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The Reception of Greek Science in Gregory of Nyssa's De hominis opificio

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image of Vigiliae Christianae

One of the most significant philosophical questions that Gregory of Nyssa grappled with in his anthropological treatise, De hominis opificio, was how intelligible mind, the image of God that the human person contained, might possibly exist in the physically-circumscribed limits of the corporeal body. Gregory addressed this question by engaging in a medical controversy that was current in his day: where in the body was the reasoning faculty located? Against those who placed this faculty in the brain, Gregory argued that certain mental states and afflictions were due to physical conditions suffered by the body and, therefore, had nothing to do with the reasoning faculty being confined to the brain. I conclude that Gregory's selective use of the anatomical investigations of Galen and the Greek medical writers helped him construct a unified theory of the human person in which the intelligible activity of mind both interacted freely with the physical body and depended upon the body functioning naturally for the complete expression of its divine rationality.

Affiliations: 1: Catholic University of America, Washington, DC 20064, USA;, Email:


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