Holding fast then on the one hand to the individual as the only true substance, and on the other to the traditional definition of the genus as that which is predicated of a number of individuals (quod praedicatur de pluribus), Abelard declared that this definition of itself condemns the Realistic theory; only a name, not a thing, can be so predicated - not the name, however, as a flatus vocis or a collection of letters, but the name as used in discourse, the name as a sign, as having a meaning - in a word, not vox but sermo.
The general importance of Abelard lies in his having fixed more decisively than any one before him the scholastic manner of philosophizing, with its object of giving a formally rational expression to the received ecclesiastical doctrine.
Thus the summum bonum for man is objectively God, subjectively the happiness to be derived from loving vision of his perfections; although there is a lower kind of happiness to be realized here 1 Abelard afterwards retracted this view, at least in its extreme form; and in fact does not seem to have been fully conscious of the difference between (I) unfulfilled intention to do an act objectively right, and (2) intention to do what is merely believed by the agent to be right.
By these distinctions Abelard hoped to escape the consequences of extreme Nominalism, from which, as a matter of history, his doctrine has been distinguished under the name of Conceptualism, seeing that it lays stress not on the word as such but on the thought which the word is intended to convey.
Of the alternatives three Gods or una res - which his Nominalistic logic presented to Roscellinus, Roscellinus had chosen the first; Abelard recoiled to the other extreme, reducing the three Persons to three aspects or attributes of the Divine Being (Power, Wisdom and Love).
When this historical heresy led to the inevitable persecution, Abelard wrote a letter to the abbot Adam in which he preferred to the authority of Bede that of Eusebius' Historia Ecclesiastica and St Jerome, according to whom Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, was distinct from Dionysius the Areopagite, bishop of Athens and founder of the abbey, though, in deference to Bede, he suggested that the Areopagite might also have been bishop of Corinth.
It must be admitted, however, that there is less definiteness of outline in Abelard than in Anselm.
What Abelard combats is the substantiation of these resembling qualities, which leads to their being regarded as identical in all the separate individuals, and thus paves the way for the gradual undermining of the individual, the only true and indivisible substance.
His ircpi OeoXoylas is a dissertation on the knowledge of God.1 Many centuries later Abelard generalized the expression in books which came to bear the titles Theologia Christiana and Introductio ad Theologian.
Not he, but the Frenchman Abelard (d.