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Being a "Rational Animal" in Late Antiquity: Evagrius of Pontus and the Cappadocians on Reason and Passion

Applicant Harrison Kelly
Number 168599
Funding scheme Doc.CH
Research institution Département de Philosophie Faculté des Lettres Université de Fribourg
Institution of higher education University of Fribourg - FR
Main discipline Philosophy
Start/End 01.10.2016 - 30.09.2020
Approved amount 254'223.00
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All Disciplines (3)

Discipline
Philosophy
Ecclesiastical history
Religious studies, Theology

Keywords (5)

reason; Gregory of Nyssa; Evagrius of Pontus; passion; late Antiquity

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
Les concepts de raison (logos/nous) et de passion (pathos) ont été largement étudiés chez les philosophes grecs antiques et hellénistiques. Il n’en va cependant pas de même des premiers penseurs chrétiens comme Évagre le Pontique et Grégoire de Nysse, qui développent des conceptions anthropologiques à la fois originales et empreintes de philosophie profane.
Lay summary

Jusqu’à présent, les recherches ayant porté sur l’anthropologie d’Évagre le Pontique et Grégoire de Nysse se sont peu intéressées à ce que ceux-ci entendaient par « raison » et « passion » : comment la raison, la rationalité, l'irrationalité et la non-rationalité sont-elles définies dans leurs œuvres ? Comment comprendre l'émergence de l'irrationalité et de la non-rationalité en des êtres qui sont essentiellement rationnels ? La raison est-elle ontologiquement différente de la passion ? Quelles sont la nature et la cause du phénomène passionnel, et quelles conséquences celui-ci a-t-il sur l'âme/l'esprit et le corps ?

Ce projet poursuit deux objectifs principaux : (1) élucider la conception de la raison et des passions chez Évagre et Grégoire à travers une analyse philologique et philosophique de leurs œuvres ; (2) découvrir et saisir les convergences et les divergences de leurs points de vue.

L’épilogue du projet cherchera à déterminer en quoi Évagre et Grégoire peuvent contribuer au débat contemporain sur la raison et les émotions.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 09.05.2018

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Paul C. Dilley, Monasteries and the Care of Souls in Late Antique Christianity. Cognition and Discipline. Cambridge, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2017, XII-350 p.
Harrison Kelly (2017), Paul C. Dilley, Monasteries and the Care of Souls in Late Antique Christianity. Cognition and Discipline. Cambridge, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2017, XII-350 p., in Laval théologique et philosophique, 73(3), 464-466.
Wessel, Susan: Passion and Compassion in Early Christianity. New York: Cambridge University Press 2016, 273 p., ISBN 978-1-107-12510-0.
Harrison Kelly (2017), Wessel, Susan: Passion and Compassion in Early Christianity. New York: Cambridge University Press 2016, 273 p., ISBN 978-1-107-12510-0., in Revue philosophique et théologique de Fribourg , 64(1), 274-276.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
CUSO Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Research Infrastructure
Chaire de philosophie antique, Université de Fribourg Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Research Infrastructure
Institut für Philosophie, Universität Wien Austria (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Research Infrastructure

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
XVIII International Conference on Patristic Studies Talk given at a conference Passions and Rationality in Evagrius Ponticus' Peri logismoi 19.08.2019 Université d'Oxford, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Harrison Kelly;
Colloque des doctorant-e-s en philosophie antique Individual talk Passions, matière et réalités sensibles chez Evagre le Pontique 01.05.2019 Université de Fribourg, Switzerland Harrison Kelly;
XIVe colloque international Grégoire de Nysse Talk given at a conference De l'attelage ailé à la zizanie: les passions dans le De anima et resurrectione de Grégoire de Nysse (39.6-46.21) 04.09.2018 Collège des Bernardins, Paris, France Harrison Kelly;
Soul and Passions. Gregory of Nyssa, De anima et resurrectione Talk given at a conference The Parable of the Tares (43.17-46.21) in Gregory of Nyssa's De anima et resurrectione 06.10.2017 Villars-les-Moines, Switzerland Harrison Kelly;
The Good Life and the Art of Feeling: Emotions as Skills in Chinese and Graeco-Roman Ethics Talk given at a conference Reason and Passions in Evagrius Ponticus's Praktikos 07.06.2017 Schwand Münsingen, Switzerland Harrison Kelly;
Colloque des doctorant-e-s en philosophie antique Individual talk A Review of Literature on Evagrius's Conception of Passions 04.05.2017 Université de Fribourg, Switzerland Harrison Kelly;
Colloque des doctorant-e-s en philosophie antique Individual talk L'âme et la passion stoïciennes 21.12.2016 Université de Fribourg, Switzerland Harrison Kelly;
Colloque des doctorant-e-s en philosophie antique Individual talk Raison et passions dans le Protagoras, le Gorgias, le Phédon et la République de Platon 16.11.2016 Université de Fribourg, Switzerland Harrison Kelly;


Abstract

Since I started my PhD, I have narrowed the scope of my research to Evagrius of Pontus and Gregory of Nyssa. So far, my research on Evagrius has lead me to hypothesize that sensible-based images play a crucial role in the emergence of passions. They imprint the intellect and inflame the passionate parts of the soul, which either sets the passions in motion or leads the passionate parts to produce passions. Once they have emerged, passions - which hinder rationality and cause the intellect to commit sinful acts - can feed the sensible-based images and finally cause the intellect to become impassioned. But what role exactly does the intellect play in this process? As regards Gregory, free will - which is one of reason's faculties - is central to understanding why and how passions emerge. It appears that either the powers of the soul are transformed into passions when reason does not reign over the soul or that they arise when reason decides not to make use of its faculties of judgement and discernment, which leads it to perceive the good where there is in truth only an illusion of the good. This decision causes reason to seek the satisfaction of desires that lead the soul astray from virtue and God. Passions are thus also the result of rational confusion and error of judgement. But what makes reason decide not to use its faculties as it should? Why should it choose not to rule over the whole soul when this is its natural function?
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