Sunday, October 25, 2009

Notes on St. Gregory of Nyssa's "On the Making of Man"

Monday, October 19, 2009
Nyssa: On the Making of Man
Basil's is exegetical, Nyssa’s is philosophical/speculative
Hylomorphist? Knowledge through the senses,
This is much more philosophically oriented, goes into deep biological questions -
Three collectively always thought to be Neo-Platonist
(1) external truth that we can’t really get
(2) tripartite soul
(3) emotion & the senses are really bad things – elements that can be useful, but more often than not they will deceive you about what is (Boethius)
Nyssa’s statement about senses: any thing comes to us from multiple applications of the senses,
Not so anti-sensory as Plato or Boethius, but true knowledge, even of the world, requires something of an ascetic filter of the soul – senses corrupted for wrong purpose, but via ascetic discipline, then body, as a creation of God, is better able to bring in unsoiled information about the world
Nyssa is not Platonist, but Neoplatonist
Reading Plotinus (ploh-tyne-uss)
Nyssa more willing to appropriate Aristotelean ideas than Nazianzen was – latter said knowledge comes from contemplation of God, not observation of the world
Not Aristotelean, but more room in his view than in Nazianzen’s paradigm
Descartes uses dreams to undermine power/reliability of the senses – Nyssa does not do this, but the fact of dreams troubled him -
Nous = rational faculty of the soul
Can’t apply ascetic filter in dreams
Solution: improve character
Nyssa thinks dreams disconnect the rational control of the soul
Postlapsarian dreams are dangerous
Nyssa articulates the Trinity as we understand it better than anyone – only one of the three stays till the end of the Second Council
Nyssa sees birth pangs and menstruation are consequences of the fall, not result of personal faults

Cappadocian account of consequences: world transformed due to introduction of sin and our alienation from God – we are not individually culpable when we eat/have sex/have period
Nyssa seems to have prelapsarian gender distinction that is somehow distinct from physical/bodily distinction – for Nyssa, we can’t know what prelapsarian bodies looked like – it did look different, because they are only embarrassed at their nakedness afterward
For Basil, we are created in image of God but we have lost the likeness
Gregory talks about innate spiritual senses that somehow parallel physical senses
Nyssa the first Christian author to really talk about spiritual senses
Why are Adam and Eve allowed to eat if they don’t need to?
Ascetic hermeneutic – Tertullian said first sin was gluttony: eating something they did not need to it
Authors committed to seeing prelapsarian state as an ascetic one, whereas now we need asceticisim to bring us back to prelapsarian state – a lot of the earliest guys think the first sin was gluttony
Was he an environmentalist?
Environmental stewardship?
Nyssa said human populations would expand, but in a different way than they do now

No comments: