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The History of Medieval Philosophy

Selected Figures of Scholastic Tradition I


Ladislav Tkáčik

Calling an epoch Middle Age already involves some sort of judgment. But Middle Ages represent a historic period, in which the identity was established, which was denied by the renaissance, modern world and which however is now being discovered again in its sense and beauty. It is a period in which a co-existence between faith and intellect, between ecclesiastical and profane culture was possible. It was a varied living space in which philosophy, mystique and practice could exist side by side. It is a world which is lost today and which we can get a hold of again only by intellectual appropriation.


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7. Peter Abelard


  Another signifi cant renaissance scholar of this period was undoubtedly the French scholar Peter Abelard (1079 – 1142). His personality combines subtle rationality, great impassionedness and engagement. In dialectics, he surpassed his teacher William of Champeaux, who con- sequently came to hate him, while he was still a student. Peter then continued his studies under the guidance of Anselm of Laon. As he himself admits in Historia Calamitatum (A His- tory of my Calamities) written in Paris around 1117, he seduced Heloise, an educated niece of his colleague. He was striving for her hand despite the fact that she insisted it was better to freely love each other than being bound by some agreement which would interfere with a philosophical life. Abelard’s son Astrolabius was born in 1118. Heloise’s uncle, Parisian canon Fulbert, had Abe- 72 lard forcibly castrated, thinking that he abused his niece. Consequently Abelard forced Heloise to become a  nun and he himself became a monk in Saint-Denis where he held the position of abbot and simultaneously took care of Heloise’s convent. Abelard faced diff erent criticism of his work. His script Theologia was condemned by the synod of Sois- sons. Bernard of Clairvaux himself contributed to his conviction by the council of Sens in 1140 and even his appeal to Pope Innocent II did not help. Abelard’s silence and refusal of defence in the council remains a mystery. Consequently he was accepted by Peter the Venerable in Cluny, where he lived serenely and dignifi edly and worked...

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