Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius

Why do evil men seem to be rewarded in life and good men punished?
What do all men strive for in life?
What is the greater good?
What truly makes a man happy?

These are some of the questions addressed by Boethius in his The Consolation of Philosophy. Written by a Roman statesman condemned to death in the sixth century, it is medieval humanism at its finest. Boethius is visited by Philosophy a quasi-Greek goddess and angel hybrid who is determined to lift Boethius's spirits and carry him from his wallowing into the light (of philosophy and reason, of course). The book is divided into five sections, with alternating prose and poetry. It reads as a discourse between man and spiritual mentor, one who doesn't hesitate to chastise him when needed.

This manuscript should be required reading for any philosophy student, but it is also a welcome addition to anyone struggling to understand the human psyche and the larger questions at play in the world. Although written from an ancient viewpoint, after reading this classic, it is clear that for some things, human haven't changed at all. We are still muddling through, we are still seeking to understand, and perhaps Boethius's The Consolation of Philosophy will provide that consolation in this seeming upended world.

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