Why “Nous” is Difficult to Translate, and Why it Matters

Anyone who has been involved in Orthodoxy in America will likely have seen much discourse (often polemical in nature) about the “nous.” In fact, the nous plays a pivotal role in anti-western polemics since it has become a trope that “the West doesn’t have a concept of the nous.” Accordingly, the nous functions as a type of secret thing you can only access by being Orthodox, while inability to coherently explain what it means merely adds to its pseudo-mystical mystique.

But worse, there seems to be a troubling trend by which nous-related polemics have become increasingly aligned with atheism. Recently I wrote to a number of friends outlining this concern and asking for feedback on the theological issues it raised. Here is a copy of my letter.

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