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Maximus the Confessor’s concept of freedom and the foundation of Law



Soldini I. E. A.



The main goal of the project is to help build a bridge on the history of Law that would be able to sustain the burden of contemporary Law uncertainty. This project puts to the test the concept of “freedom” in the theology of Maximus the Confessor (ca. 580-662 CE). Maximus’ thought represents the high point of the platonic tradition taken up by the Greek Fathers of the Church, so the remote pillar of such a bridge is to be searched in Plato’s last dialogue, the Laws. The other pillar, in contemporary thought, will be looked for in the theology of Canon Law, the written Law of the Christian Church, as proposed by the Swiss canonist Eugenio Corecco (1931-1995), professor at the University of Fribourg between 1969 and 1985. Corecco states clearly his intention in his works, but he died young and could not work it out to the desired completeness, particularly for whatever “theology” he had in mind. The theologian most often quoted by Corecco is the Swiss Hans Urs von Balthasar (Corecco, 1990, p. 359); who in return, quotes him in his Theologik (Balthasar, 1987).

The project’s main idea is that Balthasar’s theology could provide the missing piece in Corecco’s proposal. For sure, the whole theology of Balthasar could be of interest in this regard but limiting the scope to the foundation of (Canon) Law as proposed by Corecco, only one concept would be worked out, that of freedom. Corecco and Balthasar met in 1971 (Moretti, 2022, p. 117) and in 1972 founded COMMUNIO: International Catholic Review (www.communio-icr.com/). Their aim was to highlight a new perspective – that of communio – which they regarded as a fundamental breakthrough of the second Vatican Council. But Corecco is always considered only a canonist, Balthasar only a – sometimes controversial – theologian.

For the first time this project proposes to consider these two authors together, to research their common understanding of “communio” and to put forward the hypothesis that “communio” is founded on a concept of freedom elaborated by the Greek Fathers in a sound platonic tradition. The insight on which this project builds is that Balthasar’s concept of freedom might match that of G.W.F. Hegel (own unpublished data, 2023). And Hegel’s Lectures on Philosophy of Right are the cornerstone of modern and contemporary theory of Law. How could Balthasar escape Hegel’s dialectical concept of freedom? The project will look for an answer by studying the work of von Balthasar on Maximus the Confessor, because his interest in this author lasted continuously from 1941 to 1986, since he published three times, and the last one just before his death, the essay on Maximus’ thought, Kosmische Liturgie (Balthasar, 1941, 1961, 1988). The theoretical achievement of Maximus consists in his elaboration of the lasting concept of freedom, based on reflection on Jesus Christ’s freedom.

As for the platonic tradition to be looked for in Maximus’ thought – as Balthasar understood it –, Aristotle, the philosophical authority of Christian Scholasticism, will also be considered, but not as the authorized interpreter of Plato’s teaching. He was a pupil of Plato for 20 years and although he disagrees often and radically with his mentor, in the meantime he provides broad evidence of what he heard in the old Academy. So in order to look for “freedom” in Plato’s Laws, the project will take up the framework of the Tübinger School (Krämer, 1959) (Gaiser, 1972) (Hösle, 1984) (Reale, 2010) (Migliori, 2013) and since this has already proven fruitful in identifying Balthasar’s concept of freedom (own unpublished data 2023), to integrate it with the work of other scholars, Karl Bärthlein, Vittorio Hösle and Imre Tóth.

The project’s aim is to show that this concept is grounded in the platonic tradition that Christian thinkers took up, the ultimate origin of which, in a written text, is to be found in Plato’s Laws.

The main question to be answered is: can the (platonic) concept of freedom enhance Corecco’s understanding of Law and his proposal of a theological foundation of Law in the Christian Church?

Informazioni aggiuntive

Data d'inizio
Data di fine
12 Mesi
Enti finanziatori
In corso
Swiss National Science Foundation / Spark