Bernard of Chartres

Bernard of Chartres

Bernard of Chartres ("Bernardus Carnotensis") (d. after 1124) was a twelfth-century French Neo-Platonist philosopher, scholar, and administrator.


The date and place of his birth are unknown. He was believed to have been the elder brother of Thierry of Chartres and to be of Breton origin, but research has shown that this is unlikely. [Paul Edward Dutton (ed.), "The Glosae super Platonem of Bernard of Chartres", Toronto 1991, p. 40-42.] He is recorded at the cathedral school of Chartres by 1115 and was chancellor until 1124. There is no proof that he was still alive after 1124. [For the date of his death see Dutton p. 32-33.]


Gilbert de la Porrée and William of Conches were students of his, and some information about his work comes through their writings, as well as the writings of John of Salisbury. According to John of Salisbury, Bernard composed a prose treatise "De expositione Porphyrii", a metrical treatise on the same subject, a moral poem on education, and probably a fourth work in which he sought to reconcile Plato with Aristotle. Fragments of these treatises are to be found in John's "Metalogicon" (IV, 35) and "Policraticus" (VII, 3). [Migne, "Patrologia Latina", Vol. CXLIX, coll. 938 and 666.] Hauréau ["Catholic Encyclopedia", I, 408] confounds Bernard of Chartres with Bernard Silvester, and assigns to the former works which are to be ascribed to the latter.

The earliest attribution of the phrase "standing on the shoulders of giants" is to Bernard (by John of Salisbury):: "We are like dwarfs standing [or sitting] upon the shoulders of giants, and so able to see more and see farther than the ancients."


Bernard, in common with others of his school, devoted more attention to the study of the "Timaeus" and the works of the Neo-Platonists than to the study of Aristotle's dialectical treatises and the commentaries of Boethius. Consequently, he not only discussed the problem of universals (distinguishing between the abstract, the process, and the concrete—exemplified, for instance, by the Latin words "albedo", "albet", and "album") but also occupied himself with problems of metaphysics and cosmology.


According to Bernard, there are three categories of reality: God, matter, and idea. God is supreme reality. Matter was brought out of nothingness by God's creative act and is the element which, in union with Ideas, constitutes the world of sensible things. Ideas are the prototypes by means of which the world was from all eternity present to the Divine Mind; they constitute the world of Providence ("in qua omnia semel et simul fecit Deus"), and are eternal but not coeternal with God. According to John of Salisbury, Bernard also taught that there exist native forms—copies of the Ideas created with matter—which are alone united with matter. It is difficult, however, to determine what was Bernard's doctrine on this point. It is sufficient to note that he reproduced in his metaphysical doctrines many of the characteristic traits of Platonism and Neo-Platonism: the intellect as the habitat of Ideas, the world-soul, eternal matter, matter as the source of imperfection, etc.


Bernard argued that matter, although caused by God, existed from all eternity. In the beginning, before its union with the Ideas, it was in a chaotic condition. It was by means of the native forms, which penetrate matter, that distinction, order, regularity, and number were introduced into the universe.

Glosses on Plato's "Timaeus"

Paul Edward Dutton has shown that a set of anonymous glosses on Plato's "Timaeus" must be attributed to Bernard. These glosses edited by Dutton are Bernard's only extant work.


"The Glosae super Platonem of Bernard of Chartres", edited with an introduction by Paul Edward Dutton, Toronto 1991. ISBN 0-88844-107-X

Further reading

* cite encyclopedia
last = Jeauneau
first = Edouard
title = Bernard of Chartres
encyclopedia = Dictionary of Scientific Biography
volume = 2
pages = 19-20
publisher = Charles Scribner's Sons
location = New York
date = 1970
isbn = 0684101149


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Bernard de Chartres — (Bernardus Carnotensis) est un philosophe platonicien du XIIe siècle (vers 1130 1160). On l a, longtemps, confondu avec Bernard Silvestre (vers 1100 vers 1165, ou vers 1075 vers 1126[1]), lui aussi de l école de Chartres. Il fit ses études à …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Bernard De Chartres — est un philosophe platonicien du XIIe siècle (vers 1130 1160). Humaniste et philosophe, ayant eu un rôle fondamental dans l École de Chartres. Il est tout d abord influencé par Boèce, dont il adapte le platonisme. Il s attache ensuite à… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Bernard de chartres — est un philosophe platonicien du XIIe siècle (vers 1130 1160). Humaniste et philosophe, ayant eu un rôle fondamental dans l École de Chartres. Il est tout d abord influencé par Boèce, dont il adapte le platonisme. Il s attache ensuite à… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • BERNARD DE CHARTRES — (mort apr. 1126) Autour de l’an 1120, Bernard enseigne à l’école épiscopale de Chartres. Il ne nous reste rien de lui, mais Jean de Salisbury, dans son Metalogicon (C. C. J. Webb éd., II et III, Oxford, 1929) dit qu’il brillait dans… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Bernard of Chartres — (d. c. 1130)    Theologian.    Bernard was the elder brother of thierry of chartres and was born in Brittany. Little is known of his life except that he was Chancellor of the School of Chartres from 1119 until at least 1124 and that gilbert de la …   Who’s Who in Christianity

  • Bernard De Chartres — ▪ French philosopher born 11th century, , Brittany died c. 1130, , possibly Paris       Humanist and philosopher, head of the celebrated school of Chartres, in France, whose attempt to reconcile the thought of Plato with that of Aristotle made… …   Universalium

  • Bernard of Chartres — See Twelfth century ( …   History of philosophy

  • Sylvester, Bernard, of Chartres — • A twelfth century philosopher of Neo Platonic tendencies Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006 …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Бернард Шартрский (Bernard de Chartres) — (?  до 1130), философ схоласт, магистр и канцлер Шартрской школы, старший брат Тьерри Шартрского. Отстаивал примат нравственности над учёностью («без этики нет философа») …   Большой Энциклопедический словарь

  • Bernard Sylvester of Chartres —     Bernard Sylvester of Chartres     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Bernard Sylvester of Chartres     (More properly, of Tours.)     A twelfth century philosopher of Neo Platonic tendencies. Little is known about him. Between the years 1145 and 1153… …   Catholic encyclopedia

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