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Logos and language: the relationship of creation and expression


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#1 Anthony

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 06:43 PM

I would like to start a thread on Orthodox thinking about the relationship between the gift of language and the creation of the world through the Logos.

As background, I spend quite a lot of time studying and analyzing language(s), and am often made aware of what a mysterious thing it is. A couple of aspects I have in mind are folowing: (1) the dependence of meaningfulness in language and the meaningfulness (i.e. createdness?) of the world; (2) the significance of linguisticality as a sign of the interpersonal rather than individualistic nature of humanity as created. I would be grateful for any leads on how the Fathers articulate these ideas and related ones.

I have actually been meaning to ask this for some time, but was prompted by some interesting posts in the thread on Creation, especially Yuri Zharikov's comments about information and entropy in the universe.

Although I have not put this thread in the Patristics section (and I don't own the thread anyway), it really is patristic or patristically informed thought that I am interested in. The concept of Logos, of course, is one that has attracted many philosophers and pseudo-philosophers, both ancient and modern; but a discussion along theosophical or syncretistic lines, such as has occurred in some past threads, is really not what I am looking for.

#2 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 10 November 2007 - 11:25 AM

Dear Anthony,

While I don't have the texts to hand at the moment, the source that leaps most obviously to mind is St Maximus the Confessor, who wrote extensively on the Logos, and how creation, as work of this Logos, is logikos. I would imagine there would be much fruit available to you through some time in his works.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#3 Anthony

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Posted 10 November 2007 - 03:31 PM

Dear Fr Matthew,

Thank you, this is exactly the kind of thing I had in mind, though I had forgotten who said it. The only St Maximos texts I have are those in the Philokalia Vol II, which I haven't read yet.

#4 Victor Mihailoff

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Posted 08 March 2008 - 04:49 AM

I would like to start a thread on Orthodox thinking about the relationship between the gift of language and the creation of the world through the Logos.


Do you really mean the "gift of language" or the "gift of speach"? If you mean the latter, then we are on familiar territory. Of all the creatures God created, to man alone was given the gift of speach. Man is created in God's image and God's Word has great power, for with it He creates and changes as He wills.

That is why man must be careful as to what he utters, for there is power even in man's word.

When babies are taken or found and raised by wild animals, they stop talking in human language. If they are subsequently found by humans, their ability to learn speach is dependent on the age they are at discovery and secondarily upon the age they were lost, if in fact they were speaking children when lost.

In France, a boy renamed Victor was found running naked with a pack of wolves. To cut the story short, he was later placed in the care of a doctor who tried to teach Victor to speak. It was estimated that he was about 12 years old.

Victor never learned to speak. He could utter a single word at a time from an extremely limitted vocabulary of less than 10 words but never put two or more words together to form a phrase. For example he could say "water" in French when thirsty but not, "may I please have a glass of water?"

Other ferral children were found and those that were less than 12 years old could learn to speak to the degree of their being under the age of twelve. Those, like Victor, that never learned to speak behaved like animals the rest of their lives. They had some God given natural protective powers that we do not posses. For example, Victor could dip his hand into boiling water to slowly remove a boiled potato and suffer no harm whatsoever. He could also frollick naked in the snow showing no signs of being cold while his doctor/guardian was shivering in his jacket, coat, scarf, hat and gloves.

It is conjectured that the power of speach and the company of other civilised people is necessary for humans to have the higher characteristics which separate them from animals. Before anyone starts to talk about deaf people or blind people, remember, they still do communicate with people and are taught specialised languages to overcome their disabilities. They are not raised without human contact.

So, part of our being created in God's image is the power of the word; spoken, written, typed in braille or signed in sign language.

In Christ, Victor

#5 Max Percy

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Posted 08 March 2008 - 04:22 PM

Dear Anthony,

While I don't have the texts to hand at the moment, the source that leaps most obviously to mind is St Maximus the Confessor, who wrote extensively on the Logos, and how creation, as work of this Logos, is logikos. I would imagine there would be much fruit available to you through some time in his works.

INXC, Dcn Matthew


I agree. There is much in Ambiguum 10, but be prepared to go slowly, this is very rich, like an epic poem. I believe it is available in english in Fr. Louth's Maximus collection published by Routledge- and which is available as a free download through a site called Wowio
http://www.wowio.com...asp?BookId=2777

I think vol. 2 of Fr. Staniloae's "Experience of God" on Creation has some things as well, and if not it is worth reading any way.

One other area that is intriguing and still not fully explored is the "Imyaslavyie" controversy around 1910 on Mt. Athos that dealt with the name of God and so with language. If you read french- Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev has two volumes on this and I have heard it is very good.

#6 Max Percy

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Posted 08 March 2008 - 04:27 PM

I agree. There is much in Ambiguum 10, but be prepared to go slowly, this is very rich, like an epic poem. I believe it is available in english in Fr. Louth's Maximus collection published by Routledge- and which is available as a free download through a site called Wowio
http://www.wowio.com...asp?BookId=2777

I think vol. 2 of Fr. Staniloae's "Experience of God" on Creation has some things as well, and if not it is worth reading any way.

One other area that is intriguing and still not fully explored is the "Imyaslavyie" controversy around 1910 on Mt. Athos that dealt with the name of God and so with language. If you read french- Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev has two volumes on this and I have heard it is very good.


Here are some other cites:

# (French) Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, Le Nom grand et glorieux. La vénération du Nom de Dieu et la prière de Jésus dans la tradition orthodoxe. Paris: Cerf, 2007.
# (French) Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, Le mystère sacré de l'Eglise. L'introduction à l'histoire et à la problématique des débats athonites sur la vénération du Nom de Dieu. Fribourg: Academic Press, 2007.

http://www.samizdat....miaslavtsy.html

http://uk.geocities....NameEnglish.htm

#7 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 08 March 2008 - 11:34 PM

Dear Max,

Thank you for the references, and particularly for the pointer towards Ambiguum 10. A recent collection of extracts of Maximus' writings, The Cosmic Christ, contains a number of relevant passages.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#8 Max Percy

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Posted 09 March 2008 - 12:28 AM

You are welcome. I looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooove St. Maximus. Is there ever any discussion of his writings here in a sustained way. I would be very interested in that. I find him much easier to understand by talking about him. Just like Fr. Staniloae who is like a modern day St. Maximus.

Is the Cosmic Christ the SVS collection? I will look through that.

It also strikes me that St. Gregory of Nyssa's Contra Eunomius might have some good stuff on language

#9 Anthony

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Posted 16 March 2008 - 07:11 PM

Thank you, Max and Fr Matthew, for the references. Actually I might add that Fr Staniloae's work lies behind the original question with which I started this thread. I am particularly interested in the points of contact between his account and certain modern theories of language.




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