Hot Best Seller

La consolation de la philosophie

Availability: Ready to download

Boethius composed De Consolation Philosophiae in the 6th century while awaiting death by torture, condemned on a charge of plotting against Gothic rule, which he protested as manifestly unjust. Though a Christian, Boethius details the true end of life as the soul's knowledge of God, and consoles himself with the tenets of Greek philosophy, not with Christian precepts. Boethius composed De Consolation Philosophiae in the 6th century while awaiting death by torture, condemned on a charge of plotting against Gothic rule, which he protested as manifestly unjust. Though a Christian, Boethius details the true end of life as the soul's knowledge of God, and consoles himself with the tenets of Greek philosophy, not with Christian precepts. Written in a form called Meippean Satire that alternates between prose & verse, Boethius' work often consists of a story told by Ovid or Horace to illustrate the philosophy being expounded. The Consolation of Philosophy dominated the intellectual world of the Middle Ages. It inspired writers as diverse Thomas Aquinas, Jean de Meun & Dante. In England it was rendered into Old English by Alfred the Great, into Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer. Later Queen Elizabeth I made her own translation. The circumstances of composition, the heroic demeanor of the author, and the Meippean texture of part prose, part verse have been a fascination for students of philosophy, literature and religion ever since.


Compare

Boethius composed De Consolation Philosophiae in the 6th century while awaiting death by torture, condemned on a charge of plotting against Gothic rule, which he protested as manifestly unjust. Though a Christian, Boethius details the true end of life as the soul's knowledge of God, and consoles himself with the tenets of Greek philosophy, not with Christian precepts. Boethius composed De Consolation Philosophiae in the 6th century while awaiting death by torture, condemned on a charge of plotting against Gothic rule, which he protested as manifestly unjust. Though a Christian, Boethius details the true end of life as the soul's knowledge of God, and consoles himself with the tenets of Greek philosophy, not with Christian precepts. Written in a form called Meippean Satire that alternates between prose & verse, Boethius' work often consists of a story told by Ovid or Horace to illustrate the philosophy being expounded. The Consolation of Philosophy dominated the intellectual world of the Middle Ages. It inspired writers as diverse Thomas Aquinas, Jean de Meun & Dante. In England it was rendered into Old English by Alfred the Great, into Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer. Later Queen Elizabeth I made her own translation. The circumstances of composition, the heroic demeanor of the author, and the Meippean texture of part prose, part verse have been a fascination for students of philosophy, literature and religion ever since.

30 review for La consolation de la philosophie

  1. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    Ive meant to read this for a very long time, probably since I found out that the title of The Consolations of Philosophy, another book I quite enjoyed, was borrowed from this one. In case you dont know the background, Ill be quick. The writer was leading a perfectly satisfactory life (in fact, even better than satisfactory) when one day everything went seriously yuck (in case you need a theme song to understand this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyAJWh... you cant say I dont try to provide a I’ve meant to read this for a very long time, probably since I found out that the title of The Consolations of Philosophy, another book I quite enjoyed, was borrowed from this one. In case you don’t know the background, I’ll be quick. The writer was leading a perfectly satisfactory life (in fact, even better than satisfactory) when one day everything went seriously yuck (in case you need a theme song to understand this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyAJWh... – you can’t say I don’t try to provide a multi-media experience with these reviews). He was put in gaol after being set up and accused of treason. There would have been, I can only assume, little doubt in his mind how things were likely to turn out, but he spent a year waiting for his trail while expecting to be executed – he was executed, by the way, and as executions go his was a particularly nasty one. While waiting for all this to happen he wrote this little book. Now, if I was waiting to be executed, or thought that was the most likely outcome of the situation I found myself in, I’m not sure this is the sort of book I would have written – and in saying that I think that reflects badly on me, rather than on Boethius. To be fair, Boethius in this book doesn’t start out as the life of the party. At the start of this remarkable little book he is very upset with the way things have turned out – and who could blame him? But while he is in prison he is visited by an incredibly lovely woman who just so happens to turn out to be the incarnation of philosophy. It is hardly surprising that sex is out of the question and so they chat instead, as one is likely to do when visited by the embodiment of wisdom. It should also come as no surprise that they chat about things that are pretty well at the front and centre of Boethius’ mind. Obviously these are not going to be how well the local team is going in the Christians Vs the Lions competition at the local sports ground (this was 526 AD after all), but rather a fascinating little discussion about the fickleness of fortune leading onto a D&M on why God allows suffering to exist if he is all powerful. I thought the stuff about the fickleness of fortune at the start of this book was very interesting. I even agreed with much of it – which was essentially a repeat of Plato’s idea from Gorgias that it is better to suffer a wrong than to commit one, mixed in with the Stoic idea that you should be prepared to lose all that you have because one day you are going to anyway. I am someone without a religious faith, but I do believe these are maxims that are as good as any others to live by. I also think that you are more likely to learn something useful from misfortune than from good fortune and that in the long run you are probably likely to end up better off due to your losses than your wins. So I found reading all this a little hard given how much nodding I was doing along the way. Having said that, I would be surprised if I could be quite as rational as Boethius if I was ever confronted with the same or even similar circumstances or quite so stoical. The second half of the book is about the nature of god and why god allows suffering. And before we start with his answers to this, we need to talk about whether or not Boethius was a Christian. If I had read a newer version of this book there would have been an introduction and I would have had a chance to see what the latest thinking is on this. I had thought, before I started reading, that he probably had to be a Christian. I knew that this little volume was a standard text throughout the Middle Ages and so figured that he had to be a Christian if that was going to be the case. However, there were a few things that he said in this that really made viewing him as a Christian a little problematic. Firstly, there is a bit early on where he says that in the beginning God ordered the universe. Of course, the Christian God doesn’t order the universe, He creates it out of nothing. It is the pegan Roman and Greek gods who in the beginning give order to the Chaos. Another thing I thought was a bit of a give away was the fact that at no time does Boethius mention Christ. I don’t mean to be rude, but when was the last time you had a conversation with a Christian without Christ being mentioned even once? I know this is a short book, but a Christian couldn’t have written for so long on such a topic without ever mentioning Christ. The other bit that I think makes it hard to view Boethius as your standard Christian is that he has a very strange idea of freedom of the will and providence. I’m not sure many Christians would agree that our free will is limited due to our inability to understand necessity. My reading of what is said here is that we do not stuff up God’s plan for the future by our random acts of free will (as you might expect us to) by our changing the script along the way and this is because while we think we are acting out of our own discretion we are actually acting according to rules, God’s rules, that always remain beyond our ken. I must admit that I found the latter parts of this book hard work, but mostly because I think the problem of evil and suffering is harder to solve than is done here in what I think is a rather formal and ‘logical’ way. If only suffering could be put aside so easily. (This was something else that reminded me of Plato’s Gorgias – I've always thought Plato was better at stating the problems with the pointless and almost adolescent nature of asking philosophical questions than in answering them - I felt much the same with how the problems of suffering and freedom were stated here compared to how these problems were resolved) The second part of the book was the most Platonic part of the book, I felt. The style was much the same as reading a Platonic dialogue and the arguments were more or less straight Plato. That is another reason why the Christian stuff didn’t quite work for me. While we could argue over whether or not Boethius was a Christian, no one could argue about whether he was a Neo-Platonist or not. Look, this is a fascinating work – any work written by someone waiting to die is going to have a compelling power about it. But one that also shows a way to become reconcilled to fate (and such an awful fate) in such a circumstance is doubly fascinating. Whether you agree or disagree with his conclusions, the mere fact he can form any conclusions at all is enough to be wondered at. That he is so accepting of his fate is breathtaking. There are lovely little poems throughout this book too. They are dropped into the text and on the theme of what is being discussed in the text at the time. They really add an entirely unexpected level of delight to this work. And the Consolation of Philosophy? Well, to me it doesn’t lie in the answers he finds, but rather in the act of thinking this through in the first place. Time for a crap comparision with something in my life. Obviously I have never been through anything nearly as horrible as Boethius goes through here, but once I had a very stressful and anxious night thinking about some work that I needed to do and needed to do particularly well, something I was fairly confident I was likely to stuff up quite convincingly. I was so worried thinking about the likely consequences of stuffing up the work I was going to do that I couldn’t sleep. In fact, I could hardly even breathe. After tossing and turning for an hour I finally got up and sat at the dining room table reading TS Eliot’s Portrait of a Lady – definitely not one of Eliot’s easier poems. The intensity of my concentration on the poem, in trying to understand it and trying to follow all of the twists and turns in the imagery meant that it simply wasn’t possible to go on worrying about my problems at work. When I finally went to bed I was able to keep my focus on the poem and its language and even hear Chopin playing somewhere in the back of my mind. I can hardly remember what my work problem was, but that night with Eliot was one I will never forget. I read this book on my Kindle, a wonderful thing, but poor old Amazon aren’t making the money out of me they probably had hoped. You see, I’ve found manybooks.net and what an amazing place that is. I’ve put so many books onto my Kindle from there that it now has the same problem as my bookcases – lots of books I’m just never going to get the time to read all lined up waiting. Still, as Capitalism teaches us, possession is nine-tenths of the fun and consumption is its own reward.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Gary Beauregard Bottomley

    You ever wonder why God (or the universe) would allow a truly awful human being like Donald Trump to flourish? I do and this book delves into that kind of question with gusto. The author, Boethius, through his dialog with the lady, Philosophy, tells us and much more. There is no cop out with his answers. It's not the standard Christian drivel that we will be rewarded in an infinite after life nothing as easy as that. Not to take way from the author, but the answer is along the lines that God (or You ever wonder why God (or the universe) would allow a truly awful human being like Donald Trump to flourish? I do and this book delves into that kind of question with gusto. The author, Boethius, through his dialog with the lady, Philosophy, tells us and much more. There is no cop out with his answers. It's not the standard Christian drivel that we will be rewarded in an infinite after life nothing as easy as that. Not to take way from the author, but the answer is along the lines that God (or the universe) is the absolute Good. The ultimate good can not know evil. We only can do wrong (vice or evil) when we don't know. A truly wicked person, like Donald Trump, is that way because they do not know and the more wicked they become the less they know about the Good and hence the less they are as a person and their soul suffers for that lack of knowledge and dearth of Good. It's clear that Boethius is reworking Plato and Aristotle into a coherent philosophy in support of his world view. He doesn't really stop at just what makes us happy and also delves deeply into our passions, free will, a transcendental God and actually he has Einstein's block universe, where time happens all at once. That means he also reworks the dialog Parmenides with his 'one'. I've just recently read Spinoza's Ethics, and I am currently reading Hegel's Logic, and I would say they both definitely borrowed from this very unique take on the universe from Boethius. There's a line of reasoning that he often uses. That our intuition, senses and intellect can only intersect within ourselves and that the 'judgement' we make on the particular to the universal can only be made by the individual that is doing the observing and the thing observed can not act alone to understand. This guy is a really cool thinker. It's a pity that he's not more widely read. Fortune works on us all and never let yourself be too cocky for the fickled finger of fate will point at you sooner or latter. At its core this book is a self help book (at least the first half). I have no idea why the modern self help writers of today ignore books like this one. The worst most popular book ever written was "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren. Why can't those kind of authors just save us their pablum and refer us back to book like this one. This author really knocks it out of the ball park. A total non believer in fairy tales and someone who tries to never pretend to know things that he doesn't know (i.e. faith) can still enjoy a book such as this one. (Though I think he bends over too much by defending an All Knowing God with a deterministic universe and free will (i.e. a lack of cause and effect) within humans allowing evil by redefining it as 'not good' like Augustine does. I like to think truly not good people like Donald Trump are getting there punishment, but Boethius does point out that punishing the wicked really doesn't help us. Too bad.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mark Adderley

    Why does a good God allow bad things to happen to good people? And why does He allow bad people to get away with doing bad things? In 524, Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius was executed, most likely by strangulation, on a charge of treason. Whilst languishing in prison, he wrote a book that was to become one of the most influential philosophical tracts of the next thousand years, The Consolation of Philosophy. Boethius is himself the narrator of the book. He speculates on being visited, in his Why does a good God allow bad things to happen to good people? And why does He allow bad people to get away with doing bad things? In 524, Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius was executed, most likely by strangulation, on a charge of treason. Whilst languishing in prison, he wrote a book that was to become one of the most influential philosophical tracts of the next thousand years, The Consolation of Philosophy. Boethius is himself the narrator of the book. He speculates on being visited, in his plight, by Dame Philosophy, who explains to him patiently why his experiences reflect the existence of a good and benevolent God. The world is not ruled by chaotic forces, reward and punishment are not random--it's just that his limited human perception cannot fully understand the situation. Philosophy begins by proving by meticulous reasoning that God is not only good, but the source of goodness. People are good in so far as they participate in divine goodness; they are evil in so far as they reject it. To be human is to accept good; to reject it makes one subhuman. The evil therefore only appear to be triumphant in the world. In fact, their own evil is their punishment. The reason the bad seem to be rewarded is that they are favoured by Fortune, the force that rewards and punishes within the world. It is better, Philosophy argues, to follow Providence, the force that sees to it that God's plan is followed, no matter how men mar it. Philosophy finishes up by reconciling God's foreknowledge of events with Man's free will. Foreseeing a thing does not necessitate that one has influenced it at all--God's foreknowledge merely enables him to see what will happen. He foresees because, from the perspective of eternity, all events, past, present, and future and simultaneously present to Him. Understanding these concepts helps with understanding at least Dante Alighieri and Geoffrey Chaucer more fully; but they are also helpful in one's day-to-day life. Why does a benevolent God allow bad things to happen in His world? Boethius' answer is a rational one, an answer which does not depend on revealed truth (i.e., the Bible). It is therefore a satisfactory answer to that question for someone who doesn't believe in revealed truth. Looking over the other reviews here, it seems that one thing people find negative about it is that it's personal--Boethius wrote it to console himself about the situation he was in. It's important to recall that this doesn't disqualify his ideas. That's really an ad hominem argument, and you should evaluate the quality of his thought independently of the circumstances under which they were written. That having been said, there's a poignancy to the situation that, I think, adds an edge to the philosophy. It's no mere abstraction, but a way of thinking that can really make a difference to folk. In short, if you want to understand the Middle Ages and the world in which you live, The Consolation of Philosophy is a cornerstone text.

  4. 5 out of 5

    booklady

    The Consolation of Philosophy is about listening to your inner Voice of Reason. Boethius, the author, personified our conscience by employing a feature familiar to his audience, an imaginary dialogue between self and ones muse, who in his case was Lady Philosophy. This technique and the ensuing exchange reminded me of similar literary encounters with mythical beings. I could visualize her as Tolkiens Galadriel appearing (to Frodo) when most needed bringing astutely applicable advice also of a The Consolation of Philosophy is about listening to your inner Voice of Reason. Boethius, the author, personified our conscience by employing a feature familiar to his audience, an imaginary dialogue between self and one’s muse, who in his case was Lady Philosophy. This technique and the ensuing exchange reminded me of similar literary encounters with mythical beings. I could visualize her as Tolkien’s Galadriel appearing (to Frodo) when most needed bringing astutely applicable advice also of a universal nature for the perspicacious. As reader, may I be that eager eavesdropper! Where is Reason in an oftentimes unreasonable world? What is the reason for suffering? Extreme poverty? Death? Humanity’s greatest crimes against itself? Is there reason for things as they are? Or do we perhaps fail to listen to our own quiet inner voice... Regardless of beliefs, most people agree Reason exists as a basic necessity for a good life—however one defines that good. As such The Consolation can be read as allegory, a reminder of so much which we already know and may have forgotten. It is best read under circumstances similar to those under which it was written, i.e., dire straits. Boethius was in prison awaiting trial and ultimately execution for treason when he wrote this his last and greatest work. For me, this brought an especial poignancy to his words. I was listening to a dying man’s counsels to ‘be strong’ and realize the futility of an oppressor’s actions to ultimate well-being. Written as dialogue between two life-long best friends, this advice was profound, as opposed to so much that passes for wisdom or consolation today. Many excellent reviews* on The Consolation have already been written. Amateur philosopher that I am, there is little I can add to the finer points in this important discussion except to encourage modern readers to be gleaners. Reason is an excellent teacher when we are cooperative listeners. As a final note, the Librivox production would have been much improved if performed as follows: one reader for each of the characters, Boethius and Lady Philosophy, and a third reader serving as a narrator for the poems at the end of each section. *Technically speaking, the best of these on GR is written by Mark Adderley here. ><><><><><><><><><><> Have always wanted to read this and have even started it a few times.* Ha! I even have two different versions of it on my shelves to tempt me--this one and the 2001 translation by Joel C. Relihan. Last night the word 'consolation' in the title looked especially appealing and I checked out Librivox to see if there was an audio version. There is! Unfortunately it's one of those with multiple readers and the quality varies considerably. Even so, this will be an enjoyable Thanksgiving diversion to alternately listen to and read for myself. *My daughter about to graduate college has even read it and told me I'd love it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    Written by Boethius while under arrest for allegedly plotting against the Ostrogothic King. Boethius writes out conversations, interspersed with poems, between himself and a personification of Philosophy who encourages him to reject concerns with the world and concentrate on the eternal instead. While cursing his evil fortune, Philosophy appears and upbraids Boethius for abandoning her and devoting himself to worldly concerns instead of learning and Christianity. As the dialogues progress, Written by Boethius while under arrest for allegedly plotting against the Ostrogothic King. Boethius writes out conversations, interspersed with poems, between himself and a personification of Philosophy who encourages him to reject concerns with the world and concentrate on the eternal instead. While cursing his evil fortune, Philosophy appears and upbraids Boethius for abandoning her and devoting himself to worldly concerns instead of learning and Christianity. As the dialogues progress, Boethius comes to accept what has happened to him and turns the focus of his attention on to Philosophy and the eternal instead. I've heard the view that Boethius was not a Christian, and the nature of the discussions between Boethius and Philosophy are such that they could be Christian or Pagan. I would be surprised if there was much here that either Marcus Aurelius or Saint Augustine could take offence to. A good part of me wishes that Boethius had remained fixated on his worldly concerns enough to have left us a detailed account of the politics of the Ostrogothic court at least in his initial laments, but the promise of the Kingdom of God proved too much for him!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Edward

    Preface and Acknowledgements Abbreviations Introduction Summary of the Treatise Note on the Text Select Bibliography A Chronology of Boethius' Life and Times --The Consolation of Philosophy Explanatory Notes Index and Glossary of Names

  7. 5 out of 5

    Julie Davis

    I never heard of The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius until a couple of years ago when a friend mentioned, somewhat diffidently, that she was reading it. She said just enough to intrigue me and the book looked intriguingly short. It went onto my mental "read someday" list and that was as far as I got. Until now. Corey Olsen's first Mythgard Academy class on The Consolation of Philosophy hit my iTunes feed. I've mentioned the Mythgard classes before, especially those to do with the Lord of I never heard of The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius until a couple of years ago when a friend mentioned, somewhat diffidently, that she was reading it. She said just enough to intrigue me and the book looked intriguingly short. It went onto my mental "read someday" list and that was as far as I got. Until now. Corey Olsen's first Mythgard Academy class on The Consolation of Philosophy hit my iTunes feed. I've mentioned the Mythgard classes before, especially those to do with the Lord of the Rings and Dracula. They are really excellent and they are free. As it turns out The Consolation of Philosophy is not only one of the most influential books through Middle Ages and Renaissance, but strongly influenced J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Not to mention that the ideas continue to filter through pop culture and can pop up in unlikely places. Am thoroughly enjoying this initial reading. FINAL UPDATE This was an amazing book, made even richer (is that possible?) by Corey Olsen's classes. It is a cogent look at good versus evil, fortune versus innate worth, and the intertwined nature of God's foreknowledge and free will. Thought provoking and inspirational, all without ever going beyond the bounds of philosophical thought and logic. I will be coming back to this many more times.

  8. 5 out of 5

    robin friedman

    A Rare And Varied Consolation Boethius's "The Consolation of Philosophy" is a rare and unusual philosophical work in that it continues to be read by many people who are not philosophers or students of philosophy. This is witnessed by the many thoughtful reader review the book has received here and elsewhere. The work continues to be read, I think, because Boethius placed his philosophy in the context of his own experience. The book has a personal and immediate tone. Boethius also broadened the A Rare And Varied Consolation Boethius's "The Consolation of Philosophy" is a rare and unusual philosophical work in that it continues to be read by many people who are not philosophers or students of philosophy. This is witnessed by the many thoughtful reader review the book has received here and elsewhere. The work continues to be read, I think, because Boethius placed his philosophy in the context of his own experience. The book has a personal and immediate tone. Boethius also broadened the book to make his own experience speak to many people of his own and later times. Most readers will find at least some of Boethius's philosophical teachings valuable and persuasive. The book also combines philosophy with a beautiful literary style. Poetry alternates with and supplements philosophy. Philosophy is personified and speaks to Boethius in the form of a beautiful woman. The book is full of allusions to classical Greek and Roman literature. Boethius (480 -- 524 A.D.) wrote this book near the end of a life that was both active and scholarly. He had occupied a high position in the Roman Empire before he was imprisoned for treason. He wrote the book in prison in the months before he was brutally tortured and killed. At the beginning of the Consolation, Boethius is morose and grieving over the injustice of his imprisonment and impending fate. He feels that his life has been meaningless. When she enters, the figure of philosophy largely recalls Boethius to himself. The discussion proceeds in layers, moving from the concrete and specific to the abstract. Philosophy tells Boethius that she must take him and his situation as she finds them and move gradually to help Boethius understand himself. As the book proceeds, it becomes more of a teaching by philosophy than a dialogue between philosophy and Boethius. Prose and argument take the place of poetry as the book becomes heavily Neoplatonic and theistic in tone. I understood best the earlier parts of this short works, largely books I -- III of the five books in which it is divided. Here, with philosophy's guidance, Boethius meditates on what makes life worthwhile. He comes to understand that what he had primarily valued in life -- things such as pleasure, power, money, success -- are evanescent and pass away. They do not produce true happiness because they are not part of what a person is and can be taken away. They are inherently changeable and fickle. In an important passage in Book II, philosophy says (p.31): "Why then do you mortal men seek after happiness outside yourselves, when it lies within you? You are led astray by error and ignorance. I will briefly show you what complete happiness hinges upon. If I ask you whether there is anything more precious to you than your own self, you will say no. So if you are in possession of yourself you will possess something you would never wish to lose and something Fortune could never take away. In order to see that happiness can't consist in things governed by chance, look at it this way. If happiness is the highest good of rational nature and anything that can be taken away is not the highest good- since it is surpassed by what can't be taken away -- Fortune by her very mutability can't hope to lead to happiness." Boethius introduces the figure of the wheel of fortune which, apart from the personification of philosophy, is the most striking figure of the book. He was not the first to use this metaphor, but he made it his own. The figure of the wheel and the emphasis of change and suffering in life reminded me of Buddhist teachings which I have been studying for the past several years. Boethius does not take his philosophy this way but instead develops a Neoplatonic vision of the One or of God which culminates in a beautiful poem at the conclusion of Book III section 9 of the Consolation (pp 66-67). In the remaining portions of the Consolation, Boethius seeks for further understanding of happiness and of the good. Philosophy's answer becomes more difficult and theological. If focuses on the claimed non-existence of evil, the difference between eternity and time, and the nature of Providence. In rereading the book, I thought Boethius convincingly presented what people today would call an existential or experiential situation -- he was imprisoned far from home and awaiting a gruesome death. He learns some highly particular and valuable ways of understanding that help him -- and the reader -- with his condition. As he develops his understanding, Boethius and philosophy adopt a Neoplatonic synthesis of Plato and Aristotle that contemporary readers are likely to reject or not understand. There is a further difficult question whether Boethius's teachings are exclusively Neoplatonic and pagan, or whether they are Christian as well. (Christianity and Jewish-Christian texts go unmentioned in the Consolation.) Thus, I think the Consolation continues to be read and revered largely because of the situation it develops in its initial pages and because of Boethius's poetically moving teaching of the nature of change, suffering and loss. It is valuable to have the opportunity to see these things. With change in times and perspective, not all readers will agree with or see the necessity for the Neoplatonic (or Jewish-Christian, given one's reading of the work) underpinnings with which Boethius girds his teaching of change and suffering. As I mentioned, it is tempting to see parallels with Buddhism. But it is more likely that modern readers will try to work out Boethius's insights for themselves in a framework which is primarily secular. I thought that much of the early part of the book, for example, could well have been written by Spinoza. The Consolation remains a living book both because of what it says and also because it allows the reader to take Boethius's insights and capture them while moving in somewhat different directions. Robin Friedman

  9. 4 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    He would have been remarkably in any age; in the age in which he lived, he is utterly amazing. Betrand Russell on Boethius. First of all, this is a beautiful book. Boethiushimself in a horrible situationstrives to use the extent of his philosophic powers to condole others who are suffering, and to maintain a positive view of humanity and the universe. That the man could have written this while awaiting death shows that he was a true philosopherI probably would have spent my time in jail writing “He would have been remarkably in any age; in the age in which he lived, he is utterly amazing.” —Betrand Russell on Boethius. First of all, this is a beautiful book. Boethius—himself in a horrible situation—strives to use the extent of his philosophic powers to condole others who are suffering, and to maintain a positive view of humanity and the universe. That the man could have written this while awaiting death shows that he was a true philosopher—I probably would have spent my time in jail writing apologetic letters to Theodoric, begging him to spare me. As far as philosophy is concerned, Boethius is slightly disappointing. There is virtually nothing in here that is not contained in Plato; and it is argued even less persuasively. Additionally, unlike the great Greek master, Boethius does not put forward counter-arguments against his main points, if only to address them. Although the book is ostensibly a dialogue between himself and Philosophy personified, it mostly takes the form of a monologue of Lady Philosophy. Though, I should say that the philosophy does get quite good near the end, during his investigation of free will and God’s foreknowledge. What’s more, it often seems like his points are contrived purely for the sake of ‘consolation’ and not for the investigation of the problem. The doctrines contained in this volume are very soothing to someone in distress; but I suspect they will seem a bit smug and bland to most of us in our day-to-day lives. But this isn’t purely a work of philosophy; it’s also a work of art. The writing is splendid, and the poetry a nice counterpoint to the exposition. Besides, whether his philosophy is compelling or not, it is attractive. Ideas can be beautiful, just as much as colors, timbres, and words; Boethius arranges his ideas into an arrangement as pleasant as anybody’s. If they do not instruct, they will at least console.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    I first read Boethius's The Consolation of Philosophy several years ago, before I ended up studying philosophy more formally. I greatly appreciated it back then, and, when I recently felt the urge to revisit it, I decided to try this new translation by David R. Slavitt, figuring that I'd not only reread it, but also re-experience it (which is what a new translation often helps you do). The translation is very contemporary and verging on the informal, which makes it highly readable. I personally I first read Boethius's The Consolation of Philosophy several years ago, before I ended up studying philosophy more formally. I greatly appreciated it back then, and, when I recently felt the urge to revisit it, I decided to try this new translation by David R. Slavitt, figuring that I'd not only reread it, but also re-experience it (which is what a new translation often helps you do). The translation is very contemporary and verging on the informal, which makes it highly readable. I personally lean towards the formal when it comes to works like these, but it wasn't distracting on the whole, excepting perhaps one or two instances where word choice appeared conspicuously removed from what Boethius might have chosen in his time. The verses came across as especially well translated (better, it seems to me, than the translation I previously read). As for the work itself, I was less impressed by the philosophy of the Consolation this time around, which was probably inevitable. Nevertheless, the beauty of both the poetry and the prose, as well as the immense poignancy of the occasion (a man sentenced to death, most likely wrongfully, seeking solace in philosophy and flights of the mind), was just as—if not more—remarkable this time around.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Fil

    Confused at how to rate this one. As a work of late Antiquity literature it is a masterpiece (beautifully translated by Mr. Slavitt) and I am happy to have read it, specially the first three books, which deal with human happiness and how to achieve it. Readers of self-help books (self-help, pffft!) would be better off reading this than the vacuous, laughable books of our time. As a theological work, it is less than convincing. Books IV and V remind me of Augustine's 'City of God', circular Confused at how to rate this one. As a work of late Antiquity literature it is a masterpiece (beautifully translated by Mr. Slavitt) and I am happy to have read it, specially the first three books, which deal with human happiness and how to achieve it. Readers of self-help books (self-help, pffft!) would be better off reading this than the vacuous, laughable books of our time. As a theological work, it is less than convincing. Books IV and V remind me of Augustine's 'City of God', circular reasoning and specious arguments abound. Too many things are taken for granted or inadequately explained; if God does exist, how are we to know that he would be eternal, or omnipotent? How does 'useful' equate 'good' (certain deontological arguments aside)? How can free will and God's foreknowledge co-exist? Et cetera, et cetera... None of the answers provided are satisfying. The song remains the same, I guess. Lastly, a minor complaint, why is it (Lady) Philosophy who seeks out Boethius and not Sophia herself? From 4 stars for the former reason to 2 stars for the latter I have settled on the obvious compromise.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    171118: reinterpretation/reuse of ancient greek philosophy arguments by imprisoned roman executed in 526, primarily expounded as moral instructions, later used to support christian metaphysics as will develop in medieval centuries. readable layers of translations, poetry rendered prose, some context in plato texts (as translated in 1892?), some commentary/critiques.... probably more interesting if you like medieval philosophy...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea

    this translation was super readable but that's not even what i want to write about. listen. listen. this book was printed with 1.5 spacing and it is INCREDIBLE. you can underline things without crossing out the line beneath! you don't have to squint at the page! reading experience 10000% improved by the layout of this edition.

  14. 5 out of 5

    John

    There is really nothing I can add to the body of praise and criticism on this work, so I will make my comments as simple and subjective as possible. If read in a certain way, Boethius's work is still applicable as a sort of self-help guide to those suffering life's sinister doldrums. Its central idea is that there is suffering, but that such suffering can be okay. Some of the philosophy is a reflection of earlier work (Aristotle makes a number of appearances), but the ground that Boethius There is really nothing I can add to the body of praise and criticism on this work, so I will make my comments as simple and subjective as possible. If read in a certain way, Boethius's work is still applicable as a sort of self-help guide to those suffering life's sinister doldrums. Its central idea is that there is suffering, but that such suffering can be okay. Some of the philosophy is a reflection of earlier work (Aristotle makes a number of appearances), but the ground that Boethius re-covers is welcome. This is what I would consider applied philosophy in the sense that it tries to use lofty ideas to solve human suffering. I can't say this for certain, but I do believe that this is a book written under a great deal of pain, and I do believe that it offers honestly offered hope. To me, Boethius's work cut deep to the core; it offered a viewpoint that goes beyond some of the psycho-babble that gets thrown at those in pain these days, and it attempted to do just as the title suggests--console. It doesn't try to solve, it only tries to justify. Philosophy (or the translator) calls it 'medicine', and I think this is an appropriate lexical choice. I know that some will read this as philosophy, but I encourage those philosophers out there who want a dose of optimism in a working body of cynicism to give this one a try.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Absolutely beautiful book. Boethius takes the best of Classical philosophy--its classical allusions, its vivid images, and its profound ideas--and puts them together, showing how philosophy can bring us up from the misfortune of life. While Lady Philosophy's God is chillingly Unitarian and I would fiercely deny this is a Christian work [Gak! This was from my Social Trinitarian days; sophomoric], Boethius brings Classic Philosophy up to the best it can ever be. For that, it earns a very high place Absolutely beautiful book. Boethius takes the best of Classical philosophy--its classical allusions, its vivid images, and its profound ideas--and puts them together, showing how philosophy can bring us up from the misfortune of life. While Lady Philosophy's God is chillingly Unitarian and I would fiercely deny this is a Christian work [Gak! This was from my Social Trinitarian days; sophomoric], Boethius brings Classic Philosophy up to the best it can ever be. For that, it earns a very high place on my shelf. Memo to readers: if you liked this book, you are in for good things. "To acquire a taste for [The Consolation of Philosophy] is almost to become naturalised in the Middle Ages."-C.S. Lewis

  16. 4 out of 5

    Genni

    As with most I things I read, I have more questions than consolation. It isnt that I dont find philosophy comforting, because I do, but Boethiuss particular brand has left me more befuddled than comforted. However, as a subjective account of someones experience, I like it very much and I find it stimulating. Boethius is in jail awaiting death and works through his feelings about evil and Providence with a visit from Philosophy personified. The first three books are largely concerned with laying As with most I things I read, I have more questions than consolation. It isn’t that I don’t find philosophy comforting, because I do, but Boethius’s particular brand has left me more befuddled than comforted. However, as a subjective account of someone’s experience, I like it very much and I find it stimulating. Boethius is in jail awaiting death and works through his feelings about evil and Providence with a visit from Philosophy personified. The first three books are largely concerned with laying out Boethius’s complaints about his situation and against Fortune at large. Philosophy then helps him work through identifying the root cause of much of his anguish, which turns out to be his dissatisfaction with how Fortune treats him, a “good” person, so wrongly. All of this is relatable, relevant, and sprinkled with some insights that I personally found really powerful. Towards the end of book 3, Philosophy turns from identifying the incorrect sources of happiness (mostly from Aristotle’s Ethics) and towards identifying “The Good”. She begins by invoking a prayer that the “Creator” (who is never really identified) would help and enlighten. Ironically, it was precisely after this that everything became muddled. For Boethius’s Philosophy, the good is the same as unity of virtues, which ultimately equals God. The identification of a wholly good God ,of course, brings Boethius to the problem of evil, which is precisely where, for me, things went crazy. Boethius deals with evil with by quoting the “evil does not exist” solution. God is good and cannot do evil, therefore, evil does not exist. The reasoning behind this is unsatisfactory. The first question I have is when he claims that good and evil are opposites. If evil is literally nonexistent, can it be the opposite of something? I tend to think that Aristotle was really on to something when he claimed that everyone is after happiness. Whatever each individual seeks after, even if they commit evil, it is because somehow they think what they are chasing will bring happiness. Boethius points out that because people who commit evil acts are unable to attain the good (which he equates with happiness) evil is weak. I can appreciate that point, but to jump from weakness to non-existence is quite the leap. He also says, “He who has control over good things can do all things, whereas those who control evil things cannot do everything, it is clear that those who can do evil things are less powerful.” But he who “has control over good things” cannot do ALL things, right? Because he cannot do evil?? It seems to me that the “power” considered in this kind of reasoning is canceled out? And the further he follows this train of thought, the more tangled it gets. The Platonic idea that people choose evil out of ignorance is quoted next, but Boethius acknowledges the possibility that they would willfully, in full knowledge, choose evil. His thought on this is that “they cease not just to be powerful, but to exist at all, for people who abandon the goal which all existing things have in common likewise cease to exist.” I can’t see how they are abandoning the goal of happiness in choosing evil? It seems to me that they are still choosing evil thinking that it will somehow bring happiness. The only clue that I found that might make sense of the whole “evil is nothing” idea was here: “…because unity is good, everything that exists is also good. In this sense whatever departs from the good ceases to exist, so evil men cease to be what they were before..” So maybe he means that evil isn’t literally non-existent, but is something other than it was before….a privation of good, maybe??? But to me, that is a completely different idea from evil being “non-existent”… From here on out, things become a little clearer, or perhaps more in-tune with my own biases? I like his discussion of punishments for those who choose evil. “The wicked are happier if they suffer punishment than if no deserved punishment constrains them.” because punishment is a form of their participation in the good. However, I find his comments here a little confusing also because he says that punishments and rewards are “wholly contrary to each other”. But if punishments are the evil person’s participation in the good, how is it “wholly contrary” to rewards, which are part of the “good” person’s participation in the good? He then turns to the problem of foreknowledge and free will, which has never really been much of a problem for me personally so I mostly breezed through this section. I like his example of a human being perceiving several things in front of him, or even several things successively, yet not imposing any kind of necessity on the things he perceives and the ensuing analogy he draws to God. Interspersed with all of Boethius’s philosophizing was poetry, which I thought provided a nice cadential balance and was an effective way of foreshadowing ideas to come. I don’t think this will be the last time I read this.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Everyman

    The Consolation of Philosophy was arguably the second most important text in Western Thought, after the Bible, for more than a thousand years. It was widely read and studied, translated (from the original Latin) by a broad range of people including King Alfred, Queen Elizabeth I, and Geoffrey Chaucer. In a day before printing, when books had to be hand-copied, a copy could be found in almost every serious reader's library. Boethius was central figure in 6th Century Rome. In addition to holding The Consolation of Philosophy was arguably the second most important text in Western Thought, after the Bible, for more than a thousand years. It was widely read and studied, translated (from the original Latin) by a broad range of people including King Alfred, Queen Elizabeth I, and Geoffrey Chaucer. In a day before printing, when books had to be hand-copied, a copy could be found in almost every serious reader's library. Boethius was central figure in 6th Century Rome. In addition to holding high public office, he sought to keep the learning of Classical Greece alive in Rome, translating and adding commentaries on Aristotle, Plato, and other important Greek authors. However, he was eventually suspected of treason and sentenced to death. (Most scholars believe that he was not guilty but was suspected from a surfeit of paranoia by Theodoric the Great.) It was while he was in prison awaiting his execution that he wrote the Consolation. It is a discussion, in alternating prose and verse passages, between Boethius and Lady Philosophy. It starts with Boethius bemoaning his fate, how cruelly life has treated him. It deals with issues of predestination, free will, why the evil prosper and the good are punished, and how it is possible to achieve happiness in an unjust world. Lady Philosophy gradually leads him along the path to understanding that the things that men consider sources of happiness -- wealth, power, influence, and the like -- are transitory, that Fortune is fickle and turns men on a wheel on which they alternate between good and bad fortune, and that true happiness can only come from abandoning reliance on Fortune and understanding and embracing the Good. While it is not overtly a religious work, it contains aspects of Christian and Platonic belief, among others. It is neither Christian nor pagan. The Consolation has fallen out of wide favor over the past 200 years or so, but its influence remains very strong within Medieval and Renaissance thinking; authors including Milton, Chaucer, Dante, Shakespeare, and many others up to and including Herman Melville were greatly influenced by it. It is not an easy book for more secular modern readers to embrace, but it is well worth reading for the scope of its vision, its honest wrestling with issues that are still unanswered today, and an understanding of its influence on and appearance in the works of subsequent authors.

  18. 4 out of 5

    David Huff

    This book, short in length but immeasurably deep in impact, was one of my nicest reading surprises in quite a while. Boethius, a important Roman official sentenced to death on charges of which he maintained his innocence, wrote this beautiful book from his cell in about 523 A.D. It is the account of his vision of, and subsequent dialog with, Lady Philosophy, who appeared to him while he was imprisoned. In our vernacular, we would say they discussed reasons Why Bad Things Happen To Good People. This book, short in length but immeasurably deep in impact, was one of my nicest reading surprises in quite a while. Boethius, a important Roman official sentenced to death on charges of which he maintained his innocence, wrote this beautiful book from his cell in about 523 A.D. It is the account of his vision of, and subsequent dialog with, Lady Philosophy, who appeared to him while he was imprisoned. In our vernacular, we would say they discussed reasons Why Bad Things Happen To Good People. Actually, it is a very profound book in which the Lady instructs and counsels Boethius about predestination, the problem of suffering, good vs. evil, and several other big questions of life. it is written in a rich prosimetric style, where a prose section alternates with a poem on the same topic. The poetry sections, though much earlier in history, made me think of Shakespeare, and the prose sections were equally lovely. I can easily see why this book is such a classic. A further delight was that I listened to the Audible version, with the rich voice and noble, theatrical accent of David Rintoul, a London-based Scottish born voice-over actor. Highly recommended!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Crito

    Like if Augustine had taken a few too many dank rips from his neoplatonism bong. I suppose if I were on death row I too would write a self insert fanfic about my waifu.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Rollins

    Because I had read so many of the books which were born out of Boethius's thoughts before reading this, I did not find this life-changing, but I am glad that I read it finally. It is good to go back and see where the stream started.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Daria

    As other reviewers have mentioned, dead useful as a background text to medieval Western literature - because it was the background text of medieval Western literature. It is clear and relatively easy to follow. As far as its consolatory abilities, I'm a little more dubious. The entire consolation hinges on the fact that God exists, and, well, if that foundation is shaky, then we can't say much about what's built upon it. Can it be read today with its original intentions? Perhaps. I found the As other reviewers have mentioned, dead useful as a background text to medieval Western literature - because it was the background text of medieval Western literature. It is clear and relatively easy to follow. As far as its consolatory abilities, I'm a little more dubious. The entire consolation hinges on the fact that God exists, and, well, if that foundation is shaky, then we can't say much about what's built upon it. Can it be read today with its original intentions? Perhaps. I found the sort of evidence that Boethius gives to proves God's existence interesting: he says, well, things stay together, in their orbits, in their currents, rocks fall down and fire rises up; there must be some great thing keeping it all in check. (What would we call it today - the Strong Nuclear Force, maybe?) Also I'm never exactly thrilled to read philosophical works - especially early philosophy - and I think, with the help of Victor Watts, I've realized why. Watts points out that the Platonic dialectic rests with treating words as if they have unchanging value, like the symbols of algebra or logic. But could anything be further from the truth? It is when Boethius writes, in verse, about how some, in their material wealth and worldly arrogance, "have forgotten the subtlety / Of making honey sweeten wine" - then, then I am consoled, for that is beautiful indeed. Chase Philosophy away, and bring back the Muses of poetry, I say; even if they do lull you into a stupor, it will be a sweet one.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jesse Broussard

    How absolutely delightful: an honest use for Philosophy. Never again will I agree with Edward de Vere that there was never yet philosopher that could endure the toothache patiently: here is a man who endured a dungeon and finally an unjust death. Here is yet another example of the proof that "Wisdom infinite must form the best" world; if it took the torment of Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius to create his magnum opus, which of us would deny that, if he must die, as he must, this method of his How absolutely delightful: an honest use for Philosophy. Never again will I agree with Edward de Vere that there was never yet philosopher that could endure the toothache patiently: here is a man who endured a dungeon and finally an unjust death. Here is yet another example of the proof that "Wisdom infinite must form the best" world; if it took the torment of Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius to create his magnum opus, which of us would deny that, if he must die, as he must, this method of his death was far superior to any other? Who among us could have known that a penalty that must be paid could be put to such an use as this? Lightly drifting from poetry into prose, carrying on a dialogue with Madame Philosophy, who appeared, as Dante's Virgil, to lead him through the darkened paths of his mind and reveal to him the causes of his torment, beginning with two: he had forgotten the end aim of all things, and he had forgotten what man truly is. The journey is well worth taking. As a delightful aside: one of the earliest English translations of this book (which has been translated into every European tongue), if not the earliest, was a paraphrase by none other than Chesterton's White Horse King, King Alfred the Great. This book is magnificent, and truly worth any price. Which is good, as Boethius paid a great one for it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ron

    One of the most influential books of the Middle Ages, bridging the passing of classical culture and rise of Medieval Europe. Invaluable aid to understanding the worldview of Medieval man. For a scholarly analysis of what and how, refer to C. S. Lewis's The Discarded Image ISBN 0521477352. Paradoxically, another complementary text is Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization, (ISBN 0385418493) covering the same period when Boethius' influence was greatest (though Cahill offers Augustine as One of the most influential books of the Middle Ages, bridging the passing of classical culture and rise of Medieval Europe. Invaluable aid to understanding the worldview of Medieval man. For a scholarly analysis of what and how, refer to C. S. Lewis's The Discarded Image ISBN 0521477352. Paradoxically, another complementary text is Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization, (ISBN 0385418493) covering the same period when Boethius' influence was greatest (though Cahill offers Augustine as the pinnacle (and depth) of the lost culture and Ausunius the Poetas as the weary, wasted remains.)

  24. 4 out of 5

    Vincent Li

    I first heard of this book from the novel Confederacy of the Dunces, where the protagonist is obsessed with Boethius, and "sacred geometry". I picked up this translation, because of good reviews on its readability. As someone concerned mostly with the application of good advice to living, rather than technical study of the classics, I really enjoy a translation that focuses on communicating the content effectively and simply. That being said, the first time I picked up this book, I finished I first heard of this book from the novel Confederacy of the Dunces, where the protagonist is obsessed with Boethius, and "sacred geometry". I picked up this translation, because of good reviews on its readability. As someone concerned mostly with the application of good advice to living, rather than technical study of the classics, I really enjoy a translation that focuses on communicating the content effectively and simply. That being said, the first time I picked up this book, I finished about 2/3rds of it before getting bogged down on the Platonism and giving up on it for a while. Eventually, I picked it up again while studying for the bar (learning the technicalities of real property would make anyone want to seek consolation) and I'm glad to have finished it. Some consider Boethius the last of the Romans and the first of the medievals. He was an interesting figure living in an interesting time. He achieved the high rank of consul after the collapse of the Western Empire, and served as an adviser to King Theodoric. Due to some political scuffling (possibly related to Boethius's opposition to Theodoric's Arianism, or Boethius's defense of the Senate), Boethius was thrown into prison and sentenced to death. Boethius wrote Consolation in prison before he was executed. Consolation takes the framing device of 5 books, where Lady Philosophy comes to cure Boethius of his depression by teaching him about the nature of Good, Evil, and God. In-between the dialogue of Lady Philosophy and Boethius, Lady Philosophy sings allegorically, weaving in the classical Western tradition of the Greco-Roman world (with references to the Illiad, and the names of the winds) with Christianity. Boethius was a scholar of both the classical Greco-Roman tradition and a devout Christian. Lady Philosophy appears with torn clothing, a result of both the Stoics and Epicureans fighting over her legacy. I liked in particular the clearly Stoic parts of Consolation. In particular, Lady Philosophy's extended discussion on how fame, office, and riches do not bring true happiness. Philosophy argues that the office does not bring virtue (how could it when so many patently evil men have office?) but good men bring virtue to the office. Riches are supposed to allow a man to be self sufficient but ends up requiring a man to hire guards to protect his money and lawyers to sue on his behalf. Fame, is either useless to the soul after death, or even more useless if there is nothing after death. Philosophy reminds Boethius that even Rome is small compared to the world, and different cultures would view different conduct through different lenses. Instead, Philosophy argues that men should seek goodness, which she equates to happiness which by itself brings the lesser individual natures of fame, riches, and office. Philosophy reminds Boethius not to trust Fortune, who spins her wheel. Sometimes Fortune favors someone, but that person should not forget Fortune's fickle nature and hold Fortune's gifts as their's permanently but a simple loan for the time being. There can be no complaint for losing something that really never was yours in the first place. Boethius's heavy Platonism is less appealing to me. Philosophy makes the classic Platonist argument good men are more powerful even evil men even if evil men hold more earthly power. She arrives at this conclusion by arguing that all men seek goodness/happiness, but evil men are those who do not know how to, or are incapable of doing so. Since good men are more properly seeking goodness and happiness, they are actually more powerful than evil men. I find this kind of argument a bit heavy on rhetoric over strict logic or realism. It may appeal to some, perhaps they understand it better than I, or maybe my skeptical nature makes it harder have faith (even in the things that are true). Philosophy also argues that seemingly evil events may actually be in God's plan for goodness, and not to assign too quickly labels of good and bad to events because of our limited ability to foresee all the consequences of the great chain of events. I really enjoyed the last book's discussion on free will. Boethius is worried that there can be no free will since God knows all. If all is ordained to be knowable to God, punishments and rewards are arbitrary and capricious. Philosophy explains, by analogy that higher beings have more senses to perceive. Philosophy argues that God perceives time differently than humans, seeing all that there was, is, and to be at once. This solution really blew my mind, and makes me glad that I returned and finished the work (and makes me wonder if Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five was at all inspired by this). In short, there are a few reasons to read Consolations. First, it should be read because it sits at the cross road of so many traditions, the Greco-Roman classics, Christianity, Platonism, and Stoicism. Reading the book is almost like a survey of the "greats". Second, Consolation itself has went on to become highly influential. By existing copies, it was one of the most popular medieval manuscripts. Finally, the work stands on its own as a tranquil and deep reflection of the nature of Good, Evil, and man's place in the universe. It's really quite amazing what Boethius produced alone in prison to console himself. I would bet that it has consoled many during moments of doubt and despair and it will console many in the future. If not for the substantive arguments in the book (which are considerable), one can always be inspired by Boethius's resilience to his own suffering, never despairing but still hoping that the universe is orderly and fair. The least I could say is that I know I was.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tyler Jones

    I'm not a great student of philosophy, but even I can see Boethius made some rather large errors in logic. As a result the conclusions he came to are sometimes a little ridiculous. This is the kind of thinking that Voltaire would make cat food of many centuries later. Still, as a window to the intellectual mind of the citizen of the middle ages, this book is valuable, and it may even serve to illustrate many philosophical mistakes we continue to make today.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Noah Goats

    I first became aware of this book when I read A Confederacy of Dunces years and years ago. It's Ignatius Reilly's favorite book and he references Fortuna and her wheel several times. As I read Roman and Medieval history I kept bumping into Boethius, the last of the Romans and the first of the Medieval men. He was both a victim of Rome's collapse and a light of philosophy whose work had a powerful influence throughout the dark ages. I have finally read The Consolation of Philosophy and I can see I first became aware of this book when I read A Confederacy of Dunces years and years ago. It's Ignatius Reilly's favorite book and he references Fortuna and her wheel several times. As I read Roman and Medieval history I kept bumping into Boethius, the last of the Romans and the first of the Medieval men. He was both a victim of Rome's collapse and a light of philosophy whose work had a powerful influence throughout the dark ages. I have finally read The Consolation of Philosophy and I can see what that Reilly liked. Boethius wrote this book as he languished in prison (he would eventually be brutally executed), and it is his attempt to bring comfort to himself in his darkest hours. The book begins by addressing the fickleness of fortune and arguing that it is a mistake to find happiness in worldly success. It is in doing good that we find happiness. Boethius goes on to discuss the nature of God and the possibility of free will, and even though I was frequently unconvinced by his arguments I always found them interesting.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Austin Hoffman

    Read again Jan 2020. The prayer in Book III seems to be a turning point in the book to "stronger remedies." The discussion moves to a more theological footing as Boethius is restored. Listened again x3 2019. Listened again, 2019 Listened again, 2019. Immediately listened again, 2019. Great. Listened on audiobook 2019. Really great. Reepicheep is a Boethian. The wicked suffer more when they go unpunished. If the reward of virtue is virtue itself, often the greatest punishment of vice is vice Read again Jan 2020. The prayer in Book III seems to be a turning point in the book to "stronger remedies." The discussion moves to a more theological footing as Boethius is restored. Listened again x3 2019. Listened again, 2019 Listened again, 2019. Immediately listened again, 2019. Great. Listened on audiobook 2019. Really great. Reepicheep is a Boethian. The wicked suffer more when they go unpunished. If the reward of virtue is virtue itself, often the greatest punishment of vice is vice itself. Honor, power, money, position cannot bestow happiness or goodness. Count your blessings. Read 2018

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rick Davis

    This book was a pure pleasure to read. Engaging and winsome, Boethius filters Plato and Aristotle through a medieval, Christian lens. I don't know why I hadn't gotten around to reading it before now.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Shyam

    For the benefit of his Latin readers, his genius submitted to teach the first elements of the arts and sciences of Greece. The geometry of Euclid, the music of Pythagoras, the arithmetic of Nicomachus, the mechanics of Archimedes, the astronomy of Ptolemy, the theology of Plato, and the logic of Aristotle, with the commentary of Porphyry, were translated and illustrated by the indefatigable pen of the Roman senator. While Boethius, oppressed with fetters, expected each moment the sentence or the For the benefit of his Latin readers, his genius submitted to teach the first elements of the arts and sciences of Greece. The geometry of Euclid, the music of Pythagoras, the arithmetic of Nicomachus, the mechanics of Archimedes, the astronomy of Ptolemy, the theology of Plato, and the logic of Aristotle, with the commentary of Porphyry, were translated and illustrated by the indefatigable pen of the Roman senator. While Boethius, oppressed with fetters, expected each moment the sentence or the stroke of death, he composed in the tower of Pavia the Consolation of Philosophy; a golden volume not unworthy of the leisure of Plato or Tully, but which claims incomparable merit from the barbarism of the times and the situation of the author And the sage who could artfully combine in the same work the various riches of philosophy, poetry, and eloquence, must already have possessed the intrepid calmness which he affected to seek. —Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter XXXIX __________ Hidden away in peace And sure of your strong-built walls, You will lead a life serene And smile at the raging storm. (2.4) . . . and it is not the walls of your library with their glass and ivory decoration that I am looking for, but the seat of your mind. That is the place where I once stored away — not my books, but — the thing that makes them have any value, the philosophy they contain. (1.5) You would be more than eager if you knew the destination I am trying to bring you to . . . Your mind dreams of it but your sight is clouded by shadows of happiness and cannot see reality. (3.1) But I can't put up with your dilly-dallying and the dramatisation of your care-worn grief-stricken complaints that something is lacking from your happiness. No man is so completely happy that something somewhere does not clash with his condition. (2.4) It is pointless, therefore, to hope for anything or pray to escape anything. (5.3) Good fortune deceives, but bad fortune enlightens. (2.8) All the most happy men are over-sensitive. (2.4) There is something in each of us that escapes the notice of the man who has not experienced it, but causes horror to the man who has. (2.4) _____ Foolish the friends who called me happy then . . . (1.1) I have no desire to waste time on ordinary matters . . . (2.3) . . . and have present the infinity of fleeting time. (5.6) __________ The Paradise actually ends with a reminiscence of Boethius' caelo imperitans amor — 'the love that moves the sun and other stars' — and The Divine Comedy as a whole could be regarded as a great elaboration of Boethius' concept of the ascent of the soul to the contemplation of the mind of God and its return to its true home or patria in the scheme of the universe. —V. E. Watts, Introduction . . . having seen the sum of good, there sings a soul that showed the world's deceit to any who would heed. —Dante, Paradise, X

  30. 4 out of 5

    Aung Sett Kyaw Min

    The assumption that all things animate and inanimate innately strive for goodness figures prominently in Lady Philosophys cure for the state of despair in which Boethius found himself. It is this assumption, which is arguably teleological in nature, which also informs her lessons on the positive role of Fortune, the imperfection in perishable good, and the goodness in the punishment that the wicked receive. Meaning that there is still something to be salvaged in the moment the drive towards The assumption that all things animate and inanimate innately strive for goodness figures prominently in Lady Philosophy’s ‘cure’ for the state of despair in which Boethius found himself. It is this assumption, which is arguably teleological in nature, which also informs her lessons on the positive role of Fortune, the imperfection in perishable good, and the goodness in the punishment that the wicked receive. Meaning that there is still something to be salvaged in the moment the drive towards happiness falls short of fulfilling its objective. Fortune, though fickle in her temperament, allows Man to discern her true, constant nature (i.e. her capaciousness) through the very bad tidings which she imparts on him. Imperfection and perfection are always coupled. It is through intuitively presupposing the latter that we can recognize the former. The wicked can enjoy a tinge of goodness in the very punishment they received for their wickedness. They are ‘happier’ when they are fail to accomplish their wicked deeds and are punished than when they succeed at their wicked tasks and go about scot-free. What all these instances share in common is the underlying impression that failure to achieve goodness may itself serve as a condition for acquiring it, or to put it simply, there is a ‘good’, relatively speaking, to be found in the bad. The first among the subjects to receive Lady Philosophy’s treatment was Fortune. According to Philosophy, Fortune is a ‘random goddess’ who is fickle towards those who accept her gifts. Many a man do not realize her true nature so they become despondent the first instance Fortune turns her back on them. Yet in being capricious, Fortune is acting in accordance to her own ‘particular kind of constancy’, says Philosophy. Philosophy’s essential lesson is that one must take the good with the bad, so to speak, in accepting the judgment of Fortune—“[…] you ought to bear with equal equanimity whatever happens on Fortune’s playground". However, concede as though we may to this essential fact, there is still no happiness to be enjoyed in the blessings of Fortune as these blessings could always be taken away at a moment’s notice. The awareness of the ephemeral nature of the blessings which he presently enjoys generates anxiety and fear in the subject, so he can never become truly happy. Neither can the blindness of ignorance deliver happiness. Therefore, one can never attain happiness viz. the highest good, through Fortune’s arrangements. Yet for all of her reproach against Fortune for leading men astray Lady Philosophy nonetheless does have some positive things to say about the former. Specifically, she praises Fortune for the times when the latter lifts the veil of deception and appears to Man in her true countenance. While good fortune entices a man with the false promises of happiness, bad fortune takes hold of their consciousness and shatters this mirage. “[…] adverse fortune frequently draws men back to their true good like a shepherdess with a crook”. By rearing its ugly head Fortune compels men to return to the path of true good. For example, had it not been for the recent of turn of events, Philosophy argues, Boethius would have never been able to ascertain who among his circle of friends can be counted upon in times of severe distress and discover therefore his true friends. Philosophy’s change in attitude towards Fortune is even more pronounced at the end of the book IV, where she declares that all of Fortune is “good”. Fortune’s goodness has to do with the extent that it is useful in disciplining those who are already on the path of virtue and correcting and punishing those who are wicked. In the first case, Fortune is an adversity that tests man’s will to resist the vicissitudes of life and hold fast to his virtues. Fortune may also, in the very misery it dispenses, encourage wicked men to see the light, upon them bearing witness to the ruination of other wicked men. Moreover, on a deeper level, is not blotting out the distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fortune a move to restore unity (and hence, goodness) to what was originally undivided? Unity is identical with goodness, wealth, power, fame, strength. It is through bringing together these variety of qualities into one form, i.e. through the acquisition of unity, that true goodness is achieved. In book II Philosophy identifies the source and nature of false happiness among men as artificially dividing what is in its nature unified. This also shows up in Fortune’s indignant remarks against the Epicureans and Stoics for having torn off pieces of her garment and pretending therefore that they have seized hold of the whole of wisdom. Fortune can now participate in goodness because it is whole again. All these finer points suggest that while Fortune may itself incapable of conferring happiness or goodness, it nonetheless opens up a space or a condition of possibility of the pursuit of true happiness. The same idea also, in a way, informs Philosophy’s Platonic conception of perfection and imperfection. By recognizing the imperfection of certain thing one can intuit the perfect form of the thing, and catch a fleeting sense of maximal perfection, in comparison to which everything else is imperfect. This supreme perfection, for Philosophy, is none other than God himself. Here we should conceive of the term ‘form’ in its full Platonic weight as supreme perfection is not something that can be found on the mortal plane but instead belongs in a realm of its own, much like Plato’s forms. In any case, what Philosophy is telling us is in effect that one can come to recognize God (maximal perfection and supreme goodness) only through contact with that which is imperfect, in other words, that which is lacking in goodness. Imperfection and perfection logically necessitates each other. There has to be imperfection, or lack of goodness in the world for us to recognize and appreciate goodness itself. What about the punishment the wicked receive for their evil deeds? It too is good. However, the goodness of the punishment is not, as it was discussed earlier, conceived in terms of its usefulness in being a deterrent. Rather, the punishment is good because it delivers justice, which is good. This good lessens their misfortune. It is in this precise sense that Philosophy says that the wicked can enjoy a dose of happiness when they are subject to just retribution and are therefore made less miserable than when their deeds go unpunished. It is a testament to the optimistic belief that one can find happiness, however faint, in one’s punishment for unvirtuous acts. The world, even though it is a pale shadow of the state of perfection and goodness it was once blessed with, is nonetheless moving towards a better future in accordance to God’s Providence. Throughout the course of reconciling the existence of evil with that of a wholly good God Philosophy comes perilously close to denying the existence of evil, and even the humanity of those who perform evil deeds. Yet Philosophy and Boethius passionately believed in the intrinsic drive towards goodness in all things animate and inanimate.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.