"The Substance of the Virtues": Deification According to Maximos the Confessor and the Transformation of Aristotelian Ethics

Luis Josue Sales, Fordham University


This dissertation investigates the relationship between virtue and deification in the thought of Maximos the Confessor (580–662) by re-contextualizing his work in an Aristotelian trajectory of development characteristic of the Alexandrian philosophers. The dissertation exposes colonial prejudices in modern historiography that first divided Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy into two neatly defined schools of thought and interrogates the validity of holding that Aristotelian philosophy had all but disappeared from late antiquity in the Greek tradition. I contend, instead, that multilateral interest in Aristotelian philosophy had peaked around the time of Maximos. By repositioning Maximos in Alexandria, in a radical revision of the two prevailing theories—that he was from Constantinople or Palestine—the dissertation seeks to draw attention to Alexandrian nuances of his thought, particularly with regard to Aristotle’s philosophy, that have been neglected. Thus reframed, the dissertation examines a tension at the heart of Maximos’ teaching of virtue and deification: if the virtues are natural to humans and they are instrumental in humanity’s deification, why does Maximos hold that deification is not the result of the actualization of potentialities of the human substance? The dissertation moves to show, instead, that Maximos had appropriated Aristotle’s ethics and metaphysics to explain this tension. The creation of habitual dispositions in the human psychosomatic compound through actions does not invalidate the non-contingency of God’s gift of deification; rather, these dispositions are the necessary condition for human susceptibility to God’s gift of deification. The dissertation thus seeks to affirm both poles: the necessity of human striving and non-contingency of God’s gift of deification.

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Recommended Citation

Sales, Luis Josue, ""The Substance of the Virtues": Deification According to Maximos the Confessor and the Transformation of Aristotelian Ethics" (2018). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10744253.