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The Consolation of Philosophy: Boethius (edition 1962)

by Richard H. Green

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Member:Jose_Ali
Title:The Consolation of Philosophy: Boethius
Authors:Richard H. Green
Info:Prentice Hall (1962), Paperback, 160 pages
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The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius

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Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
Brilliant! Going in, I expected this to be difficult, like Plotinus, but it was actually very readable. It reminded me in places of The Republic, although the character of Boethius is much more lovable than that of Socrates. Also, I was fuzzy going in on whether Boethius was writing as a Christian or a Platonist. As it turns out, he has a foot in each camp. Christian-ish Neoplatonism, with a dash of Stoicism added in. Or maybe he was a Christian but decided to write his defense of philosophy without reference to divine revelation, just because? It is hard to tell. Anyway, this was just marvelous!

Boethius tackles the big questions of monotheism: theodicy, providence vs free will (which he does a particularly nice job with, btw); eternity vs infinity (this isn't one of the Big Questions, or has never been for me, but I found it fascinating anyway!), etc. Not that his answers, particularly to that of suffering, are fully satisfactory, but whose are? He doesn't tie himself in knots, the way Aristotle and Plotinus do, and the poems in between the prose sections are lovely.

The notes in this edition (Ignatius Critical Editions) are fantastic. Not only do they tell you everything you want to know (and maybe a little more), but they are on the Bottoms of the Relevant Pages, where notes Belong! I Love not having to flip to the back of the book to read the notes. Plus, the binding is a nice sturdy one, which makes a nice change (hint, hint, Oxford World's Classics!). The notes explain all the people, events, and stories a reader might not know, and also the works that Boethius is (or may be) referencing – the Bible, Hesiod, Homer, Horace, Virgil, Juvenal, Lucretius, Aristotle, Plato, Cicero, Augustine, etc. They also point to later authors who drew on Boethius, particularly Aquinas, Chaucer, Dante, Shakespeare, Milton (and not forgetting John Kennedy Toole!). Great book, great notes.

*The Contemporary Criticism, at the end, was less impressive. This was a collection of six essays on Boethius & the Consolation, by various authors (all college professors, with schools noted), none of which I found indispensable. Out of the six, I read the second, third, and fourth, and found them mildly interesting. The first, fifth, and sixth I tried but gave up on. I think it says something good about Boethius and his translators/footnoters that I didn't feel much Need for explanatory essays! ( )
2 vote meandmybooks | Aug 6, 2014 |
Invaluable to the understanding of medieval European literature, really. I can't believe I took so long to read it: it explains a lot about the outlook of some texts. It takes the form of a dialogue between Boethius, as the narrator, and Dame Philosophy, during Boethius' imprisonment, explaining the capriciousness of Fortune and the divine plans of God.

It's not exactly riveting and fun, but it was a pivotal text and influential for a long time. The Oxford World's Classics translation is very readable, with a helpful introduction and notes. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
Mentioned in Evening in the Palace of Reason, which reminded me that I've always had a weird sort of feeling about this book, similar to how I felt about Led Zeppelin when I was eight - that it was some sort of magical thing different than all other bands. I don't know where I picked up this feeling about Boethius, but there it is: I have the impression that it's magic.

If it's not, don't tell me.
  AlCracka | Apr 2, 2013 |
I had received not 1 but 3, fine recommendations for this book. First, was from Ignatius J. Reilly c/o [John Kennedy Toole], of course. Second, was from my sister, who obtained her BA in Philosophy many years ago. Third was from the late great Professor Rufus Fears, via a Teaching Company lecture dealing with life-changing books.

It is not well known today but was an extremely popular treatise from the early Medieval times onward and it greatly influenced western thought. I particularly enjoyed the lyrical sections interspersed between the dialogues between Philosophy and her student, the imprisoned Boethius. ( )
  Sandydog1 | Dec 26, 2012 |
This great classic was written while Boethius was in prison awaiting execution by Theodoric, the King of the Ostrogoths. The Consolation was destined to become one of the favorite books of the Middle Ages and has continued to be esteemed by thoughtful people down to the present day. Philosophy in the form of a woman comes to his cell and tells him she will be his guardian and prove to him the existence of Providence. What follows is a series of dissertations in prose and verse presenting the philosophical underpinnings of the belief in free will, the existence of evil and the rewards of virtue.
1 vote TrysB | Sep 17, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (116 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Boethiusprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Boethiusmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Bax, Ernest-BelfortEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Buchanan, James JEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Colvile, GeorgeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edman, IrwinIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
James, H. R.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Keenan, BrianPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schotman, J.W.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Watts, Victor E.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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While I was thus mutely pondering within myself, and recording my sorrowful complainings with my pen, it seemed to me that there appeared above my head a woman of a countenance exceeding venerable.
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
Born into the Roman aristocracy in the early 6th century, the successful civil servant Boethius lost everything when he was arbitrarily convicted of treason. In his prison cell, awaiting execution, he created a work of quiet genius, which for the next 1,000 years would be the most popular book in Europe next to the Bible.
The benevolent incarnation of Philosophy appears to him, and demonstrates how all the trappings of the life now denied him were transient and without true worth. Addressing the eternal question of how a benevolent God can allow the evil to prosper at the expense of the virtuous, Philosophy proves to be Boethius' spiritual salvation.

A bestselling Folio edition, The Consolation of Philosophy was first published in 1998 and is now in its 6th reprint.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140447806, Paperback)

‘Why else does slippery Fortune change
So much, and punishment more fit
For crime oppress the innocent?’

Written in prison before his brutal execution in AD 524, Boethius’s The Consolation of Philosophy is a conversation between the ailing prisoner and his ‘nurse’ Philosophy, whose instruction restores him to health and brings him to enlightenment. Boethius was an eminent public figure who had risen to great political heights in the court of King Theodoric when he was implicated in conspiracy and condemned to death. Although a Christian, it was to the pagan Greek philosophers that he turned for inspiration following his abrupt fall from grace. With great clarity of thought and philosophical brilliance, Boethius adopted the classical model of the dialogue to debate the vagaries of Fortune, and to explore the nature of happiness, good and evil, fate and free will.

Victor Watts’s English translation makes The Consolation of Philosophy accessible to the modern reader while losing nothing of its poetic artistry and breadth of vision. This edition includes an introduction discussing Boethius’s life and writings, a bibliography, glossary and notes.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:43:58 -0400)

(see all 10 descriptions)

Boethius composed the De Consolatione Philosophiae in the sixth century A.D. whilst awaiting death under torture. He had been condemned on a charge of treason which he protested was manifestly unjust. Though a convinced Christian, in detailing the true end of life which is the soul's knowledge of God, he consoled himself not with Christian precepts but with the tenets of Greek philosophy. This work dominated the intellectual world of the Middle Ages; writers as diverse as Thomas Aquinas, Jean de Meun, and Dante were inspired by it. In England it was rendered into Old English by Alfred the Great, into Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer, and later Queen Elizabeth I made her own translation.The circumstances of composition, the heroic demeanour of the author, and the 'Menippean' texture of part prose, part verse (Boethius was a considerable poet) have combined to exercise a fascination over students of philosophy and literature ever since. The book should therefore prove to be of value to students and scholars of classics, philosophy, and religion as well as to more general readers.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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