“Consolation of Philosophy” by Boethius

Consolation of Philosophy

[Original Latin Title: Consolatio Philosophiae]

Boethius was a Christian philosopher of ancient Rome, but “Consolation of Philosophy” is not a treatise on Christianity, in that it doesn’t address the question of sacrifice and remission of sins, let alone the love of God, but instead, as Plato did in Republic, it attempts to reshape the readers’ understanding of the nature of evil and justice and answer the question, “Why do good people suffer and the wicked prosper?”


Goodness Is Its Own Reward, and Wickedness Its Own Punishment

“Therefore just as goodness itself becomes the reward for good men, so wickedness itself is the punishment for the bad men. Now any person who is punished is in no doubt that he is suffering evil. So if wicked men are willing to look at themselves, can they regard themselves as unpunished, when wickedness, the worst of all evils, has not merely attended them but has also harshly devastated them?”

“Concealed within its citadel
Man’s true strength dwells inside;
The poisons which dehumanize
Within him now reside.
These potions deeply penetrate;
Though bodies feel no pain,
The deadly wounds which they inflict
Impact upon the brain.”

Providence and Fate

“God by Providence orders what is to be done in a unified and unchanging manner, but by Fate he carries through these arrangements in a manifold way within the bounds of time.”

“Hence all that is subordinate to Fate is likewise subject to Providence, to which Fate itself is subject; but there are some things under the aegis of Providence which transcend the chain of Fate. Such things are planted immovably close to the supreme Godhead, so that they lie outside the regime of changeability managed by Fate. Imagine a series of concentric circles revolving round the same axis; the innermost one lies closest to the single nature of the central point, and itself acts as a sort of axis round which the other circles lying outside it can turn. The outermost circle travels round in a wider circle, and the further it departs from the undivided middle point, the more widespread is the area over which it extends. … Similarly, whatever distances itself further from the highest Mind becomes enmeshed in the broader chains of Fate, whereas the closer to the axis of the world which a thing approaches, the freer it becomes from the control of Fate. … As reasoning is to understanding, as becoming is to being, as time is to eternity, as a circle is to its mid-point, so is the shifting chain of Fate related to the unchanging oneness of Providence.”



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