Friday, September 6, 2013

John of Salisbury: A Christian Humanist

John of Salisbury; translated by Daniel D. McGarry. The Metalogicon: A Twelfth Century Defense of the Verbal and Logical Arts of the Trivium. Philadelphia: Paul Dry Book, 2009.

John of Salisbury lived from 1115-1180. He studied with some of the leading intellectuals of his time. He was an assistant to Thomas Becket, a friend of Pope Hadrian IV, and served as bishop of Chartres. One can tell from reading The Metalogican that John lived a very active life. It is amazing how he found time to study, teach, and write. John wrote this book in 1159. The title basically means of behalf of logical studies. John of Salisbury seeks in this book to defend the study of the liberal arts. This book is basically a manual on pursuing the liberal studies.

The Metalogicon is divided into four parts and a prologue.The first part explains the reason for the work.   In addition, the translator provides a good introduction to the work.John writes this work because some individuals in the church are discouraging liberal studies. Anti-intellectualism in the church is nothing new.  In part one John discusses "The Trivium and Grammar." In this part he responds to attacks by Cornificius against Trivium. In parts two through four he discusses different elements of logic: general observation, Aristotle's Categories, and truth.

John of Salisbury was from Wessex, England. He studied under Peter Abelard and was a friend of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. He was a learner who lived an active life. He had a heart for liberal studies. He was a true Christian Humanist. Two things stand out in this work. First, John was conversant with both pagan and Christian knowledge. When he quotes from writers like Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero, he does't try to justify drawing from pagan sources. He truly believed all truth comes from God whatever the source. Second, he filtered all knowledge through a Christian world-view. John of Salisbury is an excellent model to follow today.

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