The philosophical contribution of a homo byzantinus: The De omnifaria doctrina of Michael Psellus (1017/1018-1078 AD)

Spyros P. PanagoPoulos

Abstract


Michael Psellus was one of the most erudite and prolific thinkers of the Byzantine Middle Ages. His oeuvre includes historical writings, philosophical treatises and commentaries, theological writings, poems, speeches, legal, geographical, military, and medical works as well as works on music. Psellus taught all branches of philosophy, by closely reading and commenting on the works of ancient philosophers, and especially on Aristotle's logical treatises. At the same time he had a strong preference for Plato and the Neoplatonists, and especially for Proclus, whom he considered an authority among ancient authors. In this paper I will present the De omnifaria doctrina, a treatise which deals with various issues, such as Philosophy, Theology, Psychology, Ethics, Metaphysic, Biology, Cosmology, etc. The author attempts to present a worldview through the prism of Christian Theology and Ethics. Although Psellus depends on the scientific tradition, i.e. philosophy and theology, of both Classical and Late Antiquity, the De omnifaria doctrina constitutes an original work. A second feature by which one can speak of originality in De omnifaria doctrina is how to address the content: the Byzantine polygraph scientifically demonstrates a solvent and precise knowledge in his understanding of that. Lastly, the paper will attempt to present a synthesis of both science and philosophy in 11th century Byzantium.

Sources and Bibliography

Sources

MICHAEL PSELLUS, Historia syntomos, ed. W. J., AERTS, Michaelis Pselli Historia Syntomos. Editio Princeps. Recensuit, anglice vertit et commentario instruxit W. J. Aerts (Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae, 30). Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, 1990

MICHAEL PSELLUS, GAUTIER, Theologica I. Edidit Paul Gautier, (Bibliotheca Scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana), Teubner, Leipzig, 1989

MICHAEL PSELLUS, De omnifaria doctrina, ed. L. G. WESTERINK, Michael Psellus. De omnifaria doctrina. Critical Text and Introduction by Dr. L. G. Westerink. Centrale Drukkerij, Nijmegen, 1948

MICHAEL PSELLUS, Opuscula psychologica, theologica, daemonologica, ed., J. M. DUFFY, D. J. O’MEARA, Michaelis Pselli philosophica minora. Ediderunt J. M. Duffy et D. J. O’Meara. Vol. II. Opuscula psychologica, theologica, daemonologica. Edidit D. J. O’Meara, (Bibliotheca Scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana). Teubner Verlagsgesellschaft, Leipzig, 1989

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Keywords


Michael Psellus; Byzantium; Platon; Proclus; John Damascene; Metaphysics.

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