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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Philosophy as Religion, February 23, 2001
By 
C. King Khidr (Damascus, Syria) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Consolation of Philosophy: Boethius (Paperback)
That Boethius was the "last of the Romans and the first of the scholastics", as has often been said of him, makes him a most unusual character in the history of thought. Serving as a bridge between two worlds, his writings, infused with the ideas of both Aristotle and Plato -- the two giants of ancient Greek philosophy -- allowed for the transmission of Neoplatonism into the emerging Christian intellectual tradition. Through the figure of Boethius the Latin West came to inherit many of the achievements of Greek learning.
The Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius's magnum opus, was one of the most widely read works in medieval Europe, especially in the twelfth century. No doubt, the dramatic context in which the work was written must have greatly accentuated its popularity. But there is more to the Consolation then simply a dramatic background, and this feature in itself would hardly explain the influence of the work on figures ranging from King Alfred to St.Thomas Aquinas. Boethius, being at once a Christian and a philosopher, was confident that reason and faith were reconcilable, and his entire literary enterprise can be summarised in his own words: fidem rationemque coniunge (show the harmony of reason and faith). An inheritor of the Greek tradition, he held that the world was a KOSMOS -- rationally structured, therefore rationally knowable. What makes the Consolation unique is that although it is a religious text, it doesn't make recourse to revealed religion; in Boethius's case, Christianity. That Boethius sought to answer religious questions without reference to Christianity, relying solely on natural philosophy, caused some later figures to question his religious allegiance prior to his death. But Boethius, as has been pointed out, believed in the harmony of faith and reason; being a Christian-Neoplatonic philosopher, for him to have found solace in philosophy does not imply that he left Christianity. For the truths found in Christianity would be no different than the truths found in philosophy, and whether consolation was found in the religion of Christ or Socrates would make no great difference. 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."
The Consolation begins with Boethius lamenting his plight. Dame Philosophy descends to provide consolance to his bereaved soul, cure him of the extreme melancholy, and rid him of his misfortune, not that of his imprisonment and loss of worldly goods and status, but the spiritual ailment clouding his intellectual vision.
Boethius's troubles, Lady Philosophy tells him, lie within himself. He has been driven into exile by himself. "For if you can remember your true country...'it has one ruler and one king'" and the "oldest law of your true city, [is] that the citizen who has chosen to establish his home there has a sacred right not to be driven away". Dame Philosophy is here referring to his self, the mind. For Boethius, being distracted by external matters, (both the fortunes of his luxurious life and the misfortunes of his political imprisonment), has forgotten his real source of happiness, whose fountain lies within.
In short, the Consolation examines the raison d'etre of philosophy, and its capacity to bring about true and complete happiness -- a happiness which can be acquired by unearthing the hidden treasures which dwell within. Hence philosophy is not an end in itself -- a fruitless game of mental acrobatics -- anymore than a shovel is for one in search of Sophia's treasures.
Boethius expresses the Socratic idea that all men seek the Good, and the Aristotelian idea that this Good is eudaimonia. The attainment of happiness is found through a return of the soul to its primordial state, since "You, too, who are creatures dream of your origin". By the end of the Consolation, Boethius, remembering who he truly is -- a rational being endowed with a purpose, to actualise the good and fulfil his true nature -- recovers from his spiritual amnesia through a discovery of the remedy for his extreme sickness: philosophy.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Providence, Fortune, and Fate., December 31, 2004
By 
This review is from: The Consolation of Philosophy: Boethius (Paperback)
This is an account of the ability of the human mind to rise above a man's material failures and the external evils that assault him. Boethius (c 480-524 AD), a Roman scholar and philosopher/statesman, has led a life of privilege and influence. He has taken a stand of conscience in support of the integrity of the Roman senate and, in doing so, has taken a stand contrary to the designs of the Ostrogothic king Theodoric. He is imprisoned (and eventually executed), presumably for subversion or treason, on the strength of perjured testimony against him.
Boethius laments his adverse 'fortunes' and has a vision in which a majestic woman appears to counsel him. She tells him "it is time for medicine rather than complaint," and that he suffers from "the common illness of deceived minds." Boethius recognizes her -- "I saw that she was Philosophy, my nurse, in whose house I had lived from my youth." The consolations that follow are structured in five books (i.e., chapters).
In Book Two, Lady Philosophy examines the nature of the gifts of Fortune. These gifts of Fortune cannot be "good in themselves; whatever goodness is associated with them is to be found in the personal probity of those who happen to possess them." In Book Three, evil is seen as merely the absence of the Good, as Augustine of Hippo had earlier argued. In Book Four, the question of whether virtue is rewarded and evil is punished is examined. At first look it certainly appears that evil often succeeds. Here Providence is contrasted to Fate. For this reader, books three and four were rather weakly argued and tedious, although I am always reluctant to say this about a classic work such as this. The strengths of The Consolation are books 1, 2, and 5.
Book Five is an excellent consideration of the determinism versus freedom problem. If goodness and evil are pre-assigned by Providence, then God cannot be omnibenevolent; in this view, God has willfully authored and imposed evil. There is no such thing as choice or judgment, no such thing as virtue, and all evil must be traced directly to a perverse divine evil. This is a pill that is almost impossible to swallow. It runs contrary to our ideas about God, it runs contrary to our common experiences for we do in fact exercise judgment, make choices, recognize virtue to be something quite at odds with vice. Goodness cannot be devoid of freedom, the Supreme Good cannot, by definition, deny the freedom of the human will. The problem is satisfactorily disposed by carefully considering the nature of Absolute knowledge and by not confusing it, as a flawed theology often does, with 'foreknowledge', a humanly impoverished idea not sufficient to describe the nature of knowledge for a temporally independent and omniscient Being. While the problematic idea of divine 'foreknowledge' suggests both temporal/spatial restraints ("fore") and fake choices, the idea of Absolute knowledge poses no obstacle for the freedom of the will or true omnipresence in both space and time. The general argument of this chapter is one of Boethius' best.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Faith and philosophy in the early Middle Ages, September 1, 2007
By 
doc peterson (Portland, Oregon USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Awaiting his execution on trumpted up charges, Boethius attempts to reconcile his unjust sentence with concepts of "justice", "power", "happiness" and of course, "faith." Considered the first truly medieval philosopher, Boethius conducts a Platonic dialogue with Lady Philosophy, attempting to reconcile his Christian faith with the classical rationalist philosophy of Artistotle and Plato. What results is the first elucidation of "scholasticism" - and Boethius' conclusion that faith and reason are reconcilable.

Beyond the philosophical, I was struck by Boethius' resignation to his fate and his quiet confidence in the wrongs being righted. "No one can doubt that God is almighty" Philosophy began. "Certainly not, unless he is mad" I answered. "But nothing is impossible for one who is almighty." "Nothing." "Then can God do evil?" "No, of course not." "Then evil is nothing, since God, who can do all things, cannot do evil."

Both an excellent philosophical tract and a testament to the strength of human reason and belief, I highly recommend it.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When you find yourself in times of trouble...., March 12, 2006
By 
The truly amazing thing about this work is that it was written in PRISON as Boethius awaited execution (following judgment and conviction based upon spurious charges). Bearing that in mind as I read "The Consolation of Philosophy" (if anyone ever needed consolation, it was an innocent man awaiting his own death; Christians should be able to relate to that idea) made it all the more remarkable. If you ever feel that life isn't fair, that others have it "in" for you, that it's tough to get an even break, maybe reading this will put things in better perspective. If not, it won't be due to Boethius' shortcomings....
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The One and the Good, March 8, 2006
By 
OAKSHAMAN "oakshaman" (Algoma, WI United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
_Here you find the unequivocal declaration that not riches, not high position, not fame, not physical pleasure are worth pursuing in-and-of themselves. Such things are of value only if they are obtained in the pursuit of the highest Good. This highest Good is demonstrated to be God. Moreover, Boethius points out that when evil men succeed in obtaining such goals over the righteous, then they cease to truly be men- they are beasts and subhuman. This is a refreshing reminder in the modern world, a world not unlike that of late Roman times.

_All happyness, all worth, all reason for being, lies in the One and the Good. Even when we commit immoral acts, it is a result of ignorance on our part in seeking this ultimate goal. Indeed, to turn from the quest of finding the One is to cease to exist at any meaningful level. There is no "fire and brimstone", or talk of eternal torment in hell here. There doesn't need to be. As long as you willfully or ignorantly stray from the Path then you are in hell. And to not find reconnection with the One and the Good is to cease to exist. All of our earthly existence is for the purpose of reawakening to our true nature. This truth lies within all of us and it is only reached by personal introspection (Know thyself.) Only in this way will we return to the eternal Source that lies beyond time itself.

_The consolation of the Consolatio lies in the fact that suffering serves a purpose if it puts us back on the true Path. Moreover, earthly recognition of virtue is irrelevent. God always recognises the man of virtue if the masses do not.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten who you really are? So has Boethius..., October 28, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Consolation of Philosophy: Boethius (Paperback)
This is the greatest self-help book of all time. It tells the story of Boethius, a prominent Roman who has been thrown in prison. There, he is visited by Lady Philosophy, and begins to become free.
It is very moving stuff. If you ever wonder where The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile come from, this is it.
The language is very easy to read. And you wouldn't be doing yourself justice - to not read it in one sitting. It is a rollercoaster that you won't want to get off. It is that good.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The One and the Good, July 31, 2005
By 
OAKSHAMAN "oakshaman" (Algoma, WI United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Consolation of Philosophy: Boethius (Paperback)
_Here you find the unequivocal declaration that not riches, not high position, not fame, not physical pleasure are worth pursuing in-and-of themselves. Such things are of value only if they are obtained in the pursuit of the highest Good. This highest Good is demonstrated to be God. Moreover, Boethius points out that when evil men succeed in obtaining such goals over the righteous, then they cease to truly be men- they are beasts and subhuman. This is a refreshing reminder in the modern world, a world not unlike that of late Roman times.

_All happiness, all worth, all reason for being, lies in the One and the Good. Even when we commit immoral acts, it is a result of ignorance on our part in seeking this ultimate goal. Indeed, to turn from the quest of finding the One is to cease to exist at any meaningful level. There is no "fire and brimstone", or talk of eternal torment in hell here. There doesn't need to be. As long as you willfully or ignorantly stray from the Path then you are in hell. And to not find reconnection with the One and the Good is to cease to exist. All of our earthly existence is for the purpose of reawakening to our true nature. This truth lies within all of us and it is only reached by personal introspection (Know thyself.) Only in this way will we return to the eternal Source that lies beyond time itself.

_The consolation of the Consolatio lies in the fact that suffering serves a purpose if it puts us back on the true Path. Moreover, earthly recognition of virtue is irrelevent. God always recognises the man of virtue if the masses do not.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read, October 9, 2008
By 
K. Guerin (San Diego, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The most important text of the Middle Ages and a best seller for 1,000 years. If you want to know why people are unhappy READ THIS BOOK!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something lacking in today's Post-Western world, July 12, 2013
This review is from: The Consolation of Philosophy: Boethius (Paperback)
We look for the quick answer, and the easy answer. We expect wheat from a field we have never planted, and grapes from vines we have never tended.
This is not a quick skim through for the good parts book with lots of sex and gore.
It is a book to be read alone, in a quiet place. And that alone is something that may require more diligence then the actual reading of the book.
If you pay attention, you will find something that is lacking in today's Post-Western world.
Well reasoned meaning.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ancient wisdom for the ages., October 3, 2008
By 
Excellent. Reader friendly. Ancient wisdom still relative today as Western values are engulfed in the material. If you are a student of Plato and Aristotle this is right down your philosophical alley.
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The Consolation of Philosophy: Boethius
The Consolation of Philosophy: Boethius by Richard H. Green (Paperback - January 11, 1962)
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