A study of Maximus the Confessor: The dialectical contradiction of freedom and necessity

  1. Lemma
  2. Σπουδή στον Μάξιμο τον Ομολογητή: Η διαλεκτική αντίθεση ελευθερίας και αναγκαιότητας
  3. English
  4. Koutalis, Vangelis
  5. Integration - Orthodox theological tradition and practice > Patristic studies - Key thinkers - Orthodox theological tradition and practice > Premodern _modern_ postmodern - Orthodox Anthropology - Concepts of knowledge and modes of reasoning > Mysticism and Orthodox spiritual experience - Ethics
  6. 26-02-2017
  7. Kapsimalakou, Christina [Author]. A study of Maximus the Confessor: The dialectical contradiction of freedom and necessity
  8. Σπουδή στον Μάξιμο τον Ομολογητή: Η διαλεκτική αντίθεση ελευθερίας και αναγκαιότητας - Athens: Ennoia, 2016.
  9. Maximus the Confessor - Personalism - freedom - necessity - ontology - cosmology - participation - Orthodox doctrine of the Uncreated and the Created (Άκτιστο-Κτιστό) - morality - eschatology - deification
    1. <p>Kapsimalakou, Ch. [Καψιμαλάκου, Χ.] (2016). <em>Σπουδή στον Μάξιμο τον Ομολογητή: Η διαλεκτική αντίθεση ελευθερίας και αναγκαιότητας</em>. Athens: Ennoia.</p>
    1. In this book the writings of Maximus the Confessor are thoroughly examined and assessed, by means of the historical-analytical method and an hermeneutical approach capable to properly raise philosophical questions out of the primary historical sources under study, as for their significance from an ontological, cosmological, gnoseological and ethical point of view. What concerns most the author is the way Maximus treats the question of human freedom with regard to necessity, the distinction between substance and person, as well as the articulation of a concrete dialectics between the divine and the human.

      Maximus identifies person with hypostasis. The concept of person denotes the living human being experiencing concrete existential situations, and it takes precedence over the concept of substance, which, as propounded in Greek philosophy, overshadowed the particularity of being. The person is signified as a self-regulated human entity, an actual presence and hypostasization of the human substance, which is always open to new possibilities, undergoing a dynamical development.

      The distinction between substance and person corresponds to the distinction between divine nature or substance and divine hypostases or persons in the scheme of the ‘Monad in Triad’, and is also informed by the distinction between the inaccessible substance of God and the accessible energies of God. Although endowed with freedom, the person should not be conceived as an autonomous entity, since the notion of autonomy is comparatively less suitable for expressing the relational dimension which is constitutive for every living being. Likewise, unity, with all its relational connotations, acquires an ontological status higher than that of identity. In Maximus’ work, the concept of the person is further determined through the use of the term ‘mode’ (τρόπος), whereas the concept of substance is determined through the use of the term ‘reason’ (λόγος), a difference which brings, once again, to the forefront the double emphasis on particularity, unrepeatable and unique existential realization on the one side and unity on the other. From a moral perspective the consequence is that human will is no longer dependent on human nature: a human being can free itself from natural necessity, wherever nature posits itself against personal hypostasis as a necessity.

      Maximus widens the inherited Greek ontology by opening up new territories of existential transformations. His philosophical undertaking can be also seen as a synthesis of the Platonic and the Aristotelian ontologies, insofar as he identifies the beginning with the end or telos, the efficient cause with the final cause. As for the Greek cosmology, he follows a rather different path. In his writings, the notion of the pre-existent matter is replaced by the notion of the creation ex nihilo resulting from the free will of God. The idea of a necessity operating in the material universe is also replaced by the idea of the providence of God, on account of which the plan of creation gradually, in the sense of the order of the perceivable realities that emerge in time, unfolds as an actual process through the energies of God. The ontological is thus disclosed as volitional.

      The creation is teleologically oriented, but the hypostatical condition of human beings takes its actual form owing to the personal ways in which their natural powers are activated and used. Human agency can lead either to good or evil. By conceiving God as the Uncreated Creator, and by freely realizing, through their own movement and their involvement in the sacramental, participative experience of the community of faith, the pre-existing in God reasons of their creation, human beings discover their ontological root and are transformed into persons able to make the best possible choices and to actualize their better possibilities. Eschatology, in this context, amounts to freedom. Driven by the passion of moving beyond the sensible reality, motivated by love, which can be defined as the ‘freedom-to’, so as to meet God in a state of blissful ‘passionlessness’, which can be defined as the ‘freedom-from’, despite the initial negation of the imitation of God committed in the Fall, but benefited from the choice of God to restore, through the Incarnation, the unity with the Creator, the human beings can transcend the limits of the individualist manifestations of their freedom and proceed towards deification, i.e. towards the ‘καθ’ ὁμοίωσιν’ existence, the participation in the divine in the way that is proper to them.