Author Topic: Where does the essence-energies distinction come from philosophically?  (Read 161 times)

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Offline Isaiah53IsMessiah

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I'm still learning about the Orthodox faith. I've made up my mind that I am indeed going to convert to Orthodoxy. I am just wondering, where exactly does the essence-energies distinction come from philosophically in the Orthodox tradition? Forgive me, I am more well versed in Aristotelian metaphysics than I am in Platonic (since I am coming from a Catholic background). I have read St. John of Damascus's "An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith" and the energies of God seem to be a central theme within the work yet I also see a lot of Aristotelian metaphysics. Is there something I missed?
« Last Edit: September 15, 2018, 09:33:59 PM by Isaiah53IsMessiah »

Offline RaphaCam

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Re: Where does the essence-energies distinction come from philosophically?
« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2018, 02:48:33 AM »
Plotinus kinda adapted Aristotle's entelechy to theology, with energy being demiurgical creative power. I'm not sure how far this is different from and similar to the Orthodox tradition of essence-energies distinction, but Plotinian theology definitely had its own share.
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Offline Isaiah53IsMessiah

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Re: Where does the essence-energies distinction come from philosophically?
« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2018, 04:19:07 AM »
Plotinus kinda adapted Aristotle's entelechy to theology, with energy being demiurgical creative power. I'm not sure how far this is different from and similar to the Orthodox tradition of essence-energies distinction, but Plotinian theology definitely had its own share.

Yes, this is what I was thinking since Aristotle obviously speaks of "energeia". But I didn't know how this could really translate well into the Orthodox notion of energies in God so I was thinking there must be some kind of Platonic influence. Really the only contact I've had with Neo-Platonism is through the writings of Augustine because it's well known Plotinus heavily influenced him. But I've looked and I just can't find that same essence-energy distinction in Augustine.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2018, 04:29:38 AM by Isaiah53IsMessiah »

Offline Tzimis

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Re: Where does the essence-energies distinction come from philosophically?
« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2018, 11:57:20 AM »
     There is a median between thought and work. Orthodox call this median energies.  Energies themselves are the linking action between the uncreated and the created action. I like to think of them as a tool or an extension.
Similar to the nervous system of a human.  Specifically the neurons that control our motion.
 The mind sends a command to the arm through neurons. They tell the arm.  Lift that object.  The body follows though action.
As mysterious as neurons are. They are part of the created order.
  Gods energies are not created. Gods thoughts are sent through these energies and they affect the created order. Explaining the unexplainable is folly. Its simply a mystery as to how god can affect nature and yet not be a part of it himself.

 

Offline NicholasMyra

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Re: Where does the essence-energies distinction come from philosophically?
« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2018, 10:25:55 PM »
     There is a median between thought and work. Orthodox call this median energies.  Energies themselves are the linking action between the uncreated and the created action. I like to think of them as a tool or an extension.
Similar to the nervous system of a human.  Specifically the neurons that control our motion.
 The mind sends a command to the arm through neurons. They tell the arm.  Lift that object.  The body follows though action.
As mysterious as neurons are. They are part of the created order.
  Gods energies are not created. Gods thoughts are sent through these energies and they affect the created order.
This doesn't sound right... God's energies are not like energies in the modern English sense of being a chi-like force that is behind work.
Quote from: Fr. Thomas Hopko, dystopian parable of the prodigal son
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Offline NicholasMyra

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Re: Where does the essence-energies distinction come from philosophically?
« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2018, 10:42:38 PM »
where exactly does the essence-energies distinction come from philosophically in the Orthodox tradition? Forgive me, I am more well versed in Aristotelian metaphysics than I am in Platonic (since I am coming from a Catholic background). I have read St. John of Damascus's "An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith" and the energies of God seem to be a central theme within the work yet I also see a lot of Aristotelian metaphysics. Is there something I missed?
The short answer is that your Aristotelian metaphysics are going to do just fine in understanding the "intellectual" philosophy behind this. And your neoplatonic familarity is going to help you understand why anybody made the challenges that brought about the articulation of this distinction in its palamite form.

I've often quoted this on the board:

"They say that on the portals of Plato’s school there was the inscription: ‘Let no one enter who is ignorant of geometry.’ One who is unable to conceive and speak of inseparable realities as separate is a man absolutely ignorant of geometry. For a limit without something limited belongs to the realm of the impossible. In the case of geometry virtually all discussion concerns limits, and even apart from actual limited things limits are sometimes defined and proposed per se because the mind separates inseparables. If a man has never learned to separate in his mind the body from the properties around it, how can he entertain nature in itself? Nature as it inheres in bodies is not only inseparable from the natural properties, but it can never exist without them. How can he entertain the universals which exist as such in particulars but are distinguished from them by the mind and reason alone and are conceived prior to the many though they have no existence at all apart from the many, in true reasoning at least. How can he entertain intelligibles and intellectuals? How will he understand us when we say that each mind possesses also thoughts and each of the thoughts is our mind? Will he not laugh and cry out accusing us of saying that each man possesses two or many minds?

If in such instances he is unable to speak of or entertain indivisible realities as distinct, how will he be able to speak of or be taught any such thing in God’s case, where according to the theologians there are and are said to be many unions and distinctions. But since [to quote Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite,] 'the unions prevail and have precedence over the distinctions,' neither eliminating them nor being hindered in any way by these. The Akindynists do not accept nor are thy capable of knowing the indivisible distinction in God, even when they hear us saying of the divided union in accord with the saints, that one aspect of God is incomprehensible and another is comprehensible; that God is one, the same being incomprehensible in substance but comprehensible from his creatures according to his divine energies, namely, his eternal will for us, his eternal providence over us and his eternal wisdom concerning us, and, to use the words of the divine Maximus, “his infinite power, wisdom and goodness.” When Barlaam and Akidynos and those who follow in their footsteps hear us saying that these are necessary truths, they accuse us of speaking of many gods and many uncreated realities and making God composite. For they do not know that God is indivisibly divided and united divisibly and experiences neither multiplicity nor composition."

St. Gregory Palamas, The 150 Chapters, Capita 81, Sinkewicz translation

« Last Edit: September 16, 2018, 10:43:42 PM by NicholasMyra »
Quote from: Fr. Thomas Hopko, dystopian parable of the prodigal son
...you can imagine so-called healing services of the pigpen. The books that could be written, you know: Life in the Pigpen. How to Cope in the Pigpen. Being Happy in the Pigpen. Surviving in the Pigpen. And then there could be counselling, for people who feel unhappy in the pigpen, to try to get them to come to terms with the pigpen, and to accept the pigpen.