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The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin Classics) Reissue Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0140447804
ISBN-10: 0140447806
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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Latin

From the Back Cover

The Consolation of Philosophy is perhaps unique in the nature and extent of its influence on Western thinking.

An eminent public figure under the Gothic emperor Theodoric, Boethius (c. A D 475-525) was also an exceptional Greek scholar and it was to the Greek philosophers that he turned when he fell from favour and was imprisoned in Pavia. Written in the period leading up to his brutal execution, it is a dialogue of alternating prose and verse between the ailing prisoner and his 'nurse' Philosophy, whose instruction on the nature of fortune and happiness, good and evil, fate and free will, restore his health and bring him to enlightenment.

The clarity of Boethius's thought and his breadth of vision made The Consolation of Philosophy hugely popular throughout medieval Europe and his ideas suffused the thought of Chaucer and Dante. This translation makes it accessible to the modern reader while losing nothing of Boethius's poetic artistry and philosophical brilliance.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 155 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (May 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140447806
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140447804
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.3 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,215 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
I didn't know exactly what to expect when I first picked up a modern-English translation of Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius' _The Consolation of Philosophy_. I knew that Boethius was held to be one of the greatest thinkers of his time--a child prodigy from a distinguished Roman family, a distinguished student of Greek, who essayed to translate all of Plato and Aristotle into Latin, and reconcile their philosophies (a task which he never completed). I knew that _The Consolation_ was held to be one of the most influential books of the middle-ages: translated into English by Geoffrey Chaucer and no less than two English monarchs.
I didn't expect the fusion of allegorical tale, platonic dialogue, and lyrical poetry (the genre is officially called the Menippean Satire)that I found. The issues _The Consolation of Philosophy_ addresses were already the time-worn province of philosophical thought by the time that Boethius essayed to address them: the nature of predestination and free will, why evil men often prosper and good men (as Boethius thought himself) often fall into ruin, the nature of the relationship between time and eternity. And the answers are mostly not new with him either: long chains of sophistical reasonings that prove, among other things, that evil men do not wholly exist, and that by allowing them to obtain their evil desires, God is punishing them more terribly than if he had stopped them. The answers are familiar, in tone, if not in exact content: a mystic-based neoplatonic vision of God as an eternal oneness, to which the soul rises through the layers of being. A somewhat recursively defined and unworldly 'good,' to which all souls aspire.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a must for any student of philosophy. Boethius is the transition from Roman and Neo-Platonic philosophy into the Medieval Period.
I would also recommend this book to those facing doubt in their studies, or college students thinking of quitting. It is a short work, easy to read and great in its comfort.
"Be not overcome by your misfortunes, for the gifts of fortune are fleeting and happiness is not to be found in temporal goods. Only by being like God, who is the highest good, can lasting happiness come to man." Lady Philosophy counsels.
Although the work is neo-Platonic Aristotle and Porphyry are heavily drawn from - so the advanced reader could consider those volumes too.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Axel Boethius wrote this book under the most horrifying circumstances imaginable; while awaiting his own rather grisly execution. What surfaces from these extreme and morose circumstances is a true masterpiece of philosophy.
The book is told in the same general style as a Platonic dialogue, with two interlocutors; Boetheius and the personification of Philosophy. Boethius chooses a Lady figure to represent the avatar of Philosophy. Its construction reminds me very much of Diotema's parlance with Socrates in Plato's "Symposium."
In the book, Boethius does a Christianizing interpretation of many classical myths and allegories. My favorite was the spin he put on the myth of Orpheus in the underworld.
This is a fine book in the history of philosophy and religion; a must read for medieval scholars.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Boethius: The Consolation of Philosophy

Translation and Introduction by V.E. Watts

There is no excuse for anyone to *not* read this book: it is a quick read, with a very thorough and enlightening introduction by V.E. Watts. However, it is profound, and Boethius, with his gentle tone and elegant style, by means of a Socratic dialogue thoroughly and irrefutably answers the most troubling questions we have about life and God.

As mentioned earlier, Boethius wrote this while unjustly imprisoned. His life prior had been spent in the study of the great philosophers. From what historians gather, he later died a death of torture. His situation was the gravest imaginable; he went from a position of wealth and respect to the worst fate possible. Ironically, that makes his argument that much more persuasive: that a man suffering the worst of life could still come to the conclusions that he does gives comfort and hope to anyone who has ever suffered.

Boethius didactically addresses:

How do we know God exists?

How do we know God is Divine?

What is the meaning of life? (And for all of you Adams fans, no, the answer is not 42. :-)

If God is good, how can evil exist?

What is the nature of evil?

If God is good, how come bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people?

Why do so many in the world suffer?

How can God be omniscient and humans still have free will? Why is foreknowledge not equated with predestination?

I came to this precious book for more understanding in Medieval study. When I discovered that this book is also appropriate--nay, necessary--to life today, I became greatly annoyed that it is not more well-known and more widely read. This book is a great comfort, and one worthy of lifelong meditation.
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