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

186. Alan of Lille (Alanus ab Insulis). -- Little is known of the life of this philosopher. Born about 1128, he seems to have taught at Paris. He assisted at the third Lateran Council ( 1179). He joined the Cistercian order and died in the abbey of Citeaux (1202). Posterity has given him the title of Doctor Universalis.

His principal works are the Tractatus contra Hereticos, the Ars Catholicae Fidei,{1} the Theologicae Regulae, the Anticlaudianus,{2} the De Planctu Naturae. In their general drift they are both theological and philosophical. It is from the latter point of view only that we deal with them here.

The philosopher of Lille has ranged over extensive domains of thought in his writings, without, however, constructing any system proper: he was content to gather up and reconcile as far as he could, the scattered theories that sprang from different sources and were accumulating towards the end of the epoch. The gift of quick and logical thought made Alan an adept in the art of controversy; and with this gift he combined the rarer talent of elegant and graceful expression: so that his works, like John of Salisbury's, occupy a high place in the philosophical literature of the twelfth century. He is fond of clothing his thoughts in poetic imagery, and is indeed often so allegorical as to be misleading. Still, he must not be classified among the mystics (Hauréau); he is fundamentally speculative, not mystic: his tendency is to ally Platonism with Aristotelian and Neo-Pythagorean conceptions, transforming and colouring the whole with the spirit of Christian thought. Alan was not appreciably influenced by any contact with Arabian literature, though he seems to have known the treatise of Gundissalinus, De Unitate, and to have been the first to quote from the Liber de Causis (see Second Period).

<< ======= >>