contributor.author: Francisco Bertelloni

title.none: Brower and Guilfoy, eds., Abelard (Francisco Bertelloni)

identifier.other: baj9928.0601.009 06.01.09

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Francisco Bertelloni, University of Buenor Aires, fbertelloni@sinectis.com.ar

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2006

identifier.citation: Brower, Jeffrey E. and Kevin Guilfoy, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Abelard. Series: Cambridge Companions to Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Pp. xix, 362. $65.00 0-521-77247-8. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 06.01.09

Brower, Jeffrey E. and Kevin Guilfoy, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Abelard. Series: Cambridge Companions to Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Pp. xix, 362. $65.00 0-521-77247-8. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Francisco Bertelloni
University of Buenor Aires
fbertelloni@sinectis.com.ar

This book belongs to the series Cambridge Companions, which has already published more than fifty titles on ancient, medieval and modern major Philosophers, as well as on the main philosophical currents. With this title, the series adds to its collection a new volume, now dedicated to the French scholar Peter Abelard (1079-1142), also called magister palatinus because he was born in the little French town of Palais. According to the current gender of the companions belonging to this series, this one was written by a team of different scholars, all prominent specialists, to which each subject was entrusted according to his own speciality. Furthermore, the book was edited and organized by two well-known scholars devoted to medieval philosophy and to Abelard's thought, Jeffrey E. Brower, editor of an issue of American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly dedicated to Abelard, and Kevin Gilfoy, also author of several papers on Abelard's Logic and Ethics.

In spite of the fact that the work under review presents itself as a companion rather than an essay, its purpose seems to be not only to satisfy the requirements of a companion, that is, in this case, to offer a general introduction to the most important areas of Abelard's thought. The purpose of this work is also to fulfill the goals of an essay, that is, to offer a precise and detailed presentation of the different subjects in which the book is divided and, by means of the exposition of thesis and interpretations of the author of each part, to deliver a synthesis of the most recent points of view about the most important aspects of Abelard's life, works, thought and influence. Because of this twofold character of the book-- companion and, at the same time, essay--and the fact that the volume is organized in an Introduction and ten long parts, it is here unavoidable to point out that it is really very difficult to offer in a short book-review an adequate account on each part, and therefore to go deep into their contents. In view of this situation, I shall attempt, in the first place, to underline only the most relevant subjects treated in each chapter, and then to analyze exclusively their most important aspects, synthesizing each one and making evident its main contribution.

In the Introduction, after a general presentation of Abelard's intellectual profile, the editors Jeffrey E. Brower and Kevin Gilfoy describe firstly the content and structure of the volume, and then they classify Abelard's writings into four different categories: (1) literary writings (Historia calamitatum; Epistolae 2-8; Hymnarius Paraclitensis and Planctus; and Carmen ad Astralabium); (2) dialectical writings (Logica ingredientibus; Dialectica; Tractatus de intellectibus; and Logica nostrorum petitioni sociorum); (3) philosophical theology (Theologia and Commentaria in Epistolam Pauli ad Romanos) and (4) Ethical writings (Collationes and Scito te ipsum). The first chapter ("Life, milieu, and intellectual contexts"), entrusted to John Marenbom (Cambridge), offers a preliminary synthesis of Abelard's biographical and intellectual life. This synthesis is organized into three Sections. In Section I, Marenbom exposes a brief sketch of Abelard's life and then he resumes his works. In Section II, he considers the various cultural settings in which Abelard worked: a) the logical schools, b) the world of twelfth-century monastic thinking and reform and c) the Paris schools, both logical and theological. In Section III, he selects some topics concerning Abelard's position in relation to the current philosophy of those days: first, he deals with Abelard's relationship with Roscelin and William of Champeaux regarding nominalism, and then he examines his relationship with William of Conches regarding the idea of a World Soul.

In the second chapter ("Literary works"), written by Winthrop Wetherbee (Cornell University), he considers Abelard a "master of narrative and lyric form" (45). Wetherbee evaluates the above-mentioned literary works as the most important non- philosophical role of Abelard. Wetherbee divides his exposition in two Sections. In the first, he analyzes the Historia calamitatum and attributes to it the features of courtly Romance and confessional. He examines this work from the point of view of Abelard's account regarding his monastic life and spiritual commitments to religious life, and considers the calumny and tribulation suffered by Abelard in St. Denis, and later in the Breton monastery of St. Gildas, by reason of the monks' persistent attacks on him. As part of this first section Wetherbee includes his analysis of Heloise's letters. The second section is devoted to Abelard as a poet and makes clear the most remarkable characteristics of three books, the Hymnarius Paraclitensis, thought of by Abelard as a complete cycle for the liturgical year, the Planctus (or laments) and the Carmen ad Astralabium, dedicated to his son.

The third chapter ("Metaphysics"), written by Peter King (Toronto), is the longest part of the volume. Following Boethius and the stoic tradition, Abelard distinguishes three branches of philosophy: logic, physics and ethics. Metaphysics belongs to physics. Kings starts off establishing an identification of Abelard's philosophy with the first example of nominalism (= irrealism) in the western philosophical tradition. This irrealism doesn't regard only universals, but also propositions, events, times (that are not present), relations, etc. For Abelard, individuals are--as King writes-- "enough to populate the world" (65). King divides the chapter in four parts, and at the same time each part is divided into different topics that give the reader a very complete overview of the internal structure of Abelard's metaphysics. The first part (Antirealism) analyzes two different realist theories (material essence realism and collective realism) and the Indifference theories. The second part (Individuals) examines principles of Individuality and individuation, Hylomorphysm, Whole and parts and Natures. The third part (Identity) is devoted to three subjects: essential and numerical sameness/difference, sameness/difference in definition and sameness/difference in property. The fourth part (The World) exposes the categories with which Abelard constructs his discourse about the World: categories proply said, space and time, causes and events and, finally, dicta.

In the fourth chapter, Klaus Jacobi (Freiburg i. Br., Germany) exposes Abelard's Philosophy of Language starting from Abelard's definition of logic in his Logica nostrorumpetitioni sociorum: "the knowledge of discerning and judging [arguments]." Logic is not a formal discipline, but together with grammar and rhetoric the most important discipline which constitutes a science of language. That is why Abelard's contribution to philosophy of language is to be found in his logic or, what is the same thing, in his dialectic. Jacobi divides his exposition into two parts. The first rests on the analysis and commentary on the most important texts concerning Abelard's philosophy of language; in this first part Jacobi distinguishes between language, logic and grammar, then he analyzes the logica vetus as the starting point for Abelard's logic; immediately after that he determines the place of grammar in the study of logic, and finally he offers the order and structure of Abelard's logic. In the second part he treats the problem of universals; in this part some reflections appear on the question of status. The third part treats the semantics of terms, the fourth the semantics of propositions. Jacobi finishes in the fifth part with an analysis of predication, in which he studies the meaning of the word "is" when it is used as a copula.

The fifth chapter refers to Abelard's Logic; it was entrusted to Christopher J. Martin (Auckland). Martin observes from the start that Abelard's well-known definition of logic as the study of discovery and evaluation of arguments is based on a previous study of Porphyry's Isagoge and Aristotle's Categories and De interpretatione. Nevertheless, Martin focuses his attention on the central issue of logical theory for Abelard: the nature of the relation of consequence. He examines firstly the Boethian inheritance, that is Boethius' theories of topical arguments and of hypothetical propositions. He continues with an exposition of Abelard's theory of entailment, and in this context he examines the nature of propositionality and of propositional combination (or propositional connectives). He goes on with an analysis of syllogisms and loci, the necessity of entailment and Abelard's refutation of probabilism; and in a final section, devoted to the relevance of entailment, he concludes--with Abelard--that necessity is required for consecution.

In the sixth chapter, on mind and cognition, Kevin Guilfoy (University of Akron) starts by pointing out the fact that Abelard's philosophy of language shows a strong dependence on his philosophy of cognition and of mind. It leads us to ask if perhaps it wouldn't have been more convenient to put this chapter before the chapter devoted to Philosophy of Language. Nevertheless, the reader can read it so. In this chapter Guilfoy offers a systematic exposition of the main elements of Abelard's theory of cognition and philosophy of mind, as they are treated in his Tractatus de intellectibus, the Ingredientibus commentary on Porphyry, the Ingredientibus commentary on Aristotle's De interpretatione and the Logica nostrorum petitioni sociorum. He starts with an account of Abelard's position in the Aristotelian tradition. He follows with the exposition of doctrine of sensation, imagination and understanding; in this part he analyzes Abelard's theory of cognition, and he concludes with a discussion of opinion, knowledge and intelligence.

The seventh and eighth chapters deal with Abelard's theological thought. In the seventh chapter Jeffrey E. Brower (Purdue University) writes on the Trinity. Abelard developed the problem of the Trinity in two books. He wrote first his Theologia summi boni; as Abelard explained in his Historia calamitatum, he had to burn this work because it was condemned as heretical. Then he wrote a Theologia christiana that he never completed. Even if the problem of the Trinity evokes apparently only theological questions, Brower writes correctly that Abelard had to solve them before a lot of philosophical queries, in order to use them to expose those theological questions. This fact took him to develop sophisticated philosophical theories of identity or numerical sameness, which Brower neatly reconstructs.

In chapter eighth Thomas Williams (Iowa) examines a theological subject: sin, grace and redemption and the reciprocal relationships between them. Williams focuses his analysis on Abelard's theory of the Atonement, as it is explained in his Commentary on the Epistle of Paul to the Romans, which Abelard drafted as an exposition of the literal sense of the epistle. Williams emphasizes two major subjects of the Roman commentary: the first is the exaltation of divine grace at the expense of the human merit; according to the second, we are meant to serve God out of love rather than out of fear. The subject of the chapter is important, not only because of its theological content and repercussions, but also from an historical point of view; in fact, the question of the Atonement gave rise to Bernard of Clairvaux's attacks and criticisms against Abelard.

William E. Mann (Vermont) focuses in the ninth chapter on Abelard's Ethics. The chapter is concentrated above all on the analysis of two works, Ethics (or Scito te ipsum) and "Dialogue between a Philosopher, a Jew and a Christian." He starts pointing out a pivotal contrast in Abelard's Ethics, that is the difference between what sin is and is not. The first section of the chapter is devoted to a description of the arguments defending three theses about what sin is not, that is, describing sin in negative terms. Mann divides the subject into three aspects: a) sin is not a mental vice that disposes us to bad deeds, b) sin is not the bad deed itself, and c) the will to perform a bad deed is not a sin. In the same section, Mann offers a detailed explanation of Intention as consent and he distinguishes between intentions and second-order-desires, between conflicting desires and conflicting intentions and between ends and means. In the second section Mann explains his principal positive thesis about Abelard's Ethics, according to which all sins are acts of Intention, whether they are translated into physical action or not.

Yukio Iwakuma (Fukui, Japan) devotes the tenth chapter to Abelard's historical influence. He considers three areas: metaphysics, philosophy of language and logic. In order to reconstruct this influence, after a short notice of the development of twelfth-century logic, Iwakuma studies firstly four different aspects of the controversy of the universals: its historical background, the controversy between Abelard and William of Champeaux, realist theories prior to 1130, and the controversy in the mid-twelfth century. Immediately Iwakuma explains the influence of Abelard's semantics and divides his analysis in three sections: first, signification's theories, second, oblique cases of nouns and signification, third, appellation. In this third section he introduces interesting observations about the differences between appelare and nominare. The next part, devoted to inferences, examines the definition of an argument according to Abelard, and the differences between syllogisms and topical inferences. The last part of the chapter (no negatives follow from affirmatives) studies Abelard's influence on Alberic of Paris and Gilbert of Poitiers. Iwakuma developed his analysis in taking into consideration not only the lot of students that followed Abelard, but also his rivals, who needed to know and to understand his theories to refute them. It is clear that he focuses his reconstruction of Abelard's influence mainly on the influence on his contemporaries because the school of the nominales, as Iwakuma writes, survived Abelard at the most only for two generations.

A list of contributors is included with their most important biographical data, an explanation of methods of citation and abbreviations, a list of Abelard's writings, a bibliography of primary sources (ancient and medieval), a bibliography of secondary literature (commentaries and expositions), and finally an index of the most important subjects and names. In my opinion, each chapter succeeds in explaining its subject. Abelard was perhaps not only the greatest logician and the most representative philosopher of his time, but also of this new way of philosophical thinking which used logic in order to treat philosophical subjects, and to solve philosophical queries. In reading this book, the public interested in medieval subjects in general, and especially in Abelard's thought, will find a very well assembled collection of essays about the theological and philosophical work and the romantic life of the magister palatinus. I believe this book must be judged a very positive contribution to the diffusion of medieval thought. Furthermore, I didn't find mistakes in the book, with exception of only one: my surname isn't Bertonelli (pp. 125 and 342), but Bertelloni!