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Ideas of Peter Abelard, by Text

[French, 1079 - 1142, Born at Nantes. Castrated for affair with Heloise in 1118. At the University of Paris. Work condemned in 1121 and 1140.]

1135 works
p.6 If 'animal' is wholly present in Socrates and an ass, then 'animal' is rational and irrational
     Full Idea: Abelard argued that if the universal 'animal' were completely present in both Socrates and an ass, making each wholly an animal, then the same thing, animal, will be simultaneously rational and irrational, with contraries present in the whole thing.
     From: report of Peter Abelard (works [1135]) by Peter King - Peter Abelard 2
     A reaction: If we have universals for rationality and irrationality, they can distinguish the two. But we must also say that rationality is not an aspect of animal, which seems to mean that mind isn't either. What is the essence of an animal? Not reason?
p.6 Abelard was an irrealist about virtually everything apart from concrete individuals
     Full Idea: Abelard was an irrealist about universals, but also about propositions, events, times other than the present, natural kinds, relations, wholes, absolute space, hylomorphic composites, and the like. The concrete individual is enough to populate the world.
     From: report of Peter Abelard (works [1135]) by Peter King - Peter Abelard 2
     A reaction: If a Nominalist claims that 'only particulars exist', this makes him an extreme nominalist, and remarkably materialistic for his time (though he accepted the soul, as well as God).
p.8 Abelard's mereology involves privileged and natural divisions, and principal parts
     Full Idea: Abelard's theory of substantial integral wholes is not a pure mereology in the modern sense, since he holds that there are privileged divisions; ..the division of a whole must be into its principal parts. Some wholes have a natural division.
     From: report of Peter Abelard (works [1135]) by Peter King - Peter Abelard 2
     A reaction: This is a mereology that cuts nature at the joints, rather than Lewis's 'unrestricted composition', so I find Abelard rather appealing.
p.8 Natural kinds are not special; they are just well-defined resemblance collections
     Full Idea: In Abelard's view a natural kind is a well-defined collection of things that have the same features, so that natural kinds have no special status, being no more than discrete integral wholes whose principle of membership is similarity.
     From: report of Peter Abelard (works [1135]) by Peter King - Peter Abelard 2
     A reaction: I take a natural kind to be a completely stable and invariant class of things. Presumably this invariance has an underlying explanation, but Abelard seems to take the Humean line that we cannot penetrate beyond the experienced surface.
p.50 Nothing external can truly be predicated of an object
     Full Idea: Abelard argued from the commonly accepted definition of a universal as 'what can be predicated of man', that no external thing can ever be predicated of anything.
     From: report of Peter Abelard (works [1135]) by Claude Panaccio - Medieval Problem of Universals 'Peter'
     A reaction: It sounds to me as if Abelard is confusing predicates with properties! Maybe no external can be a property of anything, but I take predicates to just be part of what you can say about anything, and that had better included external facts.
p.51 Only words can be 'predicated of many'; the universality is just in its mode of signifying
     Full Idea: Abelard concluded that only words can be 'predicated of many'. A universal is nothing but a general linguistic predicate, and its universality depends not on its mode of being, but on its mode of signifying.
     From: report of Peter Abelard (works [1135]) by Claude Panaccio - Medieval Problem of Universals 'Peter'
     A reaction: Abelard seems to be the originator of what is now called Predicate Nominalism, with Nelson Goodman as his modern representative. If it is just words, is there no fact of two things having the 'same' property?
p.52 Abelard's problem is the purely singular aspects of things won't account for abstraction
     Full Idea: Abelard's problem is that it is not clear how singular forms could do the job they are supposed to do - to account for abstraction, namely - if they were purely singular aspects.
     From: comment on Peter Abelard (works [1135]) by Claude Panaccio - Medieval Problem of Universals 'Peter'
     A reaction: A very nice question! If we say that abstracta are just acquired by ignoring all but that feature in some objects, how do we identify 'that' feature in order to select it? The instances must share something in common to be abstracted.
p.155 The de dicto-de re modality distinction dates back to Abelard
     Full Idea: The de dicto-de re modality distinction dates back to Abelard.
     From: report of Peter Abelard (works [1135]) by Alex Orenstein - W.V. Quine Ch.7
     A reaction: Most modern philosophers couldn't (apparently) care less where a concept originated, but one of the principles of this database is that such things do matter. I'm not sure why, but if we want the whole picture, we need the historical picture.