Tag Archives: Boethius

Consolation of Philosophy (Part 5)

Let me finish the series of the last four posts with a discussion of the final book and some final words about the Consolation of Philosophy.

Book 5

In this final section of the book, Philosophy states that everyone has free will to choose what actions to take now and in the future.  This is a very heavy burden for all of us if we are to remain on the road to happiness.  Life is not a series of random events that none of us can control.  Philosophy teaches that our decisions impact our future and that we must be diligent in making the right decisions if happiness is to be realized.

Philosophy warns all of us, “Therefore, stand firm against vice and cultivate virtue.  Lift up your souls to worthy hopes … the necessity of virtuous action imposed upon you is very great …”

Summary of the Book

The teachings of Boethius through his book echo the road to happiness in this life found in my book.  He mentions that the meaning of life is happiness; that financial comfort, honor, prestige, pleasure, and love/friendships are needed to reach happiness; and that virtues are required to make the right decisions to use the goods acquired in life to find happiness.

The main difference is that Boethius does not speak of the Adventure.  In my book, the Adventure is the means by which the acquired virtues are utilized to move the individual from the “good life” to happiness.  As important, the Adventure of the individual is also the means by which society flourishes.  In essence, the flourishing of society is based on the happiness of the individual.

That is what makes the narrative of the my book so compelling: the meaning of life is happiness and finding one’s happiness leads to the betterment of society.  In other words, individual happiness = better society.  So, if we all are searching for happiness, then we are searching to help those around us.  Without happiness, there is no flourishing of society.  Without the flourishing of society, there is no happiness.  This is the Holy Grail: society flourishes by those actions undertaken by individuals searching for their personal happiness.  This twofold gift can not be realized without  a successful Adventure.  The Adventure cannot be successful without the virtues.  The virtues can not be gained without trying to find honor, recognition, financial comfort, pleasure, friends and love.  This is the warning of Boethius, take extreme care to cultivate the virtues and use them properly: without them you will not find happiness and those around you will not prosper.

I hope that these posts might inspire you to read the book.  it is a very rewarding book and very easy to read, especially with the primer of my last few posts!

Consolation of Philosophy (Part 4)

Continuing from my last post, Philosophy states in the third section of the book: 1) we all seek happiness, 2) honor, wealth, prestige, belongingness, and pleasure are necessary for happiness but not sufficient, and 3) additional factor are needed to deliver happiness.

Book 4

Philosophy continues by stating that that the good are rewarded and the wicked are punished.  While it looks like evil prevails in the world, in fact, according to Philosophy, it does not.  “They [the wicked] try to attain the good by unnatural and ineffectual means because they are blinded by ignorance and weakened by intemperance. … The punishment of the wicked is their wickedness, that loss of goodness which is the loss of human nature.”

Philosophy goes on the say that good people seek happiness by means of the virtues.  “… evil men, however, try to achieve the same goal by a variety of concupiscences, and that is surely an unnatural way of seeking the good. … just a virtue is the reward of virtuous men, so wickedness itself is the punishment of the wicked.”

These same conclusions are reached in my book – the virtues are necessary to move from the “good life” to a state of happiness.  It is the “involvement” and “exposure” activities discussed in my book that give rise to the virtues.  It is the Adventure that tests those virtues to ensure that the adventurer really is qualified to reach happiness.  Philosophy mentions similar trials, “… others she tests with hardships in order to strengthen their virtues by the exercise of patience.  Some people fear to undertake burdens they could easily bear, while others treat too lightly those they are unable to handle; both of those are led on by Providence to find themselves by trials.”

More to come in my next post.

Consolation of Philosophy (Part 3)

Continuing with my last post, we move to the third section of the Consolation of Philosophy.  In the second section, Book Two, Philosophy teaches that the transitory goods of wealth, fame, power, honor, and physical beautiful are not sufficient for happiness.  Those of us that focus on these  goods will not find happiness.

Book Three

This is a key section of the book.

First, Philosophy mentions that it is the goal of all individuals to seek happiness in their lives.  “Mortal men laboriously pursue many different interests along many different paths, but all strive to reach the same goal of happiness.  Now the good is defined at that which, once it is attained, relieves man of all further desires.”

Second, the desire for wealth, public honor, power, fame, and pleasure are worthy of desire and it is not bad to seek after these goods; however, they are not sufficient for happiness.  Philosophy mentions that individuals get into trouble by assuming that these goods are sufficient for happiness.

Third, Philosophy states that true happiness can only be found in the perfect good, and the perfect good includes possession of the above-mentioned transitory goods in addition to other things, to be discussed.

The above three points mirror what I have discussed in my book.  To reach the “good life” requires “involvement” and “exposure” activities, in addition to family nurturing and safety provided by society, that lead to financial comfort, prestige, belongingness, honor, and recognition.  These same goods mentioned by Philosophy are required for happiness, as expressed by the modern thinkers as well as the ancient philosophers.  However, to go beyond the “good life” towards happiness requires a set of virtues to accept a call to adventure and complete the adventure and return to the everyday world.

More on this in the next post!

Consolation of Philosophy (Part 2)

Continuing from my last post, I will begin to dig into the book, The Consolation of Philosophy, but only those parts referring to happiness in this life – which is the focus of my book and this website.  By the way, the book is divided into five books or sections.

Book One

Boethius says to Philosophy that he is sad at his loss.  He has been ruined professionally, he has been stripped of his possessions, his reputation has been destroyed, his liberty has been lost, he can no longer see his family, and he faces execution.  All of this is due to wicked people that opposed him in life.  He is upset that such wickedness can prevail over those that are wise and virtuous.

Philosophy tells Boethius that he has forgotten man’s nature and purpose, and so he is not capable of understanding the real reason of what has happened to him.  She mentions at the end of this first book that she will lead Boethius out of his darkness and into the light of truth.

Book Two

In this section of the book, Philosophy teaches Boethius that happiness can not be found only in possessing the transitory goods. She defines these transitory goods as: 1) material possessions, 2) public honors, 3) exercises of power, and 4) physical attractiveness. These goods are short-lived. Philosophy even mentions that fame earned by good people in the performance of important works is a limited and insufficient goal in life.

Philosophy concludes this second book by mentioning that bad fortune is often better than good fortune: good fortune enslaves the one who enjoys it while bad fortune frees the person from the bondage of these transitory goods.

More to come!


Consolation of Philosophy (Part 1)

A few months ago I had several posts on the movie and the book, The Natural.  I would like to write a few posts on another book, The Consolation of Philosophy, by Boethius.  This is not a novel, like The Natural, but a creative non-fiction book in which the author has a conversation with himself to console him while in prison waiting his execution.

The book has remained very influential ever since it was written in 524 AD.  The book was written over a one year period while the author was in prison for crimes he did not commit.  He was stripped of his fame, wealth, honor, and possessions, separated from his family, and was ultimately executed. These misfortunes forced the author, Boethius, to reexamine the moral principles upon which his entire life was based.  The book is his record of how he was able to rise above the unjust actions against him and remain optimistic in reason and hope.

The book is very short, around 120 pages, and easy to read.  It is presented as a dialogue between the author and Philosophy, who is personified.  It is Philosophy that helps Boethius to come to terms with his imprisonment and how to rise above it with the help of philosophy.  The book’s teachings apply to all of us today.  If you feel that you have been accused unjustly, or abandoned for whatever reason, or perhaps misunderstood by friends and coworkers, you might find this book very helpful.  All of us could use a book that lifts our spirits, and not just a book that wastes our time with simple statements and feel good quotes.  This book delivers strong medicine, but medicine that all of us can take and benefit from.  And, it is very enjoyable to read.

More in my next post.