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The Polemical Context and Content of Gregory of Nyssa’s Psychology

The Polemical Context and Content of Gregory of Nyssa’s Psychology

Barnes, Michel R.

Medieval Philosophy and Theology, vol. 4 (1994)

Abstract

In this article I will examine Gregory’s use of then contemporary philosophical psychology, specifically Aristotelian psychology, to support a pro-Nicene Trinitarian theology. Such arguments are offered by Gregory as part of his polemic against the anti- Nicene, Eunomius of Cyzicus. I will show, in particular, that Gregory’s theological motives so shape his use of psychological language that the latter cannot be properly understood outside the context of the former. Previous scholarly treatments of the place of psychology in Gregory’s thought generally and in his theology specifically have focused almost entirely on questions of Gregory’s sources and his relationship to them. Is Gregory’s psychology primarily Stoic via Posidonius, as Gronau argued?1 Is his psychology entirely Platonic, reflecting his true identity as a Platonist with a Christian mask, as Cherniss asserted?

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