Timur Shchukin. Philosopher who revived philosophy: on the value of Michael Psellos for the Byzantine intellectual tradition. Vol. 2. No. 1-2. 2017

Publication Details

Philosopher who revived philosophy: on the value of Michael Psellos for the Byzantine intellectual tradition
Title in the language of publication: Мыслитель, который оживил философию: значение Михаила Пселла для византийской интеллектуальной традиции
Timur Shchukin
Associate Research Fellow at the Sociological institute of the Federal Center of Theoretical and Applied Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Address: 25/14 7-ya Krasnoarmeyskaya str., St. Petersburg 190005, Russia.
P. 358–372.
Language: Russian
Document type: Research Article
 Acknowledgments:  The present study is a part of the project № 17-03-00329, “Nature and movement in the ‘Commentary on the Physics of Aristotle’ by Michael Psellos. Study of the influence of the late antique tradition, of the correlation between physics and the Orthodox theology, and of the reception in the later Peripatetic physics”, implemented with a financial support of the Russian Foundation for Basic Research.


The subject of this paper is the role in the history of Byzantine philosophy and theology, which Michael Psellos, the 11th century thinker, attributed to himself. To clarify his position, some autobiographical and memorial excerpts of his ‘Chronography’, containing information on the intellectual tradition preceding Michael Psellos, were analyzed. The crucial fragment of Psellos’ memoir contains a mention of some research interests of the Romanos III Argyros’ times intellectuals. These interests presumably concern mariological issues. There is a hypothesis based on that the special emphasis on Mariology was made due to the antimonophysite polemics of the first half of eleventh century. However, this hypothesis had not been substantiated because nothing is known of any role Mariology played in this polemics. A more productive hypothesis could be put forward assuming that the research interests of court theologians were motivated by the special reverence the emperor Romanos III paid for the Virgin Mary. In this, maybe, the contemporary intellectuals have relied on certain theological standards containing in one of the acknowledged dogmatical compendiums. In my opinion, this compendium is Anastasius Sinaita’s ‘Viae Dux’. In this treatise the mariological issues are brought to the fore, being juxtaposed with the Ancient philosophy, what appears alien to the antinomical mode of thought and the antinomical Orthodox theology based on it. Presumably, the thesis that the Hellenic wisdom and the Christian doctrine are fundamentally incompatible seemed to be crucial for the intellectual tradition that preceded Michael Psellos. Therefore, this thesis had come under his criticism and it was Michael Psellos who took credit for breaking this ideological trend.


Michael Psellos, Anastasius Sinaita, Mariology, Ancient Philosophy, Byzantine Philosophy.


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© Timur Shchukin, 2017

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