Philosophers in the desert: the origins and development of the monastic worldview held by Evagrius Ponticus and John Cassian
thesisposted on 29.03.2022, 02:40 by Ian Christopher Michie
This thesis will trace the origins and development of the monastic worldview held by Evagrius Ponticus (c.345-c.399 CE) and John Cassian (c.360-c.435 CE), by locating this worldview within the broader context of the development of ancient Greco-Roman thought from the 8th century BCE up to the early 5th century CE. We will employ the historical and methodological framework of the French historian of philosophy, Pierre Hadot (1922-2010), especially as it was articulated in his study entitled 'What is Ancient Philosophy?'. Hadot’s work will be supplemented and augmented with material drawn from various other disciplines, including philosophy of religion, sociology and theology. In Chapters 1-5, we will pursue a critical analysis of ethical teachings and presuppositions found within the work of Homer, Hesiod, the Pre-Socratic thinkers, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the members of the Hellenistic and Roman philosophical schools. Methodological insights from sociologist Joseph M. Bryant will be used to elucidate the historical, social and conceptual context within which the worldview of each thinker developed, while the work of philosopher of religion Roy A. Clouser will help to establish the role of the 'Divine', or the 'Ultimate Principle', within each system of thought. In Chapter 6-9, we will trace the influence of earlier Greco-Roman systems of thought on the development of the early Christian monastic worldview of Evagrius and Cassian, with its central focus on the Eight Generic Thoughts, or Eight Principal Vices: gluttony; sexual immorality; avarice; sadness; anger; spiritual weariness; vainglory; and pride. This part of the analysis will demonstrate the ways in which elements derived from earlier non-Christian theological or philosophical systems were combined with Christian doctrines and assumptions in order to create an elegant and sophisticated worldview that still informs Christian monastic theory and practice up to the present day.