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Academic Heresy, the Reuchlin Affair, and the Control of Theological Discourse in the Early Sixteenth Century

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Chapter Summary

Richard A. Muller's research has highlighted the blending of humanist methodology with Aristotelian philosophy over the later sixteenth century to produce the Protestant orthodoxy that dominated theology faculties through the seventeenth century. The Reuchlin affair would draw their attention to one of the key mechanisms for controlling theological discourse, the process of academic condemnation. The debate that resulted from the condemnation of Reuchlin's Augenspiegel fundamentally weakened the procedures used to identify and suppress heresy in an academic context, so that when those measures were employed against Martin Luther, they proved ineffective. An understanding of the traditional method of controlling academic discourse and its distortion by the Reuchlin affair thus illuminates one generally unnoticed aspect of the early humanist-scholastic debate that shaped initial reactions to the charges of heresy leveled against Luther's 95 Theses.

Keywords: academic condemnation; Aristotelian philosophy; Martin Luther; Reuchlin affair; Reuchlin's Augenspiegel; theological discourse



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