Peter Abelard Additional Biography


(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

The most important teacher at the new University of Paris, Abelard was notorious for publicly ridiculing rivals, and he easily made enemies who were anxious to seek revenge. His dialectical method of questioning nearly everything was the pretext used by his theological enemies to obtain the first condemnation of his work at the Provincial Council of Rheims, held at Soissons in 1121. At that council Abelard was not even given the right to respond. For a time he was confined to a monastic community at St. Medard. The only contemporary theologians whose criticisms of Abelard’s theology have survived were insignificant figures, however, far removed from the site of Abelard’s condemnations.

After his condemnation...

(The entire section is 450 words.)


(Critical Survey of Ethics and Literature)

In his autobiographical Historia calamitatum (c. 1132; The Story of My Misfortunes, 1922), Abelard describes his rise to fame as a philosopher and theologian. His love affair with Héloïse—attested in their correspondence—compelled him to leave the cathedral school of Paris and become a monk at St. Denis. Later, Abelard became the leader of a hermitage, the Paraclete, which he gave to Héloïse and her nuns. He remained a wandering maverick because of his dialectics and his sharp criticism of monasticism. His Sic et non (c. 1123) used the new methods of the schools, which consisted of posing problems and resolving them by means of logic and close textual analysis. Older methods of teaching and writing consisted of the presentation of texts and commentaries on those texts. Because his writings were twice condemned by the Church, his influence is now difficult to gauge. As an ethical thinker, Abelard viewed himself as a monastic reformer who sought to restore the eremitical spirit to religious practice. Unlike his contemporaries, he believed that some monks should use the new dialectical methods to intensify the monastic life. As an admirer of the ancient pagan philosophers, he tried to reconcile natural law ethics with Christian morality and doctrine. Abelard defined sin as consenting to an evil will (concupiscence) rather than as performing evil actions. He believed that actions were, in themselves, morally neutral.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Pierre Abelard (ab-uh-lahrd) at a very young age relinquished his inheritance from his family to pursue a life in philosophy, seeking out the best-known philosophers of his day. As a result he studied under such influential philosophers as Roscelin, a popular eleventh century philosopher, William of Champeaux, and Anselm of Laon. Feeling that his intellect had outstripped each of these men, Abelard soon left their company to begin his own school of logic and philosophy near Paris. Between the years of 1101 and 1113 his reputation as a great thinker and teacher grew. He had the opportunity to teach many individuals, among them a brilliant young woman named Héloïse, whom Abelard secretly married. Her uncle, Canon Fulbert of Notre...

(The entire section is 457 words.)