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Chapter III -- 33

If all the powers which we and the beasts have in common pertain to the corporeal nature, then it is evident that the irascible part (thumos) and the desiring part (epithumia) do not appear to have been created with the reasonable nature before the Movement (VI, 85). This is a very important chapter for Evagrius’ anthropology because in the two works we shall analyse in Volume II there is something of an ambiguity in Evagrius’ terminology for the passions. We will find then that the passions are connected to the irascible part (thumos) or to the desiring part (epithumia). Here we clearly find the doctrine—which we also found in Chapter II of this work to be espoused by St Macrina, as reported by her brother, St Gregory of Nyssa—that the irascible part (thumos) and the desiring part (epithumia) are parts of the animal nature that man has received with sense-perception. In St Macrina, this reception has to do with the creation of man; in Evagrius, it has to do with the granting to certain minds (noes) of the rank of praktike soul (psuche), followed by that soul’s (psuche’s) descent into a body. Of course, in Evagrius, this entails the whole apparatus of his cosmology that we have already discussed, whereas in St Macrina, the reception of the animal soul is positioned in Paradise as part of the creation of man.

In Chapter 18 of On the Thoughts, Evagrius separates the passions into two categories: the passions of man as irrational animal—gluttony, fornication and anger—and the passions of man as man—these include vainglory, pride, envy and condemnation. For reasons we discuss in Section 13, below, and in Volume II in our commentary on Chapter 18 of On the Thoughts, the category of the passions of man as man creates a problem: in our view, they cannot be passions of the mind (nous), and they are excluded from the irascible part (thumos) and the desiring part (epithumia), which pertain in the typology being discussed to the animal passions of man. Where then do they fit? Are they passions that the mind (nous) received when it became a soul (psuche) but before it took on a human body? Or has Evagrius contradicted himself?

The answer, based on Peri Archon, seems to be that Evagrius is mixing two models of human psychology, one Cappadocian and the other based on Origen. For we find in Peri Archon that Origen rejects the tripartite soul.[1] Moreover, Origen’s development in Peri Archon of human psychology, based on the notion that the mind (nous) descends to become a soul and then to inhabit a body, is quite consistent with the distinction that Evagrius draws in Chapter 18 of On the Thoughts.

We will discuss this further in Section 13, below.

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[1] Peri Archon III, IV, 1, pp. 230–1.


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