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Author Topic: Platonism/Aristotleanism - Two Major Philosophies of the Church!  (Read 3138 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: January 25, 2008, 06:10:29 PM »

Hello,

As far as I know, the Catholic Church is built upon two major philosophical systems - one is Platonism and the other is Aristotleanism. Platonism was the philosophical system of the undivided Church in the first millennium. It continues to play a key role in the life of the Catholic Church still today. I don't think that the Orthodox Church every got into Aristotleanism, seeing how his works didn't start making it back into circulation until after the Great Schism.

This thread is for discussion of the philosophies of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
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« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2008, 07:01:15 PM »

Hello,

As far as I know, the Catholic Church is built upon two major philosophical systems - one is Platonism and the other is Aristotleanism. Platonism was the philosophical system of the undivided Church in the first millennium. It continues to play a key role in the life of the Catholic Church still today. I don't think that the Orthodox Church every got into Aristotleanism, seeing how his works didn't start making it back into circulation until after the Great Schism.

That's pretty much it.
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« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2008, 08:16:38 PM »

Well the thing that still bewilders me about Aristotle and the Catholic Church (and even pre-schismatic western scholars) is there insistence that Aristotle is somehow compatible with Christian thought! Don't get me wrong Aristotle was a man beyond his time and has many important ideas that have shaped our Sciences and concept of logic but here are my main gripes about him. Aristotle was a first cause Deist ( He believed in a God who's only point was to create the universe and therefore "ending" the cause argument and that this God does nothing to affect our lives or is even personal) Christianity on the other hand is quite the opposite with a God that intervenes in nature and our lives and is personal and is more then merely a solution to a logical problem. Second the concept of the soul: Even though Aristotle used the word soul (ψυχή) in his lectures he has later defined it as purely the culmination of all of our personality and attributes nothing specifically metaphysical unlike in Christianity where the soul is divine, immortal and metaphysical and more then merely our personality. Unlike Plato on the other hand (One of my favorite philosophers) who believed in a God more akin to the Christian one and also believed in the immortality of the soul. The differences between Aristotle and basic Christian dogma personally for me are irreconcilable but I will humbly and truly listen if someone can help me see another view.
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« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2008, 08:50:15 PM »

I think Aristotle became influential even later than the great schism.  Moreso during the renaissance and then the enlightenment. Thomist scholars (and I do not think Aquinas himself was a Thomist as that school of thought named after him later developed) adopted Aristotle's logic and theistic proofs as did later protestant apologists for theism (over against enlightenment atheists). That is why he became influential among western churchmen.
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« Reply #4 on: January 25, 2008, 09:10:07 PM »

Platonism/Aristotleanism  is for the birds, for this is not the way to know God, if you wish to know God, purify your heart through prayer.

Our Lord Jesus Christ said, "Blessed are those who are pure in heart, for they shall see God."

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« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2008, 09:17:06 PM »

Aristotleanism is for the birds, for this is not the way to know God, if you wish to know God, purify your heart through prayer.

Our Lord Jesus Christ said, "Blessed are those who are pure in heart, for they shall see God."

How do you explain color to be blind person?  You can't.  It is something you have to experience.

You're right that secular learning is not strictly necessary to know God, but we as Christians are called to become educated in our theology, and secular learning can help supplement that.  Most of the Holy Fathers were the most educated men of their day, and used that education for the glory of God.  So, any anti-intellectualism (which I'm not accusing you of) is not part of the Orthodox worldview.
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« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2008, 09:31:38 PM »

Hello,

I think Aristotle became influential even later than the great schism.  Moreso during the renaissance and then the enlightenment. Thomist scholars (and I do not think Aquinas himself was a Thomist as that school of thought named after him later developed) adopted Aristotle's logic and theistic proofs as did later protestant apologists for theism (over against enlightenment atheists). That is why he became influential among western churchmen.

Aristotle's works came to us through a number of channels starting towards the end of the first millenium. By the end of the 1100's, his system of philosophy had a number of proponents. Indeed, Saint Thomas Aquinas did base his theology on the Aristotlean system. There was conflict between proponents of the two systems, and a number of Aristotleans did have to be brought back down to reality from becoming too rational (i.e., we can know everything by reason alone). Thomism came back periodically into the Church and then recently in the 19th century when Pope Leo XIII brought it back to the schools. Whether the Angelic Doctor himself would be a Thomist (as it is taught today) is a matter of debate.

It is interesting to note that Pope John Paul II was a definite student of Saint Thomas Aquinas and the Thomistic school of thought (Aristotleanism) and the current Pope Benedict XVI is a definite student of Saint Augustine and the Augustinian school of thought (Platonism). They really compliment each other and showcase these two great philosophical systems.
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« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2008, 09:39:18 PM »

I don't know where the idea that Aristotle has no place in Orthodoxy comes from.  St. John of Damascus magnus opus "The Fountain of Wisdom" deals with the categories of Aristotle as the first principles of knowledge.  As an aside, Aristotle was the main philosopher of the golden age of Islamic philosophy, whose culmination, al-Farabi, was called "The Second Teacher [i.e. after Aristotle]."

Aristotle I think is more acceptable vis-a-vis, say, Platonic (and Neo-Platonic) scheme of emenations.  Plato fits Hinduism perfectly.
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« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2008, 09:40:51 PM »

Hello,

Platonism/Aristotleanism  is for the birds, for this is not the way to know God, if you wish to know God, purify your heart through prayer.

Our Lord Jesus Christ said, "Blessed are those who are pure in heart, for they shall see God."

How do you explain color to be blind person?  You can't.  It is something you have to experience.

Indeed, experience is important in the faith, but how do you pass it on. When you're children are learning their faith, do you just tell them - "it's a feeling and all about experiencing God" and absolutely nothing else. Do you just let them free to try and feel their way to truth? Of course not, you teach them the faith.

Now, how do we explain the faith - teach it to others? How did the Fathers decided to word the Creed (other than by the guidance of the Holy Spirit)? They based their understandings off of philosophy - in that day, it was Platonism (whether it was purely Platonism or Neo-Platonism is a matter of scholarly debate). There is no way to posit a theological truth without a philosophical base underneath.

One of the reasons the early Fathers choose Platonism was because it was so popular. They wanted to use a system that would reach the widest audience. That was part of their preaching to the world, by using the understandings of the world. Of course, they modified areas in Platonism that were opposed to Christianity (as they did in Aristotleanism), but the basic understanding is there. The best way to describe the actual system is "Christian Platonism".
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« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2008, 09:43:51 PM »

Hello,

As an aside, Aristotle was the main philosopher of the golden age of Islamic philosophy, whose culmination, al-Farabi, was called "The Second Teacher [i.e. after Aristotle]."

I remember reading that when Aristotle first re-entered Christendom via Spain (via Arabic North Africa), that the Muslims had put in a whole lot of Islamic/Pagan ideas into it that Aristotle never wrote. Some ancient Greek manuscripts were found (I forget exactly where) and the errors were able to be taken out of his works.
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« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2008, 09:51:14 PM »

Hello,

Well the thing that still bewilders me about Aristotle and the Catholic Church (and even pre-schismatic western scholars) is there insistence that Aristotle is somehow compatible with Christian thought!

No less so than Plato.


Don't get me wrong Aristotle was a man beyond his time and has many important ideas that have shaped our Sciences and concept of logic but here are my main gripes about him.

He went about as far as a man can go without the Faith and Divine Revelation.


Aristotle was a first cause Deist ( He believed in a God who's only point was to create the universe and therefore "ending" the cause argument and that this God does nothing to affect our lives or is even personal) Christianity on the other hand is quite the opposite with a God that intervenes in nature and our lives and is personal and is more then merely a solution to a logical problem.

That is certainly the view of Deists who posit the "Watchmaker" theory. But the "first cause" or the "cause without cause" says nothing about what happens after creation, one way or another.



Second the concept of the soul: Even though Aristotle used the word soul (ψυχή) in his lectures he has later defined it as purely the culmination of all of our personality and attributes nothing specifically metaphysical unlike in Christianity where the soul is divine, immortal and metaphysical and more then merely our personality. Unlike Plato on the other hand (One of my favorite philosophers) who believed in a God more akin to the Christian one and also believed in the immortality of the soul.

I remember reading on this subject once, but I have since forgotten the views of both camps. Sorry.

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« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2008, 09:55:08 PM »

Hello,

I guess I should add that I tend to be more Platonic than Aristotlean - though I am not opposed to viewing things in an Aristotlean perspective (i.e., transubstantiation). This Christian Platonism fits in nicely with my Carmelite Spirituality.  Wink
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« Reply #12 on: January 26, 2008, 08:04:44 AM »

Hello,

I remember reading that when Aristotle first re-entered Christendom via Spain (via Arabic North Africa), that the Muslims had put in a whole lot of Islamic/Pagan ideas into it that Aristotle never wrote. Some ancient Greek manuscripts were found (I forget exactly where) and the errors were able to be taken out of his works.

Might be nice if you could remember also where you read this.
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« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2008, 11:56:45 AM »

Hello,

Might be nice if you could remember also where you read this.

Which part? If you mean Aristotle's works being brought to Western Europe in the Middle Ages via Moorish Spain, I don't think you'll hardly find a scholar or historian that will dispute that.

If you mean the Muslim corruption and peppering of his works, I can't remember the title of the article, though it is mentioned also in the Catholic Encyclopedia:

The translations of Aristotle made from the Arabian and accompanied by Arabian commentaries were tinged with Pantheism, Fatalism, and other Neoplatonic errors...In time, however, the translations made from the Greek revealed an Aristotle free from the errors attributed to him by the Arabians...


And again in this article:

The suspicion and hesitation were due to the fact that, in the Arabian text and its commentaries, the teaching of Aristotle had become perverted in the direction of materialism and pantheism.
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« Reply #14 on: January 26, 2008, 04:52:47 PM »

Hello,

If you mean the Muslim corruption and peppering of his works, I can't remember the title of the article...,
Yes, that is the one you said you couldn't remember. Got a better source?
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« Reply #15 on: January 26, 2008, 07:05:07 PM »

Well the thing that still bewilders me about Aristotle and the Catholic Church (and even pre-schismatic western scholars) is there insistence that Aristotle is somehow compatible with Christian thought! Don't get me wrong Aristotle was a man beyond his time and has many important ideas that have shaped our Sciences and concept of logic but here are my main gripes about him. Aristotle was a first cause Deist ( He believed in a God who's only point was to create the universe and therefore "ending" the cause argument and that this God does nothing to affect our lives or is even personal) Christianity on the other hand is quite the opposite with a God that intervenes in nature and our lives and is personal and is more then merely a solution to a logical problem. Second the concept of the soul: Even though Aristotle used the word soul (ψυχή) in his lectures he has later defined it as purely the culmination of all of our personality and attributes nothing specifically metaphysical unlike in Christianity where the soul is divine, immortal and metaphysical and more then merely our personality. Unlike Plato on the other hand (One of my favorite philosophers) who believed in a God more akin to the Christian one and also believed in the immortality of the soul. The differences between Aristotle and basic Christian dogma personally for me are irreconcilable but I will humbly and truly listen if someone can help me see another view.
We don't think that Aristotle was infallibile. However, he did have a great deal of wisdom.
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« Reply #16 on: January 26, 2008, 10:48:00 PM »

Hello,

Yes, that is the one you said you couldn't remember. Got a better source?

Sorry, I can't think of the name of that other article. The only source I have to offer you right now are the two articles from the Catholic Encyclopedia.
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« Reply #17 on: January 26, 2008, 11:03:52 PM »

We don't think that Aristotle was infallibile. However, he did have a great deal of wisdom.

Though not as wise as his teacher, whom he failed to completely understand.
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« Reply #18 on: January 27, 2008, 12:39:18 AM »

Though not as wise as his teacher, whom he failed to completely understand.

Exactly Plato had a much better grasp of the metaphysical then Aristotle who was more interested in the physical. GIC do you agree that Aristotelian philosophy is almost impossible to reconcile with Christian dogma as opposed to Plato who is very compatible because I believe Athanasios does not understand where I am coming from.
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« Reply #19 on: January 27, 2008, 04:23:30 AM »

Exactly Plato had a much better grasp of the metaphysical then Aristotle who was more interested in the physical. GIC do you agree that Aristotelian philosophy is almost impossible to reconcile with Christian dogma as opposed to Plato who is very compatible because I believe Athanasios does not understand where I am coming from.

I would personally take it even one step further; I agree with St. Clement of Alexandria that there are two sources of thought that underlie Christian theology: Jewish Law and Greek Philosophy. I would argue that in many ways Plato serves as the basis of our theology as Christians.

I would also agree with you insofar as I believe that while Plato is fundamental to Christian thought, in many ways Aristotle is simply incompatible with the same. This is not to say that Aristotle is without virtue, his distinction between ousia and hypostais is, for example, rather insightful and fundamental; but as a whole he simply did not have the grasp of metaphysics that Plato did and while Plato has transcended the ages much of the 'science' of Aristotle has simply proven to be absurd in the context of our Modern understanding of the world. Aristotle was a great man for his time, but Plato remains a great philosopher and theologian even today.

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« Reply #20 on: January 27, 2008, 04:31:30 AM »

thank you gic this is exactly what i was trying to say!
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« Reply #21 on: January 27, 2008, 09:23:35 AM »

Quote
but Plato remains a great philosopher and theologian even today

Indeed.

http://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/greek-texts/ancient-greece/plato-homepage.asp
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« Reply #22 on: January 28, 2008, 04:37:59 AM »

Several points that need to be made are:

1) The Greek Fathers did not adopt Hellenic philosophy wholesale, as can be seen in this excellent article in Orthodox Tradition.  Although they adopted the terminology, they ultimately repudiated the anthropology.  After all, the Gospel was "foolishness to the Greeks."

2) Whether more influenced by Plato or Aristotle, the Greek Fathers were probably well-read in both.  St. Gregory Palamas specialized in studying Aristotle's philosophy as a young student.  Theodore Metochites, the Great Logothete of the Byzantine court, once heart St. Gregory Palamas as a young man discuss Aristotelian Logic with the Emperor himself.  He exclaimed:  "If Aristotle himself had been present to listen to this young man, he would, I believe, have praised him beyond measure.  For the time being, I saw that it is those with such a soul and such nature as his who should be pursuing knowledge, and especially the omnifarious philosophical writings of Aristotle."
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« Reply #23 on: January 28, 2008, 05:00:20 AM »

Several points that need to be made are:

Ditto.

Also http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/basil_litterature01.htm

The instructions of St. Basil the Great apply equally to both Plato and Aristotelos.

Though both have valuable thoughts, the system of neither can be termed as "acceptable" to Christians.

I personally reject much of Plato's thought about the use of violence, rephrased subsequently by St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.
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