Michael Psellos (1018 - c. 1081)
Michael Psellos is considered one of the most prolific and erudite Byzantine thinkers who contributed significantly to the study and transmission of ancient philosophy. He took on administrative offices and received the title of the «consul of the philosophers», i.e. the person responsible for the philosophical education in the so-called University of Constantinople. Apart from philosophical and theological treatises, he wrote treatises on law, medicine, geography, music and poems. In all these works as well as in his homilies and letters he exhibited his skills in rhetoric and allegory, but he also made interesting philosophical points. He taught all basic areas of philosophy and produced for teaching purposes detailed commentaries and paraphrases of some treatises in the Aristotelian corpus. Although it becomes clear from his works that he had an interest in Aristotle’s logic, which he considered necessary for the development of crtitical thinking, and thus gave it a propaedeutic role in philosophical studies, he had a special preference for Plato’s philosophy. The topics which particularly drew his attention were Plato’s views on the soul and the theory of Ideas. He also studied the works of Plotinus, Porphyry, Iamblichus, and especially Proclus, as well as of the Neoplatonic commentators. Indeed, he was much influenced by Neoplatonism and his main aim was to bring together the ancient philosophical traditions and Christianity. It could be argued, of course, that his views are not particularly novel, but his originality often shows in his use of innovative arguments for the defence of ancient doctrines or in his addition of interesting comments on previous interpretations of them.