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Aristotle East and West: Metaphysics and the Division of Christendom

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Winner of the Journal of the History of Ideas's Morris D. Forkosch prize This book traces the development thought about God and the relationship between God's being and activity from Aristotle, through the pagan Neoplatonists, to thinkers such as Augustine, Boethius, and Aquinas (in the West) and Dionysius the Areopagite, Maximus the Confessor, and Gregory Palamas (in the Winner of the Journal of the History of Ideas's Morris D. Forkosch prize This book traces the development thought about God and the relationship between God's being and activity from Aristotle, through the pagan Neoplatonists, to thinkers such as Augustine, Boethius, and Aquinas (in the West) and Dionysius the Areopagite, Maximus the Confessor, and Gregory Palamas (in the East). The resulst is a comparative history of philosophical thought in the two halves of Christendom, providing a philosophical backdrop to the schism between the Eastern and Western churches.


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Winner of the Journal of the History of Ideas's Morris D. Forkosch prize This book traces the development thought about God and the relationship between God's being and activity from Aristotle, through the pagan Neoplatonists, to thinkers such as Augustine, Boethius, and Aquinas (in the West) and Dionysius the Areopagite, Maximus the Confessor, and Gregory Palamas (in the Winner of the Journal of the History of Ideas's Morris D. Forkosch prize This book traces the development thought about God and the relationship between God's being and activity from Aristotle, through the pagan Neoplatonists, to thinkers such as Augustine, Boethius, and Aquinas (in the West) and Dionysius the Areopagite, Maximus the Confessor, and Gregory Palamas (in the East). The resulst is a comparative history of philosophical thought in the two halves of Christendom, providing a philosophical backdrop to the schism between the Eastern and Western churches.

52 review for Aristotle East and West: Metaphysics and the Division of Christendom

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    If only Augustine had spoken Greek, John Calvin might have ended up where he belonged, which is laboring silently as an obscure clerk in the bowels of a Parisian law firm.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Aitken

    David Bradshaw angered a lot of people with this, though when one looks at what is actually said, it’s hard to see how Bradshaw said anything new. Even where he suggests new readings, he is not reconstructing the readings in any major way. It's actually kind of humorous: when Aquinas says that God's will and essence are the same (with the major implications by that statement), nobody bats an eye. When Bradshaw quotes Aquinas on that part, people get angry at Bradshaw. Wisdom is justified by her David Bradshaw angered a lot of people with this, though when one looks at what is actually said, it’s hard to see how Bradshaw said anything new. Even where he suggests new readings, he is not reconstructing the readings in any major way. It's actually kind of humorous: when Aquinas says that God's will and essence are the same (with the major implications by that statement), nobody bats an eye. When Bradshaw quotes Aquinas on that part, people get angry at Bradshaw. Wisdom is justified by her children. A few words beforehand: this book cautions against reading later concepts into an earlier word. Contrary to the nonsense at Credenda Agenda, the Eastern fathers’ use of “energies” stems not from Plotinus (since Plotinus did not invent either the word or the concept) but rather was an older word that was continually reinterpreted around increasingly Christian categories. Aristotle was the first to use this word, energia (or any of its semantic cognates). Aristotle’s use suggests something along the lines of actuality and activity. Other thinkers took the word and gave it different applications, but the term itself did not have much of a philosophical impact until Middle Platonism (the biblical use of the term will be dealt with later). Plotinus makes several interesting suggestions. Plotinus expands energia from Aristotle’s actuality to the intrinsic productivity of all things (77). Plotinus’ Two Acts: Intellect comes from the One, leaving the one unchanged. The lower hypostasis goes forth from the higher hypostasis and looks to that higher hypostasis to attain being (81). The second act is the internal energia contemplating the return back to the higher hypostasis. Palamas and Eastern theology in general have been accused of simply regurgitating Plotinus per salvation (cf. Doug Wilson’s moronic essay to this title). But given that many Eastern writers were saying similar things before Proclus and Plotinus, and that later Eastern writers fundamentally changed key moves in Plotinus’ system, it’s hard to say that the Eastern view is simply neo-Platonic . The highlight of Bradshaw’s book is the comparison between St Gregory Palamas and the Augustinian-Thomist synthesis. Bradshaw got in a little trouble for this argument, but it’s hard to see why, since Western authors have said the same thing. Bradshaw points out that for Augustine’s view of divine simplicity (and truth in general), a number of reductios entail: if God’s will and God’s essence are identical, it’s hard to see how God could have willed otherwise (since God’s essence cannot be otherwise). Hence, a most radical form of fatalism. Thomas accepts this argument, but Bradshaw’s critique focuses mainly on Thomas’ inability to rise out of his presuppositions. He wants to have a form of participatory metaphysics in the afterlife, but this cannot square with his emphasis on the beatific vision. While it is true that Roman Catholicism espouses a form of synergism, it’s hard to see how. Since Aquinas says that God wills all things in a single act of willing (which is identical with his essence), creatures cannot contribute anything to their salvation (or even spiritual life). Thus, all that remains is the relationship of grace manifested in an extrinsic and causal way (254). While inviting opprobrium from the academia (who do nothing in response but chant “De Regnon” and sneer “neo-Palamite”), Bradshaw has clearly outlined his case. Even accepting that he has misread Proclus and Plotinus at places, it can no longer be gainsaid that the theological vision of Augustine and Aquinas is fundamentally at odds with the Eastern fathers. And since Christianity came from the East, and developed its theological expression in the East; ergo….

  3. 4 out of 5

    Finnian Lee

    The main takeaway I remember from this is that the West lost the documents and memory of how to see how a being could be absolutely simple, that is without parts, non-composed or just One, yet... also having multiple and different capacities / energies. The collapse of the different energies into each other, and those into the essence of God, by Augustine in his doctrine of absolute divine simplicity (ADS - discussed most prominently by Jay Dyer on youtube, who helps show what Palamas showed - t The main takeaway I remember from this is that the West lost the documents and memory of how to see how a being could be absolutely simple, that is without parts, non-composed or just One, yet... also having multiple and different capacities / energies. The collapse of the different energies into each other, and those into the essence of God, by Augustine in his doctrine of absolute divine simplicity (ADS - discussed most prominently by Jay Dyer on youtube, who helps show what Palamas showed - that this leads to atheism), set the West on a fatal course that would change Christian soteriology, i.e. the work of Christ - which is a crucial point of the religion. So by this time or at least by the time of the schism, the core message of the religion had been missed in the West. Hence this is a great work of apologetics on behalf of Orthodoxy in particular. A good accompaniment to this book is Gillespie's Theological Origins of Modernity, in which he shows the paths Western thought took at the point of the Reformation and its immediate precursors, once it denied the mind-independent reality of natures, like an independently existing human nature, existing independently of any human person's concept of it, which better explains why God incarnated as a man to save us, and didn't just enlighten us as an emissary or change a legal decree, and how Adam could fall, bringing his posterity down with him. Bradshaw's early chapters on Aristotle show one reason why these forms were rejected, because with ADS, all the forms were just different names for the same Person, namely the Father who is also the same thing as His essence, an ur-Nature. Given there is just this monist One, concerning the forms as mere names, how could these forms be necessary in our salvation? Why would God have to incarnate as a human? He wouldn't. All His actions in the bible would be rendered arbitrary, mere symbols. Because everything just is God already, there is no problem of salvation, no fall, nothing but God as Actus Purus. So Ockham got rid of the forms, since they didn't do anything in the ontology anymore. The most interesting example Bradshaw uses of how the ancients saw the forms or energies, was the the form of health. God wills that someone is healed. He sends energy and this is through the form of health, the intended state of being of our nature, sort of like a blueprint, the image, in the doctor's mind. Then the energy through that form in the mind of the doctor, goes through the doctor like he's an instrument for the divinely-energized idea, arranging a sequence of the doctor's actions like gathering and administering certain material, applying it, so as to actualize that form that is potential in the patient. Bradshaw shows how the Greeks had a more differentiated notion of actuality, so not just potential (like I'm a human so I can learn language), but first act (I have the capacity for language), and second act (I am speaking, using the capacity for language). On the Latin theology without these distinctions, the above example doesn't make sense, and there was a reversion to a cruder form of monism, falling all the way back past Aristotle (the ostensible inspiration) to Parmenides. A lot is going on in this work, probably more than I've mentioned here. He actually spends more time talking about neo-Platonists than Aristotle and it becomes quite obscure at times, but very much worth the read, as I said about the core theology of Christianity.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    This book is essential reading.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Marcás

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ismail Patrick

  7. 5 out of 5

    Seraphim

  8. 5 out of 5

    nokey

  9. 4 out of 5

    Omar

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mick Collins

  11. 5 out of 5

    Roy

  12. 4 out of 5

    R. Alan Woods

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michael Millerman

  14. 5 out of 5

    Klaus Kinski

  15. 5 out of 5

    Diogo G.

  16. 4 out of 5

    [辟邪]

  17. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Stevens

  18. 5 out of 5

    David Mosley

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jake Pacigena

  20. 4 out of 5

    Pontus Poysti

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jesse Cone

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rhonda Dodson

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bydlo Suka

  24. 5 out of 5

    Allyne

  25. 5 out of 5

    Luke Eshleman

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

  27. 4 out of 5

    Hpower114

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ivan Fadeyev

  29. 4 out of 5

    Arvin Gouw

  30. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

  31. 5 out of 5

    Ben

  32. 5 out of 5

    Mike

  33. 5 out of 5

    Dan Sheffler

  34. 5 out of 5

    Vinnie Santini

  35. 5 out of 5

    Dan Sheffler

  36. 5 out of 5

    Rashmi Wadbude

  37. 4 out of 5

    D.N.

  38. 4 out of 5

    Franklin

  39. 4 out of 5

    Colin

  40. 4 out of 5

    Pavel

  41. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Lange

  42. 4 out of 5

    Craig Shaw

  43. 4 out of 5

    Keith

  44. 4 out of 5

    Michal

  45. 5 out of 5

    Robert Corzine

  46. 5 out of 5

    likewildflowers

  47. 4 out of 5

    Carlos

  48. 5 out of 5

    Paul

  49. 5 out of 5

    Angelo Mihalopoulos

  50. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

  51. 4 out of 5

    John

  52. 4 out of 5

    univocity

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