The Philosopher Boethius (480-526 C.E.)

(480–c. 526 c.e.) philosopher

Anicius Manlius Torquatus Severinus Boethius was a statesman and philosopher during the reign of The odoric, Ostrogothic emperor of Rome. Boethius had a good classical education (educated in Athens and Alexandria) and was particularly influenced by Neoplatonism, Aristotle and Aristotelianism, and Stoicism. He was in the midst of a project to translate and even unite Aristotle and Plato when he broke off his academic career in order to serve as an imperial consul in 510 c.e.Power had shifted away from Italy to Constantinople, leaving the Italian emperor a weak rival. When Boethius was unfairly condemned for a conspiracy allied with the Constantinople authorities, he was imprisoned for a couple of years and then executed sometime between 524 and 526.

Because his writings were circulated and appreciated by many later intellectuals, Boethius has been called the pioneer of medieval thought and founder of the early Middle Ages. His knowledge of Greek made him a natural link with Greco-Roman civilization at a time when the West was losing its knowledge of Greek. His translation of Aristotle was one of the few that the West had until the days of Thomas Aquinas. His attempts to utilize Aristotle for the advantage of theology were 550 years ahead of the Scholastics. He composed Consolation of Philosophy while he brooded and waited for his execution in prison. He also wrote on true education (trivium and quadrivium), translations of Porphyry, and commentaries on Cicero, and his own treatises on logic, mathematics, and theology. Although questions have been raised about the authorship of several of his works and the depth of his Christian convictions, strong evidence for his sympathies with the faith appear in five compositions (the Opuscula sacra, or Theological Tractates) written before 520. All these works show fresh vocabulary and borrowing of Greek philosophies, perhaps even excelling the ideas of Augustine of Hippo. The tract De fide catholica (On the Catholic Faith) tells of his objections to Arianism, the Sabellians, and Mani and the Manichaeans, while it confirms the ecclesial teachings. Because of its clearcut support for the Latin Church, its authorship is often called into question.

Consolation of Philosophy was mandatory reading for every respectable intellectual for the next 1,000 years after Boethius. He imagines Lady Philosophy, the heroine of such religious works as the biblical book of Proverbs, consoling him in his dark night of the philosophical soul. She helps him to realize the fickleness of success and the faithfulness of divine providence. She tells him that true happiness flows from being at peace with God. If success will not crown present virtuous efforts, the balance will be restored in the next life. God stands outside of time and is present at all of our time (past, present, and future) and offers eternal life simultaneously without impeding our free will to choose virtue.

Though Consolation does not bring up such Christian mysteries as the incarnation, the crucifixion, and the resurrection, its fundamental premises are in line with orthodox Christian teaching. It is anchored in Augustinian foundations and may subtly show biblical and liturgical allusions.

Historians view Consolation, together with the Opuscula sacra, as evidence that Boethius turned toward religion and particularly the Christian faith as he got older. He is the first one to use the word theology as a technical Christian term denoting the study of the nature of God.

Because the emperor that he served was an Arian, Boethius was regarded as a Christian martyr  and  in Italy especially is regarded as a Catholic saint. His writings were some of the first translations made into the “vulgar” tongues (Anglo-Saxon, German, Greek, and French—all before 1300), and many great scholars of the Middle Ages continued to debate his arguments up until the time of Thomas Aquinas.

The Philosopher Boethius (480-526 C.E.) The Philosopher Boethius (480-526 C.E.) Reviewed by Ajit Kumar on 8:26 PM Rating: 5

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