← Principles of Early Childhood EducationReligion and Philosophy →

Boethius: The Consolation of Philosophy



Introduction

The book that I have chosen to write a review on is The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius. The argument and focus of this book reflects on how evil may exist in a world that is ruled by God. Boethius writes of how one can attain happiness among fickle fortune, while also taking into account God and the nature of happiness.

The particular topic in the reading that I will examine involves conversations between Boethius and Lady Philosophy. The reason I felt this was a worthy topic is because Philosophy shows Boethius that his sadness is misguided. In the course of a lengthy discussion, she proves to him that true happiness is found in contemplating God. I believe that on some level, people of today can still relate to the trials and tribulations that Boethius went through while discovering that earthly possessions were not what brought happiness.

Get a Price Quote
Title of your paper
Type of assignment Writer level
Spacing Timeframes
Currency Pages
First order only:

The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius Book Review Example

As the theme of my research, I have chosen a quite interesting person, Manlius Torquatus Anica Severin Boethius, and his main work The Consolation of Philosophy (“De consolatione philosophiae”). I was surprised that in spite of the neo-Platonic traditions the man was also a Christian theologian. In order to understand how these seemingly incompatible characteristics harmoniously coexist in one person and, in fact, mutually enrich each other, I began reading the above-mentioned treatise. After the first few pages, I began clearly emerging in a coherent system of answers to the questions I had raised concerning this historical person, traditions, mores, customs, and people of that distant era. The basic question, which I will discuss in this essay, is what exactly and in which way Boethius took from the antiquity and brilliantly preserved in the Christian Middle Ages.

In order to clearly understand the merits of Boethius in the face of global culture, it makes sense to give a brief description of the ancient and medieval eras. An antiquity means free thinking, democracy, pluralism of views, a lively interest in the matter of the universe from materialistic and idealistic points of view, and a fairly high level of science. Middle Ages are characterized by monotheism, persecution of dissent, the undisputed authority of Scripture, governance of Church in public affairs, and suspension of the development of scientific knowledge, etc (Khamara).

Boethius in the The Consolation of Philosophy calls himself a philosopher. When he is talking to Philosophy (in the first book), he even refers to it as to “wet nurse”, which, in my opinion, says that despite his earlier written theological treatises, in which he argues that God is one and the other, the voice of Philosophy is much louder in his head. It is was with him in the library where he learns the secrets of the world and life. This philosophical direction of neo-Platonism is well-known. Plato created a unique ideological system that covered a lot of issues, such as the state, society, knowledge. The words of the authoritative philosopher to Boethius permeate the entire treatise. Boethius did not love God less than philosophy. God for him is beyond human understanding. In terms of the nature of prescience, Providence, divine necessity, is well-written about in the fifth book. The main idea is that only what the knower learns from human is available to him. There is a completely different nature of cognition, knowledge, and eternity in regards to God. The philosophy appears in the explanation of such theological points as the “handmaiden theology”, which is characteristic of the Middle Ages. It turns out that philosophy is the only one who can understand the nature of the deity and to convey it to people (Cameron).

In my opinion, in order to understand the concept of writing in the Boethius’ work The Consolation of Philosophy, it is necessary to clarify some points in the biography of the author. Manlius Torquatus Anica Severin Boethius was the Christian philosopher and Roman statesman. Being accused of plotting and waiting for the death sentence, Theodoric wrote his main essay The Consolation of Philosophy. He translated logical works of Aristotle and Porphyry, the works of Euclid, Nykomaha into Latin. Boethius considered himself to be an intermediary between the ancient world and the Middle Ages, “the last and the first Roman scholastics” (Johnson).

Manlius Torquatus Anica Severin Boethius was born in Rome in about 480. His ancestors, Anica, were known in Rome from the republican era after Diocletian moved to the most celebrated names: among them there were many consuls, two emperors, and one pope. Christianity was adopted by Anica in the IVth century (“Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius – Biography”).

Boethius began his systematic literary, scientific, and philosophical activity very early and gained recognition and fame as a universal scholar distinguished in the “free” science like verbal disciplines, for instance, grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic, as well as math ones, for instance, arithmetics, geometry, astronomy, and music.

In 522, Boethius’ political career was on the rise. Theodore assigned him for the highest administrative position in the kingdom, “Master of all Services”, that was actually the post of the first minister. In his public activities, he was guided by only one motive: to help right-minded citizens and protect them from the wicked and malicious as much as possible. However, Boethius did not fit in the world full of intrigue and political intricacies. His struggle for justice certainly turned against itself (“Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius – Biography”).

In 523,after just a year and a half after his appointment, Boethius was accused of being involved in the conspiracy. Chief informant Cyprian reported to the courtyard of Theodoric about alleged secret correspondence between an influential senator and former consul Albinus and the Byzantine Emperor Justin (“Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius – Biography”).

Boethius appeared in court in defense of Albina and declared that the correspondence was fake. In response, Cyprian accused Boethius of plotting against the emperor. The trial of the philosopher was staged.

All three witnesses were the people of Cyprian. There were no defenders of Boethius in court. He was sentenced to death. Boethius’ execution took place in 524 or 526 as some modern scholars tend to think as they believe that the date of arrest was a bit later (in autumn of 525) (“Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius – Biography”).

An important role in spreading and maintening Boethius’ fame as a Christian martyr was played by the fact that he was an author of theological treatises, and that being locked up in prison, he wrote his best book Consolation of Philosophy, which glorified God and human dignity.

Boethius described his stay in prison, injustice, and despair because of what is happening. In this situation, he is also visited by some lady who turned out to be Philosophy. Philosophy healed Boethius from suffering, giving arguments in favor of the fact that all events have a higher meaning. It proved that the world was governed by universal divine providence, in which the humanity was granted the greatest benefit.

Boethius’ creative peak was The Consolation of Philosophy, which was written in prison before his execution. It is closely related to the bonds of the Western culture of the Middle Ages and by its poetry and humanism serves as the power of attraction for the people of our time. For many centuries, The Consolation of Philosophy has remained an inexhaustible fount of philosophical knowledge and the source from which moral perfection and opposition to evil and violence have drawn strength.

It is difficult to define the genre of this work. It would seem that the name indicates its proximity to the The Consolation of Philosophy works of Cicero and Seneca, from which it is separated by several centuries. At the same time, it is a philosophical treatise, instruction in wisdom. The first two books of The Consolation of Philosophy are in the form of confession, but it gradually turns into a philosophical dialogue, almost a monologue reminiscent of the late dialogues of Plato (Quinn).

In The Consolation of Philosophy, prose alternates with poetry. Boethius chose a quite rare in ancient literature form of Saturn. That is a peculiar combination of prose and poetry. Before him, only a few Roman writers had resorted to it: a prominent figure in education Varro, writer and satirist Petronius, the Stoic philosopher Seneca, and Martianus Capella, author of the popular works of the Middle Ages Marriage of Philology and Mercury. The fact of the use of Saturn in the works of a “Consolation” genre has no counterpart in the literature before Boethius. Writers of the subsequent times also avoided resorting to this complex form and only after seven centuries, Dante who passionately revered Boethius again resorted to it when creating New Life. In Boethius’ The Consolation of Philosophy, two different genres that are considered to some extent innovative for that time are combined.

Boethius’ each subsequent prose text is built on the basis of the previous one. The concepts given in the preceding prose are considered on a qualitatively new level, and then a prose passage is summarized in a brief summary of the poetic one, sometimes in the allegorical form. At the same time, the poems are a step towards a discussion by the author of new themes. They carry important semantic accents and help look upon what has been said before. This can be a generalized landscape or hymn to the sky, the historical analogy or statement of the famous myth, but behind all this there is a necessarily hidden deeper philosophical or moral sense. In The Consolation of Philosophy, the author uses about 30 metric sizes.

Prose text is written in the form of a dialogue between a prisoner and philosophy, the image of the goddess. A defeated and suffering person can not give comfort to Muses while wailing because the poison of self-pity eats away his courage. Suddenly, above the head of the prisoner there appears a woman with a face full of dignity, with flaming eyes, excluding living brilliance and inexhaustible power of attraction. He could not believe that she belonged to our age. Though she seemed not to exceed normal human actions, she could hit the crown of the sky if she lifted her head higher, so that it would have invaded the sky and disappeared from view. She was dressed in the clothes of the finest yarns that she wove their own hands. At the lower edge, she had woven a Greek letter ? and at the top - ?. It seemed that between the two letters there were steps like a ladder that one could climb upwards.

These clothes depicted torn hands of some violent creatures with their particles being pulled apart. In her right hand, she held a book and in the left there was a “scepter”. Boethius’ comforter becomes Philosophy who is personified Wisdom. She holds his newly fallen personality through the maze of his fate, matching it with the fate of the world and eternity. Torch of knowledge of Philosophy illuminates paths along which the soul wanders“like a drunk” in search of truth.

Philosophy appears as a majestic woman, but she is not an impregnable lady, rather she is a sensitive and caring mentor who can verify doubts and seek the truth that accompanies any travels. The more beautiful and deeper meaning is attached to the person of wisdom, the more surely and firmly her steps leading to the highest truth are established.

Boethius conceptualizes the tragedy of his life with the philosophy, not only in narrow terms, but also in its correlation with the laws of the universe in the universal space, which is a part and parcel of people. Therefore, the culmination of The Consolation of Philosophy is not a narrative about the vicissitudes of personal destiny of Boethius, which is partly revealed in the first two books, but the disclosure of the idea of the greater good and the universal mind that controls the world. Boethius finds solace in the transpersonal field, and it is not just a rhetorical device, but the only solace for him from his spiritual pain leading him through rational to emotional experience of his involvement in the eternal existence of the world.

Talking with Philosophy, Boethius gradually turns from thinking about his fate to the nature of fate (Fortune), which is an ever-popular plot in the Middle Ages. Boethius and Philosophy talk about the transient nature of such things as wealth, nobility, high office, fame, about the illusory nature of the human being not supported by spirituality, and bring the reader to the idea of ??the greater good. This is the main theme of the third book.

In the fourth book, the author discusses various aspects of the hierarchy of entities residing in the world in their relation to the source of all beings, as well as rewards and punishments for human actions. The fifth book is devoted to the interpretation of the relation of the higher law governing the world, the universal mind, providence, human knowledge, and freedom of will. By talking with the philosophy about the essence of things, the author of The Consolation of Philosophy acquires the indomitable strength of spirit and is ready to face death (“Alfred and the Old English Proseof his Reign”).

Because of the complexity of these problems, the dialogue between the prisoner and Philosophy becomes “heavier” and loses dynamism, but in general the prose of Boethius is concise, elegant, and proportionate. The Consolation of Philosophy is full of not only the most complex philosophical speculations, but also of artistic images. The author is inherent in a poetic vision of the world, his frequent recourses to ancient mythology and stories sometimes become spectacular expressions, such as the image of the suffering Orpheus tricked out with the songs or cruel Nero coolly assessing the merits of killing mother. Boethius not only sings about great harmony and the world order that reign in the universe, but also creates paintings of nature, for instance, of a calm or raging sea, land, pink flowers in spring, cast bunches of grapes in autumn, sunrise, and sunset. Even talking about the most complex and abstract problem, he is able to reveal it through philosophical methods and purely poetic means (Boethius).

Selected shape and structure of the work by Boethius allowed to build a narrative as if in two plans: in the psychological one that displays the inner peace and mental anguish of a prisoner, while gradually wiping off a burden of earthly passions, rising over injustice, and escaping the lure of “the earthly” world, and the philosophical or theoretical plan. To some extent, The Consolation of Philosophy can be called a kind of response to the political turmoil of the time, which is emphasized by the presence of biographical retreats.

Complaining about the severity of fate, the author of The Consolation of Philosophy, first comprehends everything that happened to him as a clash of philosophies of a loving, good man with “a numerous army nonsense”. However, this “traditional” explanation of the causes of unhappiness gives way to the story of certain events that preceded the condemnation of the “last Roman”. The reader sees a picture of disorder and lawlessness prevailing in the state, and the perpetrators, according to the philosopher, are barbarians (though the king is not mentioned). Condemning them, Boethius stands as a representative of the Roman aristocracy, which is in opposition to the existing regime (Boethius).

Boethius tells about the injustice of the government in the hands of dishonest people like royal control of Trigille. He laments that the “barbarians go with unpunished greed and its attendant endless machinations” by destroying the property of the provincials and imposing exorbitant taxes. Moreover, according to Boethius, the royal power also rests on a fragile basis with their actions being based on false testimonies. In these circumstances, it is impossible to hope to save some freedom, as well as to preserve a decent respect for human dignity. His truth is shocking as it tells about the faded glory of the Roman name. It is impossible to find the truth in the state “where someone is building new false denunciations, and honest people, numb with fear at the sight of the terrible injustice done to us, defeated”; dishonesty also encourages impunity for crimes and arrogance and awards are given for the crimes committed.

The life of Boethius was wrecked. When he faced the question: “Is it possible for the person to find happiness and find at least some stability in this” sea of life, which is ruffled by storms impinging on all sides, the one that he was walking in since the teenage years, he proved to be wrong. Following the precepts of Plato, Boethius did not shy away from the burden of government in order to “control, left in the care of some evildoers, neither be brought misery and death to good people”. However, the desire to put Plato's utopian ideals of the welfare state into practice on condition that they would be run by wise scholars or rulers seeking to learn the wisdom of the philosopher led to a personal tragedy and in no way contributed to the advancement of the state (Walsh).

Boethius does not give up and tries to find a spiritual way out of the impasse. Philosophy rescues him from despair. Moreover, with its help, he finally begins to comprehend that there is both goodness and evil. As a thinker always aimed at the precision of knowledge to investideas in a well thought-out system of concepts, Boethius is looking for answers to the eternal problem of human existence with the help of the complex interplay of philosophical categories and his arguments now are not related to mathematics and logic, but are associated with metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics.

A noteworthy fact is not only the absence of references to the Bible, writings of Christian authors, but even complete oblivion in terms of the name of Christ. The hope for comforting of the sufferings by the savior-God would be quite natural. However, even the most careful investigations have revealed only vague hints at the possibility that in a few places The Consolation of Philosophy can be seen as some distant echoes of Christian motifs.

Literary allegory allows Boethius to more accurately and clearly show how he devotes a significant role to philosophy in the person's life (Walsh).

The concept of God does not contradict the ideas of Christian rule in this work. All is done neatly: philosophy is the queen of reasonable intelligence, the wisdom of the minority, fairness, yert it means life in exile and lack of understanding from the worst people and the people of power who are the majority. God is called the highest good by Boethius

Giving exceptional value to cognition is carried out with the help of philosophy as the only way to achieve human happiness and fulfillment of mission was seen by Boethius in believing that this goal could not be feasible if its solution approached only subjected positions, i.e. people who are “not insignificant part of the world”. Therefore, the meaning of human existence becomes clear only through the disclosure of the general laws of being and thinking.

In The Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius directly describes the sins of people of that era, both with through his own words and the words of the divine philosophy. For example, that era lacked humanity, justice, courage, and love.

Summary

Boethius deems rigor of evidence and its logical validity especially important in The Consolation of Philosophy. He formulated the famous “logical square”. Thanks to the work of Boethius, logical orientation is considered to be the forerunner of medieval scholasticism.

The prose text is written in the form of a dialogue between a prisoner and philosophy that is the image of the goddess. A defeated and suffering person can not give comfort to Muses, wailing along with them because of the poison of self-pity that eats away his courage. Suddenly, above the head of the prisoner there is a woman with a face full of dignity, with flaming eyes, far superior to human, affecting him with the living brilliance and inexhaustible power of attraction. He could not believe that she belonged to his age.

Philosophy appears as a majestic woman, but she is not an impregnable lady, she is rather a sensitive and caring mentor who can verify man’s doubts and help to seek the truth accompanying any travels. The more beautiful and deeper meaning is attached to the person of wisdom, the more surely and firmly her steps leading to the highest truth are established.

The selected shape and structure of the work of Boethius allowed to build a narrative as if in two plans: in the psychological one that displays the inner peace and mental anguish of a prisoner gradually wiping a burden of earthly passions, rising over injustice, and escaping the lure of "the earthly" world, and in the philosophical or theoretical plan. To some extent, The Consolation of Philosophy can be called a kind of response to the political turmoil of the time, which is emphasized by the presence of biographical retreats.

Boethius did not give up and tried to find a spiritual way out of the impasse. Philosophy rescues him from despair. Moreover, with its help he finally begins to comprehend that there is both goodness and evil. As a thinker always aimed at the rigor and precision of knowledge to invest ideas in a well thought-out system of concepts, Boethius is looking for answers to the eternal problem of human existence with the help of the complex interplay of philosophical categories and the arguments that are not related not to mathematics and logic, but to metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics.

Related essays

  1. Religion and Philosophy
  2. Introduction to Philosophy
  3. Principles of Early Childhood Education
  4. Legalization of Recreational Marijuana
×
Enter discount code "20off" and get 20% discount for your first order. Limited Time offer! Order Now
X