A History of Ancient Philosophy: From the Beginnings to Augustine

By Karsten Friis Johansen | Go to book overview

34

EARLY CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

The encounter of Christianity with ancient culture and the unification of the Judaeo-Christian and the Greco-Roman tradition-perhaps the most important event in the history of Western culture-is a process stretching over approximately three centuries, and when all is said and done, it is hardly meaningful to ask which of the two sides won out. They fought each other, adapted themselves to each other, and learned from each other, and the encounter meant that something new was created. Actually, it is only a half truth to speak of a cultural battle between two clearly defined opponents. To the dramatis personae it was certainly a confrontation where one had to choose sides. But one cannot choose one's own culture, and the Judaism from which Christianity sprang was already a mixed culture at the time of Jesus. The fact that the writings of the New Testament were written and thought in Greek and not in the native tongue of Jesus, Aramaic, shows that almost from the beginning the Christian message was 'translated' into and formulated in a common cultural conceptual world. Subsequently the process often pursued the opposite path-the late Neoplatonists, for example, are in no small measure influenced by Christian thought. It was not until the second and third century that philosophical thinking on a Christian basis began, and the debilitating Christological disputes of the fourth century are understandable only as attempts at a philosophical formulation of a non-philosophical faith. It is important to keep in mind that Christian thought and Christian philosophy are secondary to Christian religion, that Christian thinkers do not simply express the thought of the ordinary man and that Christian thought is no unambiguous concept. Christianity is new thinking, but not a new thinking formulated in a void.

The external history of Christianity in late Antiquity can be divided into three main phases. In the first-the time of the Apostles-Christianity spread from Palestine to the principal cities of the Roman Empire, first and foremost to Antioch, Ephesus and Alexandria in the East. But a congregation was also early established in Rome. The rapid dissemination would not have been possible without the lively communication between the cities of the Roman Empire and is also connected with the existence of Jewish communities in all major cities-the rural areas did not join until much later: first Syria, Asia Minor, and Northern Africa. Primarily we know of this entire missionary activity from the Epistles of St Paul and from the account in

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A History of Ancient Philosophy: From the Beginnings to Augustine
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Presocratic Philosophy 9
  • 1 - Myth, Poetry and Philosophy 11
  • 2 - Ionian Natural Philosophy 20
  • 3 - Heraclitus 29
  • 4 - The Pythagoreans 36
  • 5 - The Eleatics 45
  • 6 - Post-Parmenidean Natural Philosophy 59
  • 7 - Medical Science 79
  • Part II - The Great Century of Athens 83
  • 8 - Pericles' Athens 85
  • 9 - Tragedy and View of History 88
  • 10 - The Sophists 99
  • 11 - Socrates 118
  • Part III - Plato 137
  • 12 - Life, Works and Position 139
  • 13 - What is Virtue? Can Virtue Be Taught? 160
  • 14 - Idea and Man 173
  • 15 - The Good Constitution of State and Man 198
  • 16 - The Late Dialogues: Knowledge and Being 213
  • 17 - The Late Dialogues: Nature, Man and Society 236
  • 18 - Plato and the Early Academy 254
  • Part IV - Aristotle 267
  • 19 - Life, Works and Position 269
  • 20 - Logic and Theory of Science 293
  • 21 - Natural Philosophy and Psychology 316
  • 22 - Metaphysics and Theology 343
  • 23 - Ethics and Politics 366
  • 24 - Rhetoric and Poetics 392
  • 25 - The Early Peripatetics 400
  • Part V - Hellenistic Philosophy 405
  • 26 - Science and Philosophy 407
  • 27 - Epicurus 423
  • 28 - Early Stoicism 442
  • 29 - Scepticism 471
  • 30 - Greece and Rome 484
  • Part VI - Late Antiquity 499
  • 31 - Imperial Rome 501
  • 32 - Plotinus 532
  • 33 - Late Neoplatonism 556
  • 34 - Early Christian Thought 569
  • 35 - Augustine 588
  • Abbreviations General 625
  • Bibliography 639
  • Index 663
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