Consolation Of Philosophy Summary


Consolation Of Philosophy

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Consolation Of Philosophy Summary

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Consolation of Philosophy, by Boethius,takes place while Boethius is waiting to be executed. Philosophy, in the body of a beautiful woman, arrives while he is in prison. She is intent on showing him that his sadness is foolish, and that, regardless whatis happening to his earthly body, he can find true happiness. That path to true happiness, according to the discourse between Philosophyand Boethius, is through the contemplation of God.

Because of his misery, Philosophy decides to make her point gradually by talking about Fortune. She reminds Boethius of what he knows as a philosopher—that Fortune is fickle. It may smile upon one in this stage of life, and take everything away in the next. Philosophy reminds him that wealth is only a loan. She then transitions away from the material to remind Boethius again of what he already knows—even if he had all the money in the world, it is worthless. He remembers that money does not equate to happiness.

They talk about the five elements that many believe lead to happiness: money, power, fame, honor, or pleasure. Boethius knows that none of these lead to any real kind of happiness. He and Philosophy discuss examples of men who have these things, yet are still miserable. Because people strive to find happiness, and they try to find happiness through those five elements, there must be some amount of good to them. Philosophy and Boethius concur that ultimate good comes from a combination of all five, not just one or a couple of them. If all of these goods together allow someone to be happy, that is perfection. Philosophy tells Boethius that God is perfection, and therefore he must be the highest good. Since good is equated with happiness, Philosophy convinces Boethius that God is happiness.

But, though Boethius agrees with Philosophy so far, he cannot yet see past his own misfortune. He asks a question common in the contemplation of God, happiness, and goodness. He asks why God, who is good, allows the just to endure suffering while the unjust and wicked seem to thrive. Philosophy’s answer is that, while it is easy to believe this is the case, it is actually the opposite. The just are justly rewarded. If happiness is derived from contemplating and seeking God, then those who are virtuous are rewarded. She also tells him that there is nothing in the world that can give one greater happiness than being close to God.

By punishing the wicked, Philosophy claims, they are made to see virtue and can then be made happy by correcting their evil ways. She says that for the unjust to continue behaving in evil ways is the worst thing for them, because it keeps them farther away from God and ultimate happiness. That, she says, is the definition of misery. While Fortune can seem unfair, Philosophy assures Boethius that God is always in control, and he allows the good to suffer in order to test their virtue. By remaining true to Him, their virtue is proved and they enjoy goodness and happiness. Philosophy closes this argument by telling Boethius that humans may not always understand God’s purpose, but that if they have faith in his perfect intelligence and goodness, they will find happiness in Him.

Despite having proven her point, Philosophy must answer another of Boethius’ questions. He wonders about free world. He asks, if God has a plan, a reason for everything to happen, then how is it that humans have free will? If they do have free will, he is concerned they could disrupt God’s plans. At the same time, if God has perfect intelligence and knows how a man will act before he thinks to act that way, then it is preordained and, therefore, not really free will. Philosophy responds that the limited intellect of humankind creates this contradiction. Humans are bound by time and their own mortality, whereas God, according to Philosophy, is eternal. Because of this, a person may act using free will and still be in line with God’s plans, which do not concern the moment-to-moment actions, but all of history.

Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius was a Roman mathematician and philosopher who died somewhere around the year 525. He was responsible for translating many ancient Greek texts into Latin. He was an aristocrat who studied in either Alexandria or Athens. Accused of treason and conspiracy,his involvement in court politics led to his arrest and execution when he was about fifty years old. He served as consul in the year 510, and around 523, he was made master of offices. This was one of the highest and most prestigious roles in the court of the Ostrogoth king, Theodoric. During his imprisonment,he wrote Consolation of Philosophy.