The doctoral dissertation and its accompanying disputation are considered the epitome of the acadeamic institution. They consecrate the aspiring scholar, but their mission and position is far from clear in today’s academia. The arrival of the professional doctorate and the doctorate by journal publication represent new innovations that challenge not only the conception of the doctorate but also how it is to be achieved. This article has three parts. Firstly an examination of the genealogy of the disputation from the Greeks to the point when it joins with the dissertation. Secondly, a consideration of the relation between the text of the doctoral dissertation and its oral defence. Thirdly, facing the challenge of new doctoral forms an argument is made to re-think and re-conceptualise the ontological space of the dissertation and disputation.

Keywords: disputation, oral, viva, ontology