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The Philosophy of Peter Abelard

The Philosophy of Peter Abelard


  • Date Published: September 1999
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521663991

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About the Authors
  • This 1997 book offers a major reassessment of the philosophy of Peter Abelard (1079–1142) which argues that he was not, as usually presented, a predominantly critical thinker but a constructive one. By way of evidence the author offers analyses of frequently discussed topics in Abelard's philosophy, and examines other areas such as the nature of substances and accidents, cognition, the definition of 'good' and 'evil', virtues and merit, and practical ethics in detail. Part I discusses Abelard's life and works, and considers problems of chronology and canon (including the question of the authenticity of the correspondence with Heloise). Part II analyses Abelard's ontology, epistemology and semantics, showing how he tried to reconstruct the ideas he had learned from Aristotle, Porphyry and Boethius to fit his presumption that there is nothing which is not a particular. Part III analyses Abelard's ethical theory, showing that it is far wider and more sophisticated than has been believed.

    • Offers a major reassessment of the twelfth-century philosopher Peter Abelard (famous in the context of 'Abelard and Heloise')
    • Includes detailed studies of Abelard's life, with new datings, and all his writings
    • Analyses previously unexamined areas of his thought
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '… most satisfying to read, combining a clear sense of purpose with an exemplary clarity of thought. It is difficult to overestimate its importance for the study of Abelard and of twelfth-century intellectual culture in general.' Early Medieval Europe

    '… not only an outstanding exposition of Abelard's philosophy, but a work that opens up for specialists and non-specialists the world of twelfth-century thought.' The Times Literary Supplement

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    Product details

    • Date Published: September 1999
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521663991
    • length: 396 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.58kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of abbreviations
    Note on the reference system
    Part I:
    1. A life
    2. Teachings and writings on logic
    3. Abelard's theological project
    Excursus I: the letters of Abelard and Heloise
    Conclusion: Abelard's logic and his theory
    Part II: Introduction
    4. Logic, philosophy and exegesis
    5. Substance, differentiae and accidents
    6. Forms and language
    7. Perception and knowledge
    8. Universals
    Conclusion: dicta, non-things and the limits of Abelard's ontology
    Part III: Introduction
    9. Ethics, God's power and his wisdom
    10. God's goodness: theodicy and the meaning of 'good'
    11. Act, intention and consent
    12. Contempt, law and conscience
    13. Virtue, love and merit
    Excursus II: love, selflessness and Heloise
    14. Ethics, society and practice
    Conclusion: Abelard's theological doctrines and his philosophical ethics
    General conclusion
    Appendix: Abelard as a 'critical thinker'
    Select bibliography

  • Author

    John Marenbon, Trinity College, Cambridge

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