Individuality in Late Antiquity: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Individuality in Late Antiquity

1st Edition

Edited by Alexis Torrance, Johannes Zachhuber


204 pages

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Late antiquity is increasingly recognised as a period of important cultural transformation. One of its crucial aspects is the emergence of a new awareness of human individuality. In this book an interdisciplinary and international group of scholars documents and analyses this development. Authors assess the influence of seminal thinkers, including the Gnostics, Plotinus, and Augustine, but also of cultural and religious practices such as astrology and monasticism, as well as, more generally, the role played by intellectual disciplines such as grammar and Christian theology. Broad in both theme and scope, the volume serves as a comprehensive introduction to late antique understandings of human individuality.


’The problem of the individual is central to our notion of modernity. These thoughtful and deeply learned essays take us back to a thought world where the notion of the individual had begun to emerge. It did so in what to us are deeply unfamiliar circumstances - in the wrangles of Christian theologians on the nature of the Trinity, the personhood of Christ, and the resurrection of the body; in the lucubrations of Platonic philosophers on the relation of body and soul; and in the harsh testing bed of the relations between individual and community provided by the monastery. This exploration of the roots of individuality provides us with a challenging viewing point from which to reconsider the modern notion of the self.’ Peter Brown, Princeton University, USA ’This study of individuality in late antiquity provides highly original new insights. It is distinctive in addressing pagan and Christian conceptions equally, and impressive in the range of issues it illuminates.’ Richard Sorabji, Oxford University, UK ’This valuable book forms part of a growing emphasis on the history of individuality and the self in late antiquity. It provides a corrective to Foucault’s Care of the Self, and shows that the western narrative that takes Augustine as its starting point is not the only game in town. Developing the discussion in Aristotle’s Categories, late antique Neoplatonists and Christians alike debated the philosophical basis of individuality. In the fourth century, Trinitarian theology presented a special challenge, and other aspects of the problem came to the fore with the growing ascetic theory of the self and the difficulties surrounding the Christian doctrine of bodily resurrection. The editors have drawn on the best scholarship in philosophy, theology, and the history of Christian thought to show the centrality of these issues and the intensity of the discussion. Anyone interested in the roots of modern theories of the individual will find this book crucial

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Introduction, Johannes Zachhuber and Alexis Torrance; Individuality in some Gnostic authors, with a few remarks on the interpretation of Ptolemy’s Epistula ad Floram, Christoph Markschies; Astrology and freedom: the case of Firmicus Maternus, Mark Edwards; Plotinus on sensible particulars and individual essences, Riccardo Chiaradonna; Logico-grammatical reflections about individuality in late antiquity, Julie Brumberg-Chaumont; Individuality and the theological debate about ’hypostasis’, Johannes Zachhuber; Individuality and identity-formation in late antique monasticism, Alexis Torrance; Individuality and the Resurrection in some late antique texts, Yannis Papadogiannakis; John Philoponus on individuality and particularity, Christophe Erismann; The religious constitution of individuality: one motif of Augustine’s Confessions in modern intellectual history and theology, Wilhem Gräb; Bibliography; Index.

About the Editors

Johannes Zachhuber has published extensively on various aspects of late antiquity, in particular the thought of Gregory of Nyssa, and co-edited numerous collections. Publications include: Human Nature in Gregory of Nyssa. Philosophical Background and Theological Significance (Leiden: Brill, 1999), and Gregory of Nyssa, Contra Eunomium: An English Version with Supporting Studies. Proceedings of the 10th International Colloquium on Gregory of Nyssa, (Leiden: Brill, 2007) (edited with L. Karfiková, S. Douglass). Alexis Torrance specializes in late antique monasticism and asceticism in the Eastern Mediterranean. His publications have appeared in Journal of Early Christian Studies, Vigiliae Christianae, Studies in Church History, and The Heythrop Journal.

About the Series

Studies in Philosophy and Theology in Late Antiquity

The Studies in Philosophy and Theology in Late Antiquity series focuses on major theologians, not as representatives of a 'tradition', whether Christian or classical, but as individuals immersed in the intellectual culture of their day. Each book concentrates on the arguments, not merely the opinions, of a single Christian writer or group of writers from the period A.D 100-600 and compares and contrasts these arguments with those of pagan contemporaries who addressed similar questions.

By study of political, social, and cultural milieu, contributors to the series show what external factos led to the convergence or divergence of Christianity and pagan thought in particular localities or periods. Pagan and Christian teachings are set out in a clear and systematic form, making it possible to bring to light the true originality of the author's thought and to estimate the value of his work for modern times.

This high profile research series offers an important contribution to areas of contemporary research in the patristic period, as well as providing new links into later periods, particularly the Medieval and Reformation.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PHILOSOPHY / Religious
RELIGION / Christianity / General