Reason, Revelation, and Sceptical Argumentation in 12th‐ to 14th‐Century Byzantium

Theoria 87 (2021)
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In middle to late Byzantium, one finds dogmatic-style sceptical arguments employed against human reason in relation to divine revelation, where revelation becomes the sole criterion of certain truth in contrast to reason. This argumentative strategy originates in early Christian authors, especially Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–215 CE) and Gregory Nazianzen (c. 329–390 CE), who maintain that revelation is the only domain of knowledge where certainty is possible. Given this, one finds two striking variations of this sceptical approach: a “mild” variant (represented by Clement), where knowledge derived from human reason admits partial access to truths manifested in revelation, if imperfect; and a “strict” variant (represented by Gregory), where knowledge derived from human reason does not admit any access to truths in revelation. This paper analyzes the three Byzantines, Nicholas of Methone (d. 1160/66 CE), Theodore Metochites (1270–1320 CE), and Gregory Palamas (1296–1357/59 CE), who each display certain tendencies toward these two “poles” in their respective epistemological positions on knowledge through reason and faith.
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Archival date: 2021-09-13
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