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Gilbert de la Porrée

Born: 1070
Birthplace: Poitiers, France
Died: 4-Sep-1154
Location of death: Poitiers, France
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Religion

Nationality: France
Executive summary: De sex principiis

Gilbert de la Porrée, frequently known as Gilbertus Porretanus or Pictaviensis, scholastic logician and theologian, was born at Poitiers. He was educated under Bernard of Chartres and Anselm of Laon. After teaching for about twenty years in Chartres, he lectured on dialectics and theology in Paris (from 1137), and in 1141 returned to Poitiers, being elected bishop in the following year. His heterodox opinions regarding the doctrine of the Trinity drew upon his works the condemnation of the church. The synod of Reims in 1148 procured papal sanction for four propositions opposed to certain of Gilbert's tenets, and his works were condemned until they should be corrected in accordance with the principles of the church. Gilbert seems to have submitted quietly to this judgment; he yielded assent to the four propositions, and remained on friendly terms with his antagonists until his death on the 4th of September 1154. Gilbert is almost the only logician of the 12th century who is quoted by the greater scholastics of the succeeding age. His chief logical work, the treatise De sex principiis, was regarded with a reverence almost equal to that paid to Aristotle, and furnished matter for numerous commentators, amongst them Albertus Magnus. Owing to the fame of this work, he is mentioned by Dante as the Magister sex principiorum. The treatise itself is a discussion of the Aristotelian categories, specially of the six subordinate modes. Gilbert distinguishes in the ten categories two classes, one essential, the other derivative. Essential or inhering (formae inhaerentes) in the objects themselves are only substance, quantity, quality and relation in the stricter sense of that term. The remaining six, when, where, action, passion, position and habit, are relative and subordinate (formae assistentes). This suggestion has some interest, but is of no great value, either in logic or in the theory of knowledge. More important in the history of scholasticism are the theological consequences to which Gilbert's realism led him. In the commentary on the treatise De Trinitate (erroneously attributed to Boethius) he proceeds from the metaphysical notion that pure or abstract being is prior in nature to that which is. This pure being is God, and must be distinguished from the triune God as known to us. God is incomprehensible, and the categories cannot be applied to determine his existence. In God there is no distinction or difference, whereas in all substances or things there is duality, arising from the element of matter. Between pure being and substances stand the ideas or forms, which subsist, though they are not substances. These forms, when materialized, are called formae substantiales or formae nativae; they are the essences of things, and in themselves have no relation to the accidents of things. Things are temporal, the ideas perpetual, God eternal. The pure form of existence, that by which God is God, must be distinguished from the three persons who are God by participation in this form. The form or essence is one, the persons or substances three. It was this distinction between Deitas or Divinitas and Deus that led to the condemnation of Gilbert's doctrine.

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