Patristics: what is it, context, philosophers, works

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THE Philosophypatristic it was a period that began with the transition between Antique it's the medieval. Marilena Chaui emphasizes that Patristic Philosophy "begins with the Epistles of St. Paul and the Gospel of St. John and ends in the 8th centuryi".

It is important to emphasize that the patristic period was a time courseinchange and thought transition. It was situated, chronologically, between Antiquity and the Middle Ages and, philosophically, it can have different classifications. Chaui classifies Patristics as a distinct period of Philosophy, which is neither found in Ancient Philosophy nor in Medieval Philosophy.

However, there is a consensus to classify Patristic Philosophy as part of Medieval Philosophy, together with Philosophyscholastic, for the themes and mode of operation of patristic thinkers were totally close to Christian theology and religious knowledge.

The Patristic was named after the first priests, "fathers", of the Catholic church and, at its beginning, this Philosophy

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served Christian thought through the apologies of Christianity, since Christian thought, even in the third century d. a., was not well spread in Europe.

Know more: What is Philosophy?

Characteristics and meaning of Patristics

The Patristic Philosophy emerged in a hard time for christianity. By virtue of the promulgation of Christianity as a religion officially accepted by the Roman Empire, Christians still suffered persecution and retaliation, in addition to not having many followers in several European locations.

The first patristic movement was composed of the first teachers of the Christian faith and the apologist priests, who had the mission of defending Christian thought. Among the apologists, some chose the path of union of the pagan Greek Philosophy with Christianity, as Justin, and others advocated the total exclusion and repression of pagan Greek Philosophy, such as Tertullian.

For a long time, the apologist view defended by Justin prevailed, including in the later philosophical period, the Scholasticism. Philosophy served, in this case, as the foundation for the formulation of a Christian theology. However, at other times in Philosophy, the conflict between reason and faith intensified in order to generate a binary vision, in which it was only possible to believe or think rationally. In other periods, the realms of faith and reason were drastically separated, each being cultivated for its distinct importance.

Another feature of the patristic period is the influenceinPlato, Greek thinker widely studied, translated and disseminated among those who resorted to Greek Philosophy. The Platonic thought spread to the patristics came from the so-called neo-Platonism, current philosophy that studied, classified and formulated philosophical theories from the writings left by Plato.

The main exponents of Neoplatonism are Plotinus (3rd century d. C.) and Porphyry (a disciple of Plotinus, who reformulated parts of Neoplatonist thought and introduced new questions, such as the question of universals, based on Aristotelian philosophy). O neoplatonism took some prominence in relation to Aristotelianism during the Patristics, mainly due to the greater proximity of Plato's works with Christian thought.

Despite Boethius' efforts to translate Aristotle not from the original in Greek, but from Arabic translations, Aristotelianism only gained strength within Medieval Philosophy beginning with the thought of ThomasinHere in the, already in the Scholastic period.

Later, after the period of apologies, some names stand out, such as Boethius (5th to 6th century d. C.), recognized translator and commentator on Aristotle and the work Isagoge, by Porphyry and Augustine of Hippo (4th to 5th century d. C.), a converted pagan at the age of 32, who emerged as the main patristic theologian, being later canonized by the Catholic Church, becoming the Saint Augustine.

Read too: Moral values ​​and their importance to society

Importance of Patristics

The importance of the patristic period of Philosophy resides mainly in the fact that it produced a large part of the thought that would give rise to a whole systemtheologicalChristian. By weaving a careful analysis of the foundations of Christian thought, Christian dogmas and a certain theological conception, we can find Platonic traces and elements of Greek Philosophy.

It was in the patristic period that most of the doctrinal part of Christian thought emerged, as the priests who were "fathers" of the Catholic Church had the mission of formulating the principle of all Christian thought that would give rise to what we know today as the Roman Catholic Church.

Saint Augustine

St. Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo.
St. Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo.

Augustine, who became Bishop of Hippo and was later canonized by the Catholic Church, was a patristic priest, considered to be the greatest diffuser of patristic thought and the greatest polemicist of Patristic Philosophy. Augustine's story is complex, because until the age of 32, the philosopher was resistant to Christian thought.

Augustine sought out different theoretical currents and philosophical schools in an attempt to find a meaning for his life. He had contact with the Pythagoreanism, like manichaeism and with part of PhilosophyHellenic. His mother strove for the Christian upbringing of her son, who in his youth was not interested in the Gospel, because “the sacred scriptures seemed to him vulgar and unworthy of a cultured man.ii”.

Given his conversion, allied to the erudite education provided thanks to his father's efforts, Augustine was converted, ordained, and began to study theology based on philosophy and fight heresies.

Read more: Get to know Christian Philosophy better

Patristic Books

Patristics, together with Scholastics, produced several important books for the understanding of Western Christian religious thought and for the formulation of rational medieval thought.

The patristic works that deserve to be highlighted are:

  • enneads: written by Plotinus, enneads totals 54 different treaties on various subjects ranging from ethic and coexistence in society to problemsinorderpsychological individual, presenting a Christian vision supported by the Platonic Philosophy.

  • Isagoge: Porphyry's classic resumes Greek Philosophy of Aristotelian origin to reintroduce aspects of Aristotle's method of origin, forming comments on Greek Philosophy. The main element brought by Porphyry through Isagoge is the so-called “question of universals”.

  • Confessions: work that mixes Literature and philosophical elements, Confessions presents the biography of Augustine, telling his moments when he found himself, as he says, "lost", before the conversion, until the moments that he lived, according to him, moments of glory, after the conversion to the Christianity.

  • God's city: work that deals with heresies, of the Kingdom of God and the behavior expected of a Christian to reach the fullness of life, in the Christian sense.

Image credit:

[1] Renata Sedmakova / Shutterstock

i CHAUI, M. Invitation to Philosophy. São Paulo: Attica, 2005, p. 46.

iiPessanha, J. THE. M. Augustine - life and work. In: AUGUSTINE. The Thinkers. Translation by J. Oliveira Santos and A. Ambrose of Pina. Introduction by José Américo Motta Pessanha. São Paulo: Nova Cultural, 2004, p. 6.

by Francisco Porfirio
Philosophy teacher

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