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Post Abelard's "Sic et Non"
Created by John Eipper on 08/10/17 6:17 AM

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Abelard's "Sic et Non" (Enrique Torner, USA, 08/10/17 6:17 am)

The latest discussions on WAIS, the one on the latest North Korea/US exchanges, and the one on Ellen Horup (whom I had never heard of before) hit me hard as I found it amazing how scholarly, intelligent people like WAISers can disagree so much about a given subject, even when it's not politics.

During the three years (I think) I have been a member of WAIS, if I had to mention one characteristic of this Forum, it would be how contradictory opinions can be on a single subject. This reminded me of a work written in Latin by French medieval philosopher and theologian Peter Abelard (1079-1142): "Sic et Non," translated as "Yes and No." This work is considered as one of the most important medieval theological/philosophical treatises in Western civilization.

It is a fascinating essay about the Church Fathers that examines the many contradictions among them about all kinds of theological subjects. For each one, he offers examples of contradictory statements. Peter Abelard offers rules for reconciling these contradictions, and provides suggestions on how to deal with these disagreements.

Here is an excerpt from "Sic et Non" I think you will find useful as you (we all, including me) think through and write about WAIS discussions:


JE comments:  We should never deprive ourselves of a spirited discussion.  As Abelard argues, it's an excellent intellectual exercise.  An interesting aside is how Abelard excludes the Bible from fallibility.  Any patent absurdity in Scripture, he assures us, is the work of a sloppy copyist or translator.  Would that make him (Abelard) a Fundamentalist avant la lettre?  Or rather, weren't all medieval theologians literal readers of the Bible?  More creative exegesis came along with the Renaissance, or perhaps even spurred it.

We Romantics best remember Abelard as the ill-fated lover of Héloïse, whose uncle (father?) put an end to their hanky-panky by having him attacked and castrated.  Yikes.  And you thought your in-laws were mean...

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