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Title: 'Exploring finitude' : weakness and integrity in Isaac of Nineveh
Author: Duca, Valentina
ISNI:       0000 0004 7966 2938
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis examines the theme of human finitude, 'weakness', and suffering in the thought of Isaac of Nineveh, a 7th century East-Syriac writer from Qatar, who lived as a solitary monk in Western Iran. In Isaac, whose writings had a profound influence on Eastern Christian thought, the engagement with one's 'weakness' (mḥilutā, in Syriac) plays a major role, which scholars have not yet explored extensively. This 'weakness', in Isaac, has an ontological nature, and should be understood as the condition distinctive of being a human, which refers to the limited nature of body and mind, exposed to suffering. This thesis analyses this theme through a phenomenological and hermeneutical method, based on the study of Isaac's original edited and unedited writings. The analysis of the human condition in this 'world' reveals this condition as being marked by suffering and 'weakness'. These, when perceived, awake the creature to the quest for God, conceived as the consolation and meaning of existence. The solitary life takes the shape of learning to inhabit suffering and 'weakness', by encountering and taking them on through the initiatory process of askesis. The limitations of askesis force the creature to contact his/her suffering self and to learn to be in relationship with it and the passions, that Isaac conceives as defensive reactions against one's ontological condition of 'weakness'. From this relational exercise 'integrity' can be born, to be understood as a condition of rootedness and groundedness able to adhere to one's creatural status. The more one finds a relationship with one's suffering self, the more one becomes able to be in a relationship with God's mystery and other suffering creatures. The vital role of suffering and 'weakness' in Isaac is related to awakening the subject to this transformative process, through which the problem of human existence is experientially inhabited.
Supervisor: Taylor, David Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available