Abelard, Peter (1079 - 1142)

A Scholastic philosopher whose accomplishments include a dialectic method for examining Christian doctrine and his proposal of conceptualism as a solution to the realism versus nomimalism debate.
Peter Abelard was born to a knightly family in Britanny. He abandoned his military heritage, eventually moving in Paris to study under William of Champeaux. He became a teacher himself, a brilliant one, to whom, it is said, students flocked throughout his career. He has been considered the founder of the University of Paris, which grew up around the site of his own school. Abelard is responsible for elevating Aristotle to status of the philosopher in Western philosophy; he referred to Aristotle as "our prince." One of his noteworthy accomplishments is his dialectic method that came to characterize Scholasticism. In his book Sic et Non, he listed inconsistencies in Church dogma and explored arguments and counterarguments to clarify issues and arrive at valid conclusions. As a believer in God, he expected the authority of the Bible to always prevail. Nevertheless, his dialectic method is considered an important contribution to science because it appealed to reason, placing reason on equal status with faith in the pursuit of knowledge. Another noteworthy accomplishment is his contribution to the realism versus nominalism debate; as a compromise, he proposed conceptualism (see Related Terms below). Apart from academe, Abelard is famous for his relationship with the teen-aged Heloise: after impregnating her, he was castrated by her vengeful uncle.
Further Reading:

Brennan, J. F. (1982). History and systems of psychology. Englewood Cliffs: NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Kemerling, G. (2001). Peter Abelard [On-line] Available: http://www.philosophypages.com/dy/a.htm#abelard

Likely, D. (2002). The Learned Doctors; Peter Abelard [On-line] Available: http://www.unb.ca/psychology/likely/scholastics/nominal2.htm

Marenbon, J. (1997). The philosophy of Peter Abelard. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Related Terms:
Aristotle (384 - 322 B.C.)


Dialectic method


St. Albertus Magnus (ca. 1193 - 1280)

St. Bonaventure (1225 - 1274)

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 1274)

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