Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Bernard Sylvester

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(More properly, of Tours.)

A twelfth-century philosopher of Neo-Platonic tendencies. Little is known about him. Between the years 1145 and 1153 he composed a work called "De Mundi Universitate", which he dedicated to Thierry (Theodoric) of Chartres with the words "Terrico veris scientiarum titulis Doctori famosissimo Bernardus Sylvestris opus suum". From this inscription it is inferred that Bernard was probably a pupil of Thierry or of some other member of the famous School of Chartres. He is not, however, to be confounded with Bernard of Chartres, who died in 1125, and is the author of a work "De Expositione Porphyri". The treatise, "De Mundi Universitate" (republished by Barach, "Bibliotheca Philosophorum Mediae Aetatis", I, Innsbruck, 1876), is divided by its author into two books, the first of which, "Megacosmus, seu Maior Mundus", is an address of Nature to Intellect, and the second, the response of Intellect to Nature. The style and method of composition remind one of Marcianus Capella. The contents are very curious indeed. There is a good deal of Neo-Platonism and Neo-Pythagoreanism, philosophical tendencies which are very rare in the twelfth century, and practically unknown outside the School of Chartres. It is not at all improbable that Bernard, like the pantheists, Amaury and David, who were his contemporaries, was influenced by the writings of Eriugena. His philosophy is an attempt to account for the universe of nature (physics) by describing the cosmic emanations from an original Monad. Not the least valuable portions are those in which the author describes the mountains, rivers, animals, and plants, although the allegorical, poetical manner of the poem very often obscures the meaning. The pantheistic drift of Bernard's philosophy is clear from the expression "Deus omnia, omnia ex Deo sunt". Towards the traditional theology he seems to adopt a sceptical attitude: "Si theologis fidem praebeas argumentis". His favourite philosopher is Plato, although it is clear that he is not acquainted with any of the "Dialogues", except, perhaps, the "Timaeus".

CLERVAL, Ecoles de Chartres au Moyen-Age (Chartres, 1895); DE WULF, Hist. of Medieval Philosophy, tr. COFFEY (New York, 1909), 220 sq.; TURNER, Hist. of Philosophy (Boston, 1903), 306.

WILLIAM TURNER