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By Mark DelCogliano

Basil of Caesarea's debate with Eunomius of Cyzicus within the early 360s marks a turning aspect within the fourth-century Trinitarian controversies. It shifted concentration to methodological and epistemological disputes underlying theological alterations. This monograph explores this type of basic issues of competition: the correct idea of names. It bargains a revisionist interpretation of Eunomius's thought as a corrective to earlier ways, contesting the frequent assumption that it truly is indebted to platonist resources and exhibiting that it used to be built by means of drawing upon proximate Christian resources. whereas Eunomius held that names uniquely predicated of God Communicated the divine essence, in reaction Basil built a "notionalist" conception in which all names characterize essentially notions and secondarily houses, now not essence.

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Extra info for Basil of Caesarea’s Anti-Eunomian Theory of Names: Christian Theology and Late-Antique Philosophy in the Fourth Century Trinitarian Controversy

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All other translations are my own unless otherwise indicated. There are three terms I wish to highlight at the outset. The first is ἀγέννητος, which I render as ‘unbegotten’. I depart from this practice only in Chapter Three, for reasons explained there. The second term is οὐσία, which I generally translate as ‘substance’ rather than ‘essence’. The authors discussed in this study do not distinguish between substance and essence, and it was felt that the former rendering better captured their thought than the latter.

As such, the identification of sources serves the task of historical theology itself. But in making source-claims I have a subsidiary goal of clarifying and complexifying traditional assumptions about lines of theological influence in the fourth century. Until recently, it was commonplace to tar Aetius and Eunomius as more-or-less dialecticians rather than theologians because of purported indebtedness to Aristotelian or Platonist philosophy. Though the monographs of Kopecek and Vaggione have done much to deconstruct this interpretation of the Heteroousian project, even they ascribe the Heteroousian theory of names to philosophical sources.

In fact, Aetius altogether removes humans from giving names to God. Accordingly, human beings do not give the name ‘unbegotten’ to God, but must have ‘unbegotten’ revealed to them, by which they then come to know God’s substance. His syllogisms aim to show that all kinds of absurdities result when ‘unbegotten’ is not understood as revelatory of the divine substance. The theory of names that he employs in his arguments is focused solely upon ‘unbegotten’ (and its related term ‘begotten-thing’). Aetius gives no hint of having in mind a more comprehensive theory of names; his theory is limited to divine predication.

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