Abelard: A Twelfth-Century Hermeneutics of Suspicion

  • Eileen C. Sweeney
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Abelard’s career is as characterized by struggle and opposition as Boethius’s is by mediation and integration. Abelard presents himself as constantly engaged in a battle to overtake his masters and enemies, in a fight against the envy and incompetence of others. He struggles with himself as well, attempting to justify his work in a context of intense criticism and attack. The earlier view of Abelard as rationalist rebel, fighter for the autonomy of reason over faith and authority, has been recognized as an anachronistic projection, but no other picture giving unity and coherence to Abelard’s work has taken its place. Most have looked at his life, as controversial in modern scholarship as it was in its time, and seen disorder.1


Ordinary Language Moral Life Religious Life Spiritual Life Happy Ending 
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  1. 1.
    See David Knowles, The Evolution of Medieval Thought, 2nd edn., D.E. Luscombe and C.N.L. Brooke, eds. (New York: Longman Group Limited, 1988), p. 110Google Scholar
  2. Jean Jolivet, Arts du langage et théologie chez Abélard (Pans: J. Vrin, 1969), p. 363Google Scholar
  3. M.T. Clanchy, Abelard: A Medieval Life (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), p. 334.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    D.E. Luscombe, “Peter Abelard,” in A History of Twelfth-Century Philosophy, Peter Dronke, ed., (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 306.Google Scholar
  5. 46.
    J. Cottiaux, “La conception de la theologie chez Abelard,” Revue d’histoire ecclesiastique 28 (1932): 821.Google Scholar

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© Eileen C. Sweeney 2006

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  • Eileen C. Sweeney

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