“Let everyone consult his own conscience”: Sin and interiority in the thought of Anselm of Laon
Dijk, T.T. van
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The development of the thinking on sin and confession in the twelfth century has given rise to claims that the modern concept of the “individual” or the “self” find their birth in the twelfth century. This topic has been much discussed and nuanced, but there is a scholarly consensus that there certainly were developments in the thinking on the “self” and the human interior during this time, often expressed in writings about the topics of sin, penance, and confession. Discussions of this development are often related to 'revolutionary' thinkers such as Peter Abelard, who supposedly turned away from traditional authorities and relied on his own rationality in order to explore questions of interiority. This thesis will be concerned with the teachings of a more ‘traditional’ and often neglected thinker from the early twelfth century, the schoolmaster Anselm of Laon (d.1117 CE). As such, this thesis is centred around a study of the sentence collections connected to Anselm’s cathedral school in Laon, primarily through the framework of those sentences concerned with topics related to the theme of sin. As this thesis argues, ideas of a ‘discovery’ or sudden emergence of the “self” or the human interior have to be revised. Rather, the sentence collections from the school of Laon show us that a thinker such as Anselm of Laon, who was firmly rooted in the work of traditional authorities, took part in a gradual, complex development which saw the intensification of the thinking about the human interior in the early twelfth century.