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Monophysitism And Non-christian Thought






Category: MONOPHYSITISM PAST AND PRESENT

We leave here the subject of the influence of other heresies on
monophysitism, and proceed to exhibit its affinities with non-Christian
thought. At Alexandria, the home of the heresy, two systems of
philosophy, the Aristotelian and the Neo-Platonist, were strongly
represented. Both of these philosophies exercised a profound influence
upon the origins and upon the later developments of monophysite
doctrine. We propose to take, first, the Aristotelian, and then the
Neo-Platonist philosophy, elucidating those leading ideas in each on
which the monophysite thinker would naturally fasten, as lending
intellectual support to his religious views.



THE ARISTOTELIAN LOGIC

Aristotle was held in high estimation by the monophysite leaders,
particularly in the sixth and seventh centuries. His works were
translated into Syriac in the Jacobite schools. The West owes much to
these translations. For it was largely by this agency that his
metaphysic reached the Arabs, who transmitted it to the West in the
Middle Ages.

The Aristotelian logic was widely known among the monophysites. It
seems to have formed part of their educational curriculum. Taken apart
from the rest of the system, the logic produces a type of mind that
revels in subtle argumentation. It exalts the form of thought at the
expense of the matter. It had this effect on the monophysite
theologians. They were trained dialecticians. They were noted for
their controversial powers, for their constant appeal to definition,
for the mechanical precision of their arguments. These mental
qualities, excellent in themselves, do not conduce to sound theology.
Formal logic effects clarity of thought often at the expense of depth.
It treats thoughts as things. Procedure, that is proper in the sphere
of logic, is out of place in psychology and theology. Concepts such as
person and nature must be kept fluid, if they are not to mislead. If
they are made into hard and fast ideas, into sharply defined
abstractions, they will be taken to represent discrete psychic
entities, external to one another as numbers are. The elusive, Protean
character of the inter-penetrating realities behind them will be lost
to view. The most signal defect of monophysite method is its
unquestioning submission to the Aristotelian law of contradiction. The
intellectual training that makes men acute logicians disqualifies them
for dealing with the living subject. The monophysite Christologians
were subtle dialecticians, but the psychology of Christ's being lay
outside their competence.





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

Previous: Monophysitism A Product Of Positive And Negative Currents Of Religious Thought



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