Volume 81, Issue 2, Spring 2007
Abelard (and Heloise?) on Intention
For Abelard, the notion of “intention” (intentio, attentio) plays a central and important role in his cognitive and ethical theories. Is there any philosophical
connection between its uses in these contexts? In recent publications, Constant Mews has argued that the cognitive and ethical senses of “intention” are related
(namely, the cognitive sense evolves into the ethical sense), and that Abelard is repeatedly led to focus on intentions throughout his career due to the influence
of Heloise. Here I evaluate Mews’s arguments by examining and comparing the cognitive and ethical senses of the term. Although the basis for Mews’s claim
seems to be false, I argue that there is nonetheless an important philosophical relationship between cognitive and ethical intentiones in Abelard’s thought, the
recognition of which leads to a new and more precise understanding of his ethical theory of intention.