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8. Philosophy in North Africa


Subject Philosophy

Place Africa » Northern Africa

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405145671.2005.00010.x


In The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire Gibbon describes the tragic end of Hypatia, the female Egyptian philosopher of antiquity. She taught Greek philosophy and found that there is no contradiction between Neoplatonism and Christianity. From this standpoint she adopted Nestorius' theory of Christ as having two natures, the divine and the human, loosely united. At that time Nestorius, as a result of this theory, was condemned at the council of Ephesus in 431 and was declared a heretic. Hypatia was, accordingly, execrated as a follower of a heretic, and in 415 she was killed in an unspeakably gruesome manner by some monks in an assassination endorsed by Cyril, patriarch of Alexandria. In a nutshell, one can say that the second half of the fifth century was the end of philosophy in Egypt. But in Europe, in the eighteenth century, the age of Enlightenment, Hypatia appeared for the first time as a cause celebre in religious and philosophical polemic. In 1720 John Toland published a long historical essay titled Hypatia in which he focused on the Alexandrian clergy headed by the patriarch Cyril, who was the contriver of so horrid a deed as the murder of Hypatia, and his clergy, who were the executors of his implacable fury. Voltaire used the figure of Hypatia to express his repugnance for the church and revealed religion. In his view, Hypatia was murdered because she believed in ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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