What to expect when you're expecting Byzantine philosophy

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After the two part interview feast that will be episode 300, we'll be turning to Byzantine philosophy! Here is a tentative episode list, not including interviews. You may notice one distinctive feature, namely that I am going to be covering Eastern Christian thought more generally, not only what happened in Constantinople. This series will be followed by a longer one on the Renaissance, all of it of course appearing in alternating weeks with Africana philosophy. Comments welcome!

Introduction to Byzantine Philosophy
Philosophy in Syriac and Armenian
John of Damascus
Byzantine Compendia
Michael Psellos
John Italos
Gender in Byzantine Thought
Anne Komnene and her Circle
Byzantine Histories
Byzantine Political Philosophy
The Proclus Controversy
Joane Petrizi
Bar Hebraeus
Intellectual Interchange with the Islamic World
Byzantine Manuscripts
Byzantine Natural Philosophy
Scholarius and Bessarion
Intellectual Interchange with Latin Christendom
The Orthodox Tradition Down to Today
Blrp on 19 April 2018

So that's like 1/4 to 1/3 as

So that's like 1/4 to 1/3 as many episodes in Byzantium and Eastern Christianity as in Medieval Europe. Why such a big difference?

In reply to by Blrp

Peter Adamson on 20 April 2018

That's a good question! The

That's a good question! The main reason is just the quantity of existing research to draw on in writing the episodes. There are 50 (or 100, or 200) editions, translations, and scholarly studies on Latin medieval for every 1 on Byzantine philosophy. If I tried to do 70 episodes on Byzantine thought I would just not have enough material, I don't think. It's an interesting question whether this reflects a vast disparity in the actual philosophical output of the two cultures. To be honest, I think it does, and that it is not only a matter of scholarly neglect of Byzantium (though that is obviously an issue as well). Especially because of the rise of the universities, the Latin Christians produced a staggering amount of philosophy in the 13-14th centuries, especially, and though I may correct this impression as I go on with my reading I don't think the Byzantines churned out anything like that quantity of material.

Hermes on 20 April 2018

Surprised there will be no

Surprised there will be no episodes on Byzantine legal thought and rhetoric. There should be several episodes on Psellos and Plethon. And where are episodes on the ideas of Prodromos, Blemmydes, Choumnos, Gregoras, Pachymeres and most glaring of all, the great Theodoros Metochites?

In reply to by Hermes

Peter Adamson on 20 April 2018

All the figures you mention

All the figures you mention are actually on my list - they are getting covered in the thematic episodes like on natural philosophy, for instance.

I had also wondered about an episode on law, actually, but was thinking I might be able to fit that in the political philosophy episode. I could imagine that becoming two episodes, though. Rhetoric will also get mentioned when I talk about the circle of Anna Komnene, because they produced commentaries on Aristotle's Rhetoric. I take your point, though, those would both be good themes for free standing episodes, so I'll think about that.

As for multiple episodes on single thinkers, for Psellos at least, I have an interview about him planned (actually, even already recorded: with Dominic O'Meara) as well as the scripted episode so actually it will be at least two episodes on him.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Hemes on 22 April 2018

Ok. I noticed you are

Ok. I noticed you are planning to cover Eastern Christian thought. That is a very large field which should cover thinkers like Makrakis, Berdaeyev, Florensky, Solovievev and the contemporary Yannaras and his Heideggerian approach to Orthodoxy. And of course, the influential and monumental Philokalia.

In reply to by Hemes

Peter Adamson on 22 April 2018

Well, you might have noticed

Well, you might have noticed I'll have only one episode on developments after the fall of Constaninople - that will not try to cover everything that happened down to the present day in detail obviously but just touch on a few things (it could be its own series, and could get us indirectly into Russian philosophy too). Talking about the Philokalia is a good idea and I had also thought of Yannaras. Basically this series is about Byzantium, though, and I just wanted to make sure the audience doesn't get the idea that nothing ever happened again in the Eastern Christian intellectual tradition once the Ottomans turned up.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Hermes on 23 April 2018

Yes, I agree.  By veering

Yes, I agree.  By veering into post-Byzantine Orthodox Christian philosophy in Greece, Romania and Russia you would be opening up a somewhat similar but different world; although, I think the Philokalia definitely deserves a mention as it was written during the Byzantine years and is enormously influential but I suppose could be partially covered in the Hesychasm episode.  Another thought I had was the reception of the classical; and particularly, philosophical tradition in Byzantium.  The idea of outside (Hellenic) and inside knowledge (Christian) is a very interesting one which troubled the Byzantines throughout their long history but I am supposing you will probably cover this in one of the abovementioned episodes.  Thank you and looking forward to it. 

In reply to by Hermes

Peter Adamson on 23 April 2018

Oh yes, that issue of the

Oh yes, that issue of the reception of classical philosophy is going to be pervasive. Actually I have written four episodes so far and it came up in every one of them (even the terminology of outside/inside). Thanks again for your advice!

mehmet on 29 April 2018

I hope the hesychast

I hope the hesychast contoversy (ie, the controversy between palamas and barlaam of calabria) will also be covered. As far as I know, it is this controversy which decisively showed that elite byzantine christianiy was very different from the western scholastic tradition.

I have waited these episodes with very great excitement.. As a person born and raised up in Istanbul, they are the most exciting part of HOPWAG for me..

In reply to by mehmet

Peter Adamson on 29 April 2018

If you look at the list above

If you look at the list above you'll see that "Hesychasm" is one of the planned episodes. Hope you will enjoy the series!

In reply to by Peter Adamson

mehmet on 29 April 2018

As far as I know, "Hesychasm"

As far as I know, "Hesychasm" and "Hesychast controversy" are not exactly the same thing. Hesychast controversy is just a stage in the history of hesychasm. It is quite possible to explain hesychasm without mentioning the Hesychast controversy..


In reply to by mehmet

Peter Adamson on 29 April 2018

Oh, I see what you mean. Yes,

Oh, I see what you mean. Yes, I was planning to cover the critical response to Hesychasm as well (sort of like Iconoclasm: I just wrote that episode and actually quite a lot of it is about the Iconophile response).

Alexander Johnson on 29 August 2018

I was wondering if you

I was wondering if you planned to cover byzantine medicine or mathmatics or eocnomics as you did medieval?  Also, any plan to cover arianism and monophositism and the whole "one or two nature" "one or two essence" "one or two wills" thing that was the hot topic of the day (i know mostly earlier, but the monosophosite were firmly byzantine)?  I know it is mostly a theological debate, but i think the differentiation between nature and essence and will seems like it should have a philosophical distinction behind it, but i might be wrong.

In reply to by Alexander Johnson

Peter Adamson on 29 August 2018

Well, I discuss that

Well, I discuss that theological issue a bit in an older episode, the one on Maximus the confessor - it's in the Late Antiquity part.

I had actually thought about medicine and economics, also law and Byzantine art, as possible thematic episodes. Not sure which of these I will do, though (probably not all of them!).

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