The Consolation of Philosophy

The Consolation of Philosophy Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Explain the essential contrast is between Philosophy and Fortune to Boethius. Why is Fortune not something human beings should trust? By "Fortune" what does Boethius really mean? How could a human being completely put away all thoughts of earthly success and comfort, and instead be "comforted" by only Philosophy?

  2. 2

    What were the nature of the crimes for which Boethius was imprisoned? Is it clear from the text that he was innocent or guilty? How much of the circumstances of his arrest and imprisonment contributed to the state of mind which prompted him to write The Consolation of Philosophy? Does the "consolation" fit with the fall of so great a man to the depths of imprisonment and execution?

  3. 3

    Discuss the poetry within the Consolation of Philosophy. How do the poems within the prose help illustrate or diminish the meaning of the text? Did you find the poems distracting or helpful? Why do you suppose Boethius would choose to make his work of philosophy prosimetrical?

  4. 4

    Explore the idea brought up in Book IV of Boethius's inability to regard as human a person who is transformed by wickedness. Do you think completely wicked people sink to the level of animals? How could unmitigated vice transform a person into something less than human? Do you agree with this idea or disagree? Explain how this might be an error in Boethius's thinking. Does the fact that wicked people might become more unhappy should they attain their wicked desires support or refute this point?

  5. 5

    What kind of man was Boethius? Did his standing in the Roman society have anything to do with the nature of his "Consolation"? Would a man or woman from a different class of society have chosen different aspects of philosophy or theology to comfort him- or herself with during imprisonment under imminent threat of execution? Does the detachment of the "Consolation" fit with Boethius's worldview to the exclusion of other people's experience? Illustrate how a slave or a woman or a person in poverty who possessed equal ability and education as Boethius might have chosen a different type of philosophical inquiry for comfort in extremity.

  6. 6

    Of what influence is Plato, and the Neo-Platonists, on Boethius? What kind of philosopher was Boethius -- a Platonist or an Aristotelian? Did his Christian faith influence his philosophy in any way? Find examples in the text that illustrate Boethius's Neo-Platonic leanings, and how that coincides with his Christianity or undermines it.

  7. 7

    In the last book of The Consolation of Philosophy there is the profound phrase, "Every object of knowledge is not known as a result of its own nature, but of the nature of those who comprehend it". What does this mean? Does this idea destroy the idea of objective reality? There are examples by which it can be easily proved (a person in a foreign country perceives the locals speaking gibberish, while the native understands his own language) and easily disproved (whether or not the tree falling in the forest is perceived by a human being, it still falls and makes an impact on the forest floor, decomposes, provides food for insects, etc.) What does Boethius mean by this rejection of an objective "knowing," and how does he justify his argument?