MAKAROV D.I. Two Notes on the Notion of Education by Theodore Metochites and in the Patristic Tradition of the Middle Byzantine Period


Dmitriy I. Makarov

Doctor of Sciences (Philosophy), Associate Professor, Professor, Head of the Department of General Humanities,

Urals State Mussorgsky Conservatoire,

Prosp. Lenina, 26, 620014 Yekaterinburg, Russian Federation

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Abstract. Introduction. John Polemis thought that in On Education the notions of logos, paideia and theoria were synonymous. Meanwhile, Igor P. Medvedev stressed in his trail-blazing book the variety of meanings of theoria in the Late Byzantine period. Relying upon his ideas and evidence, we would like to underline, in our turn, Metochites’ diversification of meanings of this notion. As a skillful conductor or musician, he was able to tune into different waves when speaking about mundane or ecclesiastical affairs. In a number of points, he diverged from traditional Orthodoxy.

Methods. Using the traditional set of historical, philosophical, and hermeneutic methods, as well as those of comparative religious and cultural studies, we try to single out and analyze in some detail different layers of meaning in the treatise under discussion. If our author had made digressions into theological knowledge, it does not mean that he would have given himself completely to theology alone, as the basic line of his reasoning remained philosophical and mundane. As compared to what his fellow-Churchmen, like Callistos I, wrote on the issue of education, Metochites’ ideas turn to be a rather clear-cut continuation of the ancient paideia and not especially spiritual knowledge derived from the Christian Revelation.

Analysis. Thus, in his cosmological deliberations Metochites ran a risk to turn the world-creating power of God into something temporary and liable to change. He certainly did not learn well the lessons of the patristic tradition represented, e.g., by Ps.-Maximos’ Chapters Full of Knowledge dating back to the 7th – 8th centuries. This led to the fact that he had not recognized the operations of divine world-ordering energy in the created universe, and thus had confirmed the old assumption of H.-G. Beck that Metochites were unfamiliar with Ps.-Maximos the Confessor. At the same time, some Theodore’s ideas come close to those uttered by Ps.-Maximos. Both authors criticize indeed the notion of a pure and self-contained contemplation (which expresses the negative meaning of theoria) unattached to a person’s struggle with passions and vices. Even more intriguing is their common use of a widespread patristic concept of “cultivating the land of one’s mind” (or: “heart”). Given the fact of Metochites’ pronounced admiration of Orthodox monasticism (see, e.g., Ch. 13 of On Education), this parallel may not be incidental. It seems to be traceable to the common Biblical and ancient roots of the Byzantine spiritual culture.

Results. If it is difficult to unambiguously resolve the issue of Ps.-Maximos’ or Metochites’ influence exerted to his counterpart, it is not to say, however, that there was not a high degree of cohesion and integrity within the philosophical and theological synthesis of the middle- and late Byzantine patristic tradition and spiritual culture in general. It is within this framework that a scholar should analyze Metochites’ ideas as expressed in On Education and elsewhere.

Key words: Theodore Metoсhites, Ps.-Maximos the Confessor, St. Callistus I of Constantinople, treatise “On education”, “Chapters filled with knowledge”, contemplation, knowledge of God, epistemology, “cultivation of the land of reason”.

Citation. Makarov D.I. Two Notes on the Notion of Education by Theodore Metochites and in the Patristic Tradition of the Middle Byzantine Period. Vestnik Volgogradskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Seriya 4. Istoriya. Regionovedenie. Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya [Science Journal of Volgograd State University. History. Area Studies. International Relations], 2019, vol. 24, no. 6, pp. 297-304. (in Russian). DOI:

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