Abelard, Peter
(Abaelard, Abailard 1079–1142)
French scholastic philosopher. Born near Nantes, Abelard lived a hectic life, quite apart from the misfortune he incurred as a result of his romance of 1118 (for the details of which, see Héloïse ). He was educated at Chartres and Paris, and lived as monk and abbot at a succession of monasteries. He survived an attempt on his life at a Breton monastery in 1132. A controversial figure, he found his work condemned in 1121, and his scepticism about the legends of St Dionysius forced him to leave the Abbey of St Denis. In 1125 he became Abbot of St Gildas, and later returned to Paris. His work was denounced by Bernard of Clairvaux, who described him as having sweated to prove that Plato was a Christian, but only proved himself a heretic. He was again censured in 1140, but he died in the one of the daughter monasteries of the Abbey of Cluny.
Abelard wrote extensively on the problem of universals, probably adopting a moderate realism, although he has sometimes been claimed as a nominalist . He wrote commentaries on Porphyry and other authorities. His Scito te Ipsum (‘Know Thyself’) is a treatise on ethics holding that sin consists entirely in contempt for the wishes of God; action is therefore less important than states of mind such as intention. Consistent with this, his theory of the atonement is that it is simply a supreme example for us to follow. Abelard lived at a time when a new sense of the clash of classical authorities was becoming evident; translations revealed discrepant opinions and generated the disputatious atmosphere in which Abelard flourished. His Sic et Non (‘For and Against’) is a collection of contradictions from scripture and early writings, coupled with his own rules for resolving disputes. It provided the initial programme for the scholastic method. Abelard's hymns include O quanta qualia (‘Oh how great and glorious are those sabbaths’).

Philosophy dictionary. . 2011.

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