A Historical Outline of Byzantine Philosophy

Res Cogitans 3 (1):73-105 (2006)
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Abstract

We are going to present a panorama of Byzantine Philosophy. As starting point should be considered the Patristic Thought, which preceded the Byzantine Philosophy and was established in the first centuries A.D. into the Greek-Roman world. It was based on the Old and New Testament, the apostolic teachings, as well as on Judaism and Greek Philosophy. Also, the Ancient Oriental Religions – especially those of the Greek-Roman period, i.e. the Gnosticism- exerted an influence on it. The Patristic Thought and the Ancient Greek Philosophy were the two main pedestals of Byzantine Philosophy. But, we cannot separate completely Patristic thought from the Byzantine Philosophy, first because the Byzantine Philosophy used all the corpus of the preceded texts of the Church Fathers and second because the Patristic Thought was continued to the end of Byzantium in interaction with Byzantine Philosophy. When we use he term Byzantine Philosophy we refer to the ideological currents that flourished from the 9th century till the 15th in the geographical area of the Greek East. Its main task was the quest for truth from the metaphysical point of view. In this era we have not only commentaries and scholastic works, but also an assimilation of the previous philosophical and scientific developments in purpose of an interior evolution. The opposition to, and the use of, the Western scholasticism were also another two special characteristics of Byzantine Thought. The use of the logical works of Aristotle and the metaphysics of Plato made up its main theoretical body, always in relation to the Christian dogmas. The logical, metaphysical, cosmological, ethical, aesthetical and anthropological subjects were closely connected with the fixed Christian view of the World, God and Man. But despite the influence of the Christian religion and the Aristotelic, Platonic, Stoic, Neoplatonic etc. teachings, today we can arrive at the conclusion that from the ninth through the fifteen century a relative autonomy of Philosophy in Byzantium was emerged. Also, the Philosophical thought in Byzantium gave some new solutions to the old problems and dared sometimes to proceed in new rational, mystical or even empirical elaborations of original philosophical questions.

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