ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

141. Gerbert. -- The tenth century is a century of blood. The Normans spread ruin and destruction around them, and seats of learning pass through a crisis that practically exterminates them. Germany, under the rule of Otto, is the only exception. A few scattered scholars, depositaries of a sacred tradition of learning that barely escaped entire obliteration, -- just a few names, -emerge from the gloom of a barbarous epoch: ODO OF CLUNY, REINHARD OF ST. BURCHARD, POPPO OF FULDA, GUNZO, NOTKER LABEO (129), BRUNO OF COLOGNE, RATBOD OF TRÈVES, RATGAR OF VERONA who wrote treatises on dialectic. But none of these can compare with Gerbert.

GERBERT (b. about the middle of the tenth century, d. 1003), after having studied for three years in Spain, became successively professor at the court of Otho I., master at Rheims and then at Paris, where he won for himself a world-wide reputation, afterwards abbot of Bobbio, archbishop of Rheims, then of Ravenna, and finally pope under the name of Sylvester II. By one of his contemporaries he was styled the "philosopher pope".

Gerbert commentated more of the works of Aristotle than any of his contemporaries: a century later St. Anselm and Roscelin knew no other works of the Stagirite. Gerbert had also a thorough knowledge of the trivium and quadrivium. He wrote on geometry, arithmetic and the elements of Arabian science. He was all at once scholar, humanist, writer, orator, savant. His letters show him to have been an entirely superior class of man; and the monk Richer, a contemporary and probably a pupil, professes in his History a very legitimate admiration for him. Of Gerbert's philosophical teaching we possess only the account given us by Richer of a dialectical encounter between Gerbert and Otric, a short treatise De Rationali et Ratione Uti, and another of less importance, De Corpore et Sanguine Domini. Can Gerbert be classified with the extreme realists?{1} Certain expressions of his would seem to demand this; still we must remember that he is writing in the main as a logician, that scraps of metaphysics appear only at rare intervals (we find in him the important distinction of act and potency), and that he gives no clear or decisive answer to the questions of Porphyry. As a moralist, Gerbert had a liking for certain Stoic theories. His moral teaching is fragmentary and specialized; he defends the political subordination of all Christians to the unity of the Church.

Gerbert is the founder of a school: his lectures were frequented by the realist FULBERT, who founded the famous school of Chartres, by the bishops GIRARD, LENTHERIC, perhaps by the historian RICHER, etc., all well-known workers of the eleventh century.

{1} HAURÉAU, Hist. de la phil. scolastique, i., p. 216 (1880).

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