Basil of Caesarea's Anti-Eunomian Theory of Names by Mark DelCogliano (Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae: Brill Academic) Basil of Caesarea's debate with Eunomius of Cyzicus in the early 360s marks a turning point in the fourth-century Trinitarian controversies. It shifted focus to methodological and epistemological disputes underlying theological differences. This monograph explores one of these fundamental points of contention: the proper theory of names. It offers a revisionist interpretation of Eunomius's theory as a corrective to previous approaches, contesting the widespread assumption that it is indebted to Platonist sources and showing that it was developed by drawing upon proximate Christian sources. While Eunomius held that names uniquely predicated of God communicated the divine essence, in response Basil developed a "notionalist" theory wherein all names signify primarily notions and secondarily properties, not essence.
MARK DELCOGLIANO, Ph.D. (2009) in Historical Theology, Emory University, teaches at University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. He has published articles on fourth-century Trinitarian theology and collaborated on a forthcoming translation of Basil of Caesarea's Against Eunomius.
The debate between Basil of Caesarea and Eunomius of Cyzicus marks a turning point in the fourth-century Trinitarian debates. The Heteroousian doctrine promoted by Eunomius's teacher Aetius under the aegis of Bishop Eudoxius of Antioch was the impetus for the formation of the Homoiousian alliance in 358 by the bishops Basil of Ancyra and George of Laodicea. The Homoiousians not only formulated a theology which encapsulated the best of earlier fourth-century currents of thought and was indelibly shaped by the need for a swift refutation of Heteroousian doctrine, but they also were successful in orchestrating the ecclesiastical censure of the principals of the burgeoning Heteroousian movement, at times with actions of dubious legality. But the far more nuanced form of Heteroousianism articulated by Eunomius in the early 360s prompted a different kind of reaction from Basil. Though not as swift and without machinations in the ecclesio-political sphere, it was all the more cutting because of the comprehensiveness of its theological critique. This initial stage of the Eunomian controversy is pivotal because for the first time in the history of the Trinitarian debates the participants acknowledged that more fundamental differences lay at the core of their material differences. Hence in Basil's refutation of Eunomius we see the emergence of dispute over proper theological methodology and epistemology. In other words, the key issue becomes formulating a theology of theology.
The central feature of these second-order debates was rival theories of names. A theory of names explains how names operate, which is to say it gives an account of what names signify when they are applied to objects. Aetius and Eunomius maintained that those names uniquely applied to God disclosed or revealed the divine substance, substance being understood as essence. In other words, the Heteroousians believed that such names permitted access to the highest form of knowledge imaginable in the ancient world, knowledge of essences. Basil denied that God's names allowed such knowledge. In contrast, he formulated a theory of names in which not only divine names but all names fall short of disclosing essence, but nonetheless express accurate and useful knowledge of those who bear the names. While Eunomius articulated a theory of divine predication, which assumed that ordinary and theological language operated in fundamentally different ways, Basil affirmed that there was no gap between ordinary and theological language, arguing that all language functions in a similar way. Hence in response to Eunomius's limited theory of divine predication, Basil elaborated a general theory of how all names operate.
It is this central point of contention between Basil and Eunomius that this monograph explores. It offers a revisionist interpretation of the Heteroousian theory of names as found in early Heteroousian writings and uses this revised understanding to elucidate the theory of names that Basil developed in response to Eunomius. Only with an accurate reconstruction of the theory to which Basil responded can Basil's own theory be properly understood. Unlike the Heteroousian theory of names, Basil's theory of names has not been studied as a whole. Hence this book is the first comprehensive study. Some aspects of Basil's theory have received attention in compartmentalized studies, particularly his theory of epinoia, translated here as "conceptualization." It is commonly assumed in scholarship that all names for Basil correspond to conceptualizations. In contrast, I argue here that Basil's theory of conceptualization is but part of a larger "notionalism," in which all names signify primarily notions, which in their turn provide information about non-essential properties of the objects that bear the names. Hence instead of the close connection that Eunomius posits between the ontological and nominal orders, Basil inserts a notional order between them, wherein the human mind plays an active and even creative role in theological epistemology.
While the Trinitarian debates of the fourth-century were undoubtedly fuelled, at least in part, by ecclesio-political wrangling, lust for power, and personal animosities, the theological issues under debate were of profound concern to the participants. The very fact that subtle reflections on the nature of the theological endeavor itself could be proffered in the midst of these polemics testifies to this. Hence understanding these important theoretical issues that according to Basil and Eunomius constitute the prolegomena to theology are essential for understanding the phenomenon of fourth-century Christianity itself. But just as close attention to theological issues is crucial for understanding the complex social and political structures of the fourth century conflicts, so too is close attention to the social and political context of these theological debates crucial for understanding them.
Though this book concerns itself with intellectual developments, their significance can only be fully appreciated when situated within the wider context of the fourth-century Trinitarian controversies. The vigor of the debate between Basil and Eunomius is due as much to the prior history of these controversies as to a concurrence of several contemporary factors, imperial, ecclesiastical, theological, and personal. In what follows I give a brief overview of how Basil and Eunomius were participants in the wider conflicts and aspirations of their age. This survey has the additional purpose of introducing and contextualizing many of the councils, figures, and documents discussed in this book.
Traditional accounts of the fourth-century Trinitarian controversies have tended to corral participants into two competing camps: those in support of the Council of Nicaea and its term homoousios and those opposed to it, the "Arians." Revisionist scholarship of the last few decades has done much to deconstruct this bifurcated categorization and to uncover the plurality and complexity of fourth-century theology. Arius and Athanasius are no longer seen as the fountainheads of two irreconcilable and long-lasting streams of theology. It is now recognized that the Trinitarian controversies arose in the fourth century when pre-existing theological trajectories clashed.' The dispute that arose in Alexandria around 318 between the bishop Alexander and his presbyter Arius occurred within this context of theological diversity.
This study is divided into two main parts. The first part spans Chapters One through Three and explores the Heteroousian theory of names. In Chapter One I offer a revisionist interpretation of the theory, highlighting what I think are its central features and intended scope. Using this new reading of their theory of names, the next two chapters investigate its sources, a question that has generated considerable scholarship. In Chapter Two I refute the widespread assumption that the Heteroousian theory of names is heavily indebted to some form of Platonism, whereas in Chapter Three I argue that their theory is best viewed within the context of earlier fourth-century Trinitarian debates and as one attempted resolution to some of the most pressing theological concerns of the era. The habit of positing Platonist sources for the Heteroousian theory of names—which has become almost a commonplace in scholarship—has obscured the Christian roots of the theory and led to a distorted understanding of the theological project of Aetius and Eunomius.
Chapters Four through Six comprise the second part, which focuses upon Basil's theory of names. Chapter Four summarizes Basil's critiques of Eunomius's theory, which I contend indicate his understanding of what features a good theory of names should have. The next two chapters are devoted to setting forth how Basil articulates these features in his own theory. Chapter Five argues that mental notions play a central role in Basil's understanding of how names operate, being the means of linking names and the objects that bear them. Basil recognizes two basic kinds of notions, only one of which are epinoiai or "conceptualizations." Because of the key role that notions play in Basil's theory of names, I call it "notionalist." In Chapter Six I analyze Basil's discussion of four basic kinds of names and how they operate: proper names, absolute names, relative names, and what I call "derived names," which is to say those names that are based on conceptualizations. I argue that one can detect in these discussions a consistent theory in which names signify primarily notions and secondarily properties of the objects they name. I situate Basil's discussions within preceding philosophical, grammatical, and Christian thought in order to gain new vistas on his thought.
First I demonstrate how the early Heteroousian theory of names was focused upon explaining the significance of the term unbegotten', as well as other divine names. Eunomius made the doctrine of divine simplicity central to his theory, advancing significantly upon the argumentation of Aetius. These two features of the early Heteroousian theory, I submit, show that they did not originally envision it as a general theory. Furthermore, I have pointed out two areas in which Eunomius's theory lacks internal consistency: his theory is seamless when explaining `unbegotten' and other unique names for God the Father, but comes apart when used to explain the significance of names applied to God the Son. These inconsistencies militate against Eunomius's theory being a general theory of names, to say nothing of a successful and self-consistent theory. Finally, I have illustrated how Eunomius's recontextualization of his earlier theory of names within a more general naturalist theory of names is a response to Basil's critique of his theory and is grounded in a theory of the divine origin of names. Interpreting the early Heteroousian theory in the light of this later theory only obscures the central features and limited scope of theory in its initial formulation and distorts our understanding of the theory to which Basil responded.
The naturalist view of names set out in the Cratylus and adopted by subsequent Mesoplatonist and Neoplatonist interpreters of the dialogue such as Alcinous and Proclus is characterized by two main features: (1) formal naturalness, and (2) etymological analysis. In the Heteroousians, we find no trace of either. This fact alone indicates the unlikelihood of the Heteroousians being influenced by a Platonist naturalist view of any form in their initial theory of names. Such is the case for Philo and Eusebius as well. Even though the possibility that either was a source for the Heteroousians is attractive, given their stature in the fourth century, their emphasis on formal naturalness and etymological analysis in their understanding of the naturalness of names indicates that the Heteroousians could not have drawn upon them in their initial theory of names. Furthermore, in the theories of names in all of these figures, there is no trace of grounding a naturalist theory of names in simplicity and in the synonymy of all names said of simple beings. These, as I have argued, are the central elements of the Heteroousian theory of names. And so, the differences between the Heteroousian and Platonist theories of names are so great that positing any sort of influence of the latter upon the former seems untenable.
But the same situation does not obtain with regard to theories of the origin of names. Positing one or more wise namegivers as the guarantor of names having a natural correspondence to the things that bear them is a feature of both Platonist and Heteroousian theories. Nonetheless, Daniélou's well-known claims for Neoplatonist influence upon the Heteroousian theory of the divine origin of names fails to convince upon further scrutiny. I have shown how his historical reconstruction of the links by which both Eunomius and Proclus shared a common source—the disciples of Iamblichus—is at best based upon circumstantial evidence. The doctrinal connections he identified between Eunomius and Proclus evaporate once one realizes the Proclus did not attribute names to God exclusively. I have discussed how positing a divine origin for names was suggested in the Cratylus itself and remained latent in the Platonist tradition, becoming explicit—but not exclusive—in such authors as Philo, Origen, and Iamblichus.
It is somewhat surprising that Philo had not been proposed as a source for the Heteroousians. While I have already stated that the Heteroousians did not draw upon Philo in their initial theory of names, I think it quite likely that Eunomius borrowed from Philo when recontextualizing his earlier theory of names within a theory of the origin of names. In his interpretation of the cosmogony of Genesis, Philo identified God as one of the namegivers, along with Adam and Moses. I discussed how Eunomius not only argued that God was the sole namegiver based upon the same scriptural passage but also seems to have justified his divergences from Philo's theory. The possibility of Eunomius's use of Philo has an immediate plausibility because of the Alexandrian thinker's popularity among fourth-century Christian theologians, and does not require the speculative historical reconstruction that supported Daniélou's source-claims for Eunomius's theory of the divine origin of names. When this is coupled with the strong resemblances between Philo and Eunomius, discussed above, in terms of both scriptural argument and doctrine, one must reject Daniélou's thesis of Neoplatonist influence upon Eunomius and accept that Eunomius availed himself of a source that many of his contemporaries used as well. And so, Eunomius emerges from this analysis, not as a Neoplatonist in Christian dress, but as one of several fourth-century theologians borrowing from Philo Judaeus.
Beginning with a survey of the quest for the philosophical sources of Eunomius's theory of names. Gregory of Nyssa stands at the head of this list of inquirers. But even before Gregory, Basil had accused Eunomius of borrowing from pagan philosophers, though not specifically with respect to his theory of names. In the rhetoric of fourth-century polemics, divergence from what was considered orthodoxy was ascribed either to a "Jewish" understanding of scripture or to the use of "external"—that is, Greek or philosophical—sources, whereas the doctrine of those deemed orthodox was nothing other than a mere restatement of scriptural teaching based on the interpretation of the orthodox fathers. The situation was of course far more complex.
Yet too often source-claims have been made, even in modern scholarship, in order to prove either the unassailable orthodoxy of one writer or the undeniable heresy of another. Scholars influenced by the Harnackian opposition of Christianity and Hellenism are particularly prone to using source-claims in this manner, though rarely in such an intentional manner. Aetius and Eunomius have been particularly susceptible to such interpretations of their theology. Based on source-claims of Neoplatonist metaphysics, a methodology of Aristotelian dialectic, and suchlike, scholars, adopting ancient polemical labels, have depicted them as mere philosophical rationalists, sophists, logicians, dialecticians, "technologues," and so forth, rather than as fundamentally Christian theologians. If one were to believe these portrayals, it is hard to account for many successes of Aetius and Eunomius and their appeal to their Christian followers. This is not to say that the debate between the Cappadocians and the Heteroousians was immune to certain non-theological points of conflict which gave rise to these polemical characterizations. Indeed, recent scholarship has provided insight into the dynamics that lay behind the ancient polemical labels for the Heteroousians. But they cannot be taken at face value.
And so, not only do I believe that such characterizations in modern scholarship are unfair, being reprises of ancient polemics, but as caricatures they are also impediments to an accurate understanding of the theological project of the Heteroousians. Philip Rousseau and Maurice Wiles once balked against such derogatory representations and tried to sketch out Eunomius's deeply-felt religious, ecdesiological, and soteriological concerns. While one may question their particular rehabilitations of Eunomius, my denials of Platonist source-claims for the Heteroousians theory of names and in particular of Daniélou's source-claim for their theory of the origin of names are made in the same vein. In the next chapter I continue this questioning of the commonplace portrayals of the Heteroousians by arguing that their theory of names in its initial formulation is best viewed as a response made to pressing fourth-century theological issues by drawing upon proximate Christian sources.
In this chapter I have argued that the Heteroousian
theory of names
represents a continuation of earlier fourth-century debates and an attempted solution to the pressing theological issues of the their era. I have demonstrated how their thinking advances upon previous Christian reflection upon and dispute over `unbegotten', especially among Eusebians in the early fourth century. Their stance on `unbegotten' appears to represent a response to Athanasius's critiques of the Eusebian usage of this term. In addition, two of Athanasius's ideas about naming have striking parallels in Eunomius. The first is that because natures are primary and names secondary, the meaning of a name is determined by the nature of the bearer. The second is Athanasius's theory of essential predication rooted in a doctrine of divine simplicity. This idea seems to have been the lynchpin of Eunomius's theory of names and the source of his single greatest improvement upon Aetius's argumentation. Therefore, the Heteroousian theory of names was developed over time by engaging contemporary debate over the names for God and their significance. The Heteroousians drew upon their theological forebears, the Eusebians, but also borrowed ideas from Athanasius, using his teaching against him.
I am not the first to claim that the Heteroousians developed their theology by engaging Athanasius. Thomas Kopecek argued that in the early 350s Aetius began to stress the term heteroousios precisely because Athanasius had rejected it in his De decretis. His claim is intriguing, but we would need more precise evidence for it to be convincing. In addition, I find it problematic that Kopecek portrays Aetius's theological project as fundamentally driven by his partisanship of Arius and his polemics against Athanasius. He depicts Aetius as a little more than an dialectical disputant who adopted his positions just to contradict Athanasius. While Kopecek allows for Aetius's discriminating use of Arius,'" he does not grant a similar discernment when Aetius read Athanasius. My claim that the Heteroousians, particularly Eunomius, selectively drew upon Athanasius consequently alters Kopecek's depiction of the Heteroousian theological project. It was not solely, or even primarily, driven by a polemical spirit, but by a genuine concern to speak about God accurately and truthfully, wherever good resources for this theological task could be found.
Basil's critiques of Eunomius's theory of names reveal three aspects of what he thinks is a good theory of names. While his critiques do not always exhibit a charitable interpretation of his opponent's thought, and even though Basil himself is guilty of shaky logic, his remarks do reveal his criteria for his alternative theory of names. In this way Basil establishes the parameters for a radically different theory of names.
First and primarily, names do not reveal substance, meaning that they do not define the essence of the things to which they are applied or grant knowledge of that essence. Essences always remain incomprehensible for Basil. Therefore, Basil will need to identify what names do signify, if not essence. Aspects of his answer were hinted at above. Negative names like `unbegotten' and 'invisible' signify what is not present in God, whereas positive names what is present in God. Of the latter, some like 'good' and 'light' refer to the substance of God as a whole without defining it; others like 'creator' and 'judge' are, in Basil's words, "external to the substance." In other words, names signify some sort of properties, not essences. I examine Basil's argumentation for this position, which cuts to the heart of Eunomius's theory of names, in Chapter Six.
Second, each name applied to God is non-synonymous and has a distinct meaning. This is aimed at denying the two features of Eunomius's theory of names: (1) the centrality of the name `unbegotten', and (2) divine simplicity necessitating the synonymy of all names predicated of God. Basil argued that no single name suffices to exhaust knowledge of God; multiple names are needed. Each contributes in its own way to our understanding of God, even if this understanding falls short of knowledge of God's essence. Basil's theory of names will therefore support a theological epistemology that allows for a far richer and more comprehensive knowledge of God than Eunomius's. I explore Basil's account of the non-synonymy of God's names in Chapter Five.
Third, Basil holds that names must always operate in the same way whenever they are applied, in both divine and mundane contexts. In other words, they mean the same thing whether applied to God or creatures; the same notion must be preserved. It should be noted that Basil thinks this must be the case only for those names that are literally true. For example, we saw how Basil recognized 'vine' as a name for Christ. While this term tells us something true about Christ, it does not mean that he is a grape-producing plant whose stem requires support. Furthermore, Basil recognizes that scripture uses figurative and allegorical language about God that is not literally true. For example, he acknowledges that the scriptures have at times spoken of the substance of God as something material, citing Ezekiel 8:2, Deuteronomy 4:24, and Daniel 7:9-10 as examples. These passages describe God as amber, fire, and so forth. Basil says that such descriptions are meant to transfer us to worthy notions of God. But if we take them literally, we will think of God as not only material but also composite." Basil's explanation of the unity of meaning and preservation of the notion between divine and mundane contexts is explored in Chapter Five.
Basil formulated his new notionalist theory of names chiefly to attack Heteroousian theology at its foundations. While a name immediately discloses substance in the Heteroousian theory of names, in Basil's notionalist view each name (when uttered or read) primarily gives rise to a mental notion, which is comprised of the meaning of the name. As we shall see in Chapter Six, this notion in turn describes, or at least corresponds to, a feature of the namebearer, but not its substance. Thus the key difference between the Heteroousian and Basilian theory of names is the insertion of a notional level between the nominal and substantial levels.
The advantage of the notionalist theory is that attention can be given to the meanings of names in a way that is impossible with Eunomius's theory. While in the Heteroousian theory, name and substance were inseparable and effectively identical, in Basil's notionalist theory, because of the "mental space" between name and referent in the notional order, the meanings of names can be manipulated. In other words, for Basil there is a creative role for the human mind in understanding and even constructing what names mean when applied to the divine beings. It is not simply a matter of determining, as Eunomius had done, the most accurate descriptor for a substance based on assumed meanings. Rather, one figures out how all the names for God, which have been handed down by scripture and tradition, can be used in a way that is appropriate for God.
While Eunomius envisioned basically a one-to-one correspondence between `unbegotten' and the divine substance (with other names being synonymous with `unbegotten'), Basil believes that multiple, non-synonymous names can applied to any substance, even God's, since they primarily refer to notions, which in turn (as we shall see in Chapter Six) correspond to different non-essential features of that substance. Hence for Basil there is a one-to-one correspondence between names and their notions, not between names and substance as Eunomius had maintained. Eunomius held that each name could have many meanings depending on the dignity of the namebearer and that a single meaning could be expressed by many names in the case of simple beings. Basil rejects such a theory as rendering human speech about God as effectively meaningless. We can say something true about God using human language, provided that we recognize its limitations by purifying it of inappropriate connotations. Nonetheless, there remains no human word that captures the divine essence.
In general, then, Basil and Eunomius differ over the role of the 1 notional in semantics. For Eunomius, terms give immediate access to ontology; for Basil, a notional level stands between terms and ontology. For Eunomius, a single term correctly names the substance of God. For Basil, many terms can be correctly applied to God, each with their specific notional content; none names the substance of God, but each is true of God. Both Basil and Eunomius appealed to common notions, but Eunomius's appeal seems quite odd given his neglect of notions in his theory of names. In contrast, Basil is very concerned to define the notions of the names that are applied to God.
Unlike Eunomius, Basil does not believe that names common to God and created beings are homonymous; rather, he posits a strong correlation between the use of words in divine and mundane contexts. Basil holds that each name has a notion that holds true for every object to which the term is applied, regardless of whether the term is used in a mundane or divine context. His theory therefore endorses a strong form of univocity for names said commonly of God and creatures. Theological language for Basil is not divorced from how language operates in the created realm. Rather, a term conveys a specific meaning whenever it is used.
However, the notion of a term does not correspond to its ordinary usage in mundane contexts. Such usage saddles a term with inappropriate connotations that are inapplicable when the same term is used of God. Therefore, ordinary language must be purified of its inappropriate connotations in order to be validly used of God. It is this purified meaning conveyed by a term that holds good whether the term is used of created realities or God. Accordingly, the names used of God must be purified of their created or material connotations. Therefore, Basil's univocity comes with a twist.
Basil's notionalist theory of names recognizes a number of sources for notions. In theological contexts, the most important are the basic notions derived from purified common usage, and the conceptualizations formulated by reflection upon them. Some names for God correspond to basic notions, others to conceptualizations. Yet in both cases names operate in the same way: they primarily signify the notion, not the object that bears the name. And so, Basil does not envision all names as corresponding to conceptualizations, but his theory of con ceptualization is part of a more comprehensive notionalist theory of names.
Determining the sources for Basil's theory of names is difficult. I have suggested that it represents an appropriation of an interpretation of Aristotle that emerged among second-century Aristotelians (and is witnessed to by Clement) and was adopted by third- and fourth-century Neoplatonists such as Porphyry and Dexippus. Despite a strong but singular parallel between Basil and Dexippus in their proof that names signify primarily notions, there is no evidence for direct influence. One can only conjecture that Basil learned of this interpretation in the course of his studies at Athens. For this reason, I have pointed to the Homoiousians as a proximate source for Basil. Like him, they made the notions connected with names central in their theology. Basil may have recognized the seeds that they planted and nurtured them into maturity, resulting in his notionalist theory of names.
I have examined four kinds of names in order to demonstrate that in Basil's notionalist theory of names, generally speaking, names reveal primarily notions and secondarily distinguishing marks. This theory was meant to contrast starkly with the Heteroousian theory of names wherein names give immediate access to substance. My presentation of Basil's notionalism attempts to configure his disconnected discussions of names into a system. This configuration is admittedly not always successful since Basil was not being systematic. Nonetheless, that Basil had a notionalist theory of names seems undeniable, even if in certain cases evidence is lacking. Another difficulty is seen in Basil's imprecise terminology. Though he appears to use distinguishing marks and distinctive features interchangeably, there is also a hint a some difference between them. Furthermore, he uses these two terms for quite different characteristics: some refer to what distinguishes individuals of a common substance, others to what distinguishes one substance from another.
In formulating his notionalist theory of names Basil drew upon eclectic sources: philosophical, grammatical, and Christian. Basil is beholden to none. Though he is deeply indebted to the grammarians' understanding of names, he rejects their view that names signify substance, whether individual or common. Instead, he seems to have borrowed from philosophical sources to explain what names signified. Regarding proper names, Basil adopted the view that individuals are bundles of characteristics and innovatively saw names as signifying these rather than substance. In the case of absolute names, Basil appears to have made use of the idea of propria to identify what they signified. In his theories of proper and absolute names, Basil betrays no influence of earlier Christian writers simply because there was little to draw on (with the exception of Origen who advanced a Stoic-inspired theory of proper names). The case is different for relatives. By Basil's time, Christians had been using arguments from correlatives for two centuries. Basing myself on the work of David Robertson, I have argued that two traditions of correlative-arguments developed in Christianity, and that Basil can be set squarely in the grammatical tradition seen in several early fourth-century theologians, primarily the Eusebians and Homoiousians.
In this study I have argued that Basil of Caesarea develops a notionalist theory of names in response to Eunomius. Basil's theory of names is fundamental to his refutation of Eunomius, establishing a theological methodology and epistemology radically different from that of his opponent. This is the signal achievement of Basil, to have identified these fundamental points of difference and articulated alternatives. In so doing, Basil subtly changed the terms of the Trinitarian debates that were raging in the late 350s and early 360s.
In the first part (Chapters One through Three), I discussed the Heteroousian theory of names. I contended that most previous accounts of this theory have been marred by interpreting it ahistorically and as a theory of language as such. The theory has been viewed as static and as recoverable from both early (Syntagmation, Apologia) and late (Apologia apologiae) Heteroousian documents. In contrast, I maintain that the Heteroousian theory of names developed in three main stages: (1) Aetius's initial formulation in the Syntagmation (and pertinent fragments), (2) Eunomius's improvements upon Aetius's expression of the theory that Eunomius specified in the Apologia, and (3) Eunomius's re-expression of the theory in the Apologia apologiae in the light of Basil's Contra Eunomium.
The early Heteroousian theory of names was limited to what one might call a theology of divine predication, which is to say how names operated when they were applied to God. It was only later, in response to Basil, that Eunomius formulated a theory of the origin of names, which transformed the earlier Heteroousian theology of names into a general theory of names. This developmental model of the Heteroousian theory also enables us to appreciate how Aetius and Eunomius were responding and reacting to contemporary theological contexts when they formulated their theory of names. In Chapter Three I argued that in their formulation of a theory of names the Heteroousians were attempting to answer the most pressing theological questions of their era by drawing upon the resources available to them from earlier fourth-century debates over the name `unbegotten' and what it meant to apply such names to a God who is simple. In the same vein, Eunomius's late theory of the origin of names shows him responding to the critiques of his opponent, Basil, who rejected Eunomius's belief that theological language operated in a way fundamentally different than ordinary language.
Therefore, Aetius and Eunomius were not trying to foist a fundamentally non-Christian understanding of names upon their fellow Christians. I devoted Chapter Two to arguing that the various Platonist source-claims advanced for the Heteroousian theory of names, particularly those made by Jean Daniélou in his frequently cited article, fail to convince upon further analysis, despite superficial resemblances. Nonetheless, I argued that Eunomius's late theory of the origin of names represents a selective use of Philo. While Christian theologians of all stripes skillfully employed the resources of their culture in their theological endeavors (despite protests to the contrary), I believe that in this case the Platonist source-claims are not only unconvincing but also obscure the truly Christian motivations of the Heteroousians. In his use of Philo, Eunomius reveals himself as one of several fourth-century theologians who benefited from the works of Philo Judaeus, who even in their day was being transformed into Philo Christianus.
In the second part (Chapters Four through Six), I turned to Basil's theory of names. Various aspects of his theory have received some attention in the scholarship, such as his theory of conceptualization (epinoia) and his understanding of proper and relative names. But in these chapters I have argued that these are but pieces of a larger, general theory of names. Though I doubt that Basil would have claimed to have had a systematic theory of names, I believe that there is one implicit in his writings and operative in his thought, even if at times there are gaps I wish could have been filled and inconsistencies I wish were not there.
I began my discussion of Basil by summarizing his critiques of Eunomius's theory of names, arguing that they reveal what Basil thought a good theory of names should be. In them we see the parameters of his own notionalist theory. He rejected the idea that any name—not just the names for God—can reveal substance, understood as essence. He disagreed with Eunomius's claim that divine simplicity implied that all names applied to God were synonymous, affirming that each name used for God retains a distinct meaning. He denied that any name, especially `unbegotten', enabled privileged knowledge of God, arguing instead that each name applied to God contributes to our always-imperfect notion of God according to its distinct meaning. Finally, he repudiated Eunomius's belief that names mean fundamentally dif ferent things when applied in divine and mundane contexts, which is to say that names are applied to God and creatures equivocally. In contrast, Basil endorsed univocal predication.
The next two chapters explored how Basil formulated his notionalist theory of names within these parameters. In Chapter Five I argued that Basil maintained against Eunomius that names do not reveal substance, but primarily give rise to notions in the mind. This is why I have chosen to label his theory of names "notionalist." But while all names signify notions, not all notions are the same. I argued that Basil envisions a hierarchy of notions: some are more-or-less immediately available to the human mind and more fundamental, others are derived, formulated by reflecting upon the more basic notions. Notions differ in kind not by their content but by the way in which the mind comes to acquire them.
As for basic notions, Basil's primary source for them is common usage. This does not refer to how ordinary speakers understand a term, but to what a term means when it is purified of its corporeal and temporal connotations. The importance of common usage for Basil's theological method has only recently been recognized by scholars, and here I attempted to show its significance for his theory of names. Basil's appeal to common usage enables him to affirm against Eunomius that names (excepting metaphorical names) are applied to God univocally. Because the notions that names give rise to according to common usage are stripped of inappropriate connotations, they have the same meaning when used in both divine and mundane contexts.
Furthermore, I have situated Basil's well-known theory of conceptualization (epinoia) within his theory of names, construing conceptualizations as derived notions. There is a tradition in scholarship that interprets Basil as holding that all names used for God correspond to conceptualizations. This is simply not the case. I have outlined how Basil envisions conceptualizations being derived from basic notions, showing that his theory of conceptualization can only be fully understood when it is connected with his more comprehensive notionalism. In addition, I explored Basil's use of Origen in the formulation of his theory of conceptualization, arguing that he heavily adapts him, that his own theory is not entirely consistent with that of the Alexandrian theologian, and that his appeal to Origen probably implies an argument from authority against Eunomian innovation.
In Chapter Five I also suggested two possible contexts in which Basil could have developed his notionalist theory of names, which has no clear precedent in any Christian author. I suggested the tradition of Neoplatonist commentary upon Aristotle as a remote context, which viewed names as signifying primarily thoughts and secondarily things. Another possible context was the Homoiousian emphasis upon the notions 'Father' and 'Son' in their documents from the late 350s.
In the final chapter I argued that, as an alternative to Eunomius's theory that names disclose substance, Basil maintained that names, while primarily signifying notions, secondarily signify the properties of the objects to which they are applied. I demonstrated how this theory is consistently invoked in Basil's explanations of how the basic kinds of names operate: proper names, absolute names, and relative names. For each kind of name, I explored possible sources for Basil's understanding in both philosophical and grammatical texts. I demonstrated that Basil is eclectic here and draws piecemeal upon a variety of philosophical and grammatical theories. His theory of the proper name seems most influenced by Neoplatonist accounts, whereas his theories of the absolute and relatives are more indebted to grammatical discussions. In addition, Basil is an heir to a long Christian tradition of using arguments based on relative terms in theological contexts. Finally, I argued that Basil believes that derived names (the names for conceptualizations) operate similarly to these basic names, though he is not as explicit in stating it as one would hope.
My argument about the Heteroousian theory of names raises a number of questions for further debate. Since the Heteroousian theory of names is fundamental to their theology, how does this new interpretation of it affect our understanding of their theology as a whole? How does it alter our understanding of the interpretations of Heteroousian theology offered by other opponents besides Basil, like his brother Gregory of Nyssa? In what way does it change our understanding of the issues of controversy in the late 350s and early 360s? Does it contribute to a revised account of the course of the Trinitarian debates?
Basil's notionalist theory of names raises a similar set of questions. Though I also drew upon other parts of his corpus, I derived the main evidence for his theory from his Contra Eunomium. I have not considered here to what extent this theory is operative in his other works. If Basil's notionalist theory is as fundamental to his theological method as I have claimed, what new insights into Basil's theology does this theory allow? One area of research only partially touched upon in this dissertation is Basil's exploitation of his theory of names in his interpretation of the names 'Father' and 'Son'.
Though the theology of the so-called Cappadocians is no longer considered a monolith, it is undeniable that Gregory of Nyssa was heavily influenced by the theology of his older brother. Indeed, after Eunomius issued his Apologia apologiae shortly after Basil died, Gregory considered himself the defender of his dead brother's legacy and the heir to his controversy with Eunomius.' Accordingly, Gregory's own theory of names needs to be re-examined in the light of Basil's. Not only do we need to determine to what extent Gregory adopted Basil, but also why Gregory might have departed from the theory of the one whose ideas he claimed to be defending. The re-assessment of Basil's theology as a whole that his theory of names prompts in turn prompts a re-assessment of the theology of his greatest defender, Gregory.
Finally, Basil's theory of names may be of interest to those not specifically concerned with historical theology. First, Basil's discussion of the basic kinds of names deserves consideration by historians of ancient grammar. Since he was trained as a rhetor, Basil must have had an education in grammar itself that exceeded most of his contemporaries. It is true that Basil was not interested in technical grammar, but one might call his approach "applied grammar." His account of names is both descriptive and prescriptive. He corrects his opponent's erroneous understanding of what names signify. Hence Basil's grammatical discussions provide clues not only to what grammatical teaching may have been like in fourth-century Cappadocia, but also to how grammatical knowledge was used in the interpretation of texts and other contexts.
Secondly, historians of late-antique philosophy cannot ignore the contributions of Basil. Some of Basil's ideas have already attracted such attention. But there are other points of interest. I have suggested that he offered an innovative, albeit rudimentary, account of what accounts for the persistence of individuals. More generally his theory of distinguishing marks and distinctive features indicates a non-specialist's appropriation of themes heavily debated among the "professional" philosophers of his day. In particular, I have suggested that Basil is the first Greek theologian to incorporate a version of the Aristotelian/Neoplatonist understanding of what names signify—that is, primarily thoughts, secondarily things. It remains to be seen if other Greek theologians similarly abandoned the various expressions of the naturalness of names current in the early Christian centuries for the kind of notionalism that Basil developed, and further if later Greek theologians were influenced by Basil or came to the theory by other means.
Basil's notionalism is reminiscent of the theory of names prevalent in the Latin Middle Ages, which entered that world through the philosophical writings of Boethius. A name (vox) was thought to express a concept and the concept (intellectus) was thought to be a likeness of the thing named (res). Basil never speaks of the notions that names give rise to as likenesses of things, but as encapsulating the relevant features of the object named. Nonetheless, the resemblance between Basil's threefold division into name-notion-feature and the Aristotelian/Neoplatonist/Latin Medieval division into word-concept-thing is striking. Hence Basil's theory of names should be of interest not only to historians of philosophy, but also to those who study the history of linguistics.
While Basil is rightly recognized as an ecclesiastical statesman with few peers, as the father of eastern monasticism, and as a masterful theoretician of the moral and ascetical life, his theological achievements have for a long time been overshadowed by those of his fellow Cappadocians Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa. I hope that the detailed study undertaken in this monograph will contribute to the growing appreciation of his originality in the theological sphere, to the emergence of a "new Basil" in scholarship that places equal weight upon his theological contributions. However different his theology may have been from his fellow Cappadocians, in many ways Basil's ideas were often the seeds that the two Gregories nurtured into viable pro-Nicene saplings. And if this is the case, Basil's contribution to the Trinitarian faith that the Church still professes today is immense.
insert content here