Byzantine Philosophy and Its Ancient Sources

By Katerina Ierodiakonou | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

KATERINA IERODIAKONOU

The title of this volume leaves no doubt as to its main objective; the articles here are meant to shed light on Byzantine philosophy against the background of ancient philosophical thought. The question is whether and in which ways the Byzantines were able to appropriate and to develop the philosophical tradition they had inherited from antiquity. But though ancient philosophy is a rather well-defined area which has been, and still is, extensively studied, it is not clear, at least not to everyone, what ‘Byzantine philosophy’ refers to, or, indeed, whether there is such a thing. The main aim of my introduction, therefore, is twofold: (i) to discuss briefly what is to be counted as Byzantine philosophy, and (ii) to explain further the purpose as well as the contents of this volume.


I

Byzantine philosophy remains an unknown field. Being regarded either as mere scholars or as religious thinkers, Byzantine philosophers, for the most part, have not been studied on their own merit, and their works have hardly been scrutinized as works of philosophy. Hence, although it is the case that distinguished scholars have in the past tried to reconstruct the intellectual life of the Byzantine period, there is no question that we still lack even the beginnings of a thorough and systematic understanding of the philosophical works produced in Byzantium.

This introduction could not even attempt to remedy the problem and offer a comprehensive overview of Byzantine thought. It does, however, try to introduce some basic features of Byzantine philosophy and to address some of the as yet open, but quite important, issues involved in its study. It should thus also become easier to place in context the specific topics which are discussed in the articles of this volume.


Is there philosophical thinking in Byzantium? Isn’t it all theology?

Since theological concerns undoubtedly occupy a prominent place in the works of Byzantine thinkers, the obvious question to ask, and often asked, is hence whether there really is such a thing as Byzantine philosophy in the

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