God – as in Augustine – -and always related to God; rather, the self-analysis is done in relation to himself, in relation to what he has experienced. Here the title itself reveals the danger, a danger in which we all live, as modern men. When Augustine speaks of confessions, then he relates himself to God, in looking at himself. If you speak of “misfortunes,” of “calamities,” then there s a resentful feeling left, and resentment is always a sign of subjectivity. This is supported by his tremendous ambition; by his lack of acknowledgment of others, for instance his teachers; by his continuous attacks on authorities; and by his personal ambition. All this was a very strong subjective character.
4) The subjectivity is visible in the realm of feeling. We can even say that he belongs to those who have discovered that realm as a special realm. This is expressed in his romance with Heloise, which has all the tragedy and all the greatness of an event, which opens up all romantic forms of romantic love, but which is much earlier than its development in the romantic period. It is the discovery of eros against two things which prevailed before: on the one side, paternalistic authority, and on the other, simple sexuality, which has nothing to do with the personal relationship but which is allowed and limited by the Church and is used as an element in the paternalistic family. Instead of this, we have in the romance of Abelard and Heloise a relationship in which the sexual and the spiritual are united. But again, this was something new and dangerous in a period in which all these things stood under the principle of education and stratification of barbaric tribes which had just received the Christian Gospel. It was, so to speak, too early, as was so much in Abelard.
All this is present in his book with the characteristic title, “Sic et non” (“Yes and No”). I said already in my survey that this is also older than Abelard. It comes from the canonistic literature (the sacred law literature) from ecclesiastical jurisprudence, in which the papal law scholars tried to harmonize the decrees of the different popes and synods. There was a practical yes-and-no problem because the pope and his advisors had to make decisions. They wanted to make these decisions on the basis of tradition, in this case, the law tradition. So the law had to be harmonized.
But a part of the canones is the dogmatic decisions of the popes and synods, and so the dogmatic decisions had the same problem in it, sic et non, yes and no. When Abelard wrote this book and tried to harmonize the doctrines, he didn’t do it in order to show some dogmatic differences, in order to provoke doubt or skepticism.
On the contrary, he wanted to show that in the tradition a unity is maintained which can be proved by methods of harmonization. This was also accepted by the Church authorities because they needed it. And so all Scholasticism accepted the yes-and-no method of Abelard. They asked questions, they put opposing views against the answers, and discussed the opposing views, finally coming to a decision. The whole Scholastic theology is a sic et non theology, first expressed by Abelard. Let us look a little to see how this was applied.