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Stoicism and Byzantine philosophy

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Was the Byzantine thinker Nicephorus Blemmydes (1197–1272) directly influenced in his views about human “proairesis” by the Stoic Epictetus (50–138 AD) or did he take over his views from the Neoplatonic Simplicius? After exploring Blemmydes’ reception of Epictetus, one can say that Blemmydes drew elements in a brief treatise under the title “De virtute et ascesi” from the mainly Neoplatonic Simplicius, who commented on the handbook by the Stoic Epictetus (50–138 AD). Blemmydes, following Simplicius identifies “φ’ μν” with “aftexousion” and he designates “proairesis” as an activity, which emanates from “aftexousion”. Blemmydes shows the moral power of “proairesis” as a transforming factor of human existence and the mediatory factor to the dialectical relation between man and God. For the completion of the study, the following sources have been used: Blemmydes’ De virtute et ascesi, Epictetus’ Handbook, and Neoplatonic Simplicius’ commentaries on the Handbook. I specifically focus on the views of Aristotle, Epictetus, and Neoplatonic Simplicius about “proairesis” and compare the views of Blemmydes to Simplicius’ ideas. I conclude that Blemmydes drew ideas from Simplicius, with regard to human “proairesis” and in the context of the practising and cultivating virtues in everyday life.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2014

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