ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

211. Leading Representatives. -- The latest exponents of Neo-Platonism, Themistius and Proclus (89, 90), had intercourse with Byzantium. But we meet with no remarkable name earlier than the eighth century. In the face of the many serious difficulties presented by the troubled reigns of the Isaurian dynasty, ST. JOHN DAMASCENE (fl. 754) attempted a reconciliation of Aristotelian and Neo-Platonic doctrines with Catholic teaching. His pêgê gnôseôs may be regarded as a first endeavour to construct a philosophic synthesis. His divisions are arranged and worked out according to a gradated order, and each division is prefaced by philosophic prolegomena (kephalaia philosophika) which embody numerous Aristotelian doctrines on logic and metaphysics. The work of St. John Damascene was widely known and studied even throughout the West (181).

MICHAEL PSELLUS THE ELDER and the patriarch PHOTIUS are the two striking figures of the ninth century; especially the latter, who was a distinguished philologist as well as the leading philosopher of his time. He was an ardent promoter of Aristotelianism and criticized severely the realism of Plato.

What Photius attempted in the ninth century for Aristotle, his disciple, ARETHAS, attempted in the tenth century for Plato. Arethas belonged, like NICETAS THE PAPHLAGONIAN, and SUIDAS, the author of a well-known lexicon, to an enlightened and influential circle of savants who encouraged and promoted the cultured and liberal views of the Emperor Constantine VII. (Porphyrogenitus). The tenth century was indeed the brightest in the Byzantine world, as it was the darkest in the West. Still the spirit that moved the Byzantine culture of this century had not the fresh promise of originality. Its scholars had no higher ambition than to save from oblivion the grand literary legacy they inherited from the ancient world, by collecting all the works in existence in their own time. And needless to say, philosophy, no less than the other human sciences, profited much from this conserving care.

In the eleventh century the name of MICHAEL PSELLUS THE YOUNGER stands out prominently. Prime minister of Michael Parapinakes and professor at the Academy of Constantinople -- a recent achievement of the Emperor Constantine Monomachus -- Psellus initiated a literary movement which culminated, without any break of continuity, in the Platonism of the Italian Renaissance. He was something more than a compiler: he professed an eclectic philosophy, tinged with Neo-Platonism and Aristotelianism. He wrote works on Plato's philosophy (e.g., Eis tên psuchogonian tou Platônos); as well as commentaries on the treatise of Porphyry, De Quinque Vocibus, and on Aristotle's Peri Hermêneias.

The twelfth century, which marks the high-water level of Byzantine culture, is not so rich in philosophical literature. Its best-known names belong to commentators of Aristotle: JOHANNES ITALUS, successor of Psellus at the Academy, ANNA COMNENA (1083-1148), daughter of the Emperor Alexis, MICHAEL OF EPHESUS, a disciple of Psellus, and EUSTRATIUS OF NICE. NICHOLAS OF METHONE merely copied, in whole or in part, the treatise written in the fifth century by Procopius of Gaza against the Stoicheiôsis Theologikê of Proclus (105).

<< ======= >>