Calamitatum Of The Individual


In the realm of critical thinking, Abelard undoubtedly ranked highly in his day. He was an expert dialectician, philosopher and theologian, and as a result led a movement towards individual thinking. He traveled a lonely path of individuality, and when his ideas were suppressed, he found different ways to express his individuality. The beginning of his life was marked by extreme personal freedom. As his journey through life continued, he found himself compounded with innumerable restrictions. The role of monk could not change Abelard, and his individuality brought him even greater misfortune. He may forewarn others against the risks of such extreme individualism, but his life clearly shows that Abelard thought his individuality was a natural part of him, a part that was as inseparable as his faith.

From the beginning of Abelard's Story of my Calamities he portrays himself as an individual. The as oldest child in his family his life was intended for a military career, but as he tells us, he abandoned Mars for Minerva, denouncing the popular and glorious profession of arms for that of learning. In writing this he shows his clever and distinct way of thinking by referring to dialectic, the art of examining options or ideas logically, as a weapon of war. "I chose the weapons of dialectic to all the other teachings of philosophy, and armed with these I chose the conflicts of disputation instead of the trophies of war." (p. 58, ll. 7-9). This is remarkable for the son of a soldier to make such a choice - even renouncing his inheritance - and pursue only intellectual advancement. Leaving home, he traveled off to school in Paris. He was welcomed for a short while, but soon found disfavor with his teacher Champeaux, the grand master of dialectic at the time, by refuting his arguments and proving himself several times to be the superior in debate. This shows Abelard's superior intellect at a very early age. This is no doubt a major reason for his individuality. One of his intellectual rank finds it hard to conform to others' standards, and naturally becomes a spectacle when showing his skills. This early conflict caused Abelard to leave and start his own school. Unfortunately, he could not maintain it and had to return home.

Years later he was teaching in Paris again, he tells us how pupils flocked to him from every country in Europe, a statement which is more than corroborated by the authority of his contemporaries. He was, In fact, the idol of Paris, eloquent, vivacious, handsome, full of confidence in his own power to please. As he tells us, the whole world at his feet. In the Story of My Calamities, he confesses that at that period of his life he was filled with vanity and pride. "I began to think myself the only philosopher in the world, with nothing to fear from anyone, and so I yielded to the lusts of the flesh." (p.65, ll.13-15). The first part of this statement is a window into what made Abelard an individual. He felt that he did not have to follow the same rules that other people did because he was superior to them. The result was a man that did things differently, for better or for worse. The second part of that statement lead Abelard down his next path of individuality, the first to cause him physical pain. To these faults he attributes his downfall, which was as swift and tragic as was everything, seemingly, in his dazzling career. He tells us in graphic language the tale of how he fell in love with Heloise, niece of Canon Fulbert.

In the midst of his exploits he met Heloise, and in the first time writing about her in The Story of My Calamities he describes her individuality. " the extent of her learning she stood supreme. A gift for letters is so rare in women that it added greatly to her charm and had won her renown throughout the realm." (p.66 ll.15-17). This shows that Abelard valued individuality highly in others as well as in himself. He arranged an agreement with Heloise's uncle to educate her, and gained access to Heloise. Their relationship encompassed the maximum in personal freedom and experimentation. They had a premarital sexual affair of unparalleled proportion. The whole affair was entirely against the rules of