Volume 20, Issue 2, Autumn 2015
Sharing in the Logos
Emma Brown Dewhurst
The Ontology of Virtue as Participation in Divine Love in the Works of St. Maximus the Confessor
This paper demonstrates the ontological status of virtue as an instance of love within the cosmology of St. Maximus the Confessor. It shows that we may posit the real existence of a “virtue” in so far as we understand it to have its basis in, and to be an instance of love. Since God is love and the virtues are logoi, it becomes possible and beneficial to parallel the relationship between love and the virtues with Maximus’ exposition of the Logos and the logoi. In particular, Vladimir Cvetković’s interpretation of the circle and radii analogy will be utilized. It will be shown that when one practices a virtue, one is practicing and participating in love, and, by extension, partaking in God. Within the context of Maximus’ cosmology, this means that practicing virtue and love is the ultimate purpose of humanity in its journey to gather all creation to communion with God. This paper is primarily an exposition of primary sources from St. Maximus, but discussion of the ontology of virtue is made with a view to bringing it into dialogue with modern theories of virtue ethics. This paper arises in part as a response to the August 2013 papers by Andrew Louth and Paul M. Blowers on the need for increased scholarship on Maximus and virtue ethics.