Varied Stance on Authority Between Abelard and Hildegard
Abelard’s stance on authority is exemplified by his belief for the need of the fathers to question their own interpretations of scripture, in addition to doubting their contemporaries interpretations. Abelard believes that the establishment of truth is held in questioning and that the word of the “fathers” should not be followed as God’s word simply because they hold a respectful authority on people.
Hildegard’s claims on authority differ as she states that truth is formed from affirmations from God. In this sense, Hildegard reflects the notion that truth comes from listening to God via the inner eyes and ears of the soul, and thus authority would solely lie in direct affirmation of God. These two stances differ as Abelard’s stance would imply humans questioning and doubting the interpretation of “heavenly mysteries” that one would observe with their “body and mind”.
This difference in claims could partially be attributed to gender due to the conditioned difference in subordination between women and men at the time of these work’s inception. Women had a role in society that required a lack of questioning in addition to few opportunities to establish their own truths. It was believed that the word of men was objective and an affirmation that should not be doubted. Similarly, the position of men in society was one of relative freedom in thought in comparison. This may explain Abenard’s willingness to doubt affirmations and furthermore his belief in a need for empirical evidence.