Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Warren Smith: WS Ambrose of Milan: Theology, Rhetoric, and Moral Psychology

This workshop proposes to focus on the intersection between theology and moral discourse in the writings of Ambrose of Milan. With works such as the De Officiis, the treatises based on catechetical homilies on the patriarchs, and treatises on virginity Ambrose's status as a Christian moralist is simply a given by scholars. What has been contested is how to assess the role of Ambrose's own theological reasoning in his moral discourse. Is his theology genuinely his own or is it largely derivative of other sources, such as Philo, Origen, Athanasius, Didymus the Blind, and Basil? (Colish) Similarly, how do we interpret his appropriation and adaptation of philosophical sources, such as Cicero, Plotinus, and Porphyry? (Courcelle, Hadot, Madec, Davidson) How much did theology and moral psychology inform his moral discourse or were they merely ad hoc ornaments to give intellectual respectability to his argument and earn respect of his sophisticated Milanese audience? (McLynn, Salzman) This workshop seeks to assess how Ambrose's theological commitments inform his ethics by examining how he sought to use moral psychology and Scripture to fashion a new canon of Christian moral discourse that would supplant the pagan canon and culture. Even as the Cappadocians' moral psychology was influenced by polemical context of the theological dispute with the Eunomians, so too Ambrose's discourse is influenced by the theological  dispute with Latin Homoians and the landmines of the political landscape of late fourth century Milan.

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