Peter Abelard

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Peter Abelard aka Pierre Abélard aka "Pierre le Pallet" aka The Indomitable Rhinoceros


France 1079 – 1142


Comments: Philosopher, lover, poet and composer; one the the 1st star University Professors as non-Priests became teachers; widely considered the most intelligent Christian of his time; At her Uncle's insistence, he moved in to tutor the young woman who already wrote Latin, Greek and Hebrew, learned at the nunnery; They fell in love, she got pregnant, and her Uncle arranged for him to be castrated. They both entered religious Orders, and named the baby after the astronomical instrument invented by Hipparchus and perfected by Hypatia; Their affair overshadows both of their intellects and contributions to history, unfortunately; subjective intentions as important as actions, an idea central to the Talmud, is brought to Christianity through their work; formalized the scholastic method of collecting and quoting all previous authorities on a subject, then by logic determining the most likely true interpretation; The whole "romance" aspect got more attention than their philosophy, and his method of teaching may have been superseded, but his balls dominate rather than his mind in the public's mind;


Teachers: Aristotle; Porphyry; St. Augustine of Hippo; Origen; Boethius; William of Champeaux;


Students: William of Ockham; Héloïse d'Argenteuil , lover, and equal intellectual; Fulber, her Uncle, alternately a student, friend, enemy, castrater and then reluctant Godfather to the baby Astrolab; John of Salisbury ; Victor Cousin ; Charles de Rémusat ; William Godel ; Walter Map ; Jean de Meun; Geoffrey Chaucer; Petrarch; John Caspar Orelli of Turici; Constant Mews; Jean-Jacques Rousseau; Alexander Pope, poet; Charles Williams, poet AKA Charles Walter Stansby Williams, author of The Place of the Lion; Henry Miller, author; J. D. Salinger aka Jerome David Salinger, author and recluse; Mark Twain; Leonard Cohen, song writer;


Friends: he was too egocentric to really have "friends", except for his lover Heloise; Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny; Pope Innocent III, posthumously;


Enemies: St. Bernard; Abbot Adam; Norbert of Xanten; Abbot Suger of St Denis; William of St Thierry; Thomas of Morigny; Pope Innocent II excommunicated him; Peter the Lombard;


Organizations: Notre Dame cathedral school; Abbey of Saint-Denis ;

Author: Ethica aka Scito te ipsum (aka Know Thyself); Theologia 'Summi Boni'; and it's two companion works, Theologia christiana; Theologia 'scholarium'; Historia Calamitatum; Dialogus inter Philosophum; Judaeum et Christianum (aka Dialogue between a Philosopher, a Jew, and a Christian); Expositio in Epistolam ad Romanos, aka commentary on St. Paul's epistle to the Romans; Logica ingredientibus (aka "Logic for Beginners"); Petri Abaelardi Glossae in Porphyrium ("The Glosses of Peter Abailard on Porphyry"), @1120; Dialectica, 1116; Logica nostrorum petitioni sociorum (aka "Logic in response to the request of our Comrades"), 1125; Tractatus de intellectibus (aka "A treatise on Understanding"); Sic et Non (aka "Yes and No"), on the precedent of previous Church Fathers and Greek thought, the basis of Scholasticism; the seven love/philosophical letters between them which survive to this day;



Resources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Abelard; Great Minds of the Medieval World lectures by Prof. Dorsey Armstrong; read the surviving letters here - http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/40227 ; If you really have the stamina, try reading him in English here - http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/14268 ;