Most people instinctively assume that philosophy is a lofty and valuable thing, which partly explains the favorable reception accorded to the relatively novel scholarly term “Byzantine philosophy.” It is a plausible assumption that if ancients and moderns philosophized, then the people we call Byzantines also philosophized in their own Byzantine way, and the output of that intellectual activity should, unsurprisingly, be called Byzantine philosophy. In an age that allows for various metonymical, loose, and metaphorical usages of the term “philosophy” and asks for all Enlightenment prejudices against Byzantium to be dropped, the coinage “Byzantine philosophy” appears legitimate and defensible.
The claim for a distinctly Byzantine branch in the history of philosophy appears reasonable, but its history is new. In post-Enlightenment Eurocentric modernity, philosophy as such was “naturally” associated with that of the Hellenes, the medieval schoolmen, and the moderns, e.g. Descartes and Hobbes. By the mid-nineteenth century, and especially with the work of Ernest Renan, it became difficult not to acknowledge, however grudgingly, that the Arabs also had philosophy, be it only as transmitters, and in light of the overwhelming influence of Averroes on the schoolmen. At the same time (also by the end of the nineteenth century), the same had to be done for the Jews, both those living within the Islamic world who wrote in Arabic and those in southern France and northern Italy who worked with Hebrew translations of the Arabic sources and equally submitted to the influence of Averroes. And now, claiming a place among other ethnic/religious/linguistic communities, the Byzantines have also been discovered to have had philosophy. But it is possible that this has come about through the legerdemain of subjecting historical fact to a Procrustean bed of politically correct specifications.
Beyond mere scholarly political correctness, there is a fundamental question that recent scholarship tends to avoid: would the term “Byzantine philosophy” be meaningful to the Byzantines themselves, and would it be at all acceptable to them?