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William was only temporarily able to prevent him from lecturing in Paris. From his success in dialectic, he next turned to theology and attended the lectures of Anselm at Laon. His triumph was complete; without previous training or special study, he was able to give lectures which were acknowledged to be superior to those of the master. He stepped into the chair at Notre-Dame, being also nominated canon, arout the year Enriched by the offerings of his pupils, and entertained with universal admiration, he came, as he says, to think of himself as the only undefeated philosopher in the world.

In his devotion to science, Abelard had always lived a very regular life, enlivened only by philosophical debate: now, at the height of his fame, he encountered romance. She is said to have been beautiful, and was remarkable for her knowledge, not only of Latin, but of Greek and Hebrew. Becoming tutor to the girl, he used his power for the purpose of seduction, and she returned his devotion.

Soon everyone knew except the trusting Fulbert. Once her uncle found out, the lovers were separated, but continued to meet in secret. The priesthood and ecclesiastical office were, thereby, canonically closed to him.

Finding no respite in the cloister, and having gradually turned again to study, he gave in to urgent entreaties and reopened his school at the priory of Maisonceile in His lectures were once again heard by crowds of students, and all his old influence seemed to have returned; but he still had many enemies. As soon as he published his theological lectures apparently, the Introductio ad Theologiam his adversaries criticized his rationalistic interpretation of the Trinitarian dogma. Charging him with the heresy of Sabellius in a provincial synod, held at Soissons in , they obtained, through irregular procedures, an official condemnation of his teaching.

Abelard was made to burn his book before being shut up in the convent of St. Medard at Soissons. It was the bitterest possible experience that could befall him. In a deserted place near Nogent-sur-Seine, he built himself a cabin of stubble and reeds, and became a hermit. When his retreat was discovered, students flocked from Paris, and covered the wilderness around him with their tents and huts. He began to teach again and found consolation; in gratitude he consecrated the new Oratory of the Paraclete. The region was inhospitable, the domain a prey to outlaws, the house itself savage and disorderly, but Abelard persevered in this post for ten years.

Genevieve where he was heard by John of Salisbury in , but only for a brief time. Bernard, who had power to get a condemnation passed at the council, did not rest a moment until a second condemnation was procured at Rome in the following year. His friends, in order to relieve his suffering, moved him to the priory of St.

Marcel, near Chalon-sur-Saone, where he died. His remains were buried first at St. Though his own particular interpretations may have been condemned, they were conceived in essentially the same spirit as the general scheme of thought afterwards elaborated in the thirteenth century with approval from the heads of the church. You can view this on the NLA website. Login Register. Advanced search Search history. Browse titles authors subjects uniform titles series callnumbers dewey numbers starting from optional.

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In the Library Request this item to view in the Library's reading rooms using your library card. Details Collect From Order a copy Copyright or permission restrictions may apply. We will contact you if necessary. To learn more about Copies Direct watch this short online video. Need help? He gives a contextual explication of intentionality that relies on a linguistic account of mental representation, adopting a principle of compositionality for understandings.

For an understanding to be about some thing—say, a cat—is for the form of the cat to be in the mind or intellective soul. The inherence of the form in matter makes the matter to be a thing of a certain kind, so that the inherence of the form cat in matter produces an actual cat, whereas the immaterial inherence of the form cat in the mind transforms the mind into an understanding of a cat: the mind becomes formally identical with its object.

This theory captures the intuition that understanding somehow inherits or includes properties of what is understood, by reducing the intentionality of understanding to the objective identity of the form in the mind and the form in the world. For an understanding to be about some thing, such as a cat, is for there to be an occurrent concept in the mind that is a natural likeness of a cat.

The conformality theory does this by postulating the objective existence of forms in things and by an identical process in all persons of assimilating or acquiring forms. We may call this approach the resemblance theory of understanding: mental acts are classified according to the distinct degree and kind of resemblance they have to the things that are understood. The resemblance theory faces well-known problems in spelling out the content of resemblance or likeness. For example, a concept is clearly immaterial, and as such radically differs from any material object.

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Furthermore, there seems to be no formal characteristic of a mental act in virtue of which it can non-trivially be said to resemble anything else. To get around these difficulties, mediaeval philosophers, like the British Empiricists centuries later, appealed to a particular kind of resemblance, namely pictorial resemblance.

Peter Abelard

A portrait of Socrates is about Socrates in virtue of visually resembling Socrates in the right ways. And just as there are pictorial images that are about their subjects, so too are there mental images that are about things. For an understanding to be about a cat is for it to be or contain a mental image of a cat.

Despite their common Aristotelian heritage, the conformality theory and the resemblance theory are not equivalent. Equally, natural likeness or resemblance need not be understood as identity of form; formal identity need not entail genuine resemblance, due to the different subjects in which the form is embodied. Abelard argues against conformality as follows. Consider a tower, which is a material object with a certain length, depth, and height; assume that these features compose its form, much as the shape of a statue is its form.

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

According to Aristotelian metaphysics, the inherence of a form in a subject makes the subject into something characterized by that form, as for instance whiteness inhering in Socrates makes him something white. The forms of the tower likewise make that in which they inhere to be tall, wide, massive—all physical properties. Thus, Abelard concludes, conformality is incoherent. A sign is just an object.

It may be taken in a significative role, though it need not be. Abelard notes that this distinction holds equally for non-mental signs: we can treat a statue as a lump of bronze or as a likeness. Mental images are likewise inert. For a sign to function significatively, then, something more is required beyond its mere presence or existence.

Intentionality derives instead from the act of attention attentio directed upon the mental image. We think with them, and cannot avoid them; but they do not explain intentionality. Abelard draws the conclusion that intentionality is a primitive and irreducible feature of the mind, our acts of attending to things. Different acts of attention are intrinsically different from one another; they are about what they are about in virtue of being the kind of attention they are.

Hence Abelard adopts what is nowadays called an adverbial theory of thought. Given that intentionality is primitive, Abelard adopts a contextual approach to mental content: he embeds these irreducible acts of attention in a structure whose articulation helps define the character of its constituent elements. The structure Abelard offers is linguistic, a logic of mental acts: just as words can be said to express thoughts, so too we can use the articulated logic of language to give a theory of understanding.

In short, Abelard gives something very like a linguistic account of mental representation or intentionality. To this end he embraces a principle of compositionality, holding that what an understanding is about is a function of what its constituent understandings are about. Likewise, it cannot offer any ground for taking the epistemic status of the agent into account, although most people would admit that ignorance can morally exculpate an agent. Abelard makes the point with the following example: imagine the case of fraternal twins, brother and sister, who are separated at birth and each kept in complete ignorance of even the existence of the other; as adults they meet, fall in love, are legally married and have sexual intercourse.

Technically this is incest, but Abelard finds no fault in either to lay blame. Abelard concludes that in themselves deeds are morally indifferent.

Perspective Digest : Peter Abelard’s Theology of Atonement

The proper subject of moral evaluation is the agent, via his or her intentions. Abelard denies it:. We are so constructed that the feeling of pleasure is inevitable in certain situations: sexual intercourse, eating delicious food, and the like. If sexual pleasure in marriage is not sinful, then the pleasure itself, inside or outside of marriage, is not sinful; if it is sinful, then marriage cannot sanctify it—and if the conclusion were drawn that such acts should be performed wholly without pleasure, then Abelard declares they cannot be done at all, and it was unreasonable of God to permit them only in a way in which they cannot be performed.

On the positive side, Abelard argues that unless intentions are the key ingredient in assessing moral value it is hard to see why coercion, in which one is forced to do something against his or her will, should exculpate the agent; likewise for ignorance—though Abelard points out that the important moral notion is not simply ignorance but strictly speaking negligence. Abelard takes an extreme case to make his point. He argues that the crucifiers of Christ were not evil in crucifying Jesus.

Their non-negligent ignorance removes blame from their actions. First, how is it possible to commit evil voluntarily? With regard to the first objection, Abelard has a twofold answer. First, it is clear that we often want to perform the deed and at the same time do not want to suffer the punishment. A man wants to have sexual intercourse with a woman, but not to commit adultery; he would prefer it if she were unmarried.

There is nothing evil in desire: there is only evil in acting on desire, and this is compatible with having contrary desires.

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However, Abelard does not take ethical judgement to pose a problem. God is the only one with a right to pass judgement. In fact, Abelard argues, it can even be just to punish an agent we strongly believe had no evil intention. He cites two cases. First, a woman accidentally smothers her baby while trying to keep it warm at night, and is overcome with grief. Abelard maintains that we should punish her for the beneficial example her punishment may have on others: it may make other poor mothers more careful not to accidentally smother their babies while trying to keep them warm.

Human justice may with propriety ignore questions of intention.

Yet if we cannot look to the intrinsic value of the deeds or their consequences, how do we determine which acts are permissible or obligatory? But the resolution of this problem immediately leads to another problem. Even if we grant Abelard his naturalistic ethics, why should an agent care if his or her intentions conform to the Golden Rule? In short, even if Abelard were right about morality, why be moral?

In particular, he argues that the Afterlife is a condition to which we ought to aspire, that it is a moral improvement even on the life of virtue in this world, and that recognizing this is constitutive of wanting to do what God wants, that is, to live according to the Golden Rule, which guarantees as much as anything can pending divine grace our long-term postmortem happiness. The Slave can follow the instructions or not. He reasons that if the Master indeed left the instructions, then by following them he will be rewarded and by not following them he will be severely punished, whereas if the Master did not leave the instructions he would not be punished for following them, though he might be lightly punished for not following them.

That is the position the Jew finds himself in: God has apparently demanded unconditional obedience to the Mosaic Law, the instructions left behind. The Philosopher then argues with the Christian. He initially maintains that virtue entails happiness, and hence there is no need of an Afterlife since a virtuous person remains in the same condition whether dead or alive.

In the Afterlife we are no longer subject to the body, for instance, and hence are not bound by physical necessities such as food, shelter, clothing, and the like. The Philosopher grants that the Afterlife so understood is a clear improvement even on the virtuous life in this world, and joins with the Christian in a cooperative endeavour to define the nature of the virtues and the Supreme Good.

Virtue is its own reward, and in the Afterlife nothing prevents us from rewarding ourselves with virtue to the fullest extent possible. Abelard held that reasoning has a limited role to play in matters of faith. Bernard of Clairvaux and other anti-dialecticians seem to have thought that the meaning of a proposition of the faith, to the extent that it can be grasped, is plain; beyond that plain meaning, there is nothing we can grasp at all, in which case reason is clearly no help.

That is, the anti-dialecticians were semantic realists about the plain meaning of religious sentences. Hence their impatience with Abelard, who seemed not only bent on obfuscating the plain meaning of propositions of the faith, which is bad enough, but to do so by reasoning, which has no place either in grasping the plain meaning since the very plainness of plain meaning consists in its being grasped immediately without reasoning or in reaching some more profound understanding since only the plain meaning is open to us at all. Abelard has no patience for the semantic realism that underlies the sophisticated anti-dialectical position.

Rather than argue against it explicitly, he tries to undermine it. From his commentaries on scripture and dogma to his works of speculative theology, Abelard is first and foremost concerned to show how religious claims can be understood, and in particular how the application of dialectical methods can clarify and illuminate propositions of the faith.

Furthermore, he rejects the claim that there is a plain meaning to be grasped. Outlining his method in the Prologue to his Sic et non , Abelard describes how he initially raises a question, e. Now each authority Abelard cites seems to speak clearly and unambiguously either for a positive answer to a given question or for a negative one. If ever there were cases of plain meaning, Abelard seems to have found them in authorities, on opposing sides of controversial issues. His advice in the Prologue amounts to saying that sentences that seem to be perfect exemplars of plain meaning in fact have to be carefully scrutinized to see just what their meaning is.

Yet that is just to say that they do not have plain meaning at all; we have to use reason to uncover their meaning. There is a far more serious threat to the proper use of reason in religion, Abelard thinks Theologia christiana 3. Such pseudo-dialecticians take reason to be the final arbiter of all claims, including claims about matters of faith.

More exactly, Abelard charges them with holding that a everything can be explained by human reason; b we should only accept what reason persuades us of; c appeals to authority have no rational persuasive force. Real dialecticians, he maintains, reject a — c , recognizing that human reason has limits, and that some important truths may lie outside those limits but not beyond belief; which claims about matters of faith we should accept depends on both the epistemic reliability of their sources the authorities and their consonance with reason to the extent they can be investigated.

For the claim that reason may be fruitfully applied to a particular article of faith, Abelard offers a particular case study in his own writings. He elaborates an original theory of identity to address issues surrounding the Trinity, one that has wider applicability in metaphysics. The upshot of his enquiries is that belief in the Trinity is rationally justifiable since as far as reason can take us we find that the doctrine makes sense—at least, once the tools of dialectic have been properly employed. The traditional account of identity, derived from Boethius, holds that things may be either generically, specifically, or numerically the same or different.

Abelard accepts this account but finds it not sufficiently fine-grained to deal with the Trinity.

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The core of his theory of identity, as presented in his Theologia christiana , consists in four additional modes of identity: 1 essential sameness and difference; 2 numerical sameness and difference, which Abelard ties closely to essential sameness and difference, allowing a more fine-grained distinction than Boethius could allow; 3 sameness and difference in definition; 4 sameness and difference in property in proprietate. Abelard holds that two things are the same in essence when they are numerically the same concrete thing essentia , and essentially different otherwise.

The Morning Star is essentially the same as the Evening Star, for instance, since each is the selfsame planet Venus. Again, the formal elements that constitute a concrete thing are essentially the same as one another and essentially the same as the concrete thing of which they are the formal constituents: Socrates is his essence Socrates is what it is to be Socrates.

The corresponding general thesis does not hold for parts, however. Abelard maintains that the part is essentially different from the integral whole of which it is a part, reasoning that a given part is completely contained, along with other parts, in the whole, and so is less than the quantity of the whole. Numerical difference does not map precisely onto essential difference.

The failure of numerical sameness may be due to one of two causes. First, objects are not numerically the same when one has a part that the other does not have, in which case the objects are essentially different as well. Second, objects are numerically different when neither has a part belonging to the other. Numerical difference thus entails the failure of numerical sameness, but not conversely: a part is not numerically the same as its whole, but it is not numerically different from its whole.

Thus one thing is essentially different from another when either they have only a part in common, in which case they are not numerically the same; or they have no parts in common, in which case they are numerically different as well as not numerically the same. Essential and numerical sameness and difference apply directly to things in the world; they are extensional forms of identity.

By contrast, sameness and difference in definition is roughly analogous to modern theories of the identity of properties. Abelard holds that things are the same in definition when what it is to be one requires that it be the other, and conversely; otherwise they differ in definition. Finally, things are the same in property when they specify features that characterize one another. Abelard offers an example to clarify this notion. A cube of marble exemplifies both whiteness and hardness; what is white is essentially the same as what is hard, since they are numerically the same concrete thing, namely the marble cube; yet the whiteness and the hardness in the marble cube clearly differ in definition—but even so, what is white is characterized by hardness the white thing is hard , and conversely what is hard is characterized by whiteness the hard thing is white.

Consider a form-matter composite in relation to its matter. The matter out of which a form-matter composite is made is essentially the same as the composite, since each is the entire material composite itself.