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Political Science in Late Medieval Europe: The Aristotelian Paradigm and How It Shaped the Study of Politics in the West
Mary Elizabeth Sullivan
Doctor of Philosophy, Texas A&M University, August (2010)
This dissertation looks at Aristotelian political thinkers of the later Middle Ages and argues that they meet all of the criteria of a mature Kuhnian science. Scholars of medieval Europe have spent decades arguing over exactly how one should define medieval Aristotelianism and which thinkers qualify as Aristotelian. I answer this question by turning to the philosophy of science literature. By using the criteria laid out by Thomas Kuhn- a common education, a shared technical language and general agreement on problem choice- I am able to parse out a group of political thinkers who qualify as a scientific community.
My dissertation then goes on to illustrate how several different medieval thinkers were able to operate within this Aristotelian paradigm. This project gives scholars of the Middle Ages a more useful lens through which to view the phenomenon of medieval Aristotelianism. For those interested in political science more broadly, I demonstrate that our field has, in fact, experienced a period of maturity, in which scholars shared a unified paradigm and proceeded with their research in concert. I also show some of the benefits and limitations of a common research agenda in the study of politics.