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One of the most substantive presentations of a female philosopher to survive from antiquity is the treatise On the Soul and Resurrection by Gregory of Nyssa. In this treatise, Macrina is depicted as a kind of female Socrates, discoursing on the eternity of the soul as she lies on her deathbed. She is very much cast as the teacher to Gregory’s student, expounding at length on the nature of the soul in response to his questions, which are usually objections posed in a ‘devil’s advocate’ manner. In particular, the atomistic theory of the Epicureans is taken as a foil for refutation. Against this, Macrina defends a Platonic conception of the soul as immaterial; on the other hand, she challenges features of Plato’s own view including the notion that the soul has parts. The primary goal of this paper is to explore Macrina as a paragon of rationality, with regard to her presentation as a literary character but also with regard to the strategies of rational argumentation she uses in the dialogue. Drawing also on other works by Gregory of Nyssa, it is in conclusion suggested that for him the true human self is a perfectly rational soul akin to God, who has no gender. Thus the true human self is the same for both men and women.

In: Women and the Female in Neoplatonism
In: Phronesis
In: The International Journal of the Platonic Tradition