SCHUKIN T.A. Gregory Palamas’ Criticism of Plato’s Ideas


Timur A. Schukin

Associate Research Fellow,

Sociological Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences,

7-ya Krasnoarmeyskaya St, 25/14, 190005 Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation

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Abstract. Introduction. The paper focuses on Gregory Palamas’ criticism of Plato’s ideas.

Methods. It examines four texts related to the early life of Gregory Palamas, which in one way or another were devoted to the criticism of Platonic idealism. On the basis of these texts, four points are identified on which the saint disagrees with the Athenian philosopher, or rather with the image of Platonic philosophy that existed in his mind (and probably in the minds of many educated Byzantines of the 14th century).

Analysis. In his First letter to Barlaam, Gregory Palamas points out the impurity and passion of Plato’s idea, its contamination by accidental content. In the Second Letter to Barlaam, Plato's ideas are criticized for their inability to become a link in the knowledge of God, since they are “empty” universals that precede many things. Such ideas are not the subject of contemplation and cannot become the beginning of reflection. In the “Triads for the Defense of Those Who Practice Sacred Quietude”, Gregory Palamas first of all points out the independence (autonomy of existence) of ideas, their separation from both God and the world. Finally, in the “Antirretics contra Akindynos”, we are talking about the creaturehood of ideas, which again makes it impossible to communicate with God.

Results. The paper argues that although polemical attacks against Plato are attacks rather against the opponents of Gregory Palamas, they can also be considered as a way to manifest his own teaching. Gregory Palamas defines himself as a Christian philosopher who offers an original interpretation of ideas, different from that offered by “pagan”, Platonic, wisdom.

Key words: Gregory Palamas, idea, energy, universal, Barlaam of Calabria, Gregory Akindynos.

Citation. Schukin T.A. Gregory Palamas’ Criticism of Plato’s Ideas. Vestnik Volgogradskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Seriya 4. Istoriya. Regionovedenie. Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya [Science journal of Volgograd State University. History. Area Studies. International Relations], 2022, vol. 27, no. 6, pp. 143-155. (in Russian). DOI:

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Gregory Palamas’ Criticism of Plato’s Ideas by Schukin T.A. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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