Introduction to Part III
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146 Introduction to Part I I I Slowly, the period examined in the last chapter, when Abelard’s thought was known usually anonymously and, most often through distorted fragments, pre-judged as erroneous, gave way to one where more and more of his surviving texts were published and scholars tried, with more historical detachment, to understand his thinking. It was not, though, until well into the second half of the twentieth century that his complete known works were all available in print. By this time, there existed an extensive secondary literature about Abelard, his life and his ideas, but little if anything in the way of analyses which engaged philosophically with his reasoning, apart from a few studies of his views on universals. The re-discovery of Abelard as a philosopher that has taken place over the last forty years has various and complex origins.1 Jean Jolivet’s 1969 study of his theology in relation to the ‘arts of language’ (logic and grammar) was the first monograph on Abelard to pay detailed attention to his logico-linguistic subtleties, and these were also examined, from a different angle, by scholars from the Dutch school, such as Nuchelmans and De Rijk, and have been taken to a new level of technical insight and historical precision in the many detailed studies by Irène Rosier-Catach.2 Yet the most important element in this re-­ discovery resulted from the development, from the 1950s onwards, whereby philosophers trained analytically (usually in anglophone philosophy departments) began to look, albeit in an unhistorical way, at philosophers from the past. This movement had a special Introduction to Part III  147 importance for medieval philosophy (even though this was, and remains , an area many analytical philosophers are even keener to­ ignore than the rest of the past). Many of the characteristics of analytical philosophy, such as its emphasis on logic and semantics, attention to the precise form in which positions are stated, willingness to invent technical terms and tendency to set out arguments step by step, are closely paralleled in much medieval philosophy. Whole areas of medieval thought, especially in logic, which had been judged worthless or impenetrable were seen to be fascinating and sophisticated once the tools and approach of analytical philosophy were brought to bear on them. More than anything else, it is the work of analytically trained philosophers which is now enabling Abelard at last to be understood and appreciated as a philosopher. Martin Tweedale’s 1976 book on Abelard’s theory of universals pioneered this approach. Given the technical complications of studying Abelard and the lack of translations , it is not surprising that some of those who have brought an analytical treatment to him are scholars like Klaus Jacobi and Simo Knuuttila, who combine an analytic training with the wider philological and historical grasp typical of the European tradition, or Alain de Libera, who brings together many strands, including an ana­ lytic one, in his approach.3 Nonetheless, today’s two leading experts on Abelard’s philosophy (by contrast with those who look at his work and thought more widely), Peter King and Christopher Martin, have a more purely analytic training. Along with Abelard’s own texts, their important and wide-ranging discussions of Abelard’s semantics , philosophy of mind and metaphysics will be the focus of the two following chapters. The first of them looks at a dispute between King and Martin over Abelard’s theory of meaning. On one level, through scrutiny of their arguments and consideration of some passages neither of them discusses, Abelard’s complex and original position becomes graspable. On another level, the dispute provides the occasion to think about questions of methodology, since it concerns the plausibility of the link King makes, and Martin questions, between Abelard and the ‘new theorists’ of meaning of the 1970s and 1980s. The second of the chapters is more wide-­ ranging, but it ­ revolves around 148   a b e l a r d a n d o u r p r e s e n t the contrast between King’s reconstruction of Abelard’s metaphysics and a different interpretation of it, first proposed by Martin (and which I further developed), where the contemporary idea of tropes plays an important part. Here too questions about the advantages and limitations of using ideas from our philosophical present to understand Abelard are in the foreground. ...


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