Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin)

The Mind Map

Boethiusp.jpg
 

Life

Anicius Manlinus Severinus Boethius, born in or about AD 480, was a member of an ancient and aristocratic family, the gens Anicia. (...) His father himself had followed an honourable career of public service, attaining to the consulship under the barbarian king Odocer in 487, but dying while his son was still a boy. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.xiii)

Within a short while, he was arrested, condemned and sent into exile to await execution. The senate, overawed by an ageing, disillusioned and suspicious. Theodore confined the sentence and after being cruelly tortured Boethius was bludgeoned to death at Pavia, the place of his exile, in 524 or 525. (...) The truth of his case will never be known. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.xxi)

He has forgotten for a while who he is, but he will soon remember once he has recognized me,

To make it easier for him I will wipe a little of the blinding cloud of worldly concern from his eyes.’ 

As he spoke she gathered her dress into a fold and wiped from my eyes the tears that filled them. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.6)

On his intention

Boethius was born into a Christian family, faced no such emotional turmoil or intellectual challenge and was able to devote his powers not to the discovery of a new religion but to the logical exposition of the theology that underpinned it. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.IX)

 

The historical importance of all this work was immense, because it was only through Boethiu’s translations of his logic that the knowledge of Aristotle’s survived in the West. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.Xvi)

Small welcome to the days that length life. Foolish the friends who called me happy then:

For falling shows a man stood insecure. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.3)

Eternity is explained not in terms of quantity of life, but in terms of quality of life: in virtue of His complete, simultaneous and perfect possession of everlasting life, God, in Whom there is no past or future, but only timeless present, is eternal, while the world which only attains an endless series of moments, each lost as soon as it is attained, is merely perpetual. Boethius is pressing at limits of what language can do. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.xxxi)

It seems strange, nevertheless, that writing in the presence of death Boethius still prefers reason to faith, and makes no mention of what must be the only fully meaningful consolation for a Christian, the Incarnation of Christ and doctrine of grace. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.xxxiii)

Mentions

Ptolemy - Earth mystery to us

The surface of the world, then, is small enough, and of it, as you have learnt from the geographer Ptolemy, approximately one quarter is inhabited by living beings known to us. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.41)

Plato

And it is clear that what Plato said in the Gorgias is true, namely that only the wise can achieve their desire, while the wicked busy themselves with what gives pleasure without being able to achieve their real objective. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.92)

And so, if we want to give things their proper names, let us follow Plato and say that God is eternal, the world perpetual. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.134)

Wording

(Sentances worth highlithing) 

In dark clouds

Hidden

The stars can shed

No light. 

(Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.21)

A certain man once made a virulent attack on another man for falsely assuring the title of philosopher more in order to satisfy his overweening pride than to practise virtue, and added that he his overweening pride than to practise virtue, and added that he would accept that the title was justified if the man could suffer attacks upon him with patience and composure. For a time he did assume patience and after accepting the insults asked with a sneer whether the other now agreed that he was a philosopher. “I would,” came the reply, “if you had not spoken.” (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.43)

Not all the gold that Tagus’ sands bestow,

That Hermus sheds upon his glittering banks,

Or Hindus, on whose torrid shores are strewn

Green emeralds intermixed with dazzling pearls,

May sharpen and make bright the intellect,

But wealth in its own darkness clouds the thoughts.

For all that thus excites and charms the mind

Dim earth has fostered in her caverns deep;

While that bright light which rules and animates

The sky, will sum such dark and ruined souls;

Whoever once shall see this shining light

Will say the sun’s own rays are not so bright.’

(Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.73)

For you the legend I relate,

You who seek the upward way

To lift your mind into the day;

For who gives in and turns his eye

Back to darkness from the sky,

Loses while he looks below

All that up with him may go.’

(Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.84)

God

So that this divine foreknowledge does not change the nature and property of things; it simply sees things present to it exactly as they will happen at some time as future events. It makes no confused judgements of things, but with one glance of its mind distinguishes all that is to come to pass whether it is necessitated or not. Similarly you, when you see at the same time a man walking on the earth and the sun rising in the sky, although the two sights coincide yet you distinguish between them and judge the one to be willed and the other necessitated. In the same way the divine gaze looks down on all things without disturbing their nature; to Him they are present things, but under the condition of time they are future things. And so it comes about that when God knows that something is going to occur and knows that no necessity to be is imposed upon it is not opinion, but rather knowledge founded upon truth. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.135)

Fate and God

Boethius appears to have combined two ideas: the idea of a mutable Fate governing and revolving all things, which he read of in the treatise On Providence and Fate by the fifth-century Neoplastic Proclus, and the idea, already touched on at eh end of Book III chapter 12, of God as the “still point of the turning world’, an idea he found in the philosophy of Plotinus. The union of the two ideas is perfect. The more the soul fees itself from corporeal things, and thus, according to both Proclus and Plotinus, from Fate, the closer it approaches the stability and simplicity of the place of rest at the centre, which according to Plotinus is God. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.xxviii)

The divine

The form of the divine substance is such that it does not spread out into outside things or take up into itself anything from them. As Parmenides says of it,

Like the mass of a sphere well-rounded in all ways. 

(Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.82)

Priers 

Hope is not placed in God in vain and prayers are not made in vain, for if they are the right kind they cannot but be efficacious. Avoid vice, therefore, and cultivate virtue; lift up your mind to the right kind of hope, and put forth humble prayers on high. A great necessity is laid upon you, if you will be honest with yourself, a great necessity to be good, since you live in the sight of a judge who sees all things. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.137)

Free will with Gods eyes

It is impossible for the two events I mentioned just now - the rising of the sun and the man walking - not to be happening when they do happen; and yet it was necessary for one of them to happen before it did happen, but not so for the other. And so, those things which are present to God will without doubt happen; but some of them result from the necessity of things, and some of them from the power of those who do them. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.136)

The power of this knowledge which embraces all things in present understanding has itself established the mode of being for all things and owes nothing to anything secondary to itself. And since this is so, man’s freedom of will remains inviolate and the law does not impose reward and punishment unfairly, because the will is free from all necessity. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.137)

Best way of controlling the universe

For the best way of controlling the universe is if the simplicity immanent in the divine mind produces an unchanging order of causes to govern by its own incomparability everything that is subject to change, and which will otherwise fluctuate at random. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.106)

There is no chance

‘If chance is defined as an event produced by random motion without any casual nexus, I would say that there is no such thing as chance, and that apart from signifying the subject matter of our discussion it is a completely meaningless word. If God imposes order upon all things, there is no opportunity for random events. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.116)

It is the result of the conjunction of opposite causes, and not of the intention of the doers. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.117)

There is no escape from fate

‘It is pointless, therefore, to hope for anything or pay to escape anything. What can a man hope for, or pay to escape, when an inflexible bond binds all that can be wished for? (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.122)

Have posture 

For you the legend I relate,

You who seek the upward way

To lift your mind into the day;

For who gives in and turns his eye

Back to darkness from the sky,

Loses while he looks below

All that up with him may go.’

(Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.84)

The aim of it all is the good

‘No truer conclusion could be discovered. For either all things are inclined to no one thing and will wander about aimlessly as though destitute of any head or helmsman to guide them, or if there is something to which all things are inclined, it will be the sum of all good.’ (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.77)

‘What the end of all things was. For certainly it is the same as that which all things desire; we have deduced that is goodness, and so we must agree that the end of all things is the good. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.77)

Different paths to this goal

‘Well, the supreme good is the goal of good men and bad alike, and the good seek it by means of a natural activity - the exercise of their virtues - while the bad strive to acquire the very same thing by means of their various desires, which isn’t a natural method of obtaining the good. Or don’t you agree?’ (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.89)

Fate & Fortune

Fate and providence

‘Everything therefore, which comes under Fate, is also subject to Providence, to which Fate itself is subject, but certain things which come under Providence are above the chain of Fate. These are things which rise above the order of change ruled over by Fate in virtue of the stability of their position close to the supreme Godhead. Imagine a set of revolving concentric circles. The inmost one comes closest to the simplicity of the centre, while forming itself a kind of centrer for those set outside it to revolve round. The circle furthest out rotates through a wider orbit and the greater its distance from the indivisible centre point, the greater the space it spreads through. Anything that joins itself to the middle circle is brought close to simplicity, and no longer spreads out widely. In the same way whatever moves any distance from the primary intelligence becomes enmeshed in ever stronger chains of Fate, and everything is the freer from Fate the closer it seeks the centre of things. And if it cleaves to the steadfast mind of God, it is free from movement and so escapes the necessity imposed by Fate. The relationship between the ever-changing course of Fate and the stable simplicity of Providence is like that between reasoning and understanding, between that which is coming into being and that which is, between time and eternity, or between the moving circle and the still point in the middle. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.105)

‘They are different, but the one depends on the other. The order of Fate is derived from the simplicity of Providence. A craftsman anticipates in his mind the plan of the thing he is going to make. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.104)

The fortune of death

You know there is no constancy in human affairs, when a single swift hour can often bring a man to nothing. For even if you can’t expect any permanence on a life of chance events, on the last day of one’s life there is a kind of death for Fortune even when she stays with one. What difference do you think it makes whether it is you that quit her by dying or she that quits you by desertion? (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.28)

Fortune has no side

It is the nature of human affairs to be fraught with anxiety; they never prosper perfectly and they never remain constant. In one man’s case you will find riches offset by the shame of a humble birth and in another’s noble birth offset by unwelcome publicity on account of the ripping poverty of his family fortunes. Some men are blessed with both wealth and noble birth, but are unhappy because they have no wife. Some are happily married but without children, and husband their money for an heir of alien blood. Some again have been blessed with children only to weep over their misdeeds. No one finds it easy to accept the lost Fortune has sent him. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.31)

‘Listen. All fortune whether pleasant or adverse is meant either to reward or discipline the good or to punish or correct the bad. We agree, therefore, on the justice or usefulness of fortune, and so all fortune is good.’ (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.111)

If happiness is the highest good of rational nature and anything that can be taken away is not the highest good - since it is suppressed by what can’t be taken away - Fortune by her very mutuality can’t hope to lead to happiness. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.31)

Good Fortune 

Good fortune always seems to bring happiness, but deceives you with her smiles, whereas bad fortune is always truthful because by change she shows her true fickleness. Good fortune deceives, but bad fortune enlightens. With her display of specious riches good fortune enslaves the minds of those who enjoy her, while bad fortune gives men release thorough the recognition of how fragile a thing happiness is. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.44)

Not all the gold that Tagus’ sands bestow,

That Hermus sheds upon his glittering banks,

Or Hindus, on whose torrid shores are strewn

Green emeralds intermixed with dazzling pearls,

May sharpen and make bright the intellect,

But wealth in its own darkness clouds the thoughts.

For all that thus excites and charms the mind

Dim earth has fostered in her caverns deep;

While that bright light which rules and animates

The sky, will shum such dark and ruined souls;

Whoever once shall see this shining light

Will say the sun’s own rays are not so bright.’

(Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.73)

Bad fortune

Good fortune always seems to bring happiness, but deceives you with her smiles, whereas bad fortune is always truthful because by change she shows her true fickleness. Good fortune deceives, but bad fortune enlightens. With her display of specious riches good fortune enslaves the minds of those who enjoy her, while bad fortune gives men release thorough the recognition of how fragile a thing happiness is. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.44)

So you are weeping over lost riches when you have really found the most precious of all riches - friends who are true friends. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.45)

The circle of human will

All things seek the place that best becomes. 

Each thing rejoices when this is retrieved:

For nothing keeps the order it received 

Except its rising to its fall it bend 

And make itself a circle without end. ‘ 

(Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.51)

Human activity depend on  Will and Power

‘Now, there are two things on which all the performance of human activity depends, will and power. If either of them is lacking there is no activity that can be performed. In the absence of the will, a man is unwilling to do something and therefore does not undertake it; and in the absence of the power to do it, the will is useless. So that if you see someone who wants to get something which he cannot get, you can be sure that what he has been lacking is the power to get what he wanted.’ (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.88)

Mind

Nature of mind

Still, as it is not yet time for stronger medicine, and as it is the accepted opinion that the nature of the mind is such that for every true belief it rejects, it assumes a false one from which the fog of distraction rises to blot out its true insight. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.20)

Why burns it then with love so great

To learn the secret signs of truth?

Perhaps it knows already what it seeks

To learn? But who still seeks to learn things that

He knows? And if the mind knows not, what does

It then in blindness seek? For who could search

In ignorance for anything, or who

Could look for that which was unknown to him,

And where could he discover it? When found

Could ignorance discern the hidden form?

When once the mind beheld the mind of God

Did it both sum and separate truths perceive?

Now hidden in the body’s density

It does not lose all memory of itself. 

(Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.123)

Similarly man himself is beheld in different ways by sense-perception, imagination, reason and intelligence. The sense examine his shape as constituted in matter, while imagination considers his shape alone without matter. Reason transcends imagination, too, and with a universal consideration reflects upon the species inherent in individual instances. But there exists the more exalted eye of intelligence which passes beyond the sphere of the universe to behold the simple form itself with the pure vision of the mind. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.126)

 

Knowledge

Why else unaided can man answer true,

Unless deep in the heart the touchwood burns?

And if the muse of Plato speaks the truth,

Man but recalls what once he knew and lost.’

Then I said, ‘I agree strongly with Plato.

(Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.78)

²⁴ His solution is provided by the combination of two considerations. First, the argument that the quality of knowledge depends on the capacity of the knower to know, not on the capacity of the object to be known: and second, the comparison of God’s capacity to know with man’s. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.xxx)

Evil and good

So, if they are willing to examine themselves, I do not think men can consider themselves immune from punishment when they suffer the worst evil of all: evil is not so much an infliction as a deep set infection. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.94)

It may be part of human weakness to have evil wishes, but it is nothing short of monstrous that God should look on while every criminal is allowed to achieve his purpose against the innocent. If this is so, it was hardly without reason that one of your household asked where evil comes from if there is a god, and where good comes from if there isn’t. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.12)

On fame

‘Fame, in fact, is a shameful thing, and so often deceptive. Euripides was right to make Andromache cry out:

O Fame, o fame! - Many a man ere this

Of no account hast thou set up on high. 

(Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.58) 

For as often as a man receives the reward of fame for his boasting, the conscience that indulges in self congratulation loses something of its secret merit. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.13)

On power

‘Whoever wants to wield high power

Must tame his passions fierce;

His heart to evil must not cower

Or bow to lust’s fell yoke.

(Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.57)

Once strip from pride their robes of empty show,

And see within the straightening fetters worn:

Here lust o’er-throws the heart with poisonous greed, 

Here like a wave wrath whips and bears off sense, 

Here captive sorrow sits or hope torments;

Here in one heart so many tyrants rule,

The king’s own wills deposed, the enslaver slaved.’

(Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.92)

On truth

If you desire

To look on truth

And follow the path

With unswerving course, 

Rid yourself

Of joy and fear,

Put hope to flight, 

And banish grief.

The mind is clouded 

And bound in chains

Where these hold sway.’

(Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.21

On wickedness

For just as weakness is a disease of the body, so wickedness is a disease of the mind. 

(...)

Then love the good, show pity for the bad.’

(Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.101)

Happiness

Yet we know that many man have sought the enjoyment of happiness through death and even though suffering and torment. It seems that the happiness which cannot make men unhappy by its cessation, cannot either make them happy by its presence. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.32)

Happiness in perishable things

So that if a certain imperfection is visible in any class of things, it follows that there is also a proportion of perfection in it. For if you do away with perfection, it is impossible to imagine how that which is held to be imperfect could exist. The natural world did not take its origin from that which was impaired and incomplete, but issues from that which is unimpaired and perfect and then degenerates into this fallen and worn out condition. But we showed just now that there is a certain imperfect happiness in perishable good, so that there can be no doubt that a true and perfect happiness exists. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.69) 

Is there true happiness?

‘Are all the many things we see included under the word happiness like parts combining to form a single body, yet separate in their variety, or is there any one of them which can fully supply the essence of happiness and under which the others may be classed?’ (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.71) 

‘This is how I would resolve it. If all these were related to happiness like limbs to a body, they would differ from one another, because it is the nature of parts that the body is one, but the parts that make it up are diverse. But all these things have been proved to be identical. So that they are not like limbs. Moreover it would appear that happiness was a body made up of a single limb, which is impossible.’

‘There is no doubt of that; but I am eager for what is to come.’ (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.72)

Happiness is the desire of good

MOR- Happiness is in what you desire?

Since, therefore, all things are desired for the sake of the good in them, no one desires them as much as the good itself. But we are agreed that the reason for desiring things is happiness. So that it is patently obvious that the good itself and happiness are identical.’

‘I can see no reason for anyone to disagree.’ (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.73)

Pleasure

Pleasure is a bee sting

So I agree with my Euripides when he said that the childless man was fortunate in his misfortune. 

‘All pleasures have one quality alike:

They drive their devotees with goads.

And like a swarm of bees upon the wing,

They first pour out their victim’s heart

And leave unharmed their deep set sting. 

(Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.60)

Men seek it’s own good

‘But to return to the pursuits of men. In spite of a clouded memory, the mind seeks its own good, thorough like a drunkard it cannot find the path home. No one would say that people who strive to have all they want are wrong. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.49)

Desire

But man pursues what he judges to be desirable and avoids that which he thinks undesirable. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.118)

Humans & Nature

 

Nature is content with few and little

Nature is content with few and little: if you try to press superfluous additions upon what is sufficient for Nature, your bounty will become sickening if not harmful. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.34)

Humans always worry 

‘Yes it was,’ I replied; ‘in fact I can’t remember when my mind was ever free from some sort of worry.’

‘And that was either because something was missing which you didn’t want to be missing, or because something was present which you would have preferred not to have been present.’ (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.52) 

Humans without the good are animals 

‘The generation of all things, the whole progress of things subject to change and whatever moves in any way, receive their causes, their due order and their form from the unchanging mind of God. In the high citadel of its oneness, the mind of God has set up a plan for the multitude of events. When this plan is thought of as in the purity of God’s understanding, it is called Providence, and when it is thought of with reference to all things, whose motion and order it controls, it is called by the name the ancients gave it, Fate. If anyone will examine their meaning, it will soon be clear to him that these two aspects are different. Providence is the divine reason itself. It is set at the head of all things and disposes all things. Fate, on the other hand, is the planned order inherent in things subject to change through the medium of which Providence binds everything in its own allotted place. Providence includes all things at the same time, however diverse or infinite, while Fate controls the motion of different individual things in different places and in different times. So this unfolding of the plan in time when brought together as a unified whole in the foresight of God’s mind is Providence; and the same unified whole when dissolved and unfolded in the course of time is Fate. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.104)

Nature accepts it’s part

Because you can see how in the first place plants and trees grow up in places suitable to them and where it would be unnatural for them quickly to wither and die. Some grow in fields, some on hills, some in marshes; some cling to rocky ground and the barren desert abounds with others. And if you tried to transplant them into other habitats, they would wither away. Nature gives each one whatever suits it, and as long as life is possible toils to prevent them dying. Just think how they all draw nourishment through their roots, as if they were burying their mouths in the earth, and how strength spreads through their pith and bark. (Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin) p.75)