"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Evagrius and Cognition

There has never been so much interest in Evagrius Pontus as there is today if the number of recent publications is anything to go by--and just in English. Into this stream of ongoing interest steps another new book:

George Tsakiridis, Evagrius Ponticus and Cognitive Science: A Look at Moral Evil and the Thoughts (Pickwick Publication, 2010), 124pp.

Part of the interest in Evagrius has been fueled by this kind of attempted linking between ancient monastic wisdom and modern psychology as seen, e.g., in the work of Han F. De Wit and Suzette Phillips.

Pickwick Publishers is an imprint of Wipf and Stock, who provide us the following blurb about this book:

This study puts the thought of Evagrius Ponticus, a fourth-century theologian, into dialogue with modern cognitive science in regard to the topic of evil, specifically moral evil. Evagrius, in his writings about prayer and the ascetic life, addressed the struggle with personal moral evil in terms of the eight "thoughts" or "demons." These "thoughts" were transmitted by John Cassian to the Western church, and later recast by Gregory the Great as the Seven Deadly Sins. Though present understandings of evil appear to differ greatly from those of Evagrius, his wisdom concerning the battle against evil may prove to be of great help even today. Using the work of Pierre Hadot to recover Evagrius' context, and the work of Paul Ricoeur to discuss how we construct descriptions and myths of evil, Evagrius is brought into dialogue with the cognitive sciences. Using current research, especially the work of Eugene d'Aquili and Andrew Newberg, this study reveals the contemporary relevance of Evagrius' approach to combating evil. In addition, the interdisciplinary study of patristics and cognitive science opens the pathway to a better understanding between Christian tradition and the modern sciences. 
I look forward to seeing this reviewed in Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies.

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