William of Champeaux

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Theologian, philosopher, bishop; b. Champeaux, near Melun, France, c. 1070; d. Châlons-sur-Marne, 1122. William, a disciple of anselm of laon and possibly of manegold of lautenbach in Paris and of roscelin in Compiègne, lectured for many years on dialectics and theology in the cathedral school of Paris. About 1100 he was archdeacon of Paris and head of the renowned school. Among his pupils was Peter abelard, who strongly objected to his doctrine of universals and forced him to change his opinion. Abandoning teaching in 1108, he retired to the hermitage of Saint-Victor outside the walls of Paris. Reorganizing the hermitage according to the new rule of Canons Regular of St. Augustine, he opened a school of theology at the abbey and again had Abelard as a bothersome pupil. In principle, the Canons Regular of Saint-Victor tried to bridge the chasm that had developed between the schoolmen (scholares ) and the religious (claustrales ). Under the inspiration of William, the Abbey of Saint-Victor flourished during the first half of the 12th century. In 1113 he was consecrated bishop of Châlons-sur-Marne and immediately began a reform of the clergy. His archdeacons and canons were obliged to accept the common life, to attend Divine Office, and to frequent his theology lectures in the cathedral school. A close friend of the Cistercians, he ordained St. bernard of clairvaux to the priesthood toward the end of 1115. As bishop he fought for clerical celibacy and ecclesiastical investiture of the clergy as well as for religious reform.

Only a few of William's writings are extant. Among the authentic writings are the fragmentary theological Sententiae vel quaestiones 47, published by G. Lefèvre (Lille 1898); De essentia et substantia Dei et de tribus eius personis, published by V. Cousin (Paris 1865); and the fragment De sacramento altaris (Patrologia Latina, ed. J. P. Migne [Paris 187890] 163:103940), where mention is made of Communion under two species. The authenticity of De origine animae (Patrologia Latina 163:104344) and Dialogus de fide catholica (Patrologia Latina 163:104572) is commonly doubted.

Although none of his logical works are extant, he was for a long time known almost exclusively as a logician. His views on universals were reported by Abelard (Historia calamitatum 2). William, rejecting Roscelin's view restricting universality to vocal sounds, originally taught an extreme realism. He maintained that the identical essential nature is wholly present in each individual of the species. Thus, individuals within a species differ from one another not substantially, but by variation of accidents, while specific natures are numerically one and identical in all individuals. Against this "theory of identity," which was not original with William, Abelard raised serious objections, pointing out the absurd consequences that would follow from it. Thus, if humanity is substantially and totally present in each man, then it is wholly in Socrates, who is in Rome, and wholly in Plato, who is in Athens. Accordingly, Socrates would have to be Plato and be present simultaneously in two places. Furthermore, Abelard added, this view leads to pantheism, since, in the last analysis, all substances would be identical with the divine substance. The force of Abelard's criticism induced William to change this view for a "theory of indifference," maintaining that individuals of a species are not the same essentially (essentialiter ), but indifferently (indifferenter ). In this view, the essential nature is indifferently common to many individuals so that no one individual exhausts the possibility of other individuals of the "same" species. Abelard did not consider this view to be a substantial departure from the original realism espoused by William.

In theology William followed the teaching of his master, Anselm of Laon. His Sententiae, inspired by the school of Laon, is among the earliest attempts to systematize theological doctrine based on the Fathers of the Church. The apparent lack of originality in William's writing makes it difficult to distinguish his work from that of the Laon writers.

Bibliography: g. lefÈvre, Les Variations de Guillaume de Champeaux et la question des universaux (Lille 1898). É. h. gilson, History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages (New York 1955) 154155, 626. f. c. copleston, History of Philosophy (Westminster, Md. 19461963) 2:146148. p. delhaye, Catholicisme. Hier, aujourd'hui et demain (Paris 1947) 5:391393. s. vanni-rovighi, Enciclopedia filosofica (Venice-Rome 1957) 2:935936.

[b. m. bonansea]

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William of Champeaux

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