Petrà: Christos Yannaras: The Apophatic Horizon of Ontology
RUSSELL, Norman (Trans.)
Christos Yannaras: The Apophatic Horizon of Ontology
Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 2019. 130p.
In this new translation of Basilio Petrà’s introduction to the thought of Christos Yannaras, Petrà aims to show that “the whole of Yannaras’ thought constitutes a powerful intellectual force for maintaining the idea of Hellenism’s role in Christianity and of Hellenism itself as an adequate cultural container” (viii), a cultural container which came in Yannaras’ mind to be associated with Byzantine Apophaticism (19).
In order to draw out these claims, Petrà seeks to trace the development of Yannaras’s ontology. He begins in chapter one by setting up Yannaras’s great antagonist, the Anti-Hellenist, Anti-Personalist West, followed by chapters two through four, which chart various evolutionary stages and influences in the development of Yannaras’ ontology. I think Petrà’s categorization of Yannaras’s ontology into distinct stages is the most significant contribution of the book, and I believe even seasoned readers of Yannaras will find it helpful. The work concludes in chapter 5 with a return to the antagonism of the West set against the backdrop of what Yannaras saw as the salvific character of his Hellenistic and critical ontology.
This book is ideal for graduate students already familiar with continental philosophy and Greek Orthodoxy. Yannaras is his own best expositor, and Petrà does a fine job of allowing Yannaras to speak for himself, providing the first chapter of the hitherto untranslated The Communal Verification of Knowledge at the end, which touches on the major loci of Yannaras’s thought discussed throughout. The real virtue of this work lies in Petrà’s ability to simultaneously articulate and summarize Yannaras’ wide ranging contributions to contemporary Orthodox philosophical theology. At times, Petrà’s tone can border on hagiography, and I would have liked to see greater engagement with Yannaras’s critics, particularly Pantelis Kalaitzidis. These things aside, this book is an enlightening and helpful introduction to the thought of a truly remarkable theologian.
Micah Hogan, Nashotah House Theological Seminary (Nashotah, WI)