Robert of Melun

d.1167. English scholar and bishop. Student and successor of Abelard* at St. Geneviève, he taught John of Salisbury* and Thomas à Becket* at Melun, and may have held a chair of theology at St.-Victor. After teaching in France for forty years he was summoned home about 1160 by Thomas à Becket, who hoped for his support, and was consecrated bishop of Hereford in 1163. Robert at first cast his weight on Henry II's side and tried to moderate Becket's rigidity, but he also deterred Henry from any violence against the archbishop, and was one of the mediators sent by Becket to request the king's permission to leave England. Robert later veered to Becket's side and was intending to obey the archbishop's summons to join him on the Continent when he was prevented by royal authority, and he died soon afterward.

In his thinking, Robert was a moderate realist, as evidenced in his Sententiae, his best-known work, in which his position provided a transition from the nominalism of Abelard to the realism of the school of St.-Victor. In this work, which may well have influenced Thomas Aquinas,* Robert did not hesitate to counter Bernard of Clairvaux and to side in part with Abelard in the controversy on the Trinity. His other major works were his Quaestiones de divina pagina, a work in the style of Abelard's Sic et non, which went beyond its model in providing resolutions for the issues, and his Quaestiones de epistolis Pauli, which established him as the founder of a school of commentators on Paul. In all his works, Robert exhibited a sturdy intellectual independence.