Book Review: The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius

Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy is simultaneously the starting point and the final consummation of the great medieval synthesis of the Greco-Roman and Jewish-Early Christian worldviews. Here, Boethius sets the task of the middle ages to reconcile the two great blocs of Western heritage and does so admirably himself.

Written while Boethius was in prison awaiting his own execution, Boethius frames the book in the form of a prison dialogue between himself and Lady Philosophy. While contemplating his great fall from fame, power, and wealth to his pitiable imprisonment, Philosophy arrives to both chide and extol him. She begins by asking him if he indeed remembers what he is — what a human being is. Discovering that he has forgotten, she proceeds to teach him and the rest of the book, a moving and intellectually stimulating discussion of the nature of life, death, fate, ethics, and much else, ensues.

The result is a philosophy which brings together the best of Plato and Aristotle as well as their Greek and Roman progeny along with a manner of thinking thoroughly molded in biblical thought. Nearly every philosophy of the next thousand years looked back to Boethius as the originator of their task as well as the model to be followed in his synthesis.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in philosophy. It is essential reading for an education in the greatest the human mind has ever produced.

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