Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Âin the obscurity of the schools.. .. It was the 11th century which gave Nominalism to the world."[1]

Remigius of Auxerre, pupil of Eric, became the most celebrated professor of dialectic in the Parisian schools of the 10th century. As he reverted to RealismRemigius., his influence, first at Rheims and then in Paris, was doubtless instrumental in bringing about the general acceptance of that doctrine till the advent of Roscellinus as a powerful disturbing influence. " There is one genus more general than the rest," says Remi (J. B. Haureau, Histoire de la philosophie scolastique, i. 146), "beyond which the intellect cannot rise, called by the Greeks obvia, by the Latins essentia. The essence, indeed, comprehends all natures, and everything that exists is a portion of this essence, by participation in which everything that is hath its existence." And similarly with the intermediate genera. "Homo est multorum hominum substantialis unitas." Remigius is thus a Realist, not so much in the sense of Plato as in the spirit of Parmenides, and Haureau applies to this form of Realism Bayle's description of Realism in general as " le Spinosisme non developpe." The 10th century as a whole is especially marked out as a dark age, being partly filled with civil troubles and partly characterized by a reaction of faith against reason. In the monastery of St Gall there was considerable logical activity, but nothing of philosophical interest is recorded. The chief name of the centuryGerbert. is that of Gerbert (died as Pope Silvester II. in 1003). His treatise De rationali et ratione uti is more interesting as a display of the logical acquirements of the age than as possessing any direct philosophical bearing. The school of Chartres, founded in 990 by FulbertSchool of Chartres., one of Gerbert's pupils, was distinguished for nearly two centuries not so much for its dialectics S' and philosophy as for its humanistic culture. The account which John of Salisbury gives of it in the first half of the r 2th century, under the presidency of Theodoric and Bernard, affords a very pleasant glimpse into the history of the middle ages. Since then, says their regretful pupil, " less time and less care have been bestowed on grammar, and persons who profess all arts, liberal and mechanical, are ignorant of the primary art, without which a man proceeds in vain to the rest. For albeit the other studies assist literature, yet this has the sole privilege of making one lettered."[2]

Hitherto, if dialectical studies had been sometimes viewed askance by the stricter churchmen, it was not because logicApplication of logic to theology. had dared to stretch forth its hands towards the ark of God, but simply on the ground of the old opposition between the church and the world. But now bolder spirits arose who did not shrink from applying the distinctions of their human wisdom to the mysteries of theology. It was the excitement caused by their attempt, and the heterodox conclusions which were its first result, that lifted these Scholastic disputations into the central position which they henceforth occupied in the life of the middle ages. The next centuries show that peculiar combination of logic and theology which is the mark of Scholasticism, especially in the period before the 13th century.

One of the first of these attacks was made by Berengarius of Tours (999-1088) upon the doctrine of transubstantiation; he deniedBerengarius. the possibility of a change of substance in the bread and wine without some corresponding change in the accidents. M de Remusat characterizes his view on the Eucharist as a specific application of Nominalism. More intimately connected with the progress of philosophical thought was the tritheistic view of the Trinity propounded by Roscellinus as one of the results of his Nominalistic theory of knowing and being.Roscellinus. The sharpness and onesidedness linos. with which he formulated his position were the im mediate occasion of the contemporaneous crystallization of Realism in the theories of Anselm and William of Champeaux. Henceforth discussion is carried on with a full consciousness of the differences involved and the issues at stake; and, thanks to the heretical conclusion disclosed by Roscellinus, Realism became established for several centuries as the orthodox philosophical creed. Roscellinus (d. c. 1125) was looked upon by later times as the originator of the sententia vocum, that is to say, of Nominalism proper. From the scanty and ill-natured notices of his opponents (Anselm and Abelard), we gather that he refused to recognize the reality of anything but the individual; he treated " the universal substance," says Anselm, as no more than "flatum vocis," a verbal breathing or sound; and in a similar strain he denied any reality to the parts of which a whole, such as a house, is commonly said to be composed. The parts in the one case, the general name or common attributes in the other, are only, he seems to have argued, so many subjective points of view from which we choose to regard that which in its own essence is one and indivisible, existing in its own right apart from any connexion with other individuals. This pure individualism, consistently interpreted, involves the denial of all real relation whatsoever; for things are related and classified by means of their general characteristics. Accordingly, if these general characteristics do not possess reality, things are reduced to a number of characterless and mutually indifferent points. It is possible, as Haureau maintains, that Roscellinus meant no more than to refute the extreme Realism which asserts the substantial and, above all, the independent existence of the universals. Some of the expressions used by Anselm in controverting his position favour this idea. He upbraids Roscellinus, for example, because he was unable to conceive whiteness apart from its existence in something white. But this is precisely an instance of the hypostatization of abstractions in exposing which the chief strength and value of Nominalism lie. Cousin is correct in pointing out, from the Realistic point of view, that it is one thing to deny the hypostatization of an accident like colour or wisdom, and another thing to deny the foundation in reality of those " true and legitimate universals " which we understand by the terms genera and species. It is not to be supposed that the full scope of his doctrine was present to the mind of Roscellinus; but Nominalism would hardly have made the sensation it did had its assertions been as innocent as Haureau would make them. Like most innovators, Roscellinus stated his position in bold language, which emphasized his opposition to accepted doctrines; and his words, if not his intentions, involved the extreme Nominalism which, by making universality merely subjective, pulverizes existence into detached particulars. And, though we may acquit Roscellinus of consciously propounding a theory so subversive of all knowledge, his criticism of the doctrine of the Trinity is proof at least of the determination with which he was prepared to carry out his individualism. If we are not prepared to say that the three Persons are one thing - in which case the Father and the Holy Ghost must have been incarnate along with the Son - then, did usage permit, he says, we ought to speak of three Gods.

This theological deduction from his doctrine drew upon Roscellinus the polemic of his most celebrated opponent, Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109). Roscellinus appears at first to have imaginedAnselm. that his tritheistic theory had the sanction of Lanfranc and Anselm, and the latter was led in consequence to compose his treatise De fide Trinitatis. From this may be gathered his views on the nature of universals. " How shall he who has not arrived at understanding how several men are in species one man comprehend how in that most mysterious nature several persons, each of which is perfect God, are one God? " The manner in which humanity exists in the individual was soon to be the subject of keen discussion, and to bring to light diverging views within the Realistic camp; but St Anselm does not go into detail on this point, and seems to imply that it is not surrounded by special difficulties. In truth, his Realism was of a somewhat uncritical type. It was simply accepted by him in a broad way as the orthodox philosophic doctrine, and the doctrine which, as a sagacious churchman, he perceived to be most in harmony with Christian theology. Anselm's natural element was theology, and the high metaphysical questions which are as it were the obverse of theology. On the other hand, as the first to formulate the ontological argument (in his Proslogion) for the existence of God, he joins hands with some of the profoundest names in modern philosophy. To Anselm specially belongs the motto Credo ut intelligam, or, as it is

  1. Victor Cousin, Ouvrages inedits d'Abelard, Introd. p. lxxxv.
  2. Metalogicus, i. 27, quoted in Poole's Illustrations of Medieval Thought.