The Consolation of Philosophy

Boethius and the Problem of Evil

The influence of Greek philosophy on the theologies of the traditional monotheisms was immense, shaping each theology’s conception of God according to the doctrines of such philosophers as Plato, Aristotle, and Zeno. The interaction between religious and pagan philosophies was not always welcomed, however; nor were the tenets of the one sort always accommodating to those of the other. Among the conflicts caused by the exposure of traditional religions to Greek philosophy existed, and continues to exist, one of particular renown—the problem of evil. It was this problem, in the company of others, which Boethius set out to solve in his Consolation of Philosophy. Boethius, himself a sort of convergence of Hellenic and Christian thought, would have been compelled as well as qualified to provide such a synthesis as was required by his subject matter.

Before evaluating the measure of success Boethius’ work enjoys in its synthesis of Christian and Hellenic thought, or in its answer to the problem of evil, we must first consider exactly the problem of evil and its origins. The problem of evil is perhaps best put by Epicurus, who is often credited with first expounding it: "Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can,...

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