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Aristotle's Criticism Of Dualism A Weapon In The Hands Of The Monophysites


Leaving the formal element in Aristotle's system, we come to its
material content. Some of the prominent ideas of the Aristotelian
cosmology and psychology reappear in the heresy we are studying. We
shall take first the rejection of the Platonic dualism. Aristotle's
repeated criticism of his master's theory of ideas is not merely
destructive. It formed the starting-point for his own metaphysic. The
ideas, he says, simply duplicate the world of existent things. They do
not create things or move them; they do not explain genesis or process;
they merely co-exist with the ideates. The participation which Plato's
later theory postulated is inadequate. A more intimate relation is
required. The theory of ideas confronts God with a world, and leaves
the relation between them unformulated and inexplicable.

This criticism is of first importance for theology. Faith as well as
reason demands a real relation between idea and ideate. The Christian
student in the fifth century, familiar with Aristotle's criticism of
Plato, would inevitably apply it in Christology. Any theory of
redemption that ascribed duality to the Redeemer would seem to him to
be open to the objections that Aristotle had urged against the theory
of ideas. The Nestorian formula, in effect, juxtaposed the ideal
Christ and the real Jesus, and left the two unrelated. This was
Platonism in Christology. Aristotle's attack on Plato's system
provided a radical criticism of Nestorianism. The monophysite
theologians were blind to the difference between the Nestorian position
and that of the orthodox. They saw that Aristotle had placed a
powerful weapon in their hands, and they used it indifferently against
both opposing parties.

Next: Aristotle's Psychology

Previous: Monophysitism And Non-christian Thought

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