The Division Of Nature (Periphyseon). John Scotus Eriugena. Book I. TEACHER: Often I investigate as carefully as I can and reflect that of all things which can. John Scotus Eriugena (c/) Works (Selected List). Periphyseon ( The Division of Nature, ) Such is the first division of nature into genera. Eriugena is mainly remembered for his volu- minous work the Periphyseon [On Nature] or, in its Latin title, De Divisione. Naturae [The Division of Nature).
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He is generally recognized to be both the outstanding philosopher in terms of originality of the Carolingian era and ov the whole period of Svotus philosophy stretching naturd Boethius to Anselm. Eriugena is also, though this parallel remains to be explored, more or less a contemporary of the Arab Neoplatonist Al-Kindi. Eriugena’s uniqueness lies in the fact that, quite remarkably for a scholar in Western Europe in the Carolingian era, he had considerable familiarity with the Greek language, affording him access to the Greek Christian theological tradition, from the Cappadocians to Gregory of Nyssa, hitherto almost entirely unknown in the Latin West.
He also produced diviion complete, if somewhat imperfect, Latin translation of the Corpus Dionysiithe works of the obscure, possibly Syrian, Christian Neoplatonist, Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, a follower of Proclus. Eriugena’s thought is best understood as a sustained attempt to create a consistent, systematic, Christian Neoplatonism from diverse but primarily Christian sources.
Eriugena had a unique gift for identifying the underlying intellectual framework, broadly Neoplatonic but also deeply Christian, assumed by the writers of the Christian East.
Contrary to what some earlier commentators supposed, it is most unlikely pn Eriugena had direct knowledge of the original texts of Plotinus, Porphyry, Proclus, or other pagan Neoplatonists, but he did have some direct knowledge of Plato a portion of Timaeus in the translation of Calcidius as well as familiarity with the pseudo-Augustinian Categoriae decem. These causes in turn proceed into their Created Effects and as such are creatures entirely dependent on, and will ultimately return to, their sources, which are the Causes or Ideas in God.
These Causes, considered as diverse and infinite in themselves, are actually jon single principle in the divine One. The whole of reality or nature, then, is involved in a dynamic process of outgoing exitus from and return reditus to the One. Apart from having a minor influence in France in the ninth century, Eriugena’s cosmological speculations appear too conceptually advanced for the philosophers and theologians of his time, and his philosophical system was generally neglected in the tenth and eleventh centuries.
His main work, Periphyseonwas revived by twelfth-century Neoplatonists, and also circulated in a compendium, Clavis Physicae [The Key of Nature] of Honorius Augustodunensis. The Periphyseon was scotux among the philosophers of Chartres and St. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Eriugena continued to have a relatively clandestine but still important influence on Christian Neoplatonists such as Meister Eckhart and especially Nicholas of Cusa.
Many valuable twentieth-century studies e. However, systematic studies of his thought Beierwaltes, Gersh, Moran have also recognized him as a highly original metaphysician and speculative thinker of the first rank whose work transcends the limitations of his age and mode of expression. Nothing is known about Eriugena’s place or date eriugwna birth or of the circumstances of his early life, but, on the basis of circumstantial evidence and some surviving testimonia helpfully gathered in Brennan,it is conjectured that he was born in Ireland around or possibly slightly earlier c.
It is also certain that Johannes had been installed for some time at the court of Charles the Bald, the Westfrankish king, but he was also associated with other ecclesiastical centers, including Rheims, Laon, Soissons and Compigne.
Part II: The Carolingian Renaissance
Eriugena had a justified reputation among his contemporaries as a man of considerable learning. Two partial commentaries c. Eriugena has a rich and eclectic knowledge of the liberal arts tradition, including Isidore, Cassiodorus, and Cicero. He had a reputation for dialectic as his opponents recognized when they criticized him for bringing his dialectical skills to bear on theological discussion.
Thus his critic Prudentius remarked: The Martianus commentary is most famous for its apparent espousal of a non-Ptolemaic account of the movement of the planets in Book Seven on astronomy. Indeed, Copernicus would later single out Martianus for praise for his theory that Mercury and Venus orbit the sun instead of the earth. Eriugena went further than Martianus in placing Mars and Jupiter in orbit around the sun also. Eriugena first came to historical notice when he was commissioned by two French bishops — Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims and Bishop Pardulus of Laon — to refute a treatise by a Saxon monk, Gottschalka priest of Orbais in the diocese of Soissons, who interpreted St.
Gottschalk had already been condemned by a synod at Mainz in and another at Quierzy in and had been imprisoned in the abbey of Hautvillers where he remained until his death inbut Prudentius, the bishop of Troyes, appeared to side with him. Eriugena’s response, De divina praedestinatione On Divine Predestinationc. Madec,a treatise of nineteen chapters, which survives in a single manuscript, is a robust rebuttal of Gottschalk.
Eriugena rejects any divine predestination to evil by an appeal to God’s unity, transcendence and goodness. While purporting merely to interpret Augustinian texts, this early theological treatise is philosophically significant for its rationalistic, dialectical analysis of key theological concepts and its reliance on argument rather than scriptural citation. As one gloss in the Annotationes in Marcianum attests: Eriugena then argues that philosophy has four principal parts — division, definition, demonstration, and resolution — and that pursuit of scotud fourfold method of reasoning will lead to truth.
This stress on dialectic as the path to truth is a constant theme of Eriugena’s philosophy, one recognized by his contemporaries. Eriugena argues in De divina praedestinatione that God, being perfectly good, wants all humans to be saved, rriugena does not predestine souls to damnation.
On the contrary, humans damn themselves through their own free sccotus Since God is outside time, He cannot be said to fore -know or to pre -destine, terms that involve temporal in. Human nature, on the other hand, was created rational, and rationality requires freedom. Human nature is therefore essentially free: Florus too attacked Eriugena. Subsequently, On Divine Predestination was tthe by the bishops in France at the councils of Valence and Langresin part for its over-use of logical method or dialectic dialectica.
Despite the official ecclesiastical dvision of On Predestinationfor reasons that are not known but are presumed to be political, Eriugena continued to have the protection and patronage of King Charles the Bald, who, aroundinvited him to translate the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, a mysterious Christian Neoplatonist who purported to be Dionysius, the first convert of St.
Paul at Athens, but was more likely a late fifth or early sixth-century Christian follower of Proclus. The Corpus Dionysii had been given a gift to Charles the Bald’s father, Louis the Pious, from the Byzantine Emperor Michael the Stammerer ina gift thought appropriate possibly because of a misidentification of Pseudo-Dionysius with the patron saint of France, St.
Hilduin had attempted an earlier translation inbut Eriugena’s version was most successful and remained narure circulation until the thirteenth century jojn Jean Sarrazin’s translation replaced it. The discovery of Dionysius had a profound effect on Eriugena’s thinking.
For Pseudo-Dionysius, we do not know God directly but know Him only through his theophaniaior divine appearances Pseudo-Dionysius, Divine Namesch. Pseudo-Dionysius claims that God is the affirmation of all things, the negation of all things, and beyond all affirmation and denial in Eriugena’s translation: Soon after completing his translation of Pseudo-Dionysius c.
It is possible he made other translations which have not survived or which cannot be definitively attributed to him. Eriugena’s major dialogue, Periphyseonalso entitled in some manuscripts, De divisione naturae [On the Division of Nature], was probably begun in the early s, just after he had completed divisjon Pseudo-Dionysius translation, and finished around the date Wulfad, to whom the work is dedicated, became bishop, xcotus it unlikely that Eriugena would have referred to him as fraterbrother, after his consecration as bishop.
John Scotus Eriugena (Boston Collaborative Encyclopedia of Western Theology)
Sheldon-Williams had assembled materials for the edition of Books Four and Five and had completed a draft English translation of these books, which was published separately in one volume edited by John J.
Book Five is still scheduled to appear. So far three volumes have appeared in this series and two more are in process. Gale and Floss had published editions that combined into a single text both the text of the main body of the manuscript and the various marginal annotations in different hands.
This composite version disguised the gradual evolution of the text and Jeauneau is of the opinion that this mixed type of edition is inadequate to the needs of scholarship. The new Jeauneau edition is based on six manuscripts, including two manuscripts, Paris Bibl. One special difficulty in editing the Periphyseon is scous the earliest manuscripts preserve only the first three books whereas the extant manuscripts for Books Four and Five date from the twelfth century.
Avranches and Cambridge, both twelfth century manuscripts, are the sole witnesses for the end of Book Four and the whole of Book Five in Stage Two versions, with Avranches noticeably less accurate than Cambridge in several places.
The Periphyseondeeply influenced by Eriugena’s engagement with Greek Christian authors, is a work of astonishing scope, a veritable Neoplatonic summa. Nature is to eriuegna understood as what is real in the widest sense, the totality of all things that are and are not. Nature includes both God and creation and has four divisions: The original intention expressed at III. The topic of creation requires Eriugena to address issues connected with the Biblical account of creation, and thus, in Book Three, he embarks on his own version of a Hexaemeron.
The momentous event of the emergence of human nature eeriugena the Sixth Day of creation requires extended treatment, and Eriugena is forced to devote a fourth book to this topic, thus relegating the return of all things to God to a fifth book.
Thus Eriugena was forced to depart from his original plan of four books and add a fifth. This change of plan is particularly important in that it helps to identify different stages of composition of the text. A fragmentary Commentary on the Gospel of St. A number of interesting poems survive which show the breadth of Eriugena’s learning; but also portray him as a courtier quite well versed in political affairs.
Some poems are written specifically in praise of the king, including an important poem, Aulae sidereae [Starry Halls] which appears to celebrate the dedication of Charles the Bald’s new church in Compigne on 1 May The poems show Eriugena’s fascination with Greek, indeed some poems are written entirely in Greek. It is probable that Eriugena died sometime around An apocryphal tale, dating from the twelfth century, records that Eriugena was stabbed to death by his students with their pens!
Despite the claims of some nineteenth-century commentators, it is now clear that Eriugena did not have direct knowledge of the writings of Plotinus, Porphyry or Proclus.
He had almost no contact with pagan Neoplatonism in general apart possibly from Priscianus Lydus and Calcidius’ translation of the Timaeus. His familiarity with Aristotle was also indirect — through the anonymous but widely circulated compilation, Categoriae decemthe Pseudo-Augustinian paraphrase of Aristotle’s Categories.
His originality is largely due to the manner in which he assimilated often translating the Neoplatonic thought of Eastern Christian writers such as the Cappadocians, Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory Nazianzus, as well as Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and Maximus Confessor.
John Scottus Eriugena (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Though he took the view that the authorities of East and West were not in conflict, nevertheless he usually expressed a preference for the Eastern Church Fathers. An especially important authority was Maximus Confessor, whose account of the return of all things Eriugena copiously borrowed.
Eriugena’s exceptional learning would be sufficient idvision distinguish him from contemporary Carolingian scholars, such as Alcuin and Sedulius Scottus; but his true and lasting genius lay in his ability to combine elements from these auctores into a new cosmological framework which is rationally argued to the highest degree. Eriugena enthusiastically incorporated many Greek Christian theological concepts.
God, the One, creates by self-emanation. Creation is a timeless, and hence on-going and always contemporary, event.
Human nature is originally a Platonic Idea in the mind of God: Eriugena articulates the view that God’s becoming human His incarnation or inhumanisation is balanced cosmologically by humans becoming God in deification deificatioGreek: It is to be found in Greek in St Irenaeus, in St.
There are divisioh passages where Eriugena following St. Eriugena refers to the theosis or deification of human nature at Periphyseon I. In his Homilia Eriugena writes: In his discussion of this cosmological saga, Eriugena always appeals to dialectic and the order of reasons. For Eriugena, true philosophy is vera ratio and indeed, all appeal to authority is nothing other than an appeal to right reason PeriphyseonI.
Eriugena is therefore a strongly rationalistic philosopher, struggling to make sense of scriptural revelation in iohn consistent with the evidence of reason. Thus, in the Periphyseon IV. Eriugena’s masterpiece is undoubtedly the Periphyseon written c. Echoing similar divisions in Augustine De civitate Dei Bk. God ; that which creates and is created i. Primary Causes or Ideas ; that which is created and does not create i. Temporal Effects, created things ; that which is neither created nor creates i.