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

182. John of Salisbury and the Trivium. -- Extending a broadminded and enlightened welcome to all branches of culture, John was an energetic advocate of the seven liberal arts as they were taught at Chartres: for him they were the seven avenues that lead the soul into the sanctuary of science.{1} But while he would not depreciate the value of Grammar, he would not tolerate the absurd notions of those outré grammarians, who, with Peter Helias, would fain shut themselves up in dry-as-dust analyses of the Grammar of Priscian (131, a).

John was in fact a typical representative of that school of literary humanism to which a wise extension of studies in Rhetoric had given rise at Chartres. An intimate acquaintance with the great writers of classical Latin, especially with Cicero, made the scholar from England the neatest and most elegant Latin writer of the twelfth century; his prose and verse alike are freshened and flavoured with copious reminiscences of the classics. This cultured literary taste of his will account for the vigorous campaign he waged in conjunction with his Chartres colleagues against the obscurantist party whom he nicknamed "Cornificians," a set who persistently tried to bring discredit not merely on the trivium but on all branches of study, as being only so many sordid expedients for procuring rapid promotion to lucrative offices. The Metalogicus opens with a sweeping attack on these Boeotians, whom John depicts under the figure of a strange being, Cornificius, of which he draws a picture that is anything but flattering.{2} And when he has shown the importance of dialectic, cum itaque logicae tanta sit vis, he waxes eloquent in his indignation against this ignorant crowd, -- logicae incriminator, philosophantium scurra.{3}

But he has other errors to set right here, and he thus takes us by another side into the scholastic movement of the twelfth century. He has to defend dialectic against its own excesses and chastise the logic-choppers who would degrade it into an empty parade of pedantic phrases{4} (171). By this same apologetic he administers an indirect rebuke to the extreme school of rigorist theologians who would fain banish dialectic altogether from the schools, lest it might find its way into theology (179). Dialectic he holds to be the queen of the trivium (131, a); its function is formative; it trains the young scholastic in that art of thinking and speaking without which the study of philosophy is impossible.{5} It is with an evident pleasure that John of Salisbury dwells on the notion of logic and its divisions, and on the proper method of reading Aristotle and Porphyry.{6} At the same time he is no less emphatic in declaring the insufficiency of logic if cultivated to the exclusion of the other philosophical sciences: left to itself it is bloodless and sterile. "Sicut dialectica expedit alias disciplinas, sic, si sola fuerit, jacet exsanguis et sterilis, nec ad fructum philosophiae fecundat animam, si aliunde non concipit."{7} Alan of Lille also uses words to the same effect. Evidently the despotism of logic in the schools is at an end.

{1} De Septem Septenis, ii.

{2} According to CLERVAL, op. cit., p. 227, the Cornifician sect arose under the leadership of a monk named Reginald, about 1130.

{3} Metal., iv., 25.

{4} Ibid., ii., 8, 9.

{5} "Inchoantibus enim philosophiam, praelegenda est, eo quod vocum et intellectuum interpres est, sine quibus nullus philosophiae articulus recte procedit in lucem" (Metal., ii., 3).

{6} Ibid., ii., ii; iii. and iv., 1-7, etc.

{7} Ibid., ii., 10. Cf. ii., 9: "Quod inefficax est dialectics, si aliarum disciplinarum destituatur subsidio

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