Isaac of Nineveh’s Moral Psychology
This chapter demonstrates that Isaac’s moral psychology is both an explanation of how the heavenly mysteries affect the soul and a description of how the soul helps prepare the mind for the reception of the heavenly mysteries through wonder. In formulating his moral psychology, Isaac takes bits and pieces from a number of currents already within his own tradition: he uses John the Solitary’s “three degrees” as an explanation for moral failing in the soul; he uses Evagrius’s tripartite (i.e., Platonic) theory of the soul in order to describe the constitution of the soul; and finally, he uses language borrowed from the Syriac translations of the Pseudo-Dionysian and Pseudo-Macarian corpi in order to explain how loving desire (eros) aids the soul in contemplation. Finally, Isaac’s unique contribution is his account of the soul’s impulses, which work to counteract the negative effects of the bodily senses.
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