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Aristotle

Discussion in 'The Ancient Way - Eastern Orthodox' started by mindlight, Aug 28, 2011.

  1. mindlight

    mindlight See in the dark Supporter

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    Tha battle was thus between a carefully defined and closed system and a more openended speculative model?
     
  2. mindlight

    mindlight See in the dark Supporter

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    A degree of immanence would distingusih Aristotle from the Deists and the lack of personality from the Christian God.

    There is a continuity between Platos Republic and Aristotles Politics (both of which I have read) as well as a considerable discontinuity- the same is probably also true of their views of God and of ethics which I have not properly read as yet.

    So no Gnostic then and the link between Greek thought and modern materialism?

    In the end this dilemma is best resolved in the doctrine of the Trinity- God is Unity and Diversity in Himself - subject and object- engaged in a perpetual conversation/love dance with the other members of the Trinity. The multiplicity and the unity of the world then makes sense as an overflowing of the Divine Nature.
     
  3. Tzaousios

    Tzaousios Αυγουστινιανικός Χριστιανός

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    Basically, although I would not take either description too far.

    My main point was that what was once an intellectual debate of philosophical presuppositions and their use in explaining Christian truths, became highly polarized in the later middle ages during the councils of union between Rome and Byzantium (Lyons and Ferrara-Florence). Loyalties to Plato or Aristotle became bound up with dogmatic questions on the energy/essence distinction and the filioque in the creed.
     
  4. mindlight

    mindlight See in the dark Supporter

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    Oh wow so the discussions about dead Greek pagan philosophers and who had the best handle on their ideas got so heated that they may have contributed to the schism itself!
     
  5. Tzaousios

    Tzaousios Αυγουστινιανικός Χριστιανός

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    Yes, the philosophical loyalties of both sides contributed to the schism. However, the "heated debate" was never focused on the philosophy for its own sake. It was always on Christian doctrine and theology. The later councils brought in the additional issue of ecclesiastical union.

    In brief, during the councils of union, it was the Catholic Papal party which brought Aristotle to bear on the dogmatic questions. They received this tradition through Aquinas and Scholasticism. There was also a pro-union faction among the Byzantine delegation which did not reject Aristotle. The Orthodox Byzantine party, on the other hand, countered with a more apophatic, mystical, and Neoplatonic point of view. They inherited this tradition from the Alexandrian school and the Cappadocian fathers.
     
  6. ElijahW

    ElijahW Newbie

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    [FONT=&quot]I don’t know about that being a definition but more like an extremely vague description of the nature of God. I have no idea what you mean by “pure being” based on the statement “I am who I am.” [/FONT]

    [FONT=&quot]Not sure about the pessimism towards analogies also. Plato uses the allegory of the cave most famously trying to present an analogy of our relationship to the unknowable God and the difficulties in comprehending the source. [/FONT]

    [FONT=&quot]
    [/FONT][FONT=&quot]I don’t think the writer of Revelation believes in people lacking free will nor did Aristotle. I don’t think inevitable events like the fall of Rome or the rise of a Christian nation, was seen as being incompatible with free will of the individuals involved. The writer of Revelation gives no indication of having any philosophical education, unlike Paul and the writer of Hebrews.[/FONT]

    [FONT=&quot]
    God’s Word is revealed to us via the intellect in Platonic thought. God himself, you aren’t able to even think about. All the ideas in your head are created entities and real to the Platonist. God is the source of these ideas and isn’t like any idea that was created, so no idea of God can be thought of, making him unknowable.[/FONT]

    [FONT=&quot]Now the Word/Logos can actually be known via the intellect and manifest itself in the flesh or paper or in a vision of a burning bush. [/FONT]
     
  7. MKJ

    MKJ Contributor

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    Yes, I think that's fair.

    Also a fair assesment IMO.



    Well, I don't know if Aristotle managed to successfully overcome the dualism of Plato, but I think that is what he was looking to do. I'd have to reread some things to say more. I would not at all call him a materialist in a modern sense. But he certainly had a confidence in the material world that I don't think is in Plato.



    Yes, I would agree. Aristotle came remarkably close to that.
     
  8. rusmeister

    rusmeister A Russified American Orthodox Chestertonian

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    I could point out that the OP asks for Orthodox understanding, and only three posts so far are from Orthodox posters.
    I read a good Touchstone mag article a couple of years ago by Fr Patrick Henry Reardon on Chesterton and Aristotle - I'd have to go back to it, though.

    What gzt said. I'd add that the Aristotelian view holds truth, of course. But we don't need to refer to it, and all that is outside Orthodoxy must be rejected, of course; above all an absolute reliance on revelation of truth via the physical senses. All of our faculties have their limitations, including reason.
     
  9. mindlight

    mindlight See in the dark Supporter

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    Yes I did ask for Orthodox view points and am grateful for yours. I have also learnt from the commentators from other denominations also who seem familiar with the Orthodox position.

    Much that is in Orthodoxy is also in Catholicism and more Evangelical posiitons like my own also. We share at least 66 books from the Bible for instance and the helpful parts of 2000 years of Christian theology and creeds.

    I am wondering about the Aristotles apparent materialism by comparison with Plato for instance. While this seems quite tame by comparison with modern materialists the point is that the beginning of modern materialism may well originate in a philosophical and theological debate between Catholics and Orthodox that split the church and led to the schism. That the roots of this discussion may have less to do with how Orthodoxy and Catholicism interpreted Aristotle and Plato and more to do with the theological cultural differences that emerged between those who had affinity to the schools of Antioch and those who went with Alexandria, the Byzantines and the Western European churches also fed these differences. I wonder if Aristotle was a pawn of a deeper clash of civilisations used and misused by both sides.
     
  10. Tzaousios

    Tzaousios Αυγουστινιανικός Χριστιανός

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    Yes, it has been interesting who has replied so far to this topic. They have been overwhelmingly non-Orthodox.

    For some reason, there is a prevailing attitude that "academic" topics like this are full of details that do not matter. I have seen comments lately from certain Orthodox members (converts to Orthodoxy, mostly) which chastize others for interest in these matters, and thinking that they are important. It can be mystifying and somewhat discouraging to hear.

    Hopefully we can generate some more positive interest! :liturgy:
     
  11. Thekla

    Thekla Guest

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    Might be of interest:

    (It seems to me better to read a great deal more of the ECFs and also try to understand from within their mindset instead of from some sort of "objectivity.)

    Haven't read the whole thing, but seems to agree with my own reading (both meanings ;)). Full article at link.

    In some ways sympathetic to pagan learning, Gregory suggests that "moral and natural philosophy, geometry, astronomy, [and] dialectic"[3] are all useful in supplying reason with the tools for contemplation of God. And yet, Gregory also warns of the limits of pagan understandings. He points out that both Stoics and Platonists believe God exists, but denies the Stoic claims that God is made of matter or that God is bound by fate rather than possessing absolute freedom.[4] He agrees with Platonic thought on the immortality of the soul; however, he rejects metempsychosis which claims the transmigration of human souls to another human or to an animal after death.[5] He also denies the eternal existence of matter (another Platonic idea), asserting instead the doctrine of creation ex nihilo.[6] In his less charitable moments Gregory attacks philosophy, which he characterizes as forever laboring, but never giving birth, instead being full of air and miscarrying before coming to understand the knowledge of God.[7] Thus, while various disciplines may provide some help during the storms of life,[8] nonetheless the teachings of "philosophy's generative faculty" (γονή) remain "fleshly and uncircumcised," "contaminated by … absurd additions." [9] Gregory's choice of metaphors alluding to the biblical motifs of circumcision and purity is one of many references that continually remind his readers of the primacy of scripture in his thought. [Instructor Comment: And of his eschatological horizon.] In contrast to philosophy, Gregory sees scripture as a counselor and a beacon light that shows the way back to safe harbor for those "who wander outside of virtue."[10] As mentioned above, he breaks with Platonic mind/body dualism, insisting instead that the flesh can commune with God in what he refers to as the eternal progress (ἐπέκτασις) [11] or epecstasy. Eschewing the Platonic idea earlier embraced by Origen that souls (ψυχαί) somehow cooled in their love for God and became entrapped in human flesh, Gregory turns to envy as the source of the Fall from Paradise that estranged Adam and Eve from God and sank humanity deeper and deeper into despair through the stories of Cain and Abel, Lamech, and Joseph.[12] The antidote to envy is the mystical ascent, which Gregory exegetes from the story of Moses' continuous successes culminating in entering into God's presence at the cleft of the rock: "the one who is going to associate intimately with God must go beyond all that is visible and (lifting up his own mind [νοῦς] to the mountaintop, to the invisible and incomprehensible) believe that the divine is there where the understanding does not reach."[13]




    Gregory of Nyssa and Greco-Roman Philosophy | fides quaerens intellectum
     
  12. mindlight

    mindlight See in the dark Supporter

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    I wonder if this is illustrative of the deeper divide between Orthodoxy and Catholicism. That the Orthodox were more sceptical of the powers of reason and thus the Thomist system was an extreme too far for them.

    Similiarly a reading of Aristotle as open ended and speculative appeals then to the Orthodox while a reading of his system , categories and proofs would appeal more to the Catholics.

    In the circumstances of the late Byzantine period after the fourth crusade and with the threat of Islam encroaching I wonder if Orthodoxy retreated into the mystical inner non material life because their material circumstances were not that encouraging.
     
  13. mindlight

    mindlight See in the dark Supporter

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    Clearly there was much wrong to reject in the pagan philosophers e.g. the transmigration of souls. Gregorys critique above is of Plato more than Aristotle as Aristotle also was sceptical of the mind body dualism.

    Gregorys view of mystical ascent is interesting. Surely Moses came back from his encounter with God on Mount Sinai with a new clarity of mind while Gregory seems to imply that that encounter must necessarily be mind blowingly mystical and beyond all that it is possible for mans mind to comprehend.

    Of course having written his vast scholastic system using his new found Aristotlelian tools of reason Thomas Aquinas had a similar encounter with God that Gregory speaks of. Having been overawed by God in this way he said "Everything that I have written is straw".ie worthless.
     
  14. Tzaousios

    Tzaousios Αυγουστινιανικός Χριστιανός

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    Yes, this is very true. The Orthodox Byzantine party, which consisted of much of the clergy and monks, retreated into their cells after union was declared at Florence. One of their leaders, Mark of Ephesus, locked his door and waited for Armageddon.

    In the end, the Orthodox clergy denounced the imperial family of the Palaiologoi as schismatics. Constantine XI, who is revered as an "ethnomartyr," was cut to pieces by the Ottomans in front of the St. Romanos Gate with the spiritual status of a schismatic and unionist. Kind of ironic!
     
  15. Tzaousios

    Tzaousios Αυγουστινιανικός Χριστιανός

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    Exactly! Gregory of Nyssa's Life of Moses is a beautiful work of Byzantine mystical literature. Strangely enough, the encounter he describes between Moses and Yahweh in the Divine Darkness on Sinai is not exactly a synergistic one. I have always found that fascinating.
     
  16. icxn

    icxn Bραδύγλωσσος αἰπόλος μαθητεύων κνίζειν συκάμινα

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    I'm greatly perplexed by this statement. What exactly did you find lacking synergy in this mystical encounter? Aren't the many wars with the spiritual Amalek we have to fight until we cleanse ourselves from the passions, with God helping us as per the story of Moses, synergistic enough? Or did you find fault with the divine rest (as opposed to some form of activity, i.e. energy), God grants to the winner when He meets them in that ecstatic encounter? Unlike certain philosophers, we don't presume to be able to experience the Divine with the exercise of our intellectual energy.
     
  17. MKJ

    MKJ Contributor

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    I would be careful about connecting modern materialism to Aristotle at all, and then contrasting it with any Christian view.

    If anything, Christianity is a closer relation to modern materialism than Aristotle. Christians believe that the material world came from God and is of God, and has a reality and truth of its own which God gave to it. Aristotle and Plato were both unable to go that far. They would be less able to understand a modern really materialist position than any Christian theologian.

    If you want pagan materialism look at the pre-socratics or perhaps the stoics or epicureans. I am sure you would find similarities, though even then you can't assume there is any connection between the two groups.

    But my advice would be to work to understand what Aristotle thinks of Aristotle before trying to understand what any other group thinks. The latter tends to just end up with misunderstandings of both positions.
     
  18. Tzaousios

    Tzaousios Αυγουστινιανικός Χριστιανός

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    Yes, of course there are, but that was not the part I was talking about. The wars with Amalek are a different part of the historia which Gregory uses as an illustration.

    Again, no, because this is a stage which Gregory hints comes largely at the end of the journey, if not in the eschaton.

    I was talking specifically about the event of the encounter of Moses with Yahweh in the Divine Darkness at the summit of the mountain. Yes, he takes a step into the Darkness, but once in there, it becomes an ecstatic one in which he is lifted outside of space and time into the Heavenly Tabernacle not made with hands. During this time Yahweh is entirely in control and sustains Moses at every level of his being. It does not strike me as the typical advertisement of Orthodox synergism that is often used my modern Orthodox apologists.

    I am not sure where I in any way suggested that this is what I believe can or should be done. Are you sure that you do not mean to insinuate that I, as some kind of Protestant Christian, cannot understand the theological or historical context of the work, and thereby gain any spiritual enlightenment from it?

    I assure you, it is not my method or prerogative to infiltrate Gregory's work with some kind of isidious "Protestant" interpretation.
     
  19. icxn

    icxn Bραδύγλωσσος αἰπόλος μαθητεύων κνίζειν συκάμινα

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    Do you have any references to support this statement? Personally, I 've never come across such a strict form of synergy that maintains we should at any single minute engage in some sort of activity and especially in the context of divine ecstasy.

    I very much doubt that I, even though Orthodox, can understand fully the spiritual states that St. Gregory is describing. I do not deny that we can gain some spiritual benefit from reading him, but to understand is subject to the degree we have practiced and experienced what he describes. We have hardly begun our spiritual journey, and if you are subject to passions like I am, have yet to flee Egypt, even more so to confront and defeat the Amalekites, Moabites and all the other tribes, and here we are, investigating and speculating about matters that are way ahead of us.
     
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