Ethics, Sin, and Redemption
Like many of their contemporaries, Abelard and Heloise both lamented the hypocrisy of prominent figures who in public preached ideals of love for God and neighbor, while being more concerned in practice to obtain the support of the powerful than to help those in genuine distress. Heloise was more diplomatic than Abelard in the way she articulated these concerns and negotiated her relationships. She was not as prone to make broad assertions about specific individuals whom he accused of using religious ideals to promote their careers. One such target of Abelard's satire was William of Champeaux, even though he learned a great deal from William about the principles of argument. By extension, Abelard charged many of William's admirers with intellectual blindness and failure to live out the ethical principles of love and compassion that they preached. His critique was certainly colored by the way he felt he had been mistreated by the ecclesiastical establishment. When he first met Heloise, Abelard was overwhelmed by a sense that she lived out her ideals of a truly ethical life, which she saw as the true teaching not just of Scripture but of both Cicero in his writing on friendship and Ovid in his poetry about love. Abelard, brilliant in analyzing words, was fascinated by her concern with ethical principles and attempted to respond to her early questions about love, but he still remained then a specialist in dialectic. Even from relatively early in their exchange, Heloise is stronger in her sense of the demands of love as an ideal to be pursued for its own sake and not for any external gain. Whereas he sees love as something
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Publication information: Book title: Abelard and Heloise. Contributors: Constant J. Mews - Author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2004. Page number: 174.
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