Delight Springs

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Abelard's ultimate tragedy

Happy birthday Younger Daughter, aka "the most amazing person I will ever know" (according to her Siri).

The most amazing person anyone knew in the 12th century may have been French scholastic Peter Abelard.
His genius was evident in all he did. He is, arguably, the greatest logician of the Middle Ages and is equally famous as the first great nominalist philosopher. He championed the use of reason in matters of faith (he was the first to use ‘theology’ in its modern sense), and his systematic treatment of religious doctrines are as remarkable for their philosophical penetration and subtlety as they are for their audacity. Abelard seemed larger than life to his contemporaries: his quick wit, sharp tongue, perfect memory, and boundless arrogance made him unbeatable in debate—he was said by supporter and detractor alike never to have lost an argument—and the force of his personality impressed itself vividly on all with whom he came into contact.
Especially Heloise. She also suffered from Abelard's tragic wound, inflicted by her uncle's minions.

He didn't "take matters into his own hands" like Origen. But as Younger Daughter says, "I have a question" for Abelard and for roughly half the students I've met over the years, who presented themselves as open-minded and rational but who also sequestered their pre-philosophical religious beliefs from significant philosophical engagement.
  • Abelard said we need to question and doubt, in order to know. But he never doubted his own Christian faith, saying "I will never be a philosopher." Is his position rationally defensible? Can a critically-minded person simply form a protective wall around specific beliefs, without compromising his/her credibility and intellectual character?
 Not without doing irreparable violence to his/her generative powers in a self-inflicted intellectual self-neutering.  Tragic, indeed.

5:45/5:31, 68/89, 7:51

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