Neretina S.S. Why Was Peter Abelard Recognized as a Heretic?


Svetlana S. Neretina
Doctor of Sciences (Philosophy), Professor, Chief Researcher, Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Goncharnaya St, 12, Bld. 1, 109240 Moscow, Russian Federation
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Abstract. The article deals with the origin, identification, and judgment (discussion) of philosophical heresy in the Christian Middle Ages (late 11th – 12th centuries), associated with the names of John Roscelin and Peter Abelard. The concepts of heresy, religion, and right – their not only philosophical and historical foundations but also etymological ones – are analyzed. Based on the original meaning of "heresy" as a "school of thought" and "choice", the author sees the similarity of these meanings with the term "religion", which Augustine understood as "re-election". "Right, ius" and "law, lex", which are closely connected with the divine world order (respectively, with religion and its rational-mystical foundation, i.e., with "schools of thought"), create together with them a kind of fundamental complex for the human community. However, the legal framework of this hostel creates opportunities for mutual understanding and interconnection of all these concepts, their internal intentions, and their external expressions. Since Christianity was understood as freedom of speech, equivalent to a natural divine and therefore unchangeable right, determined through a naturally inherent reason that contradicts a positive human changeable right, it is in Christianity that what was considered heresy as a deviation from the doctrinal establishment arises. Therefore, it is no coincidence that the teachings on the unity of the Trinity, i.e., the unity of the multitude, both by philosophers John Roscelin and Peter Abelard, were discussed at church councils as heretical because they were seen as an attempt to establish either degrees in the Trinity or the incarnation of all divine hypostases due to their absolute identity. In addition, Abelard made efforts to reconcile with the pagan philosophy of Plato, seeing in the world soul a similarity with the Holy Spirit, explaining such a scholastic duality of expression. The desire to see the world develop according to one scenario led to the adjustment of different concepts to each other.
Key words: heresy, right, law, philosophy, soul, Christianity, incarnation.

Citation. Neretina S.S. Why Was Peter Abelard Recognized as a Heretic? Logos et Praxis, 2023, vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 16-27. (in Russian). DOI:

Why Was Peter Abelard Recognized as a Heretic? by Neretina S.S. is licensed under Attribution 4.0 International

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