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Rather than offering a reconciliation of the conflicting positions, Abelard let the contradictions stand, allegedly to stimulate careful thinking. He provided such a demonstration by His life and death, which was the crowning act of love.

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Thus, the work of Christ was an exhibition of divine love, stimulating people to love God. With his moral influence theory, Abelard did not minimize the death of Christ but detached it from any connection to the forgiveness of sins. Furthermore, he removed the atonement from an objective reality—what Christ accomplished on the cross for sinful people—to a subjective influence on them, prompting them to reciprocate this love. Abelard was also responsible for developments in scholastic eschatology. Specifically, he revised the doctrine of limbo infantium —the limbo of infants—that Augustine had articulated much earlier.

Philosophy and theology

Augustine believed that infants who were not baptized and, therefore, not cleansed from original sin and not born again by the Holy Spirit through baptismal regeneration could not enter the kingdom of heaven. Abelard dissented, denying that unbaptized infants experience any physical torment in hell. Instead, he affirmed that their only punishment is the pain of loss: they forfeit the beatific vision—the blessing of seeing God face to face in heaven.

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Donate Now. Trier, Germany, Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. Kearney, Eileen " Abelard, Peter. Kearney, Eileen "Abelard, Peter. September 24, Retrieved September 24, from Encyclopedia. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list. Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia. Philosopher and theologian Lat. Abaelardus, Abeilardus ; b.

Pallet, Brittany, ; d. One of the greatest philosophers of the 12th century, this peripatetic from Pallet, known as Peripateticus palatinus and Doctor scholasticus, is renowned for his solution of the problem of universals. As a theologian, he outraged his contemporaries by his original use of dialectics. Peter's father, Berengar, Lord of Pallet, planned a military career for him, but he chose learning instead.

In his autobiographical Historia calamitatum, he says that he traveled to any town where a teacher of logic could be found. Finally arriving in Paris, he studied under william of champeaux, head of the cathedral school of Notre Dame. Prior to William's arrival, Paris had been considered intellectually inferior to the Benedictine Abbey of Bec and the cathedral schools of Laon and Chartres. Through William, Paris acquired great renown.

While enrolled as a student, Abelard defeated William in public debate. On the strength of this victory, Abelard set up his own school in nearby Melun, and later in Corbeil. He was then only 25 years old. His youth and rashness in attacking men of established reputation in such a way that they were publicly disgraced earned him celebrity, devoted followers, and persistent enemies. After about two years. Returning to Paris in , he studied rhetoric under the same man against whom he had previously jousted, William of Champeaux.

Public disputations had become a prominent feature of school life; during one of them Abelard forced the master to modify his extreme realist position, according to which there is a separately existent reality corresponding to each of the universal terms in one's vocabulary.

When he was 34, Abelard began to study theology under anselm of laon. He found fault with Anselm's teaching methods, and to show that he could do better he gave a public lecture on the Book of Ezechiel after only one day's preparation. The novelty of his teaching consisted in the forthright raising of questions suggested by his dialectical studies; this was not the traditional method of communicating the patristic tradition with its heavy emphasis on questions that had affective implications.

Once more Abelard earned the resentment of his teacher by arousing the interest of Anselm's students, thus showing that they preferred the work of a gifted amateur to Anselm's traditional mode of teaching. Students flocked to him in such numbers that he acquired both wealth and honors.

The School of Peter Abelard: The Influence of Abelard's Thought in the Early Scholastic Period

This unwitting man invited Abelard to live in his house and, ironically, to take charge of the further education of his niece. The whimsical name Astrolabe was given to their son. This was possible since he had not received major orders at the time. Fulbert regarded this as an evasion of responsibility and in anger hired men who, with the connivance of Abelard's servant, entered his room at night and emasculated him.

He is the only philosopher in the Middle Ages who left an autobiography and personal letters, in which historians find details that are very illuminating for the study of social and intellectual life in the 12th century. The information supplied in these is invaluable for destroying false stereo-types set up by 19th-century historians, such as Jules Michelet , about intellectual freedom in the Middle Ages. Bernard's Denunciation. After his downfall, Abelard entered the monastery at Saint-Denis to become a Benedictine monk.

Characteristically, he aroused opposition by offering proof that the monastery's patron was not identical with Dionysius the Areopagite. He resumed teaching in Paris until , when the Council of Soissons condemned his teaching on the Blessed Trinity. In he was elected abbot of the Abbey of Saint-Gildas in his native Brittany.

Finding his life as abbot difficult and complicated because of the monks of Saint-Gildas, he was back teaching in Paris in His teaching was denounced to St. Under the illusion that he would have the opportunity of publicly disputing with Bernard, Abelard appeared before the Council of Sens in only to find that his role was to listen silently while a sentence of condemnation was read to him.

He appealed to Pope Innocent, oblivious of the fact that Bernard's letters had closed all doors to him.

On his way to Rome, he was received at the monastery of Cluny by peter the venerable, who persuaded him to abandon the struggle, attempt reconciliation with Bernard, and accept a papal authorization to pass his remaining years under the protection of Cluny. He died at a Cluniac priory in Abelard's more important extant works are those that treat of logic and theology. In addition, there are extant sermons, poems, and letters, one of which is an autobiography covering his life until about His Introductiones parvulorum are short glosses on the logical treatises of Porphyry, Aristotle, and Boethius, probably representing the lessons he gave to beginners.

Intro to Scholasticism

Logica ingredientibus contained more elaborate glosses on Porphyry and on the Categories and De interpretatione of Aristotle. Dialectica is his most developed and complete work on logic; the beginning of this work, probably attacking the realist position, has not survived. His Tractatus de fide Trinitatis is the surviving record of his theological lectures prior to the Council of Soissons This work is notable for its lack of reference to the Church Fathers and the substitution of personal and seemingly rationalistic attempts to explain the Blessed Trinity. The compilation Sic et non lists the opinions of the Fathers, often contradictory, on various theological topics raised in scholastic disputations.

Project MUSE - Gratian and the School of Laon

This is at the same time an answer to those who said that he was not concerned with the Fathers and a proof that some rational approach was needed to reconcile their differences. One version of this work seems to have been written about , and another toward the end of his life in Theologia Christiana is a reworking of the Tractatus de fide Trinitatis with many citations from the Church Fathers and the Scripture.

It seems to have been written in Books 1 and 2 of Introductio ad theologiam are a reworking of his earlier books on theology. Book 3 represents an advanced form of his thought and was probably written in His Ethics, or Scito teipsum , probably written in , deals with moral theology. Dialogus inter philosophum, Judaeum et Christianum was written during the last year of his life and gives his final thought on the problem of reason and faith. The importance of Abelard in the history of philosophy rests mainly on his proposed solution to the problem of universals. He stood midway between the ultrarealist position of the Platonic tradition and the nominalist views of Roscelin, saying that universals as such exist only in the mind but that they signify the nature that individual things share in common.


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His place in theology depends mainly on his contribution toward the scholastic method. Historically, he stands close to the origin of the tradition, exemplified by Peter Lombard , that used varying opinions of the Fathers as the starting point for theological synthesis. His speculative pursuit of questions in theology without reference to their affective connotations seems to have outraged William of Saint-Thierry.

In a letter to Bernard, the latter accuses Abelard of doing in theology what he had learned to do in dialectics, of being "a censor of the faith, not a disciple; an improver of it, not an imitator.

Peter Abelard

As to the orthodoxy of Abelard's theological opinions there are, on the one hand, the condemnations of Soissons and Sens the latter formally approved by Innocent II and the firm, lasting hostility of Bernard. On the other hand, modern scholars such as Jean Cottiaux and J. Rozycki, after a careful study of the development of his doctrine on faith and reason and on the Trinity , have found it possible to give a much more benign interpretation.

Two things are certain: 1 Abelard wished to reason in such a way as not to be separated from Christ, and 2 much that was condemned at Sens cannot be found, as such, in his writings. This does not mean that Bernard and the bishops were wrong in condemning what they thought his contemporaries would have drawn from his words. Extant MSS of some of Abelard's immediate disciples indicate that the sense of the errors condemned was the very sense defended by the school of Abelard.

Modern scholarship has shown the existence of a school of Abelard both in theology and in logic.


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Not all of his disciples, however, were like Adam, a canon of the Lateran, who taught the errors of his master concerning the Incarnation before and who, being attacked by gerhoh of reichersberg, preferred apostasy to retraction. Bernard, William of Saint-Thierry, and John of Salisbury attest to the vast divulgation of Abelard's writings and influence, even after the condemnation of This is confirmed by the discovery of numerous MSS of summae of various Sentences, theological treatises, and logical works, many of them anonymous, belonging to the school of Abelard.

By that time, Abelard's dialectics had taken firm hold in early scholasticism. Bibliography: Works. Opera omnia, Patrologia Latina, ed. Paris — 59 ; "Peter Abelards Philosophische Schriften," ed. Gilson History of Christian Philosophy — Paris — 50 1. P eter Abelard was a philosopher, meaning that his writings addressed the nature of values and reality. Like most European thinkers of his time, Abelard was particularly concerned with a better understanding of Christianity. This led him into investigations of ethics, or the philosophy of right and wrong.

His belief that sin has more to do with a person's attitude than with their actions would hardly raise any eyebrows today, but in twelfth-century France, such ideas nearly got him killed.