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


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


Primary Sources

  1. (1885) Nicephori Blemmidae Epitomes isagogicae liber primus: Epitome logica, ed. Wegelin J. In: Migne J-P, Patrologia graeca, vol 142. Paris, pp 685–1004Google Scholar
  2. (1892) Eustratii et Michaelis et anonyma in ethica Nicomachea commentaria, ed. Heylbut G. In: CAG 20Google Scholar
  3. (1904) Davidis prolegomena et in Porphyrii isagogen commentarium, ed. Busse A. In: CAG 18.2Google Scholar
  4. (1907) Eustratii in analyticorum posteriorum librum secundum commentarium, ed. Hayduck M. In: CAG 21.1Google Scholar
  5. (1966) Jean Philopon: Commentaire sur le De anima d’Aristote. Traduction de Guillaume de Moerbeke, ed. Verbeke G. In: CLCAG 3. Louvain & ParisGoogle Scholar
  6. Barlaam Calabro (1954) Epistole Greche. In: Schirò G (ed) Istituto Siciliano di Studi Bizantini e Neogreci. Testi e Monumenti. Testi. 1. PalermoGoogle Scholar
  7. Choumnos Nikephoros (2002) 5os Logos: Antithetikos pros Plōtinon peri psychēs. In: Chrestou pp 58–86Google Scholar
  8. Metochites Theodoros (2003) Stoicheiosis astronomike 1:1–5. In: Bydén (2003) pp 416–474Google Scholar
  9. Metochites Theodoros (2006) Poem 10. In: PolemisGoogle Scholar
  10. Nicephorus Gregoras (1855) Historia Byzantina, vol 3, ed. Bekker I. Corpus scriptorum historiae Byzantinae. Weber, BonnGoogle Scholar

Secondary Sources

  1. Bydén B (2002) To every argument there is a counter-argument: Theodore Metochites’ defence of scepticism (Semeiosis 61). In: Ierodiakonou K (ed) Byzantine philosophy and its ancient sources. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  2. Bydén B (2003) Theodore Metochites’ Stoicheiosis astronomike and the study of natural philosophy and mathematics in early Palaiologan Byzantium. Studia Graeca et Latina Gothoburgensia 66. Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis, GöteborgGoogle Scholar
  3. Chrestou KP (2002) To philosophiko ergo tou Nikēphorou Choumnou. Ekdotikos Oikos Kyromanos, ThessalonikeGoogle Scholar
  4. de Haas FAJ (2000) Recollection and potentiality in Philoponus. In: Kardaun M, Spruyt J (eds) The winged chariot: collected essays on Plato and Platonism in honour of L. M. de Rijk. Brill, LeidenGoogle Scholar
  5. Demetrakopoulos IA (1999) Nikolaou Kabasila Kata Pyrrōnos. Platōnikos philoskeptikismos kai aristotelikos antiskeptikismos stē buzantinē dianoēsē tou 14ou aiōna. Parousia, AthensGoogle Scholar
  6. Ierodiakonou K (forthcoming) Eustratios’ comments on Posterior Analytics B19. In: de Haas FJ, Leunissen M, Martijn M (eds) Interpreting Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics in Late Antiquity and the Byzantine Period. Brill, LeidenGoogle Scholar
  7. Podskalsky G (1977) Theologie und Philosophie in Byzanz: Der Streit um die theologische Methodik in der spätbyzantinischen Geistesgeschichte (14./15. Jh.), seine systematischen Grundlagen und seine historische Entwicklung. Byzantinisches Archiv 15. C. H. Beck’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, MunichGoogle Scholar
  8. Polemis I (2006) Theodōros Metochitēs, Peri tou mathēmatikou eidous tēs philosophias, kai malista peri tou harmonikou. Poiēma 10. Eisagōgē, kritikē ekdosē, metaphrasē, sēmeisōseis. Adolf M. Hakkert, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  9. Sinkewicz RE (1981) The solutions addressed to George Lapithes by Barlaam the Calabrian and their philosophical context. Mediaeval Stud 43:151–217Google Scholar
  10. Sinkewicz RE (1982) The doctrine of the knowledge of God in the early writings of Barlaam the Calabrian. Mediaeval Stud 44:181–242Google Scholar

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