Thursday, 7 May 2015

Anna Zhyrkova: From Christ to Human Individual—Shaping the Conception of Individual Existence in Neochalcedonian theology

In debates over the orthodox and adequate expression of the union of Divine and human natures, many theologians deemed it necessary to assimilate a great quantity of both philosophical conceptions and vocabulary. As a consequence, ontological discussions became an inherent part of theological discourse. Once Philoponus had put forward his Miaphysite stance as a logically correct conclusion from Cyril’s Christological statements, it became impossible for theologians to avoid strictly ontological considerations. The peculiarity of those discussions was that their main purpose was to explain just one single metaphysical case: that of Christ.
A “sui generis” case was not of much interest to pagan philosophy. Unique cases were eliminated by subjecting them to general rules. Christ’s uniqueness, however, not only had to be stressed, but also construed in humanly graspable, if imperfect, terms. This turned Christ into a paradigm for ontology, especially in the considerations of late Ancient and early Byzantine theologians. This paper examines the works of Neochalcedonian theologians, from John the Grammarian to Leontius of Byzantium, showing how their focus on Christ made ontology more concerned with particulars than with universals and turned attention from what things are like to the fact that they are. In their writings, the identity of particular beings was recognized and became a problem to explain, alongside the issues of what makes a single entity a unity—in spite of the multiplicity of its constitutive parts—and of what makes a human to be an individual unique being.

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