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Encyclopedia > Consolation of Philosophy
This early printed book has many hand-painted illustrations depicting Lady Philosophy and scenes of daily life in fifteenth-century Ghent (1485)
This early printed book has many hand-painted illustrations depicting Lady Philosophy and scenes of daily life in fifteenth-century Ghent (1485)

Consolation of Philosophy (Latin: Consolatio Philosophiae) is a philosophical work by Boethius written in about the year 524 AD. It has been described as the single most important and influential work in the West in medieval and early Renaissance Christianity, and is also the last great work that can be called Classical.[1][2] This image has been released into the public domain by the copyright holder, its copyright has expired, or it is ineligible for copyright. ... This image has been released into the public domain by the copyright holder, its copyright has expired, or it is ineligible for copyright. ... Gent at Night Ghent (IPA: ; Gent in Dutch; Gand in French, formerly Gaunt in English) is a city and a municipality located in Flanders, Belgium. ... Latin is an ancient Indo-European language originally spoken in Latium, the region immediately surrounding Rome. ... Boethius teaching his students (initial from a 1385 Italian manuscript of the Consolation of Philosophy) Boethius redirects here. ... Events Childebert I annexes Orléans and Chartres after the death of Chlodomer. ...

Contents

Consolation of Philosophy

“A golden volume not unworthy of the leisure of Plato or Tully.” —Edward Gibbon[3]

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. It was from this experience he was inspired to write a philosophical book from prison reflecting on how a lord's favor could change so quickly and why friends would turn against him. It has been described as “by far the most interesting example of prison literature the world has ever seen.” [4] Cicero at about age 60, from an ancient marble bust Marcus Tullius Cicero (IPA: ; Classical pronunciation:  ; January 3, 106 BC – December 7, 43 BC) was an orator, statesman, political theorist, lawyer and philosopher of Ancient Rome. ... Edward Gibbon (1737–1794). ... For other uses, see Treason (disambiguation). ... Map of Ostrogothic Kingdom The Ostrogoths (Greuthung, Gleaming Goths or Eastern Goths), in distinction from the Visigoths (Noble Goths or Western Goths), were a Germanic tribe that influenced political events of the late Roman Empire. ... Gold medallion of Theodoric, discovered at Sinigaglia, Italy in the 19th century. ...


Boethius writes the book as a conversation between himself and the Queen of Science, Lady Philosophy. She consoles Boethius' failed fortunes by discussing the transitory nature of earthly belongings, and the ultimate superiority of things of the mind, which she calls the “one true good." She says happiness comes from within, something that Lady Fortune can never take away: “Why, then, O mortal men, do you seek that happiness outside, which lies within yourselves?” In Roman mythology, Fortuna was the personification of luck, hopefully of good luck. ...


Boethius discusses time-worn philosophical questions such as the nature of predestination and free will, why evil men often prosper and good men fall into ruin, what is human nature, and to define 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 VE. 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.[5] 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. Predestination is a religious idea, under which the relationship between the beginning of things and the destiny of things is discussed. ... Free will is the philosophical doctrine that holds that our choices are ultimately up to ourselves. ... Human nature is the fundamental nature and substance of humans, as well as the range of human behavior that is believed to be invariant over long periods of time and across very different cultural contexts. ... Personification of virtue (Greek ἀρετή) in Celsus Library in Ephesos, Turkey Virtue (Latin virtus; Greek ) is moral excellence of a person. ... J.L. Urban, statue of Lady Justice at court building in Olomouc, Czech Republic Justice is the ideal, morally correct state of things and persons. ...


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.”[6]


Influence

“To acquire a taste for it is almost to become naturalised in the Middle Ages.” — C.S. Lewis[7]
From a 1385 Italian manuscript of the Consolation: Minatures of Boethius teaching and in prison
From a 1385 Italian manuscript of the Consolation: Minatures of Boethius teaching and in prison

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”.[2] Clive Staples Lewis (November 29, 1898 – November 22, 1963), commonly referred to as C. S. Lewis, was an author and scholar. ... Image File history File links Download high resolution version (928x1286, 257 KB) Summary Minatures of Boethius teaching and imprisoned Boethius, On the Consolation of Philosophy Italy, 1385 MS Hunter 374 (V.1. ... Image File history File links Download high resolution version (928x1286, 257 KB) Summary Minatures of Boethius teaching and imprisoned Boethius, On the Consolation of Philosophy Italy, 1385 MS Hunter 374 (V.1. ... Also see: France in the Middle Ages. ...


The philosophical message of the book fit well with the religious piety of the Middle Ages. Readers were encouraged not to seek wordly 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.[8] 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 heathen philosophy of Seneca the Younger and the later Christian philosophy of consolation represented by Thomas Aquinas.[9] Bust, traditionally thought to be Seneca, now identified by some as Hesiod. ... Saint Thomas Aquinas [Thomas of Aquin, or Aquino] (c. ...


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.[8] As Sanderson Beck says of the Middle Ages: For other uses, see Plato (disambiguation). ... Socratic dialogue (Greek Σωκρατικός λόγος or Σωκρατικός διάλογος), is a prose literary form developed in Greece at the turn of the fourth century BCE, preserved today in the dialogues of Plato and the Socratic works of Xenophon - either dramatic or narrative - in which characters discuss moral and philosophical problems. ... Neoplatonism (also Neo-Platonism) is an ancient school of philosophy beginning in the 3rd century A.D. It was based on the teachings of Plato and Platonists; but it interpreted Plato in many new ways, such that Neoplatonism was quite different from what Plato taught, though not many Neoplatonists would...

Lady Fortune with her wheel in a medieval manuscript of a work by Boccaccio; Consolation of Philosophy was responsible for the popularity of the goddess of Fortune in the Middle Ages
Lady Fortune with her wheel in a medieval manuscript of a work by Boccaccio; Consolation of Philosophy was responsible for the popularity of the goddess of Fortune in 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?”.[8]

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), Notker Teutonicus (Old German). Image File history File links Download high resolution version (914x1291, 324 KB) Summary From: http://special. ... Image File history File links Download high resolution version (914x1291, 324 KB) Summary From: http://special. ... Giovanni Boccaccio (June 16, 1313 - December 21, 1375) was a Florentine author and poet, the greatest of Petrarchs disciples, an important Renaissance humanist in his own right and author of a number of notable works including On Famous Women, the Decameron and his poems in the vernacular. ... Look up Vernacular in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Alfred (849? – 26 October 899) (sometimes spelt Ælfred) was king of England from 871 to 899, though at no time did he rule over the whole of the land. ... Old English (also called Anglo-Saxon) is an early form of the English language that was spoken in parts of what is now England and southern Scotland between the mid-fifth century and the mid-twelfth century. ... Jean de Meun or Jean de Meung (c. ... Old French was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories corresponding roughly to the northern half of modern France and parts of Belgium and Switzerland from around 1000 to 1300 A.D. It was known at the time as the langue doïl to distinguish it from the langue... Geoffrey Chaucer (c. ... Middle English is the name given by historical linguistics to the diverse forms of the English language spoken between the Norman invasion of 1066 and the mid-to-late 15th century, when the Chancery Standard, a form of London-based English, began to become widespread, a process aided by the... Elizabeth I Queen of England and Ireland Queen of France, nominal title Elizabeth I (September 7, 1533–March 24, 1603) was Queen of England and Queen of Ireland from November 17, 1558 until her death. ... Early Modern English refers to the stage of the English language used from about the end of the Middle English period (the later half of the 1400s) to 1650. ... Notker Labeo, also known as Notker Teutonicus i. ... The term Old High German (OHG, German: Althochdeutsch) refers to the earliest stage of the German language and it conventionally covers the period from around 500 to 1050. ...


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, 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.”[10] Dante redirects here. ... ...


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. Geoffrey Chaucer (c. ... Troilus and Criseyde is Geoffrey Chaucers poem in rhyme royal re-telling the tragic love story of Troilus, a Trojan prince, and Criseyde. ... The Knights Tale is the first tale from Geoffrey Chaucers The Canterbury Tales. ... The Clerks Tale is the first tale of Group E in Geoffrey Chaucers The Canterbury Tales. ... The Franklins Tale is one of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. ... This is the last tale from Geoffrey Chaucers The Canterbury Tales. ... The Tale of Melibee is one of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. ... The Parlement of Foules (also known as the Parliament of Fowls, Parlement of Briddes, Assembly of Fowls or Assemble of Foules) is a poem by Geoffrey Chaucer (1343?-1400) made up by approximately 700 lines. ... Boece is Geoffrey Chaucers translation into Middle English of The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius. ...


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.[11] Thomas Alan Shippey (born 1943) is a scholar of medieval literature, including Anglo-Saxon England, and of modern fantasy and science fiction, in particular the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, about whom he has written several scholarly studies. ... J. R. R. Tolkien in 1916, wearing his British Army uniform in a photograph from the middle years of WW1. ... The Lord of the Rings is an epic high fantasy novel written by English academic J. R. R. Tolkien. ...


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 gold medal awarded for Public Service in Journalism The Pulitzer Prize is an American award regarded as the highest honor in print journalism, literary achievements, and musical compositions. ... A Confederacy of Dunces is a novel written by John Kennedy Toole, published in 1980, 11 years after the authors suicide. ...


It is a prosimeter (and probably the most famous one), written in sections alternately of narrative prose and more contemplative verse, which display 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. To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Verse is a writing that uses meter as its primary organisational mode, as opposed to prose, which uses grammatical and discoursal units like sentences and paragraphs. ... Latin poetry was a major part of Latin literature during the height of the Latin language. ... Menippean Satire is a term employed broadly to refer to satires that are rhapsodic in nature, combining many different targets of ridicule into a fragmented satiric narrative. ... An allegory (from Greek αλλος, allos, other, and αγορευειν, agoreuein, to speak in public) is a figurative mode of representation conveying a meaning other than (and in addition to) the literal. ... For other uses, see Plato (disambiguation). ...


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


See also

Wikisource
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
De philosophiae consolatione
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External links

  • Boethius: Consolatio Philosophiae in the original Latin with English comments at the University of Virginia's Library Electronic Text Center.
  • Consolatio Philosophiae from Project Gutenburg, beautiful HTML conversion, originally translated by H.R. James, London 1897.

Project Gutenberg (PG) was launched by Michael Hart in 1971 in order to provide a library, on what would later become the Internet, of free electronic versions (sometimes called e-texts) of physically existing books. ...

Sources

The Catholic Encyclopedia is an English-language encyclopedia published in 1913 by the Roman Catholic Church, designed to give authoritative information on the entire cycle of Catholic interests, action and doctrine. Starting in 1993, the encyclopedia (now in the public domain) was placed on the Internet through a world-wide... The Cambridge History of English and American Literature. ...

Notes

  1. ^ The Consolation of Philosophy (Oxford World's Classics), Introduction (2000)
  2. ^ a b 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. ^ Edward Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ The Consolation of Philosophy (Oxford World's Classics), Introduction (2000)
  6. ^ Henry Chadwick, Boethius: The Consolations of Music, Logic, Theology and Philosophy, 1990, ISBN 0-19-826549-2
  7. ^ C.S. Lewis, The Discarded Image : An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature, 1964, ISBN 0-521-47735-2, pg. 75
  8. ^ a b c Sanderson Beck (1996).
  9. ^ The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Volume I Ch.6.5: De Consolatione Philosophiae, 1907-1921.
  10. ^ Dante The Divine Comedy. “blessed souls” inhabit Dante's Paradise, and appear as flames. (see note above).
  11. ^ Tom Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth, pg. 140, ISBN 0-395-33973-1, (1983).

  Results from FactBites:
 
Consolation of Philosophy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1380 words)
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.
The Consolation of Philosophy stands, by its note of fatalism and its affinities with the Christian doctrine of humility, midway between the heathen philosophy of Seneca the Younger and the later Christian philosophy of consolation represented by Thomas Aquinas.
Sanderson Beck, The Consolation of Boethius an analysis and commentary.
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) (7405 words)
Philosophy's first job—true to the generic aim of a consolatio—is to console, not by offering sympathy, but by showing that Boethius has no good reason to complain: true happiness, she wishes to argue, is not damaged even by the sort of disaster he has experienced.
Philosophy is therefore able to put forward emphatically two of the most counter-intuitive claims of the Gorgias: that the wicked are happier when they are prevented from their evil and punished for it, than when they carry it out with impunity, and that those who do injustice are unhappier than those who suffer it.
Philosophy, he might be suggesting, provides arguments and solutions to problems which should be accepted and it teaches a way of living that should be followed, but it falls short of providing a coherent and comprehensive understanding of God and his relation to creatures.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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