School of Theology and Seminary Faculty Publications

Monastic Attitudes toward Philosophy and Philosophers

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Conference Proceeding

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Arts and Humanities | Christianity | History of Christianity | History of Philosophy | Philosophy | Religion


The etiology of monasticism echoes broader debates about the distinctiveness of Christianity vis-à-vis other religious and cultural movements, the place of asceticism within Christianity, and the place of the intellectual life within monasticism. In the 75 years and many miles that passed between Athanasius’s Life of Antony and Cassian’s monastic project in Gaul, much changed in the relationship between Christianity and non-Christian philosophers. As time passed, the polemical imperative faded. By the time of Cassian’s Conferences, philosophy as a living alternative to monasticism seems quite remote. Throughout the literature of early monasticism, sampled only briefly in this paper, it is unsurprising that the most significant monastic affinity with philosophy, as well as the most intense monastic critique of philosophy’s ultimate value, is where they competed most keenly, in the cultivation of virtue.


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Papers presented at the Fifteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies held in Oxford 2007 (see also Studia Patristica 45, 46, 47, 48 and 49).