The Full Wiki

More info on Consolation of Philosophy

Consolation of Philosophy: Map

Advertisements
  
  

Wikipedia article:

Map showing all locations mentioned on Wikipedia article:

Consolation of Philosophy ( ) is a philosophical work by Boethius, written around the year AD 524. It has been described as the single most important and influential work in the West on Medieval and early Renaissance Christianity, and is also the last great Western work that can be called Classical.

Consolation of Philosophy

Consolation of Philosophy was written during Boethius' one year imprisonment while awaiting trial, and eventual horrific execution, for the crime of treason by Ostrogothic King Theodoric the Great. Boethius was at the very heights of power in Rome and was brought down by treachery. This experience inspired the text, which reflects on how evil can exist in a world governed by God, and how happiness can be attainable amidst fickle fortune, while also considering the nature of happiness and God. It has been described as "by far the most interesting example of prison literature the world has ever seen."

Boethius writes the book as a conversation between himself and Lady Philosophy. She consoles Boethius by discussing the transitory nature of fame and wealth ("no man can ever truly be secure until he has been forsaken by Fortune"), and the ultimate superiority of things of the mind, which she calls the "one true good". She contends that happiness comes from within, and that one's virtue is all that one truly has, because it is not imperiled by the vicissitudes of fortune.

Boethius engages questions such as the nature of predestination and free will, why evil men often prosper and good men fall into ruin, human nature, virtue, and justice. He speaks about the nature of free will versus determinism when he asks if God knows and sees all, or does man have free will. To quote V.E. Watts on Boethius, God is like a spectator at a chariot race; He watches the action the charioteers perform, but this does not cause them. On human nature, Boethius says that humans are essentially good and only when they give in to “wickedness” do they “sink to the level of being an animal.” On justice, he says criminals are not to be abused, rather treated with sympathy and respect, using the analogy of doctor and patient to illustrate the ideal relationship between criminal and prosecutor.

Boethius sought to answer religious questions without reference to Christianity, relying solely on natural philosophy and the Classical Greek tradition. He believed in harmony between faith and reason. The truths found in Christianity would be no different from the truths found in philosophy. In the words of Henry Chadwick, "If the Consolation contains nothing distinctively Christian, it is also relevant that it contains nothing specifically pagan either...[it] is a work written by a Platonist who is also a Christian, but is not a Christian work."

Influence

From the Carolingian epoch to the end of the Middle Ages and beyond, this was the most widely copied work of secular literature in Europe. It was one of the most popular and influential philosophical works, read by statesmen, poets, and historians, as well as of philosophers and theologians. It is through Boethius that much of the thought of the Classical period was made available to the Western Medieval world. It has often been said Boethius was the “last of the Romans and the first of the Scholastics”.
From a 1385 Italian manuscript of the Consolation: Miniatures of Boethius teaching and in prison
The philosophical message of the book fit well with the religious piety of the Middle Ages. Readers were encouraged not to seek worldly goods such as money and power, but to seek internalized virtues. Evil had a purpose, to provide a lesson to help change for good; while suffering from evil was seen as virtuous. Because God ruled the universe through Love, prayer to God and the application of Love would lead to true happiness. The Middle Ages, with their vivid sense of an overruling fate, found in Boethius an interpretation of life closely akin to the spirit of Christianity. The Consolation of Philosophy stands, by its note of fatalism and its affinities with the Christian doctrine of humility, midway between the pagan philosophy of Seneca the Younger and the later Christian philosophy of consolation represented by Thomas Aquinas.

The book is heavily influenced by Plato and his dialogues (as was Boethius himself). Its popularity can in part be explained by its neoplatonic and Christian ethical messages, although current scholarly research is still far from clear exactly why and how the work became so vastly popular in the Middle Ages. Notably, the book has not received much attention in the recent modern era, possibly in part because of its foreign inward looking virtues and rejection of the modern emphasis on material productiveness. As Sanderson Beck says of the Middle Ages:
“Who can say that this inward period of humanity did not prepare the way for the productiveness of the Renaissance like a person quiets one's consciousness in contemplation and prayer before creating a great work of art or literature or science? The Middle Ages were difficult times politically and economically, but who can estimate how much happiness they inwardly received from the Consolation of Philosophy?”.


Translations into the vernacular were done by famous notables, including King Alfred (Old English), Jean de Meun (Old French), Geoffrey Chaucer (Middle English), Queen Elizabeth I (Early Modern English), and Notker Labeo (Old High German).

Found within Consolation are themes that have echoed throughout the Western canon: the female figure of wisdom that informs Dante, the ascent through the layered universe that is shared with Milton, the reconciliation of opposing forces that find their way into Chaucer in The Knight's Tale, and the Wheel of Fortune so popular throughout the Middle Ages.

Citations from it occur frequently in Dante's Divina Commedia. Of Boethius, Dante remarked “The blessed soul who exposes the deceptive world to anyone who gives ear to him.”

Boethian influence can be found nearly everywhere in Geoffrey Chaucer's poetry, e.g. in Troilus and Criseyde, The Knight's Tale, The Clerk's Tale, The Franklin's Tale, The Parson's Tale and The Tale of Melibee, in the character of Lady Nature in The Parliament of Fowls and some of the shorter poems, such as Truth, The Former Age and Lak of Stedfastnesse. Chaucer translated the work in his Boece.

Many 19th century poets reference Boethius.

Tom Shippey in The Road to Middle-earth says how “Boethian” much of the treatment of evil is in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Shippey says that Tolkien knew well the translation of Boethius that was made by King Alfred and he quotes some “Boethian” remarks from Frodo, Treebeard, and Elrond.

Boethius and Consolatio Philosophiae are cited frequently by the main character Ignatius J. Reilly in the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Confederacy of Dunces (1980).

The work and its author is referenced to comic effect in the 2002 film 24 Hour Party People. A homeless panhandler offers the following quotation from Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy to music promoter/producer Tony Wilson: "It's my belief that history is a wheel. 'Inconsistency is my very essence,' says the wheel. 'Rise up on my spokes if you like, but don't complain when you are cast back down into the depths. Good times pass away, but then so do the bad. Mutability is our tragedy, but it is also our hope. The worst of times, like the best, are always passing away.'" (Wilson replies, "I know.") He later quotes the line as he hosts an episode of the game show Wheel of Fortune.

It is a prosimetrical text, meaning that it is written in alternating sections of prose and metered verse. In the course of the text, Boethius displays a virtuosic command of the forms of Latin poetry. It is classified as a Menippean satire, a fusion of allegorical tale, platonic dialogue, and lyrical poetry.

In the 20th century there were close to four hundred manuscripts still surviving, a testament to its former popularity.

See also



Notes

  1. The Consolation of Philosophy (Oxford World's Classics), Introduction (2000)
  2. Dante placed Boethius the “last of the Romans and first of the Scholastics” among the doctors in his Paradise (see The Divine Comedy) (see also below).
  3. Catholic Encyclopedia. The quote is commonly seen in a number of sources, but without attribution; the Catholic Encyclopedia article is the oldest “known” citation found.
  4. The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin Classics), Introduction, xxxi, 2000. ISBN 0140447806. [1]
  5. Henry Chadwick, Boethius: The Consolations of Music, Logic, Theology and Philosophy, 1990, ISBN 0-19-826549-2
  6. Sanderson Beck (1996).
  7. The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Volume I Ch.6.5: De Consolatione Philosophiae, 1907–1921.
  8. Dante The Divine Comedy. “blessed souls” inhabit Dante's Paradise, and appear as flames. (see note above).
  9. Tom Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth, pg. 140, ISBN 0-395-33973-1, (1983).


Sources

  • Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy.
    • trans. Richard H. Green, (Library of the Liberal Arts), 1962. ISBN 002346450X
    • trans. Joel C. Relihan, (Hackett Publishing), 2001. ISBN 0-8722-0583-5
    • trans. P. G. Walsh, (Oxford World's Classics), 2001. ISBN 0-19-283883-0
    • trans. Victor Watts, (Penguin Classics), 2000. ISBN 0-14-044780-6
  • Sanderson Beck, The Consolation of Boethius an analysis and commentary. 1996.
  • .
  • Henry Chadwick, Boethius: The Consolations of Music, Logic, Theology and Philosophy, 1990, ISBN 0-19-826549-2
  • C.S. Lewis, The Discarded Image : An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature, 1964, ISBN 0-521-47735-2
  • The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Volume I Ch.6.5: De Consolatione Philosophiae, 1907–1921.


External links




Embed code:
Advertisements






Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address
Message