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93 c h a p t e r t h r e e h Abelard and Anselm Few doubt that Anselm was the outstanding Latin philosopher of the eleventh century and the only one to rival, and very possibly excel, Abelard in both logical acuity and profundity of thought. But the connections between the two men’s thought are fewer and less direct than might be expected. The following pages attempt to discern , chart and analyse them. They begin by considering the extent to which Anselm’s texts were disseminated in Abelard’s milieu, then study Abelard’s explicit references to Anselm and then move on to two areas—divine omnipotence and necessity, and ethics and moral psychology—where it is difficult to draw the boundaries between direct but inexplicit textual connection, historical comparison and philosophical comparison. Anselm’s Texts and Ideas in Abelard’s Milieu There was, in the past, a tendency to consider that Anselm’s influence on the earlier twelfth-century Paris schools, and on Abelard himself, was very limited. When, nearly sixty years ago, Sofia Vanni 94   a b e l a r d ’ s p a s t a n d a b e l a r d ’ s f u t u r e Rovighi showed that Anselm was widely read in the twelfth century, she concentrated on Honorius Augustodunensis, the Cistercians and the Victorines. Abelard entered her account only negatively, since she explicitly denied that he was influenced by Anselm’s ethics (on the mistaken grounds that for Abelard there were no universal criteria for rightness and wrongness).1 Nowadays, however, it is generally recognized that some of Anselm’s work and ideas were known in Abelard’s milieux and that he might perhaps have been an important influence on Abelard himself.2 One reason to believe that links with Abelard are probable is the evidence that Anselm was studied by Abelard’s own teachers and by other thinkers with whom he interacted. It seems that Cur Deus homo was particularly well known in early twelfth-century north French theological circles.3 Abelard’s first teacher, Roscelin, writing to Abelard in about 1122, refers to Cur Deus homo.4 Ralph of Laon, brother of the more famous Anselm of Laon, with whom Abelard briefly and abortively studied, uses the same text, though what he borrows, approvingly, is Anselm’s explanation of a view he rejects.5 The Sententie divine pagine—probably from the Parisian schools in the 1130s or 1140s, at or near the time when Abelard was teaching there—refer to Cur Deus homo and other works of Anselm, though the author is confused about which.6 But other works of Anselm ’s, besides Cur Deus homo, seem also to have been known. William of Champeaux, Abelard’s most important teacher, shows many points of contact with Anselm, which may indicate familiarity with some of his work.7 Hugh of St Victor, a contemporary with whom, as the previous chapter shows, Abelard had intellectual contacts, was familiar with the moral theory of Anselm’s dialogues, though he understood it in his own way.8 Probably at much the same time, the writer of a work already mentioned in connection with NAG (see above, chapter 2, p. 76), the Ysagoge in Theologiam, which is much influenced by Abelard, also uses Anselmian ideas.9 Moreover, recent research on manuscript diffusion has provided further evidence of the general availability of Anselm’s writings in Abelard’s time. Unfortunately, the standard edition of Anselm by Schmitt does not provide an adequate basis for studying the Abelard and Anselm  95 diffusion of his works. But Richard Sharpe has shown that Anselm was an author in demand, whose works were often copied and distributed even before he was ready with them.10 A considerable number of copies survive from Anselm’s lifetime and shortly afterwards, and the fact that most of them contain multiple works of Anselm’s makes it likely that an author who certainly knew one or two of Anselm ’s writings would have had access to more of them. All in all, therefore, even before an examination of the internal evidence, it seems likely that Abelard would have known something of Anselm’s thought and perhaps read one or more of his texts, although it is improbable, to judge from his contemporaries, that he knew his work thoroughly and accurately. Abelard’s Citations of Anselm There is, in any case, no doubt that Abelard knew...


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