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Revolution in the Microcosm: Love and Virtue in the Cosmological Ethics of St Maximus the Confessor

DEWHURST, EMMA,CHRISTINE,JOY,BROWN (2017) Revolution in the Microcosm: Love and Virtue in the Cosmological Ethics of St Maximus the Confessor. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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I explore virtue and love in Maximus the Confessor’s theology with an aim to drawing an ethics from it relevant to the present day. I use a meta-ethical framework derived from contemporary virtue ethics and look at virtue as an instance of love within the context of Maximus’ cosmic theology. Virtue becomes a path that leads us towards love – who is God Himself. Virtue is thus about movement towards theosis. I describe virtue as a relationship between humans and God, brought about through the mutual practice of a life of ascesis from humans and grace from God. I look at the mediatoral role of humans as microcosms gathering up the universe in an image of Christ’s activity. In particular I analyse the way that human activity is simultaneously cosmic and ascetic; personal and communal. The ethic of virtue that we pursue is always caught up in a conversation about what creation gathered in love looks like. Using a number of tools derived from Maximus’ thought, I suggest that this ethics will necessarily transform our current communities and personal practices. Recognising the cosmic dimension of personal behaviour means that our communities must be scrutinised as extensions of our actions. As an example, I critique the state as an inadequate form of loving relationship, illustrating its systemic reliance on violence and ideologies of alienation and hatred. I give examples of alternative ways of human organising drawn from anarchist thought that might better enable us to love and, more importantly, enable us to call to account failures to love. I conclude that to seek theosis after the manner Maximus describes involves recognising our personal and communal failures to love. His holistic understanding of human purpose can help us see the cosmic dimension to personal ascetic practice and consequently set our sights on a more cosmic vision of love here in the present world.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Theology and Ministry
Keywords:Maximus the Confessor; theology; Patristics; virtue ethics; ethics; Patristic Theology; Greek Patristics; anarchism; anarchist theory; love; virtues; Byzantine theology; Byzantine philosophy; Alasdair MacIntyre; Peter Kropotkin
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2017
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:22 Nov 2017 10:47

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