Ousia

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Ousia ( /ˈziə, ˈsiə, ˈʒə, ˈʃə/ ; Greek : οὐσία) is a philosophical and theological term, originally used in Ancient Greek philosophy, then later in Christian theology. It was used by various Ancient Greek philosophers, like Plato and Aristotle, as a primary designation for philosophical concepts of essence or substance . In contemporary philosophy, it is analogous to English concepts of being and ontic . In Christian theology, the concept of θεία ουσία (divine essence) is one of the most important doctrinal concepts, central to the development of trinitarian doctrine. [1]

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Ancient Greek philosophy philosophical origins and foundation of western civilization

Ancient Greek philosophy arose in the 6th century BC and continued throughout the Hellenistic period and the period in which Greece and most Greek-inhabited lands were part of the Roman Empire. Philosophy was used to make sense out of the world in a non-religious way. It dealt with a wide variety of subjects, including astronomy, mathematics, political philosophy, ethics, metaphysics, ontology, logic, biology, rhetoric and aesthetics.

Christian theology is the theology of Christian belief and practice. Such study concentrates primarily upon the texts of the Old Testament and of the New Testament, as well as on Christian tradition. Christian theologians use biblical exegesis, rational analysis and argument. Theologians may undertake the study of Christian theology for a variety of reasons, such as in order to:

Contents

The Ancient Greek term Ousia was translated in Latin as essentia or substantia, and hence in English as essence or substance . [2]

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

In philosophy, essence is the property or set of properties that make an entity or substance what it fundamentally is, and which it has by necessity, and without which it loses its identity. Essence is contrasted with accident: a property that the entity or substance has contingently, without which the substance can still retain its identity. The concept originates rigorously with Aristotle, who used the Greek expression to ti ên einai or sometimes the shorter phrase to ti esti for the same idea. This phrase presented such difficulties for its Latin translators that they coined the word essentia to represent the whole expression. For Aristotle and his scholastic followers, the notion of essence is closely linked to that of definition.

Substance theory, or substance–attribute theory, is an ontological theory about objecthood positing that a substance is distinct from its properties. A thing-in-itself is a property-bearer that must be distinguished from the properties it bears.

Etymology

The term οὐσία is an Ancient Greek noun, formed on the feminine present participle of the verb εἰμί, eimí, i.e., "to be, I am". In Latin, it was translated as essentia or substantia. Ancient Roman philosopher Seneca and rhetorician Quintilian used essentia as equivalent for οὐσία, while Apuleius rendered οὐσία both as essentia or substantia. In order to designate οὐσία, Early Christian theologian Tertullian favored the use of substantia over essentia, while Augustine of Hippo and Boethius took the opposite stance, preferring the use of essentia as designation for οὐσία. [3] [4] Some of the most prominent Latin authors, like Hilary of Poitiers, noted that those variants were often being used with different meanings. [5] Some modern authors also point out that the Greek term οὐσία is properly translated as essentia (essence), while substantia has a wider spectrum of meanings. [6]

In linguistics, grammatical gender is a specific form of noun class system in which the division of noun classes forms an agreement system with another aspect of the language, such as adjectives, articles, pronouns, or verbs. This system is used in approximately one quarter of the world's languages. In these languages, most or all nouns inherently carry one value of the grammatical category called gender; the values present in a given language are called the genders of that language. According to one definition: "Genders are classes of nouns reflected in the behaviour of associated words."

A participle is a form of a verb that is used in a sentence to modify a noun, noun phrase, verb, or verb phrase, and plays a role similar to an adjective or adverb. It is one of the types of nonfinite verb forms. Its name comes from the Latin participium, a calque of Greek μετοχή (metokhḗ) "partaking" or "sharing"; it is so named because the Ancient Greek and Latin participles "share" some of the categories of the adjective or noun and some of those of the verb.

Seneca the Younger Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, and dramatist

Seneca the Younger(c. 4 BC – AD 65), fully Lucius Annaeus Seneca and also known simply as Seneca, was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and—in one work—satirist of the Silver Age of Latin literature.

From οὐσία (essence), philosophical and theological term οὐσιότης (essentiality) was also derived. It was used by Platonists, like Alcinous, as designation for one of the basic properties of divinity or godhead. [7]

Alcinous was a Middle Platonist philosopher. He probably lived in the 2nd century AD, although nothing is known about his life. He is the author of The Handbook of Platonism, an epitome of Middle Platonism intended as a manual for teachers. He has, at times, been identified by some scholars with the 2nd century Middle Platonist Albinus.

Philosophy

Aristotle defined protai ousiai (πρῶται οὐσίαι), "primary substances", in the Categories as that which is neither said of nor in any subject, e.g., "this human" in particular, or "this ox". The genera in biology and other natural kinds are substances in a secondary sense, as universals, formally defined by the essential qualities of the primary substances; i.e., the individual members of those kinds. [8]

Aristotle philosopher in ancient Greece

Aristotle was a Greek philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, the founder of the Lyceum and the Peripatetic school of philosophy and Aristotelian tradition. Along with his teacher Plato, he has been called the "Father of Western Philosophy". His writings cover many subjects – including physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theatre, music, rhetoric, psychology, linguistics, economics, politics and government. Aristotle provided a complex synthesis of the various philosophies existing prior to him, and it was above all from his teachings that the West inherited its intellectual lexicon, as well as problems and methods of inquiry. As a result, his philosophy has exerted a unique influence on almost every form of knowledge in the West and it continues to be a subject of contemporary philosophical discussion.

<i>Categories</i> (Aristotle) work by Aristotle

The Categories is a text from Aristotle's Organon that enumerates all the possible kinds of things that can be the subject or the predicate of a proposition. They are "perhaps the single most heavily discussed of all Aristotelian notions". The work is brief enough to be divided, not into books as is usual with Aristotle's works, but into fifteen chapters.

In metaphysics, particulars are defined as concrete, spatiotemporal entities as opposed to abstract entities, such as properties or numbers. There are, however, theories of abstract particulars or tropes. For example, Socrates is a particular. Redness, by contrast, is not a particular, because it is abstract and multiply instantiated.

In Book IV of Metaphysics Aristotle explores the nature and attributes of being (ousia). Aristotle divides the things that there are, or "beings," into categories. Aristotle calls these substances and argues that there are many senses in which a thing may be said "to be" but it is related to one central point and is ambiguous. [9]

<i>Metaphysics</i> (Aristotle) work by Aristotle

Metaphysics is one of the principal works of Aristotle and the first major work of the branch of philosophy with the same name. The principal subject is "being qua being," or being insofar as it is being. It examines what can be asserted about any being insofar as it is and not because of any special qualities it has. Also covered are different kinds of causation, form and matter, the existence of mathematical objects, and a prime-mover God.

Aristotle states that there are both primary and secondary substances. In Categories Aristotle argues that primary substances are ontologically based and if the primary substances did not exist then it would be impossible for other things to exist. [10] The other things are regarded as the secondary substances (also known as accidents). Secondary substances are thus ontologically dependent on substances. [11]

In Metaphysics, Aristotle states that everything which is healthy is related to health (primary substance) as in one sense because it preserves health and in the other because it is capable of it. Without the primary substance (health) we would not be able to have the secondary substances (anything related to health). While all the secondary substances are deemed "to be" it is in relation to the primary substance. [12]

The question, what is being, is seeking an answer to something "that is." A contemporary example in rhetoric would be to look at a color. Using white as an example, when we define a color, we define it by association. Snow is white. Paper is white. A cow is white. But what is white? While we are saying things that are white, we are not defining what white is without qualification. Ousia is thus the answer to the question of "what is being" when the question is without qualification. The unqualified answer of what is white is the ousia of white.

Much later, Martin Heidegger said that the original meaning of the word ousia was lost in its translation to the Latin, and, subsequently, in its translation to modern languages. For him, ousia means Being, not substance, that is, not some thing or some being that "stood" (-stance) "under" (sub-). Moreover, he also used the binomial parousiaapousia, denoting presence–absence,[ clarification needed ] and hypostasis denoting existence. [13]

Christian theology

The concept of θεία ουσία (divine essence) is one of the most important concepts in Christian theology. It was developed gradually, by Early Church Fathers during the first centuries of Christian History. Central debates over the doctrinal use and meaning of ουσία were held during the 4th century, and also continued later, some of them lasting up to the present day. [1]

New Testament

The word ousia is used in the New Testament only in relation to the substance in the sense of goods, twice in the parable of the Prodigal Son where the son asked his father to divide to him his inheritance, and then wasted it on riotous living. [14] [15]

An apparently related word, epiousios (affixing the prefix epi- to the word), is used in the Lord's Prayer, but nowhere else in the scriptures. Elsewhere, it was believed to be present in one papyrus (a list of expenses) among expenses for chick-peas, straw, etc., and for material. [16] In 1998, according to a xerographic copy of a papyrus found in the Yale Papyrus Collection (from the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library) inventory 19 (a.k.a. P.C.+YBR inv 19), it was suggested that the document had been transcribed differently from other early manuscripts and that the actual word used in that particular papyrus was elaiou, meaning "oil". [17]

Early Christianity

Origen (d. 251) used ousia in defining God as one genus of ousia, while being three, distinct species of hypostasis: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Synods of Antioch condemned the word homoousios (same essence) because it originated in pagan Greek philosophy.[ citation needed ] The Catholic Encyclopedia entry for Paul of Samosata states:

It must be regarded as certain that the council, which condemned Paul, rejected the term homoousios; but, naturally, only in a false sense, used by Paul; not, it seems, because he meant by it a unity of Hypostasis in the Trinity (so St. Hilary), but because he intended, by it, a common essence, out of which both Father and Son proceeded, or which it divided between them — so St. Basil and St. Athanasius; but the question is not clear. The objectors to the Nicene doctrine in the fourth century made copious use of this disapproval of the Nicene word by a famous council. [18]

In 325, the First Council of Nicaea condemned Arianism and formulated a creed, which stated that in the Godhead the Son was Homoousios (same in essence) of the Father. However, controversy did not stop and many Eastern clerics rejected the term because of its earlier condemnation in the usage of Paul of Samosata. Subsequent Emperors Constantius II (reigned 337-361) and Valens (reigned 364-378) supported Arianism and theologians came up with alternative wordings like Homoios (similar), homoiousios (similar in essence), or Anomoios (unsimilar). While the Homoios achieved the support of several councils and the Emperors, those of an opposing view were suppressed. The adherents of the Homoiousios eventually joined forces with the (mostly Western) adherents of the Homoousios and accepted the formulation of the Nicene creed.

The generally agreed-upon meaning of ousia in Eastern Christianity is "all that subsists by itself and which has not its being in another" - in contrast to hypostasis, which is used to mean "reality" or "existence". [19] John Damascene gives the following definition of the conceptual value of the two terms in his Dialectic: Ousia is a thing that exists by itself, and which has need of nothing else for its consistency. Again, ousia is all that subsists by itself and which has not its being in another. [20]

See also

Related Research Articles

Arianism is a nontrinitarian Christological doctrine which asserts the belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who was begotten by God the Father at a point in time, a creature distinct from the Father and is therefore subordinate to him, but the Son is also God. Arian teachings were first attributed to Arius, a Christian presbyter in Alexandria of Egypt. The term "Arian" is derived from the name Arius; and like "Christian", it was not a self-chosen designation but bestowed by hostile opponents—and never accepted by those on whom it had been imposed. The nature of Arius's teaching and his supporters were opposed to the theological views held by Homoousian Christians, regarding the nature of the Trinity and the nature of Christ. The Arian concept of Christ is based on the belief that the Son of God did not always exist but was begotten within time by God the Father.

Being broad concept encompassing objective and subjective features of reality and existence

In philosophy, being means the existence of a thing. Anything that exists has being. Ontology is the branch of philosophy that studies being. Being is a concept encompassing objective and subjective features of reality and existence. Anything that partakes in being is also called a "being", though often this usage is limited to entities that have subjectivity. The notion of "being" has, inevitably, been elusive and controversial in the history of philosophy, beginning in Western philosophy with attempts among the pre-Socratics to deploy it intelligibly. The first effort to recognize and define the concept came from Parmenides, who famously said of it that "what is-is". Common words such as "is", "are", and "am" refer directly or indirectly to being.

Cappadocian Fathers Group of early of Christian chaplains

The Cappadocian Fathers, also traditionally known as the Three Cappadocians, are Basil the Great (330–379), who was bishop of Caesarea; Basil's younger brother Gregory of Nyssa, who was bishop of Nyssa; and a close friend, Gregory of Nazianzus (329–389), who became Patriarch of Constantinople. The Cappadocia region, in modern-day Turkey, was an early site of Christian activity, with several missions by Paul in this region.

An accident, in philosophy, is an attribute that may or may not belong to a subject, without affecting its essence.

The Councils of Sirmium were the five episcopal councils held in Sirmium in 347, 351, 357, 358 and finally in 375 or 378. The third—the most important of the councils—marked a temporary compromise between Arianism and the Western bishops of the Christian church. At least two of the other councils also dealt primarily with the Arian controversy. All of these councils were held under the rule of Constantius II, who was sympathetic to the Arians.

Consubstantiality, or coessentiality, is a notion in Christian theology referring to the common properties of the divine persons of the Christian Trinity, and connotes that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are "of the same substance" (consubstantial), or "of the same essence" (coessential). The notion of consubstantiality or coessentiality was developed gradually, during the first centuries of Christian history, with main theological debates and controversies being held between the First Council of Nicaea (325) and the First Council of Constantinople (381).

Quiddity

In scholastic philosophy, "quiddity" was another term for the essence of an object, literally its "whatness" or "what it is".

Hypostatic union

Hypostatic union is a technical term in Christian theology employed in mainstream Christology to describe the union of Christ's humanity and divinity in one hypostasis, or individual existence.

Semi-Arianism was a position regarding the relationship between God the Father and the Son of God, adopted by some 4th century Christians. Though the doctrine modified the teachings of Arianism, it still rejected the doctrine that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are co-eternal, and of the same substance, or consubstantial, and was therefore considered to be heretical by many contemporary Christians. Semi-Arianism is a name frequently given to the Trinitarian position of the conservative majority of the Eastern Orthodox Church in the 4th century, to distinguish it from strict Arianism.

In philosophy, potentiality and actuality are a pair of closely connected principles which Aristotle used to analyze motion, causality, ethics, and physiology in his Physics, Metaphysics, Nicomachean Ethics and De Anima, which is about the human psyche.

Essence–energies distinction

The essence–energies distinction is an Eastern Orthodox theological concept that states that there is a distinction between the essence (ousia) and the energies (energeia) of God. It was formulated by Gregory Palamas of Thessaloniki (1296–1359), as part of his defense of the Athonite monastic practice of hesychasmos against the charge of heresy brought by the humanist scholar and theologian Barlaam of Calabria.

Hypostasis is the underlying state or underlying substance and is the fundamental reality that supports all else. In Neoplatonism the hypostasis of the soul, the intellect (nous) and "the one" was addressed by Plotinus.

Nietzsche's critique of the historical subject is based in the rejection of an existing substance in favor of forces and wills combining to form combinations, sometimes in the form of a consciousness. Heidegger later traced the concept of subject to the metaphysical concept of ousia to demonstrate the impossibility of eliminating the subject by simply historicizing it. The modern definition of subjectivity, according to Heidegger, recovered Immanuel Kant's definition of the substance in the Critique of Pure Reason and Aristotle's definition of ousia in Metaphysics.

Vladimir Lossky 20th-century Russian theologian and writer

Vladimir Nikolayevich Lossky was an Eastern Orthodox theologian in exile from Russia. He emphasized theosis as the main principle of Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

Physis is a Greek theological, philosophical, and scientific term usually translated into English as "nature".

Homoiousios is a Christian theological term, coined in the 4th-century by a distinctive group of Christian theologians who held the belief that God the Son was of a similar, but not identical, essence with God the Father. Homoiousianism arose as an attempt to reconcile two opposite teachings, homoousianism and homoianism. Following Trinitarian doctrines of the First Council of Nicaea (325), homoousians believed that God the Son was of the same essence with God the Father. On the other hand, homoians refused to use the term οὐσία, believing that God the Father is "incomparable" and therefore the Son of God can not be described in any sense as "equal" or "same" but only as "like" or "similar" to the Father, in some subordinate sense of the term. In order to find a theological solution that would reconcile those opposite teachings, homoiousians tried to compromise between the essence-language of homoousians and the notion of similarity, held by homoians. Their attempt failed, and by the First Council of Constantinople (381) homoiousianism was already marginalized.

Homoousion is a Christian theological term, most notably used in the Nicene Creed for describing Jesus as "same in being" or "same in essence" with God the Father. The same term was later also applied to the Holy Spirit in order to designate him as being "same in essence" with the Father and the Son. Those notions became cornerstones of theology in Nicene Christianity, and also represent one of the most important theological concepts within the Trinitarian doctrinal understanding of God.

References

  1. 1 2 Athanasopoulos & Schneider 2013.
  2. Commentary on Aristotle's Physics
  3. Owens 1951, p. 137-154.
  4. Brown 1996, p. 276.
  5. Weedman 2007.
  6. Pásztori-Kupán 2006, p. 59-60.
  7. Bracht 2009, p. 111.
  8. Cohen, S. Marc (2004). "Lecture on Categories". Primary substances are fundamental in that "if they did not exist it would be impossible for any of the other things to exist". [Categories, 2b5]
  9. Aristotle. "Metaphysics" (PDF).
  10. Cohen, Mark. "Substances" (PDF).
  11. Cohen, Mark. "Substances" (PDF).
  12. Aristotle. "Metaphysics" (PDF).
  13. Heidegger 1996.
  14. Thomas Mozley The creed or a philosophy 1893 p. 303 "III 'OUSIA' IN THE NEW TESTAMENT The only appearance of this word in the New Testament is in two successive verses of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It there designates first the 'living' which the Prodigal Son compelled his father..."
  15. Luke 15:12-13 Greek
  16. Kittel, G., Bromiley, G. W., & Friedrich, G. (Eds.). (1964–). Theological dictionary of the New Testament (electronic ed., Vol. 2, pp. 590–591). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
  17. Discussion on the B-Greek mailing list. Tue Jun 7 15:43:35 EDT 2005
  18. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11589a.htm
  19. Lossky 1976, p. 51.
  20. Lossky 1976, p. 50.

Bibliography