Science and theology in Gregory of Nyssa’s De anima et resurrectione: astronomy and automata.
Journal of Theological Studies
Oxford University Press
This article examines two sections of Gregory of Nyssa's De anima et resurrectione which introduce scientific phenomena: from astronomy (eclipses and the phases of the moon) and physics (a water-device). Each passage is set in its intellectual context and possible sources are suggested. I argue that the water-device was part of an automaton, not a water-organ as previously argued. The primary importance of these passages, however, lies in their role in Gregory's dialogue as a whole: far from being merely illustrative or designed for rhetorical display, they drive the argument onwards. The first example establishes a general epistemological principle (knowledge requires the cooperation of reason and sense-experience) which is applied to the second example's argument for the existence of the soul. Gregory uses these examples to emphasize the importance of matter as part of God's good creation: this reinforces his later emphasis on the human body (especially its resurrection). Furthermore, the structure of each example mirrors a general movement in Gregory's dialogue from a rejection of materialism to an affirmation of the soul, and then to an emphasis on the co-dependence of the immaterial and material in creation. Each is thus a microcosm of the treatise's main argument.
© The Author 2009
Vol. 60:2, Issue October, pp. 467 - 489