Basil of Caesarea's Anti-Eunomian Theory of Names Open Access

DelCogliano, Mark Edward (2009)

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Basil of Caesarea's Anti-Eunomian Theory of Names
By Mark DelCogliano
Basil of Caesarea's debate with Eunomius of Cyzicus marks a turning point in the fourth-
century Trinitarian controversies. For the first time in their history the participants
acknowledged that more fundamental differences--methodological and
epistemological--lay at the core of their specifically theological differences. This
dissertation explores one of these fundamental points of contention between Basil and
Eunomius: the proper theory of names. A theory of names explains how names operate,
which is to say it gives an account of what names signify when they are applied to
objects. Eunomius and his teacher Aetius--the leaders of a movement commonly called
"Heteroousian"--maintained that those names uniquely predicated of God communicated
the divine essence. In response, Basil formulated a general theory of names wherein all
names fall short of disclosing essence, but nonetheless provide accurate and useful
knowledge of those who bear the names. This dissertation contains two parts. The first
offers a revisionist interpretation of the Heteroousian theory of names as a corrective to
previous ahistorical approaches and contests the widespread assumption that it is
indebted to Platonist sources. It is demonstrated that their theory represents a later stage
of a debate over divine names that began in the early fourth century and that it was
developed by drawing upon proximate Christian sources. The second part argues that in
response to Eunomius Basil developed and consistently applied a "notionalist" theory of
names wherein names signify primarily notions and secondarily properties, not essence.
It is demonstrated that Basil has a complex account of how names give rise to notions and
that his well-known theory of epinoia is but one aspect of a wider notionalism. An
extensive inquiry into Basil's sources is conducted, revealing that Basil's theory of names
draws eclectically upon ancient philosophical and grammatical sources, while at the same
time being heavily influenced by previous Christian reflections, particularly those of the
ecclesial alliance known as the Homoiousians.

Table of Contents

Document Outline
  • Title page, Abstract, and other front matter
  • Acknowledgements
  • Table of Contents
  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. The Heteroousians on Names and Naming
  • Chapter 2. The Heteroousians and Philosophical Naturalism
  • Chapter 3. The Heteroousian Theory of Names in its Christian Context
  • Chapter 4. Basil's Critiques of Eunomiuss Theory of Names
  • Chapter 5. Basil's Notionalist Theory of Names
  • Chapter 6. Basil's Decentralization of 'Unbegotten'
  • Chapter 7. Basil on Names as Revelatory of Properties
  • General Conclusion
  • Appendix: The Fragments and Testimonia of Aetius
  • Bibliography

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