An important part of the research program is to investigate in what sense the evolving early monastic tradition transmitted and transformed the diverse heritage of the Greco-Roman philosophical schools, especially the philosophy concerned with moral therapy or moral formation, a feature that had become a crucial part of the philosophical schools in the centuries before the birth of monasticism. The sense and the extent that early monasticism passed on this heritage is crucial to our understanding of the role of the classical literate culture in early monasticism.
It is well established that Greco-Roman philosophy had an impact on early monasticism, at least in some way. Traditionally, however, the first generation of monks has been considered uneducated. And therefore, philosophy, it has been stated, was not introduced into the desert until later, by figures like Evagrius Ponticus (d. 399). Even though scholars still often uphold this view, the picture has started to change. More and more Evagrius seems less isolated, and scholars are beginning to acknowledge the importance of a literate culture even before Evagrius arrival to the Egyptian desert. Another significant change concerns the range of intersections between monasticism and Greco-Roman philosophy. What Evagrius brought to the desert, it has been stated, was not the least speculative philosophy or metaphysics. However, with a new and deeper understanding of Greco-Roman philosophy, as such, not the least since the work of Pierre Hadot and others, a dependency even regarding spiritual guidance and moral therapy is beginning to be acknowledged.
When it comes to the intersections between early monasticism and ancient philosophy, the institutional teaching context as well as the teaching itself is of interest. The program therefore addresses and focuses on different aspects and issues, like how did the heritage of ancient philosophy inform the structures and practices of moral education in the early monastic settlements and monasteries? Or to what extent were philosophical ideals and patterns of teaching used and transformed?