The Richard Rufus of Cornwall Project is committed
to producing critical editions of the complete works
of Richard Rufus of Cornwall.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who was Richard Rufus of Cornwall?
Why is Rufus so important for medieval philosophy?
What are Rufus' extant works?
Where are Rufus' works housed?
Who works on the Richard Rufus Project?
Who supports the Richard Rufus Project?
What is a critical edition?
What is an incipit?
What is the Aristotelian corpus?
What are the libri naturales?
What is scholasticism?
How did scholastics influence the Renaissance?


Q. Who was Richard Rufus of Cornwall?

Richard Rufus of Cornwall was an early scholastic philosopher-theologian who taught at the Universities of Paris and Oxford between 1231 and 1255. In those years he played a vital part in the transformation of philosophy and theology in early thirteenth century Western Europe. An admirable philosopher, Rufus was considered a great man in thirteenth century Paris. Though he was very famous at Paris, Rufus exercised his greatest influence in Oxford. You can learn more about Rufus' life and accomplishments at his biography page. (Back to Questions.)

Q. Why is Rufus so important for medieval philosophy?

A. Richard Rufus of Cornwall played a crucial role in the transformation of philosophy and theology that characterized thirteenth-century Western intellectual life. As a master of arts, Richard Rufus lectured at the University of Paris from 1231 to 1238 when its curriculum was revolutionized by the introduction of Aristotle's libri naturales. In his lectures on the libri naturales Rufus applied rigorous Aristotelian reasoning to topics as diverse as physics and natural theology, often modifying or rejecting Aristotle's own solutions.

Rufus' originality is surely what we ought to have expected to motivate radical curricular change. Only dynamic teaching could have made Aristotle's libri naturales required reading just twenty years after lecturing on them was banned. (Back to Questions.)

Q. What are Rufus' extant works?

For a list of Rufus' extant works, see the Works page. (Back to Questions.)

Q. Where are Rufus' works housed?

For a list of manuscripts, see the Manuscripts page. (Back to Questions.)

Q. Who works on the Richard Rufus Project?

Hard at work on the project is a team of editors from around the world, experts on medieval logic, Latin, philosophy, Rufus' contemporaries, Aristotle, and typesetting. The Editors page has a full list of RRP editors. (Back to Questions.)

Q. Who supports the Richard Rufus Project?

Supporters include the National Endowment for the Humanities, several funds, Stanford departments, the Pacific Division of the American Philosophical Association, individual donors and more. The Donors page has a full list. To become a donor, visit our Giving page. (Back to Questions.)

Q. What is a critical edition?

There were no printing presses in the Middle Ages; whenever someone needed a new copy of a book, a scribe had to copy it out by hand. Every copy of the book was different, because scribes made mistakes or deliberately added or removed text. A critical edition presents both the reconstructed text and an apparatus of variant readings that enables readers to second guess the editor and chose a rejected reading. A second apparatus supplies the footnotes omitted by medieval authors, notes explaining techical terms, parallel passages from contemporary authors, etc.

To find out more about our critical editions, visit the Constructing the Edition page. (Back to Questions.)

Q. What is an incipit?

A. An incipit is the first sentence or phrase of a work. Standard reference to medieval works is by incipit. Reference is to incipit rather than title partly because in the the Middle Ages some works, particularly commentaries, did not have independent titles. Titles were frequently not individual and distinctive but generic — “On music,” for example.

Codices of medieval works do not include a title page; the title of a work is frequently missing from the first page of the work. Works were known by the first words of the text rather than by title. So the single most important piece of information identifying a medieval work is its incipit. The incipits of all the known works by Rufus and some doubtful ascriptions can be found on the Incipits page, together with their titles in abbreviated form. (Back to Questions.)

Q. What is the Aristotelian Corpus?

A. The Aristotelian Corpus is the collection of works written by Aristotle, a Greek philosopher who lived from 384-322 BCE. In the early Middle Ages, few of these works were known apart from the logical works translated by Boethius in the sixth century, such as Aristotle's Categories and his Topics. Aristotle's ethics, his metaphysics, and his natural philosophy did not become generally available until the early thirteenth century. They were first translated in the late twelfth century. (Back to Questions.)

Q. What are the libri naturales?

A. Libri naturales is the name by which Aristotle's Metaphysics and his works on natural philosophy, such as his Physics, De anima, Meteora, and biological works, were known. These works provided the medieval world for the first time with a comprehensive scientific account of the cosmos, introduced physics, metaphysics, biology, and psychology to the Western university curriculum, and lent unprecedented breadth and penetration to teaching at Western universities. (Back to Questions.)

Q. What is scholasticism?

A. Scholasticism describes the intellectual method of the medieval and early modern “schools” or universities, from the twelfth to the seventeenth centuries. It was based on rigorous interpretation of a set of authoritative texts — the Sentences of Peter Lombard in theology, the works of Aristotle in philosophy, compilations of civil and canon law, the works of Hippocrates and Galen in medicine.

Scholastics employed sophisticated logical devices and specialized technical vocabulary. They developed formal structures of disputation to raise and resolve questions suggested by the texts being commented on. Enemies of scholasticism condemned it as argument for its own sake, far removed from reality; they scorned its distinctions as nitpicking.

At its best, however, scholasticism is exciting; the precision its distinctions allow it to achieve is a strength. Its greatest strength, however, lies in its determination to achieve a comprehensive system of explanation, together with its insistence on logical rigor and debate. (Back to Questions.)

Q. How did scholastics influence the Renaissance?

A. Renaissance authors owed their education to scholastic philosophers. Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century thinkers such as Galileo and Descartes could not have made their contributions without the comprehensive scientific account of the world Aristotelian science provided. Even such distinctive advances as Galileo's theory of projectile motion owe something to the first known medieval teacher of Aristotelian natural philosophy (Richard Rufus).

Unfortunately, some Renaissance and early modern thinkers depicted Western intellectual life in the thirteenth century as a dark age. Many historians of philosophy were persuaded that Aristotelian natural philosophy was the enemy of science. Among historians of science, this misperception is still common. The Richard Rufus Project aims to rectify this misapprehension by bringing to light his exciting treatments of topics as diverse as the origin of the universe and the psychology of perception. (Back to Questions.)