Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Michael Bakker: A Tale of Two Cities: the Tripartite Soul in Plato and St Maximos

St Maximos the Confessor was asked by Thalasssios how to interpret κατὰ θεωρίαν the Old Testament narrative about king Hezekiah blocking off the waters from the springs outside Jerusalem (2 Par = 2 Chr 32: 2–4). In his exegesis in Q.Thal 49, Maximos draws a picture of Jerusalem as the soul, king Hezekiah as its (spiritual) intellect (νοῦς) and his three chief court officicals as the thinking power (λογιστικόν), desiring power (ἐπιθυμητικόν) and incensive power (θυμικόν) of the soul. Also elsewhere, Maximos interprets a threesome often as the these psychic faculties, so they form an important part of his thinking. Without explicitly mentioning Plato, Maximos conjures up the image of the tripartite soul as three classes of inhabitants (Republic, iv: 434D–441C). What are the differences between both cities? What does Jerusalem have to do with Athens?
Maximos plays an important role in the development of a (Greek) Patristic psychology, drawing on Plato, Aristotle and other philosophers. Throughout his writings, Maximos frequently mentions the three powers of the soul and analyses, amongst others, their relation to virtues and vices and to the intellect (νοῦς). He underlines that the soul can use the powers in a positive or a negative way, depending on its intention (γνώμη), disposition (διάθεσις)  and habits (ἕξεις). And, typically, Maximos stresses that the λογιστικόν, ἐπιθυμητικόν and θυμικόν are by nature good. All depends on how a free person employs his or her will to use them.

No comments:

Post a Comment