Saturday, 11 April 2015

Emma Brown: The 'Divisions of Nature' in Maximus' Ambiguum 41?

In this paper I deal with a problem concerning the ‘divisions of nature' in Maximus the Confessor's Ambiguum 41. These ‘divisions' are five categories that describe how creatures differ from one another and God in natural, physical ways. Later, Maximus discusses the way that the human person may follow Christ to mediate between these divisions. This becomes problematic however as the ascetic practice associated with this mediating power occurs within a sphere we usually define as ‘ethical'. In conflating these physical and ethical dimensions it becomes unclear how our actions can overcome and unite the physical differences described in Maximus' ‘divisions of nature'.
In my paper I will demonstrate how this problem may be overcome by using Maximus own logic of division and unity within this very Ambiguum. It will be shown that Maximus does not see these two spheres of ‘physical' and ‘ethical' as separate. The ethical is part of the natural trajectory of the physical. Maximus is simply talking about the natural world and the way in which it moves towards its Creator. I will build upon Tollefsen's work on universals and Cvetkovic's on circle and radii analogy in order to support this position. Finally, I will suggest that we ought to think of Maximus' ‘divisions of nature' in this Ambiguum rather as ‘divisions and unity of nature', since physical differences also promise the possibility of movement of all creation toward unity with God.

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