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The idea of paradigm in church history: the notion of papal monarchy in the thirteenth century, from Innocent III to Boniface VIII

The idea of paradigm in church history: the notion of papal monarchy in the thirteenth century, from Innocent III to Boniface VIII

By Matthew Edward Harris

M.Phil. thesis, University of Birmingham (2008)

Abstract: The hierocratic theory of papal monarchy is said by some modern historians to have been systematic in character and the dominant way of understanding the papacy in the thirteenth century. As such, the hierocratic theory bears a strong resemblance to how the concept ‘paradigm’ from Thomas Kuhn’s book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” has been popularly understood. This apparently harmonious match is used in this dissertation as the means by which both the hierocratic and the popular understanding of papal monarchy are analysed and critiqued. This dissertation argues that in the thirteenth century there was a variety of beliefs concerning the nature of the papal office. In the course of arguing this point, what Kuhn meant by ‘paradigm’ is clarified, along with showing the difficulties of extending use of his paradigm concept beyond the context of modern science.

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