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Τρίτη, 5 Αυγούστου 2008

Christos Terezis, Damascius. His Philosophical System. The Last Gleam of Ancient Greek Philosophy. Ed. Gregoris, Athens 1993

Damascius is the last director of Athen’s Neoplatonic School, whose operation was stopped in 529 A.C. by the order of the Byzantine Emperor Ioustinianos. As the one who kept up the Ancient Greek Reason, he contrasted the vigour of the Christian image of world which dominates the spiritual horizon of the «ecumeny» in the 6th century A.C. He is the agent of the pure ancient spirit to which it will be given a new meaning by the Christian thought.
Mr Christos Terezis, professor in the Philosophy departement of Patra’s University undertakes to present in details the thought of this neoplatonic contemplator and to make known the last enlightment of the Ancient Greek Philosophy. As far as his method is concerned, he insists on the interdisciplinary demand of our era but on the other hand, he puts emphasis on the fact that the reality is one, avoiding in this way the perspectivistic danger. This positivistic belief in relation with the documentation method contradicts the transcendental context of the source under discussion. However the writer proceeds to the cognitive distinction of the studied disciplines. So, they function parallelly and separetely philosophy, theology and physics. The supervisory perception doesn’t hesitate to give ground to the particular areas of knowledge, so that the necessary importance is given to the multilateral nature of the existing. Terezis reveals modern ways of thinking in Damascius and he connects it with the contemporary science of Physics. He doesn’t confine himself to registering the ancient spiritual context but he makes an interpretative effort to use contemporary searching terminology. This doesn’t mean that he ignores the importance of the textual approach but he balances successfully between the past and the contemporary need for a new perspective on the subject under discussion.
Let’s come back, presenting the context of the book. In Damascius’ time, takes place the combination of the two cosmic theories that compose the Hellenochristian civilisation. The writer focuses on three axis of union: a) God and Universe, with the dialectic relation which is developed between them, without underestimating the world of the senses, b) the evolutional development of the existing by a Principle or One i.e. God and c) the possibility of systematization of the metaphysics, mainly by the Neoplatonism, as it connects ontology and Theology as well as in the effort of connection between Plato and Aristotle.
The basic characteristic of Damascius and of the entire Neoplatonic School was the connection between rationalism and mysticism. To the point where the philosophical reason comes to a deadend in front of a non- perceptible field, the mystical way of thinking intervenes. The apophatical consideration of the first principle of Damascius is the main element that made him well-known. However, according to the writer, in a gnoseological level, the philosopher proceeds with systematisation to set the limits of the real. The ontological climax has got as starting point the superior being to the inferior, opposite evolution of course in comparison with the established modern theory.
The presuppositions of Damascius’ thinking are the scientism, the transcendency of empiricism without its abolition and the placing of the human mind as the unique criterion of truth or lie. Perhaps, it is not useless to claim that the contemporary epistemology supports in opposite that the human being is not an absolute guarantee of the validity of knowledge because he may commit a mistake. So, Christianity will put in the place of the absolute judge, a transcendental subject, guard of the reason. And there are the recent post-modernistic efforts of the foundation of a «logocentricism» without subjects, with an intense anti-humanistic character.
Another point which we think that is under discussion is when the writer - influenced by the western perception of the Ancient Greek Philosophy - considers the relation between Plato and Aristotle as an opposition. At the contrary, in antiquity and in Christian Byzantium, the two “stars” of philosophy are not considered to be rivals. The Neoplatonism considers Plato as its inspirator but it uses Aristotle as well. The rivalry between the supporters of Plato and Aristotle is subsequent in Byzantium, influenced by the West.
In the first part of the book is outlined the dialectic relation between the metaphysical level and the world of senses or according to the writer’s terminology the relation between the over-emperistic There and the emperistic Here. They are highlighted the articulated functions of some elements that are parts of a descending productive climax, i.e. the transitional procedure from the one to many. Of course, in Neoplatonism, these intermediate - which are called «mid-causes»- are developed in the Theogonic polygenesis.
Terezis correctly, points out that the necessity of this theogonic variety derives from the contradiction with Christianity. However, he is not extended so that to refer to the patristic reaction which abolishes exactly the logical and ontological bond of the genus and species in order to eliminate the danger of polytheism.
In the second part of the book it is presented the rational elaboration of the metaphysical problems, always under consideration the problem of the Species. Also, it is used very correctly as a commendatory basis the dialogue Parmenides of Plato. The thing that is highlighted mainly is the dynamic character of the intelligible level without abolishing at the same time the unchangeability of the nuclear sources of the existence. The realism of Damascius shows the reality as a presupposition of the conscience giving presence to the logical categories which he uses from the ancient traditional arsenal. Nevertheless it seems very optimistic his belief for the scientific character of the metaphysical thinking of Damascius. It is not easy to claim that his composition is a system of perfect reflective potentiality and of realistic predictability. It is underestimated his frequent inclination to resort to easy mysticism and mythological solutions like the entire movement of Neoplatonism.
The third and last part of the book is reconciliation between the Metaphysics and the Physics. Here, the work of Terezis is situated in the cadre of the concrete and the cognitively accessed. It is examined the empiric world as a network of relations, determined by regulative principles. It is undertook in this way an effort of estimation of the material world. So it is avoided the mystical ideal of the Neoplatonic sage which has got as his main characteristic the escape from the world and the abstinence from the social activities. Finally, even the experience may be an axis of a soteriological perspective. We shouldn’t forget that the scientific work of Damascius is not based on the observation and the experiment but on theoretical analysis and deductive generalisations.
A posing of multiple questions over the way of thinking of the last Neoplatonic has got as a result the documentated logically and perfectly morphological analysis. Christos Terezis undertook the difficult task of the examination of a difficult and sometimes occult ancient text. He manages to bring to an end a labyrinthous course of problematic, revealing the sceptical view of the ancient philosopher in all its dimensions. He contributes in the illumination of the Neoplatonic tradition that influenced the entire Christian thinking as well as the recent philosophy.

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