LECTIO: Studies on the Transmission of Texts and Ideas vol:4
Shaping Authority. How did a person become an authority in Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance? pages:21-46
‘Authority’ is a widely used, but not very well-defined concept in scholarly discourse. Epistemologists have become increasingly interested in the concept of epistemic authority specifically. So far, however, their discussions have not been brought to bear upon historical scholarship. We propose a model, then, for examining epistemic authority in texts and textual traditions. In order to do so, we examine the ontology and epistemology of epistemic authority. We argue that epistemic authority is not just a scholarly tool, but a phenomenon belonging to social reality. Ultimately, it is constituted by single acts of attribution, which are then, in one way or another, communicated and disseminated. We also specify the different elements that make up the structure of the authority relation and specify its varieties due to the epistemological quality of the attributed property as well as the grounds for its attribution. This results in a grid of parameters that helps to disambiguate the term ‘authority’, facilitating a comparison across case studies from various domains. The model is descriptive and offers a means by which to classify de facto attributions of authority, whether these attributions are legitimate or not. A few examples from scholarship on ancient Platonism illustrate the complexity of the issue and the benefits of our model.