Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy

2011 Edition
| Editors: Henrik Lagerlund

Epistemology, Byzantine

  • Börje Bydén
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-9729-4_155

Abstract

Byzantine views on knowledge are strongly influenced by late antique Neoplatonic Aristotelianism. A basic assumption in this tradition is that the nature of cognitive states is dependent on the nature of the cognitive objects (which have independent existence). Thus, the possibility of knowledge is secured by the existence of knowable things. Modifications of the Neoplatonic views are sometimes prompted by religious considerations, but these are more to do with emphasis than with content. It was strongly emphasized by the Byzantines, for instance, that God’s essence is beyond knowledge. Likewise, the Platonic theory of recollection was repeatedly condemned because it seemed to entail the soul’s pre-existence; on the other hand, the idea that the soul at birth is a tabula rasa was in conflict with the Christian doctrine that it is created perfect, and therefore Aristotle’s theory of concept formation was interpreted (e.g., by Eustratios of Nicaea) in a way that allowed for rational principles to be innate. In fact it is not uncommon to find in Byzantine writers rationalist accounts tracing the source of knowledge to innate soul-principles side by side (or nearly so) with endorsements of empiricist views suggesting that the first principles of knowledge are constructed from the individual forms of things.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Börje Bydén
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of French, Italian and Classical LanguagesStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden