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“The Ascent of Nature from the Lower to the Perfect”

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A Synthesis of Biblical and Logical-philosophical Descriptions of the Order of Natural Beings in ‘De Opificio Hominis’ 8 by Gregory of Nyssa

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It is suggested that for building his hierarchy of beings Gregory of Nyssa followed two strategies: the strategy of dividing genera and species with the entire “existing” as the summit of' the hierarchy, and the strategy of taking the uncreated nature to be the summit of the hierarchy. The evolutionary ascent of natural species and the related topic of the hierarchical taxonomy of being in Gregory of Nyssa’s De opificio hominis 8 are examined. It is argued, against K. Reinhardt, G. Ladner, and a number of other scholars, that the influence of Posidonius on this topic in Gregory is not sufficiently well-founded. A brief overview of the taxonomies elaborated by several philosophers of Antiquity is provided. The general conclusion is that the Tree of Porphyry had a direct impact on the classification of beings in Gregory. Alongside this, Gregory seems to manifest Aris­to­telian, Platonic, and, particularly, Stoic trends. In contrast to previous studies which have only pointed to the similarity between Gregory and Porphyry’s systems without sufficient reasoning on details of it, it is investigated in what sense the similarity is, and it is shown that there are also some significant differences between their ordering of different levels. A suggestion is made as to why Gregory altered the order of hierarchical levels in comparison to that of Porphyry.

Affiliations: 1: Research Nuclear University MEPhI, Moscow, Russia; Saint Petersburg State University of Aerospace Instrumentation, Saint Petersburg, Russia; The University of Padua, Padua, Italy


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