Volume 22, Issue 2, Autumn 2017
Thinking with Paul Ricoeur
St. Basil the Great’s Philosophy of Time
A Historical Perspective
Basil the Great’s theory of time is a fascinating testimony to the metaphysics and philosophy of nature of the fourth century AD. In his treatises Basil sought to tackle such foundational issues of philosophy as God’s being, its hypostatic instantiations, and God’s creative acts. In order to properly address these issues he had to scrutinize the notion of time, thus turning the discussion of time into one of the key philosophical threads of his treatises. Basil’s works unequivocally exhibited his careful approach to and respect for philosophical tradition, along with his innovative brilliance. Moreover, Basil’s oeuvre clearly indicates that he was well acquainted with the then current philosophical literature on the subject. This article aims to shed light on various aspects of Basil’s theory and its conceptual underpinnings. It endeavors to demonstrate that Basil’s theory, at its highest point, cannot be understood apart from its protological and eschatological premises. It also argues that Basil was not merely an eclectic thinker, in that he used various concepts inherited from the late antique philosophical tradition to arrive at a uniquely Christian theological and eschatological synthesis. It concludes with an affirmation of Basil’s theory of time as a valuable extension to our understanding of the topic.