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Pierre Abélard

Date de naissance: 1079
Date de décès: 21. avril 1142
Autres noms:Peter Abaelard

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Abélard, Abailard, ou encore Abeilard , Pierre alias Petrus en religion est un philosophe, dialecticien et théologien chrétien, père de la scolastique et inventeur du conceptualisme.

Né dans une famille de souche poitevine établie dans le duché de Bretagne, il a été abbé du Rhuys mais a exercé principalement dans ce qui est l'Ile-de-France actuelle comme professeur appointé par des familles aristocratiques et comme compositeur de chansons pour goliards. Sa renommée à travers tout l'Occident de penseur à la fois rigoureux et non conformiste a été un phénomène social du début du XIIe siècle qui aboutira à l'extension du statut de clerc à l'ensemble du corps enseignant et étudiant.

Auteur latin, entre autres, de Oui et non , qui a été le premier ouvrage à être diffusé, de son vivant, à un large public non spécialisé, il est un des principaux acteurs du renouveau des arts du langage au sortir d'un Haut Moyen Âge carolingien entrant dans la réforme grégorienne. Il initie au sein des écoles cathédrales les études aristotéliciennes et fonde en 1110 à Sainte Geneviève le premier collège qui, préfigurant l'Université, échappe à l'autorité épiscopale. Il se fait moine en 1119 à Saint-Denis mais voit en 1121 au concile de Soissons son cours Théologie du souverain bien dénoncé pour sabellianisme et livré à un autodafé. Élaboré à partir de 1125, son traité d'éthique Connais-toi toi-même inaugure le droit moderne en fondant la notion de culpabilité non plus sur l'acte commis mais sur l'intention. Apologiste de la femme et partisan de l'éducation de celle-ci, il fonde en 1131 en Champagne la première abbaye qui suive une règle spécifiquement féminine, le Paraclet, refuge de femmes savantes pour lesquelles il produit un important corpus de musique liturgique. En 1140, sa Théologie pour les étudiants fait l'objet d'une seconde condamnation pour hérésie au concile de Sens.

Instrument de propagande au gré des disgrâces du second personnage de l'État, le Chancelier Étienne de Garlande, Abélard, protégé du rival des Capétiens, le comte de Champagne Thibault, a été un objet de gloire et de scandale, plus encore à l'occasion d'un fait divers, la castration dont il a été victime en 1117 et qui a motivé la rédaction de la première autobiographie où le récit subjectif et le romanesque l'emportent sur le didactique et l'édification, Histoire de mes malheurs . Sa liaison initiée en 1113 avec celle qui deviendra la mère de son fils Astralabe, Héloïse, annonçant le modèle de l'amour courtois, est devenue un mythe fondateur de l'amour libre et les lettres échangées par le couple, Lettres des deux amants et Lettres d’Abélard et d’Héloïse, un monument de la littérature, où la liberté du propos intime est servie par un style étonnamment moderne. Le 16 juin 1817, les restes de la nonne amoureuse et de son époux moine sont transférés au cimetière du Père-Lachaise, où leur mausolée se visite .

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Citations Pierre Abélard

„When love has once been sincere, how difficult it is to determine to love no more? 'Tis a thousand times more easy to renounce the world than love.“

— Peter Abelard
Context: When love has once been sincere, how difficult it is to determine to love no more? 'Tis a thousand times more easy to renounce the world than love. I hate this deceitful faithless world; I think no more of it; but my heart, still wandering, will eternally make me feel the anguish of having lost you, in spite of all the convictions of my understanding. In the mean time tho' I so be so cowardly as to retract what you have read, do not suffer me to offer myself to your thoughts but under this last notion. Remember my last endeavours were to seduce your heart. You perished by my means, and I with you. The same waves swallowed us both up. We waited for death with indifference, and the same death had carried us headlong to the same punishments. But Providence has turned off this blow, and our shipwreck has thrown us into an haven. There are some whom the mercy of God saves by afflictions. Let my salvation be the fruit of your prayers! let me owe it to your tears, or exemplary holiness! Tho' my heart, Lord! be filled with the love of one of thy creatures, thy hand can, when it pleases, draw out of it those ideas which fill its whole capacity. To love Heloise truly is to leave her entirely to that quiet which retirement and virtue afford. I have resolved it: this letter shall be my last fault. Adieu. If I die here, I will give orders that my body be carried to the house of the Paraclete. You shall see me in that condition; not to demand tears from you, it will then be too late; weep rather for me now, to extinguish that fire which burns me. You shall see me, to strengthen your piety by the horror of this carcase; and my death, then more eloquent than I can be, will tell you what you love when you love a man. I hope you will be contented, when you have finished this mortal life, to be buried near me. Your cold ashes need then fear nothing, and my tomb will, by that means, be more rich and more renowned. Letter III : Abelard to Heloise, as translated by John Hughes<!-- 1782 edition -->

„A writer may use different terms to mean the same thing, in order to avoid a monotonous repetition of the same word. Common, vague words may be employed in order that the common people may understand; and sometimes a writer sacrifices perfect accuracy in the interest of a clear general statement. Poetical, figurative language is often obscure and vague.“

— Peter Abelard
Context: There are many seeming contradictions and even obscurities in the innumerable writings of the church fathers. Our respect for their authority should not stand in the way of an effort on our part to come at the truth. The obscurity and contradictions in ancient writings may be explained upon many grounds, and may be discussed without impugning the good faith and insight of the fathers. A writer may use different terms to mean the same thing, in order to avoid a monotonous repetition of the same word. Common, vague words may be employed in order that the common people may understand; and sometimes a writer sacrifices perfect accuracy in the interest of a clear general statement. Poetical, figurative language is often obscure and vague. Not infrequently apocryphal works are attributed to the saints. Then, even the best authors often introduce the erroneous views of others and leave the reader to distinguish between the true and the false. Sometimes, as Augustine confesses in his own case, the fathers ventured to rely upon the opinions of others. Prologue as translated in Readings in European History, Vol. I (1904) edited by James Harvey Robinson, p. 450

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„The master key of knowledge is, indeed, a persistent and frequent questioning.“

— Peter Abelard
Context: I have ventured to bring together various dicta of the holy fathers, as they came to mind, and to formulate certain questions which were suggested by the seeming contradictions in the statements. These questions ought to serve to excite tender readers to a zealous inquiry into truth and so sharpen their wits. The master key of knowledge is, indeed, a persistent and frequent questioning. Aristotle, the most clear-sighted of all the philosophers, was desirous above all things else to arouse this questioning spirit, for in his Categories he exhorts a student as follows: "It may well be difficult to reach a positive conclusion in these matters unless they be frequently discussed. It is by no means fruitless to be doubtful on particular points." By doubting we come to examine, and by examining we reach the truth. Introduction as translated in Readings in European History, Vol. I (1904) edited by James Harvey Robinson, p. 451 Variant translation: Constant and frequent questioning is the first key to wisdom … For through doubting we are led to inquire, and by inquiry we perceive the truth. Prologue as translated in A History of Education During the Middle Ages and the Transition to Modern Times (1918) by Frank Pierrepont Graves; 2005 edition, p. 53<!-- translation of Prima sapientiae clavis definitur, assidua scilicet seu frequens interrogatio … Dubitando enim ad inquisitionem venimus; inquirendo veritatem percipimus. -->

„In fact we say that an intention is good, that is, right in itself, but that an action does not bear any good in itself but proceeds from a good intention.“

— Peter Abelard
Context: In fact we say that an intention is good, that is, right in itself, but that an action does not bear any good in itself but proceeds from a good intention. Whence when the same thing is done by the same man at different times, by the diversity of his intention, however, his action is now said to be good, now bad. Ethica, seu Scito Teipsum, Bk. 1; translation by D E Luscombe from Peter Abelard's Ethics (1971) p. 53

„I have ventured to bring together various dicta of the holy fathers, as they came to mind, and to formulate certain questions which were suggested by the seeming contradictions in the statements.“

— Peter Abelard
Context: I have ventured to bring together various dicta of the holy fathers, as they came to mind, and to formulate certain questions which were suggested by the seeming contradictions in the statements. These questions ought to serve to excite tender readers to a zealous inquiry into truth and so sharpen their wits. The master key of knowledge is, indeed, a persistent and frequent questioning. Aristotle, the most clear-sighted of all the philosophers, was desirous above all things else to arouse this questioning spirit, for in his Categories he exhorts a student as follows: "It may well be difficult to reach a positive conclusion in these matters unless they be frequently discussed. It is by no means fruitless to be doubtful on particular points." By doubting we come to examine, and by examining we reach the truth. Introduction as translated in Readings in European History, Vol. I (1904) edited by James Harvey Robinson, p. 451 Variant translation: Constant and frequent questioning is the first key to wisdom … For through doubting we are led to inquire, and by inquiry we perceive the truth. Prologue as translated in A History of Education During the Middle Ages and the Transition to Modern Times (1918) by Frank Pierrepont Graves; 2005 edition, p. 53<!-- translation of Prima sapientiae clavis definitur, assidua scilicet seu frequens interrogatio … Dubitando enim ad inquisitionem venimus; inquirendo veritatem percipimus. -->

„There are many seeming contradictions and even obscurities in the innumerable writings of the church fathers. Our respect for their authority should not stand in the way of an effort on our part to come at the truth.“

— Peter Abelard
Context: There are many seeming contradictions and even obscurities in the innumerable writings of the church fathers. Our respect for their authority should not stand in the way of an effort on our part to come at the truth. The obscurity and contradictions in ancient writings may be explained upon many grounds, and may be discussed without impugning the good faith and insight of the fathers. A writer may use different terms to mean the same thing, in order to avoid a monotonous repetition of the same word. Common, vague words may be employed in order that the common people may understand; and sometimes a writer sacrifices perfect accuracy in the interest of a clear general statement. Poetical, figurative language is often obscure and vague. Not infrequently apocryphal works are attributed to the saints. Then, even the best authors often introduce the erroneous views of others and leave the reader to distinguish between the true and the false. Sometimes, as Augustine confesses in his own case, the fathers ventured to rely upon the opinions of others. Prologue as translated in Readings in European History, Vol. I (1904) edited by James Harvey Robinson, p. 450

„The fathers did not themselves believe that they, or their companions, were always right. Augustine found himself mistaken in some cases and did not hesitate to retract his errors.“

— Peter Abelard
Context: Doubtless the fathers might err; even Peter, the prince of the apostles, fell into error: what wonder that the saints do not always show themselves inspired? The fathers did not themselves believe that they, or their companions, were always right. Augustine found himself mistaken in some cases and did not hesitate to retract his errors. He warns his admirers not to look upon his letters as they would upon the Scriptures, but to accept only those things which, upon examination, they find to be true. All writings belonging to this class are to be read with full freedom to criticize, and with no obligation to accept unquestioningly; otherwise they way would be blocked to all discussion, and posterity be deprived of the excellent intellectual exercise of debating difficult questions of language and presentation. Prologue as translated in Readings in European History, Vol. I (1904) edited by James Harvey Robinson, p. 450

„Sometimes I grieve for the house of the Paraclete, and wish to see it again. Ah, Philintus! does not the love of Heloise still burn in my heart? I have not yet triumphed over that happy passion.“

— Peter Abelard
Context: Sometimes I grieve for the house of the Paraclete, and wish to see it again. Ah, Philintus! does not the love of Heloise still burn in my heart? I have not yet triumphed over that happy passion. In the midst of my retirement I sigh, I weep, I pine, I speak the dear name of Heloise, pleased to hear the sound, I complain of the severity of Heaven. But, oh! let us not deceive ourselves: I have not made a right use of grace. I am thoroughly wretched. I have not yet torn from my heart deep roots which vice has planted in it. For if my conversion was sincere, how could I take a pleasure to relate my past follies? Could I not more easily comfort myself in my afflictions? Could I not turn to my advantage those words of God himself, If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if the world hate you, ye know that it hated me also? Come Philintus, let us make a strong effort, turn our misfortunes to our advantage, make them meritorious, or at least wipe out our offences; let us receive, without murmuring, what comes from the hand of God, and let us not oppose our will to his. Adieu. I give you advice, which could I myself follow, I should be happy. Letter I : Abelard To Philintus, as translated by John Hughes<!-- 1782 edition -->

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„I give you advice, which could I myself follow, I should be happy.“

— Peter Abelard
Context: Sometimes I grieve for the house of the Paraclete, and wish to see it again. Ah, Philintus! does not the love of Heloise still burn in my heart? I have not yet triumphed over that happy passion. In the midst of my retirement I sigh, I weep, I pine, I speak the dear name of Heloise, pleased to hear the sound, I complain of the severity of Heaven. But, oh! let us not deceive ourselves: I have not made a right use of grace. I am thoroughly wretched. I have not yet torn from my heart deep roots which vice has planted in it. For if my conversion was sincere, how could I take a pleasure to relate my past follies? Could I not more easily comfort myself in my afflictions? Could I not turn to my advantage those words of God himself, If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if the world hate you, ye know that it hated me also? Come Philintus, let us make a strong effort, turn our misfortunes to our advantage, make them meritorious, or at least wipe out our offences; let us receive, without murmuring, what comes from the hand of God, and let us not oppose our will to his. Adieu. I give you advice, which could I myself follow, I should be happy. Letter I : Abelard To Philintus, as translated by John Hughes<!-- 1782 edition -->

„Often the hearts of men and women are stirred, as likewise they are soothed in their sorrows, more by example than by words.“

— Peter Abelard
Context: Often the hearts of men and women are stirred, as likewise they are soothed in their sorrows, more by example than by words. And therefore, because I too have known some consolation from speech had with one who was a witness thereof, am I now minded to write of the sufferings which have sprung out of my misfortunes, for the eyes of one who, though absent, is of himself ever a consoler. This I do so that, in comparing your sorrows with mine, you may discover that yours are in truth nought, or at the most but of small account, and so shall you come to bear them more easily. Foreword

„By doubting we come to examine, and by examining we reach the truth.“

— Peter Abelard
Context: I have ventured to bring together various dicta of the holy fathers, as they came to mind, and to formulate certain questions which were suggested by the seeming contradictions in the statements. These questions ought to serve to excite tender readers to a zealous inquiry into truth and so sharpen their wits. The master key of knowledge is, indeed, a persistent and frequent questioning. Aristotle, the most clear-sighted of all the philosophers, was desirous above all things else to arouse this questioning spirit, for in his Categories he exhorts a student as follows: "It may well be difficult to reach a positive conclusion in these matters unless they be frequently discussed. It is by no means fruitless to be doubtful on particular points." By doubting we come to examine, and by examining we reach the truth. Introduction as translated in Readings in European History, Vol. I (1904) edited by James Harvey Robinson, p. 451 Variant translation: Constant and frequent questioning is the first key to wisdom … For through doubting we are led to inquire, and by inquiry we perceive the truth. Prologue as translated in A History of Education During the Middle Ages and the Transition to Modern Times (1918) by Frank Pierrepont Graves; 2005 edition, p. 53<!-- translation of Prima sapientiae clavis definitur, assidua scilicet seu frequens interrogatio … Dubitando enim ad inquisitionem venimus; inquirendo veritatem percipimus. -->

„The purpose and cause of the incarnation was that He might illuminate the world by His wisdom and excite it to the love of Himself.“

— Peter Abelard
As quoted in "The Abelardian Doctrine Of The Atonement" (1892), published in Doctrine and Development : University Sermons (1898) by Hastings Rashdall, p. 138

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„St. Jerome, whose heir methinks I am in the endurance of foul slander, says in his letter to Nepotanius: "The apostle says: 'If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.' He no longer seeks to please men, and so is made Christ's servant" (Epist. 2). And again, in his letter to Asella regarding those whom he was falsely accused of loving: "I give thanks to my God that I am worthy to be one whom the world hates" (Epist. 99). And to the monk Heliodorus he writes: "You are wrong, brother, you are wrong if you think there is ever a time when the Christian does not suffer persecution. For our adversary goes about as a roaring lion seeking what he may devour, and do you still think of peace? Nay, he lieth in ambush among the rich."
Inspired by those records and examples, we should endure our persecutions all the more steadfastly the more bitterly they harm us. We should not doubt that even if they are not according to our deserts, at least they serve for the purifying of our soul. And since all things are done in accordance with the divine ordering, let every one of true faith console himself amid all his afflictions with the thought that the great goodness of God permits nothing to be done without reason, and brings to a good end whatsoever may seem to happen wrongfully. Wherefore rightly do all men say: "Thy will be done." And great is the consolation to all lovers of God in the word of the Apostle when he says: "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God" (Rom. viii, 28). The wise man of old had this in mind when he said in his Proverbs: "There shall no evil happen to the just" (Prov. xii, 21). By this he clearly shows that whosoever grows wrathful for any reason against his sufferings has therein departed from the way of the just, because he may not doubt that these things have happened to him by divine dispensation. ///Even such are those who yield to their own rather than to the divine purpose, and with hidden desires resist the spirit which echoes in the words, "Thy will be done," thus placing their own will ahead of the will of God. Farewell.“

— Peter Abelard
Ch. XV

„How mighty are the Sabbaths,
How mighty and how deep,
That the high courts of heaven
To everlasting keep.“

— Peter Abelard
"Sabbato ad Vesperas", line 1; translation from Helen Waddell Mediaeval Latin Lyrics ([1929] 1933) p. 163

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