Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy

2011 Edition
| Editors: Henrik Lagerlund

Peter Abelard

  • Ian Wilks
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-9729-4_376

Abstract

The characteristic doctrines of Peter Abelard (1079–1142) can be arranged under the headings of logic, metaphysics, and ethics.

Abelard rejects the position that logical theory deals with universals taken as things (res). It deals with words, which are able to achieve generality by association with thoughts that are stripped of individuating detail. His account of propositions is shaped by his distinction between propositional force and propositional content, and by his notion of the dictum, the causally efficacious non-thing which is what a proposition says. His account of inference is especially focused on the nature of conditionals and the sorts of relationships between terms that can be used to verify them.

Abelard’s most characteristic metaphysical view is that the only things which exist are individuals. Forms exist but only as individual, not shared. Material objects are matter/form composites whose forms are simply arrangements of the underlying matter; material objects are thus profitably subject to mereological analysis. Humans, but not animals, have immaterial souls, and are capable of freedom. By contrast God is not free; he can only do the things he does.

On Abelard’s ethical theory, it is consent, not action, that bears moral worth. A sinful consent is marked by contempt for God, and is formed explicitly in violation of God’s law. Meritorious consent is marked by love of God – in other words, by charity, which is the fundamental virtue.

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Bibliography

Primary Sources

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ian Wilks
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyAcadia UniversityWolfvilleCanada