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Ousia

Ousia

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Ousia is the Ancient Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 noun formed on the feminine present participle of (to be); it is analogous to the English participle being
Being
Being , is an English word used for conceptualizing subjective and objective aspects of reality, including those fundamental to the self —related to and somewhat interchangeable with terms like "existence" and "living".In its objective usage —as in "a being," or "[a] human being" —it...

, and the modern philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 adjectival ontic
Ontic
In philosophy, ontic is physical, real or factual existence."Ontic" describes what is there, as opposed to the nature or properties of that being...

. Ousia is often translated (sometimes incorrectly) to Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 as substantia and essentia, and to English as substance
Substance theory
Substance theory, or substance attribute theory, is an ontological theory about objecthood, positing that a substance is distinct from its properties. A thing-in-itself is a property-bearer that must be distinguished from the properties it bears....

and essence
Essence
In philosophy, essence is the attribute or set of attributes that make an object or substance what it fundamentally is, and which it has by necessity, and without which it loses its identity. Essence is contrasted with accident: a property that the object or substance has contingently, without...

; and (loosely) also as (contextually) the Latin word accident (symbebekós
Accident (philosophy)
Accident, as used in philosophy, is an attribute which may or may not belong to a subject, without affecting its essence. The word "accident" has been employed throughout the history of philosophy with several distinct meanings....

).

Philosophical and scientific use


Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 defined protai ousiai, or “primary substances”, in the Categories
Categories (Aristotle)
The Categories is a text from Aristotle's Organon that enumerates all the possible kinds of thing that can be the subject or the predicate of a proposition...

as that which is neither said of nor in any subject, e.g., “this human” in particular
Particular
In philosophy, particulars are concrete entities existing in space and time as opposed to abstractions. There are, however, theories of abstract particulars or tropes. For example, Socrates is a particular...

, or “this ox”. The genera in biology and other natural kind
Natural kind
In philosophy, a natural kind is a "natural" grouping, not an artificial one. Or, it is something that a set of things has in common which distinguishes it from other things as a real set rather than as a group of things arbitrarily lumped together by a person or group of people.If any natural...

s are substances in a secondary sense, as universal
Universal
-Companies and organizations:* NBC Universal, a media and entertainment company** Universal Studios, an American film studio, and subsidiary of NBC Universal** Universal Channel, a television channel owned by NBC Universal...

s, formally defined by the essential qualities
Essence
In philosophy, essence is the attribute or set of attributes that make an object or substance what it fundamentally is, and which it has by necessity, and without which it loses its identity. Essence is contrasted with accident: a property that the object or substance has contingently, without...

 of the primary substances; i.e., the individual members of those kinds.

Much later, Martin Heidegger
Martin Heidegger
Martin Heidegger was a German philosopher known for his existential and phenomenological explorations of the "question of Being."...

 said that the original meaning of the word ousia was lost in its translation to the Latin, and, subsequently, in its translation to modern languages. For him, ousia means Being, not substance, that is, not some thing or some being that "stood"(-stance) "under"(sub-). Moreover, he also uses the bi-nomial parousia
Parousia
Parousia is an ancient Greek word meaning presence, arrival, or official visit.-Classical usage:# Physical presence, arrival – The main use is the physical presence of a person, which where that person is not already present refers to the prospect of the physical arrival of that person, especially...

-apousia, denoting presence-absence, and hypostasis denoting existence.

New Testament


The word ousia is not used in the New Testament except in relation to the substance in the sense of goods twice in the parable of the Prodigal Son
Parable of the Prodigal Son
The Prodigal Son, also known as the Lost Son and the Prodigal Father, is one of the parables of Jesus. It appears in only one of the Canonical gospels of the New Testament. According to the Gospel of Luke a father extravagantly gives his sons their inheritance before he dies...

 where the son asked his father to divide to him his inheritance, and then wasted it on riotous living.

Early Christianity


Origen
Origen
Origen , or Origen Adamantius, 184/5–253/4, was an early Christian Alexandrian scholar and theologian, and one of the most distinguished writers of the early Church. As early as the fourth century, his orthodoxy was suspect, in part because he believed in the pre-existence of souls...

 (d. 251) used ousia in defining God as one genus of ousia, while being three, distinct species of hypostasis
Hypostasis (religion)
In Christian theology, a hypostasis or person is one of the three elements of the Holy Trinity.In Christian usage, the Greek word hypostasis means beneath-standing or underpinning and, by extension, the existence of some thing...

: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Synods of Antioch
Synods of Antioch
Beginning with three synods convened between 264 and 269 in the matter of Paul of Samosata, more than thirty councils were held in Antioch in ancient times. Most of these dealt with phases of the Arian and of the Christological controversies...

 condemned the word homoousios (same substance) because it originated in pagan Greek philosophy. The Catholic Encyclopedia
Catholic Encyclopedia
The Catholic Encyclopedia, also referred to as the Old Catholic Encyclopedia and the Original Catholic Encyclopedia, is an English-language encyclopedia published in the United States. The first volume appeared in March 1907 and the last three volumes appeared in 1912, followed by a master index...

 entry for Paul of Samosata
Paul of Samosata
Paul of Samosata was Bishop of Antioch from 260 to 268. He was a believer in monarchianism, and his teachings anticipate adoptionism.-Life:...

 states:
It must be regarded as certain that the council, which condemned Paul, rejected the term homoousios; but, naturally, only in a false sense, used by Paul; not, it seems, because he meant by it a unity of Hypostasis in the Trinity (so St. Hilary), but because he intended, by it, a common substance, out of which both Father and Son proceeded, or which it divided between them — so St. Basil and St. Athanasius; but the question is not clear. The objectors to the Nicene doctrine in the fourth century made copious use of this disapproval of the Nicene word by a famous council.


The generally agreed-upon meaning of ousia in Eastern Christianity is "all that subsists by itself and which has not its being in another" - in contrast to hypostasis, which is used to mean "reality" or "existence".

In 325 the First Council of Nicaea
First Council of Nicaea
The First Council of Nicaea was a council of Christian bishops convened in Nicaea in Bithynia by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in AD 325...

 condemned Arianism
Arianism
Arianism is the theological teaching attributed to Arius , a Christian presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of the entities of the Trinity and the precise nature of the Son of God as being a subordinate entity to God the Father...

 and formulated a creed
Nicene Creed
The Nicene Creed is the creed or profession of faith that is most widely used in Christian liturgy. It is called Nicene because, in its original form, it was adopted in the city of Nicaea by the first ecumenical council, which met there in the year 325.The Nicene Creed has been normative to the...

, which stated that in the Godhead
Godhead (Christianity)
Godhead is a Middle English variant of the word godhood, and denotes the Divine Nature or Substance of the Christian God, or the Trinity. Within some traditions such as Mormonism, the term is used as a nontrinitarian substitute for the term Trinity, denoting the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit not as...

 the Son was Homoousios (same in substance) of the Father. However, controversy did not stop and many Eastern clerics rejected the term because of its earlier condemnation in the usage of Paul of Samosata. Subsequent Emperors Constantius II
Constantius II
Constantius II , was Roman Emperor from 337 to 361. The second son of Constantine I and Fausta, he ascended to the throne with his brothers Constantine II and Constans upon their father's death....

 (reigned 337-361) and Valens
Valens
Valens was the Eastern Roman Emperor from 364 to 378. He was given the eastern half of the empire by his brother Valentinian I after the latter's accession to the throne...

 (reigned 364-378) supported Arianism and theologians came up with alternative wordings like Homoios (similar) homoiousios
Homoousian
Homoousian is a technical theological term used in discussion of the Christian understanding of God as Trinity. The Nicene Creed describes Jesus as being homooúsios with God the Father — that is, they are of the "same substance" and are equally God...

(similar in substance), or Anomoios (unsimilar). While the Homoios achieved the support of several councils and the Emperors, those of an opposing view were suppressed. The adherents of the Homoiousios eventually joined forces with the (mostly Western) adherents of the Homoousios and accepted the formulation of the Nicene creed
Nicene Creed
The Nicene Creed is the creed or profession of faith that is most widely used in Christian liturgy. It is called Nicene because, in its original form, it was adopted in the city of Nicaea by the first ecumenical council, which met there in the year 325.The Nicene Creed has been normative to the...

.

See also

  • Consubstantial
  • Duns Scotus
    Duns Scotus
    Blessed John Duns Scotus, O.F.M. was one of the more important theologians and philosophers of the High Middle Ages. He was nicknamed Doctor Subtilis for his penetrating and subtle manner of thought....

  • Essence-Energies distinction
    Essence-Energies distinction
    A real distinction between the essence and the energies of God is a central principle of Eastern Orthodox theology. Eastern Orthodox theology regards this distinction as more than a mere conceptual distinction...

  • Haecceity
    Haecceity
    Haecceity is a term from medieval philosophy first coined by Duns Scotus which denotes the discrete qualities, properties or characteristics of a thing which make it a particular thing...

  • Hypokeimenon
    Hypokeimenon
    Hypokeimenon , later often material substratum, is a term in metaphysics which literally means the "underlying thing" ....

  • Noumenon
    Noumenon
    The noumenon is a posited object or event that is known without the use of the senses.The term is generally used in contrast with, or in relation to "phenomenon", which refers to anything that appears to, or is an object of, the senses...

  • Ontic
    Ontic
    In philosophy, ontic is physical, real or factual existence."Ontic" describes what is there, as opposed to the nature or properties of that being...

  • Physical ontology
  • Quiddity
    Quiddity
    In scholastic philosophy, quiddity was another term for the essence of an object, literally its "whatness," or "what it is." The term derives from the Latin word "quidditas," which was used by the medieval scholastics as a literal translation of the equivalent term in Aristotle's Greek.It...


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