Philosophy as transformation in early Christian thought

Book chapter


Champion, Michael. (2020). Philosophy as transformation in early Christian thought. In In Parry, Ken (Ed.). Eastern Christianity and late antique philosophy pp. 133-149 Brill. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004429567_007
AuthorsChampion, Michael
EditorsParry, Ken
Abstract

[Extract] This chapter* explores intersections between the philosophical goal of godlikeness, virtue development, and ways of knowing in late-antique monasticism. It traces philosophical ideas from Stoicism and Platonism which remained influential in Late Antiquity, before analysing works of Dorotheus of Gaza, an influential sixth-century monk, who had trained in rhetoric and medicine in Gaza and Alexandria, before he entered a monastery at Thawatha, just outside Gaza. The movement I explore is from godlikeness to virtue and back again. This transition involves translating between ethical and metaphysical claims, and entails a distinctive way of going about knowing. In Dorotheus of Gaza, practising the virtues likens monks to God, and what counts as a virtue is determined by claims about what God is like. Humility—in the Classical world a highly unlikely candidate for virtue, let alone the paradigmatic virtue Dorotheus makes of it—is a means by which a good monk becomes godlike, because God-incarnate is humble. Metaphysical claims entail virtues and practising a particular virtue opens up knowledge about metaphysical truths.¹

In the case of Palestinian monasticism, as for the Neoplatonists discussed elsewhere in this volume, one comes to know that God and the world are like this rather than that, through reading and reflecting in ways that are taken to be transformative rather than merely informative. In this frame, knowing that humility is a virtue because humility characterises God is necessary but insufficient. Such knowledge is acquired through reading, praying, and meditating (activities often spoken about interchangeably). In a broader argument which requires a longer elaboration than is possible within the constraints of this paper, I hope to show that Dorotheus structures his monastic discourses as a whole in order to move readers ever deeper into knowledge of virtues like humility and the resulting concept of what God is really like, and that this view of texts as transformational is itself dependent on the metaphysical claim that it is possible for humans to become godlike through the exercise of the virtues and other practices, reading, praying and meditating among them. Here I can make the more limited claim that Dorotheus’ account of humility is grounded in metaphysics, and that his theoretical claims in the areas of virtue and metaphysics are meant to transform readers to become godlike. Dorotheus’ reflections on monastic life provide metaphors to live by, by which insiders, in this case monks in Palestine, come to embody truths significant for their community in a process of self-transformation through the acquisition of theoretical knowledge and its concomitant claims on the ethical life.

Page range133-149
Year2020
Book titleEastern Christianity and late antique philosophy
PublisherBrill
Place of publicationLeiden, The Netherlands
Boston, MA, Untied States of America
SeriesTexts and studies in Eastern Christianity ; volume 18
ISBN9789004411883
9789004429567
ISSN2213-0039
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004429567_007
Publisher's version
License
All rights reserved
File Access Level
Controlled
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online2020
Print2020
Publication process dates
Deposited17 Sep 2021
Permalink -

https://acuresearchbank.acu.edu.au/item/8ww5w/philosophy-as-transformation-in-early-christian-thought

Restricted files

Publisher's version

  • 34
    total views
  • 0
    total downloads
  • 0
    views this month
  • 0
    downloads this month
These values are for the period from 19th October 2020, when this repository was created.

Export as

Related outputs

Rhetoric, philosophy, and transformation in the thought of Michael Psellos
Champion, Michael. (2023). Rhetoric, philosophy, and transformation in the thought of Michael Psellos. In In Anagnostou-Laoutides, Eva and Parry, Ken (Ed.). Later Platonists and their heirs among Christians, Jews, and Muslims : Texts and studies in Eastern Christianity pp. 211-231 Brill. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004527850_010
Dorotheus of Gaza and ascetic education
Champion, Michael W.. (2022). Dorotheus of Gaza and ascetic education Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198869269.001.0001
Introduction : The language of affect from late antiquity to early modernity
Champion, Michael W., Essary, Kirk and Ruys, Juanita Feros. (2019). Introduction : The language of affect from late antiquity to early modernity. In In Ruys, Juanita Feros, Champion, Michael W. and Essary, Kirk (Ed.). Before emotion : The language of feeling, 400-1800 pp. 1-8 Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429023279-1
Tradition and habituation in rhetorical and monastic education at Gaza
Champion, Michael W.. (2019). Tradition and habituation in rhetorical and monastic education at Gaza. In In J. R. Stenger (Ed.). Learning Cities in Late Antiquity: The Local Dimension of Education pp. 212 - 229 Routledge.
From affectus to affect theory and back again
Champion, Michael. (2019). From affectus to affect theory and back again. In In J. F. Ruys, M. W. Champion and K. Essary (Ed.). Before Emotion: The Language of Feeling, 400-1800 pp. 240 - 255 Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429023279
“A Possession for Eternity”: Thomas De Quincey’s Feeling for War
Champion, Michael and Stanyon, Miranda. (2019). “A Possession for Eternity”: Thomas De Quincey’s Feeling for War. In In S. Downes, A. Lynch and K. O’Loughlin (Ed.). Writing War in Britain and France, 1370-1854: A History of Emotions pp. 219 - 237 Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429446245-13
After the end of philosophy of religion
Champion, Michael. (2018). After the end of philosophy of religion. In In J. Kanaris (Ed.). Reconfigurations of Philosophy of Religion: A Possible Future pp. 71 - 97 State University Press of New York.
Paideia as humility and becoming God-like in Dorotheos of Gaza
Champion, Michael. (2017). Paideia as humility and becoming God-like in Dorotheos of Gaza. Journal of Early Christian Studies. 25(3), pp. 441 - 469. https://doi.org/10.1353/earl.2017.0036
Reframing neoplatonism in Zacharias Scholasticus' Ammonius
Champion, Michael. (2017). Reframing neoplatonism in Zacharias Scholasticus' Ammonius. In E. Amato, A. Corcella and D. Lauritzen (Ed.). Colloque International de Paris, Collège de France, 23-25 Mai 2013. Leuven, Belgium: Peeters. pp. 99 - 115
'A pleasure to gaze on great conflicts': violence and Epicurean philosophy
Champion, Michael. (2017). 'A pleasure to gaze on great conflicts': violence and Epicurean philosophy. In In M. Champion and L. O'Sullivan (Ed.). Cultural Perceptions of Violence in the Hellenistic World pp. 157 - 173 Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315208329
'War is the father and king of all': discourses, experiences, and theories of Hellenistic violence
Champion, Michael. (2017). 'War is the father and king of all': discourses, experiences, and theories of Hellenistic violence. In In M. Champion and L. O'Sullivan (Ed.). Cultural Perceptions of Violence in the Hellenistic World pp. 1 - 20 Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315208329
Epilogue: Violence and its emotional representation in the Hellenistic World
Champion, Michael and O'Sullivan, Lara. (2017). Epilogue: Violence and its emotional representation in the Hellenistic World. In In M. Champion and L. O'Sullivan (Ed.). Cultural Perceptions of Violence in the Hellenistic World pp. 208 - 222 Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315208329
But were they talking about emotions? Affectus, affectio, and the history of emotions
Champion, Michael, Garrod, Raphaële, Haskell, Yasmin and Ruys, Juanita Feros. (2016). But were they talking about emotions? Affectus, affectio, and the history of emotions. Rivista Storica Italiana. 128(2), pp. 521-543.
Representing Emotions in Three Byzantine Orations of Michael Psellos
Champion, Michael. (2015). Representing Emotions in Three Byzantine Orations of Michael Psellos. In In M. Champion and A. Lynch (Ed.). Understanding Emotions in Early Europe pp. 27 - 49 Brepols. https://doi.org/10.1484/M.EER-EB.5.105221
Understanding Emotions: The Things They Left Behind
Champion, Michael and Lynch, Andrew. (2015). Understanding Emotions: The Things They Left Behind. In In M Champion and A Lynch (Ed.). Understanding Emotions in Early Europe pp. ix - xix Brepols.
Grief and desire, body and soul in Gregory of Nyssa's life of Saint Macrina
Champion, Michael. (2014). Grief and desire, body and soul in Gregory of Nyssa's life of Saint Macrina. In In D. Kambaskovic (Ed.). Conjunctions of mind, soul and body from plato to the enlightenment pp. 99 - 118 Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-9072-7_6
The Siege of Rhodes and the Ethics of War
Champion, Michael. (2014). The Siege of Rhodes and the Ethics of War. Ancient History Bulletin. 28(3-4), pp. 99 - 111.
'The Academy and the Lyceum are among us': Plato and the Platonic tradition in the works of Aeneas, Zacharias and Procopius
Champion, Michael. (2014). 'The Academy and the Lyceum are among us': Plato and the Platonic tradition in the works of Aeneas, Zacharias and Procopius. In In R. Fowler (Ed.). Plato in the Third Sophistic pp. 259 - 278 Walter de Gruyter.
Explaining the Cosmos: Creation and Cultural Interaction in Late-Antique Gaza
Champion, Michael. In R. Mathisen (Ed.). (2014). Explaining the Cosmos: Creation and Cultural Interaction in Late-Antique Gaza Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199337484.001.0001
Book Review: Interpreting the Bible and Aristotle in Late Antiquity. The Alexandrian Commentary Tradition between Rome and Baghdad
Champion, Michael. (2014). Book Review: Interpreting the Bible and Aristotle in Late Antiquity. The Alexandrian Commentary Tradition between Rome and Baghdad. Classical Review. 64(2), pp. 431 - 433. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0009840X14000456
Performing and Transforming Cultures and Genres in Late-Antique Gaza
Champion, Michael. (2013). Performing and Transforming Cultures and Genres in Late-Antique Gaza. In In G Miles and M Borg (Ed.). Approches to Genre in the Ancient World pp. 142 - 158 Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
Aeneas of Gaza on the Soul
Champion, Michael. (2011). Aeneas of Gaza on the Soul. In A. Mackay (Ed.). Australasian Society for Classical Studies. New Zealand: Australian Society for Classical Studies. pp. 1 - 11
Endurance, courage, and the life of faith in the monasteries near Gaza
Champion, Michael. (2011). Endurance, courage, and the life of faith in the monasteries near Gaza. Journal of the Australian Early Medieval Association. 7, pp. 55 - 72.
Endurance, Courage and The Life of Faith in the Monastries Near Gaza
Champion, Michael. (2011). Endurance, Courage and The Life of Faith in the Monastries Near Gaza. Journal of the Australian Early Medieval Association. 7, pp. 55 - 72.
Creation from Gaza
Champion, Michael. (2010). Creation from Gaza. Australasian Society for Classical Studies. Australia: Australian Society for Classical Studies. pp. 1 - 14