that the concept of authority itself changes.
The pre-modern notion of authority had a very broad range of applications, which can be systematized into three large areas: (I) a hermeneutical one, attributing authority to authors and texts, and allowing the interpretation of these authorities; (II) an epistemological one, hinging around the discussion on the role of the senses in scientific enquiry, against the authority of previous scientists; and (III) a political one, viewing authority in its institutionalized form.