Revista Studii Teologice


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Demetrios Kydones (cca. 1324-1397), exponent al principiilor gândirii tomiste în Bizanţ

Demetrios Kydones (cca. 1324- †1397), a proponent of Thomism in Byzantium

Autor(i): Gabriel CHELARU

The penetration of the Western theological literature in the Byzantine area, especially the one that has Aquinas’ or Augustine’s signature, due mostly to Demetri-os (and Prochoros) Kydones’ efforts, did represent a key moment in the cultural history of the Late Byzantium. However, the perception of this type of literature evinced different dimensions and different approaches, but, as a general feature, it did not prove itself to be very popular among the most Byzantine intellectuals and clergy, but rather it faced a reproachful and somehow refractory attitude due, firstly, to its Western origin and, secondly, due to the ideas, the lines of thought and the approach and argumentation methods, deemed to be incompatible with the Byzantine world and spirituality. What Demetrios Kydones tried to demonstrate was the exact opposite, by promoting the Thomistic manner of argumentation, considering that the scholastic type of argumentation is the best and the most effective in the process of the quest, the discovery and the ascertainment of truth. Moreover, grounded on the Aristotelian syllogism outlines, this method suits better a general application in the Byzantine area as it claims the Greek philosophical tradition.
Who or what represented in fact the person of Demetrios Kydones for the thirteenth century Byzantium? Was he a philosopher, a highly educated statesman, or was he perhaps a theologian? To be a philosopher in Byzantium meant, at a certa-in time, being highly educated or even knowing how to read and write (of course, Demetrios was far more intellectually prepared). There are, however, voices who claim that Demetrios Kydones was just a highly educated man, or perhaps a philo-sopher, which is not entirely wrong, but without any doubts we can affirm that he was also a theologian, considering just the fact that he had a theological preparation. He was not a cleric, but that does not represent the main condition for being a theo-logian as there are members of the clergy who are not theologians, due to their in-sufficient and mediocre theological preparation and, like in Kydones’ case, there are theologians who are not members of the clergy. In conclusion, the clerical issue does not represent a sine qua non condition to be termed a ‘theologian’.
Demetrios Kydones’ literal meeting with Thomas Aquinas’ work represented one of the fundamental moments of Byzantium’s cultural history, as a starting point of a very important development and promotion of some research and argumentation trends, other than the existing ones at that moment, the traditional ones, but who had claimed their roots from the local philosophical tradition. In other words, Deme-trios Kydones could have been the “right man in the right place to be” which involves the reevaluation of special approach method regarding the discovery and ascertaining of truth as a fundamental and final target.
In his effort to learn the Latin language, with the Dominican monk’s impor-tant help, he received from the mentioned monk, as a study book, one of the grea-test Aquinas’ works, entitled Summa contra gentiles. The fascination created by this book, determined Demetrios to translate it from Latin into Greek, making it available to his fellow Byzantines. This moment can easily be considered as crucial, because this was the moment when Kydones’ attitude changed forever, turning him into one of the greatest Byzantine humanists. Moreover, this particular fascination with the Western thought, motivated him to convert himself to the Western belief.
From this moment on, we have to deal with a major issue, named the ‘Byzan-tine Thomism’. More precisely, what it represented and when it appeared on the major stage of history. By the so-called ‘Byzantine Thomism’ we can understand the entire corpus of the translated Aquinas’ works in the Byzantine area – most of them being translated by Kydones brothers, Demetrios and Prochoros – but the phrase can also mean the understanding and the reception of the Thomistic ways in some sort of positivism form or acceptance at ideological or philosophical level. The beginning of the ‘Byzantine Thomism’ identifies itself with the first penetration in Byzantium of Thomas Aquinas’s works around 1300A.D., when the Dominican missionaries bro-ught them in untranslated form from the West. Initially, these works circulated in very small circle, reduced to the Dominican community in Pera. So, the first period of the so-called ‘Byzantine Thomism’ offers us scarce information and there is no concrete evidence of any particular existence of an integrally translated work that has Aquinas’ signature. More important is the second period of this current, which starts with the completion of the first integral translation, made by Demetrios Kydo-nes, of the above-mentioned Summa contra gentiles. From this moment on, the ‘Byzantine Thomism’ gained a significant importance, engendering two opinion currents, defined by the approach manner to the Thomistic ways: the pro-Thomists and the anti-Thomists. Even if Kydones was not basically the initiator of the ‘Byzan-tine Thomism’ (he could not actually be, and the reasons are easy to understand), he is credited as the one who promoted it and mentioned its value in a time when doc-tor angelicus’ name was only known in a restricted circle of the monks in Pera and, only with few exceptions, outside of it, and when Aquinas’ authority was yet far from being accepted all across the Western Christianity.
As for Demetrios Kydones’ approach way to Thomistic methods, this can be in-ferred, indirectly speaking, from a simple observation on the large number of his translated works (we have in mind here the translated works of Thomas Aquinas only). The number of these translated works does not offer, of course, a clear and complete image of the approach manner we speak about. This manner of understan-ding the Thomistic method can be observed and analyzed in three types of literature that belong to Kydones: The Apology I, the epistolary literature and the personal treatises.
Firstly, The Apology I, one of the most important, if not the most important of his works, with strong personal-apologetic accents, in which we can find a lot of im-portant information regarding his decision to convert and lots of other information regarding his own way of understanding the Latin world as a whole, Kydones speaks about ‘that man’ (i.e. Thomas Aquinas) who surpassed all his contemporaries in mat-ters of theology. Using a laudatory language, relatively discreet and without hyperbo-lization and exaggerations, but also without totally ignoring them, he speaks about Aquinas’ person as being known by all and his major work (i.e. Summa contra genti-les) as being the summit of his great wisdom. There are also a few mentions regar-ding Thomas Aquinas’ literary style, characterized as simple, with usual words, the ideas being convincingly and carefully formulated. Even though in Apology I there is no information regarding Kydones’ effective understanding of the Thomistic ways, still we can observe here, broadly speaking, the fact that he accepted, embraced these principles and tried further to promote them among his fellow Byzantines, even if, at the end, the results of his struggle were perhaps not the ones he was hoping for.
The second category – the epistolary literature – represents a step forward in the process of understanding the approach in question. From the whole corpus of letters written by Demetrios Kydones on the present matter, only three letters retain the attention. Yet, only one is the most important: the letter to Maximos Chrysober-ges. In this letter, Demetrios makes a short description of the Thomistic argumentati-on method.
Finally, the third category, and also the most important one, comprises the personal treatises with philosophical theological content (more or less composed in a polemical or argumentative manner) because, here, the Thomistic approach problem is much more emphasized and more detailed.
Among all Kydones’ treatises, the most important, the most clear and carefully composed, regarding the matter we analyze, is the one named Defensio sancti Tho-mae adversus Nilum Cabasilam, a response-type treatise condemning Nilus Cabasilas’ reactions regarding the Thomistic argumentation (Nilus was before that an important admirer of Thomas Aquinas, but it seems he had changed his points of view). If De-metrios speaks in the letter to Chrysoberges about the reasons that made him ex-press such admiration for Thomas Aquinas, describing in few words the clearness and the pure discipline of the Thomistic theology, in the present treatise, he develops considerably the principles of these syllogistic methods converted in a more dynamic way by Aquinas. Kydones’ whole statement gravitates around the essential and fun-damental factor that we find at the grounds of every rational approach: the truth. Actually, the treatise is composed, of course, on Thomistic principles and here Kydo-nes made an obvious difference between the grounds related to reason (lumen ratio-nis), and those related to belief (lumen Revelationis) and, as an extension from these principles, he underlined the difference between demonstrabilia and credibilia. One of Kydones key-ideas, expounded here, is the complementary theory, adopted from Tomas Aquinas and amplified in order to demonstrate the full compatibility between the syllogistic argumentation method and the Christian Revelation grounds on which they are applied.
Therefore, by studying Demetrios Kydones’ three types of literature, we can observe the fact that, in his personal view, the scholastic argument method is the proper one, perhaps even the only one in the process of seeking the truth. Moreover, he discovers a full, almost perfect compatibility, between the syllogistic method and the Christian Revelation grounds on which it is applied. Yet, even if understood, accepted and promoted by some important Byzantine intellectuals, such as Georgios Gennadios Scholarios, to quote only one example, the Thomistic argument remained far from being fully popular in the Byzantine area, although it was, as mentioned before, founded on the Greek philosophic tradition.

Pagini: 201-230