The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin Classics)

The Consolation of Philosophy - Boethius, V. E. Watts Philosophy comes to Boethius personified as a woman reprimanding him for his despair. Though reminiscent of Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, the stoicism espoused is ultimately rooted in a faith that life is not subject to chance and a God that ”watches over His creation.” pg. 50.

Though concise and compelling, The Consolation of Philosophy is merely a shadow of the Greek philosophic tradition from which it is inspired. The imitation of Platonic dialogues is simply that. An imitation. Boethius starts from his premise and builds his stoic Christian belief upon his belief. In contrast to Plato who whittled belief down to the uncertainty of the premise.

Nevertheless, it is a fascinating work. Poetry and prose are mixed as Boethius heart wrenchingly admonishes himself through his own voice of Philosophy. He does not permit himself to pity his misfortune because there is no such thing. All that exists is the appearance of misfortune. As he plays with language, he reasons that there is no escape from justice:
So when the wicked receive punishment they receive something good, the punishment itself, which is good, because of its justice; but when they go unpunished they acquire some extra evil in actually going scot free, which you have agreed is bad, because of its injustice.pg. 129.
Concluding with a series of passages reconciling predestination with man’s free will, Boethius brilliantly speaks of man’s place in a perpetual world governed by an eternal God.

I wasn’t thrilled with Boethius’ attempt to disguise his religious foundation by naming his muse Philosophy, but the writing has a definite clarity and charm which explains why this was a favorite of the Middle Ages.