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Walter of Mortagne

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A twelfth-century Scholastic philosopher, and theologian, b. at Mortagne in Flanders in the first decade of the twelfth century; d. at Laon, 1174. He was educated in the schools of Tournai. From 1136 to 1144 he taught at the celebrated School of St-Genevieve in Paris. From Paris he went to Laon and was made bishop of that see. His principal works are a treatise on the Holy Trinity and six "Opuscula". Of the "Opuscula" five are published in d'Achéry's "Spicilegium" (Paris, 1723) and the sixth in P.L. (CLXXXVI, 1052). A logical commentary which is contained in manuscript 17813 of the Bibliotheque Nationale and which was published in part by Hauréau in 1892 is also ascribed to him. Finally, there is extant a letter written by him to Abelard in which he expounds the Platonic view that the body is an obstacle to the higher operations and aspirations of the soul. On the question of universals, Walter, according to John of Salisbury, was the leader of the Indifferentists, according to whom the universal is in itself indifferent, but becomes the predicate of an individual subject by the addition of various status , that is determinations or, at least, points of view. Socrates, for example, is an individual, a species (man), or a genus (animal) according to the status , or point of view, which we adopt. The significant thing about this theory is that it explicitly declares all real existence to be individual existence and implies that whatever unity there is in the universal (specific or generic) is a product of thought. It is, therefore, a protest against the exaggerated realism of the school of William of Champeaux, and, at the same time, prepares the way for the moderate realism which was definitely formulated in the thirteenth century.

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