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Into the Wardrobe A Community of Wardrobians 2006-10-05T21:34:51+00:00 http://cslewis.drzeus.net/forums/feed.php?f=34 2006-10-05T21:34:51+00:00 http://cslewis.drzeus.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=2613&p=126298#p126298 <![CDATA[The Consolation of Philosophy • Re: Book 1, Chapter 5]]> Statistics: Posted by Rafi — 05 Oct 2006, 21:34


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2006-06-03T02:32:57+00:00 http://cslewis.drzeus.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=4802&p=93700#p93700 <![CDATA[The Consolation of Philosophy • Re: Book 5, Chapter 6]]>
Hi Magpie. Well, hunger does imply the objectivity of food, so your knuckles are safe for now :smile:

Statistics: Posted by Kolbitar — 03 Jun 2006, 02:32


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2006-03-17T06:28:42+00:00 http://cslewis.drzeus.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=4802&p=74859#p74859 <![CDATA[The Consolation of Philosophy • re: Book 5, Chapter 6]]>
Thanks for all your hard work on the Consolation. I can only say I read it once in a while but it looks like a lot of people looked at it.

Lark

Statistics: Posted by Lark — 17 Mar 2006, 06:28


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2006-03-09T20:30:25+00:00 http://cslewis.drzeus.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=4802&p=72603#p72603 <![CDATA[The Consolation of Philosophy • Book 5, Chapter 6]]>

The common judgment of all rational creatures holds that God is eternal. Therefore let us consider what eternity is, for this will reveal both the divine nature and the divine knowledge. Eternity is the whole, perfect, and simultaneous possession of endless life.
This she contrasts with temporal beings who must experience each moment as a distinct event. Thus whatever lives in time cannot be eternal.

For whatever lives in time lives in the present, proceeding from past to future, and nothing is so constituted in time that it can embrace the whole span of its life at once. It has not yet arrived at tomorrow, and it has already lost yesterday; even the life of this day is lived only in each moving, passing moment. Therefore, whatever is subject to the condition of time, even that which--as Aristotle conceived the world to be--has no beginning and will have no end in a life coextensive with the infinity of time, is such that it cannot rightly be thought eternal.
(One might compare this assertion with Letter XV of The Screwtape Letters as well as the final cantos of Dante's Paradiso, and of course with Book 11 of the Confessions of St. Augustine who most certainly influenced Boethius on this subject.) Making a distinction between eternity and infinity, Philosophy cites Plato's Timaeus, and concludes

For it is one thing to live an endless life, which is what Plato ascribed to the world, and another for the whole of unending life to be embraced all at once as present, which is clearly proper to the divine mind. Nor should God be thought of as older than His creation in extent of time, but rather as prior to it by virtue of the simplicity of His nature. For the infinite motion of temportal things imitates the immediate present of His changeless life and, since it cannot reproduce or equal life, it sinks from immobility to motion and declines from the simplicity of the present into the infinite duration of future and past.
and agrees with Plato that God is eternal, but that the world ceaseless moving in time is perpetual.

It is this eternal simplicity, later described by Dante as the still point in the ever turning wheel. which Philosophy cites as the basis for God's unique knowledge which emcompasses and transcends all time, regarding all things in "simple comprehension" in the immediate present.

Thus, if you will think about the foreknowledge by which God distinguishes all things, you will rightly consider it to be not a foreknowledge of future events, but knowledge of a never changing present. For this reason, divine knowledge is called providence, rather than previson, because it resides above all inferior things and looks out on all things from their summit.
Thus the things which God sees are not under necessity to happen because they already exist.

After this discussion of the difference between God's eternal viewpoint and humanity's temporal one, an analysis which I find both persuasive and compelling, I find myself crying, "Quit while you're ahead," but Philosophy plunges on with a complicated discussion of the meaning of "necessity," a topic which she admits "only a profound theologian can grasp." To accomplish this she makes a further distinction between simple and conditional necessity.

For there are two kinds of necessity: one is simple, as the necessity by which all men are mortals; the other is conditional, as is the case when, if you know that someone is walking, he must necessarily be walking. For whatever is known, must be as it is known to be; but this condition does not involve that other, simple necessity.
I have trouble following this assertion and its subsequent explanation by which she attempts to prove that there is no conflict between Providence and free will.

Therefore, from the standpoint of divine knowledge these things are necessary because of the condition of their being known by God; but, considered only in themselves, they lose nothing of the absolute freedom of their own natures.
This continual definition and redefinition of necessity is beginning to remind me of a certain former President's quibble over the word "is."

Far more cogent to the discussion of free will is the question whether one can choose to act in a way contrary to the future which is foreseen by Providence.

My answer is this: you can indeed alter what you propose to do, but, because the present truth of Providence sees that you can, and whether or not you will, you cannot frustrate the divine knowledge any more than you can escape the eye of someone who is present and watching you, even though you may, by your own free will, vary your actions.
In other words, God sees what is, even when that entails wild fluctuations in human will or behavior. Thus even our future volatility is included in the totality of God's present vision. In this way human free will remains inviolate and the justice of consequent rewards and punishments is maintained. Moreover,

Our hopes and prayers are not directed to God in vain, for if they are just they cannot fail. Therefore, stand firm against vice and cultivate virtue. Lift up your soul to worthy hopes, and offer humble prayers to heaven. If you will face it, the necessity of virtuous action imposed upon you is very great, since all your actions are done in the sight of a Judge who sees all things.
And with these words The Consolation of Philosophy comes to an end.

Maybe it is my current interest in the subject of time, but I find this chapter to be the strongest in this entire work. (And perhaps this was also true for Boethius himself since time was a commodity of which he had very little left.) But having said that, what would I give as my overall assessment of this book? There is no denying the importance of this work. Not only did it exert a profound influence on Lewis who acknowledged this debt on numerous occasions, but it was an essential part of the intellectual foundation for a wide variey of medieval thinkers, not the least of whom was my beloved Dante. Nor do I regret the effort which I have expended on this book because it has led me to explore numerous other writers, some arid and some fruitful. Yet in the end, (and here Jesse has permission to rap my subjective knuckles) my overall reaction to its arguments is hunger. Boethius has raised more questions than he has answered. But perhaps that is all we should expect of any such work. It forces us to think!

Statistics: Posted by magpie — 09 Mar 2006, 20:30


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2006-03-01T18:19:57+00:00 http://cslewis.drzeus.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=4729&p=70764#p70764 <![CDATA[The Consolation of Philosophy • Book 5, Chapter 4 & 5]]>

The cause of the obscurity which still surrounds the problem is that the process of human reason cannot comprehend the simplicity of divine foreknowledge. If in any way we could understand that, no further doubt would remain.
Then arguing that present knowledge of an event has not caused it, she proceeds to demonstrate that likewise "foreknowledge does not impose necessity on future events."

For signs only show what is, they do not cause the things they point to. Therefore we must first prove that nothing happens other than by necessity, in order to demonstate that foreknowledge is a sign of this necessity. Otherwise, if there is no necessity, then foreknowledge cannot be a sign of something that does not exist.
However, this raises the question of how there can then be foreknowledge of things whose outcomes are not necessary, ie things not determined before they actually happen.

For these things seem opposed to each other, and you think that if things can be foreseen they must necessarily happen, and that if the necessity is absent they cannot be foreseen, and that nothing can be fully known unless it is certain.
In response she argues that this question only arises because Boethius is assuming that things are known by virtue of their own nature, whereas in truth knowledge resides in the capacity of the knower.

She demonstrates this by contrasting the different types of information conveyed by our various senses with the more abstract concepts which are discovered through our mental processes.

The senses grasp the figure of the thing as it is constituted in matter; the imagination, however, grasps the figure alone without the matter. Reason, on the other hand, goes beyond this and investigates by universal consideration the species itself which is in particular things. The vision of intelligence is higher yet, and it goes beyond the bounds of the universe and sees with the clear eye of the mind the pure form itself. In all of this we chiefly observe that the higher power of knowing includes the lower, but the lower can in no way rise to the higher.
This fourfold division of human knowledge, which echoes Plato's discussion of the same topic in Book 6 of his Republic, is reinforced subsequently in Poem 4.

What is that power which perceives individual things and, by knowing them, can distinguish among them? What is the power which puts together again the parts it has separated and, pursuing its due course, lifts its gaze to the highest things, then descends again to the lowest, then returns to itself to refute false ideas with truth?


Chapter 5 presents a detailed analysis of divine intelligence. Moving from the lowest life forms which receive only immediate sensory data through the beasts which have sufficient imagination to seek or avoid certain things, Philosophy arrives at reason which is characteristic of the human and pure intelligence "wholly free from all bodily affections" which is reserved for God alone.

It follows, then, that the most excellent knowledge is that which by its own nature knows not only its own proper object but also the objects of all lower kinds of knowledge.
Thus sense and imagination have no grounds for refuting the existence of the universal which reason knows (a prescient refutation of the positivism which would be promoted at a much later date by Hume and the other empiricists). Similarly human reason ought not to suppose that divine intelligence is limited to finite human understanding of future events.

For you argue that if some things seem not to have certain and necessary outcomes, they cannot be foreknown as certainly about to happen. Therefore, you say that there can be no foreknowledge of these things, or, if we believe that there is such foreknowledge, that the outcome of all things is controlled by necessity. But if we, who are endowed with reason, could possess the intelligence of the divine mind, we would judge that just as the senses and imagination should accede to reason, so human reason ought justly to submit itself to the divine mind.
This argument she follows with Poem 5 contrasting the downcast face and sluggish senses of a beast to the uplifted head and lofty mind of a human being.

The question remains, however, whether this epistomological schema adequately answers the issue raised initially by Boethius in Chapter 3, the apparent conflict between divine foreknowledge and the freedm of human will. It is obvious from subsequent developments in philosophy and theology that for many thinkers it does not. Perhaps it is because this "explanation" reminds me of the many occasions upon which Philosophy curtly dismisses Boethius' objections by remarking that he doesn't know what he is talking about, but this "solution" to the thorny problem of divine Providence and human freedom leaves me unsatisfied. While I do agree with Isaiah that God's thoughts are not our thoughts, nonetheless the question of human responsibility in the face of divine foreknowledge has still not been addressed. There is only one chapter left, Lady Philosophy, and I am still waiting for "consolaltion."

Statistics: Posted by magpie — 01 Mar 2006, 18:19


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2006-02-03T18:42:22+00:00 http://cslewis.drzeus.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=4489&p=65036#p65036 <![CDATA[The Consolation of Philosophy • Book 5, Chapter 1 to 3]]>

If chance is defined as an event produced by random motion and without any sequence of causes, then I say that there is no such thing as chance; apart from its use in the present context, I consider it an empty word. For what room can there be for random events since God Keeps all things in order?
(Are there any quantum physicists who care to reply?) She further explains that we must revise our concept of chance because every event has a cause, even if that cause is unforseen by the one experiencing it.

Therefore, we can define chance as an unexpected event brought about by a concurrence of causes which had other purposes in view. These causes come together because of that order which proceeds from inevitable connections of things, the order which flows from the source which is Providence and which disposes all things, each in its proper time and place.


From this assertion she quickly moves into Chapter 2 where she declares that all rational natures must of necessity possess free will.

For any being, which by its nature has the use of reason, must also have the power of judgment by which it can make decisions and, by its own resources, distinguish between things which should be desired and things which should be avoided. Now everyone seeks that which he judges to be desirable, but rejects whatever he thinks should be avoided. Therefore, in rational creatures there is also freedom of desiring and shunning.
However, she tempers this statement by making a distinction between divine uncorrupted will and finite human will which, joined to the body, is "bound by earthly fetters." Moreover, those who "lose possession of reason and give themselves wholly to vice" are enslaved by passion and become "captives of their own freedom."

This distinction leads Philosophy to conclude Prose 2 with the declaration

Nevertheless, God, who beholds all things from eternity, forsees all these things in his providence and disposes each according to its predestined merits.
which sets up the crucial discussion in Chapter 3 concerning the relationship between divine foreknowledge and human will which Boethius contends are incompatible.

For if God sees everything in advance and cannot be deceived in any way, whatever his Providence foresees will happen, must happen. Therefore, if God foreknows eternally not only all the acts of men, but also their plans and wishes, there cannot be freedom of will; for nothing whatever can be done or even desired without its being known beforehand by the infallible Providence of God. If things could somehow be accomplished in some way other than that which God foresaw, his foreknowledge of the future would no longer be certain. Indeed it would be merely uncertain opinion, and it would be wrong to think that of God.
This, of course, is the same problem which has plagued many theologians and philosophers both before and after Boethius, including and especially St. Augustine.

Boethius begins by rejecting the solution that Providence only foresees things because they will happen, thus placing the necessity of existence in things themselves and not in Providence. This appears to him to place an unacceptible limit upon divine power.

For even though the events are foreseen because they will happen, they do not happen because they are foreseen. Nevertheless, it is necessary either that things which are going to happen be foreseen by God, or that what God foresees will in fact happen; and either way the freedom of the human will is destroyed. But of course it is preposterous to say that the outcome of temporal things is the cause of eternal foreknowledge. Yet to suppose that God foresees future events because they are going to happen is the same as supposing that things which happened long ago are the cause of divine Providence.
Moreover, future things must actually be as God knows them to be, or else this divine knowledge would be only uncertain fallible opinion and not true knowledge. This latter premise Boethius likewise finds totally unacceptible. It is on this basis that Boethius categorically denies any possibility of free will.

But if nothing can be uncertain to Him who is the most certain source of all things, the outcome is certain of all things which He knows with certainty shall be. Therefore, there can be no freedom in human decisions and actions, since the divine mind, foreseeing everything without possibility of error, determines and forces the outcome of everything that is to happen.


However, if this is indeed the case, what becomes of human responsibility? Boethius recognizes that without this responsibility all rewards and punishments for good and evil become pointless since all human actions would be involuntary. Thus rewards and punishments would be rendered "unjust" by the "inevitability of predetermination." This he also finds to be unacceptible, even "blasphemous" since it would make the "Author of all good" equally responsible for human vice. Furthermore, even prayer would become irrelevant since everything has already been "determined by unalterable prosess."

But if we hold that all future events are governed by necessity, and therefore that prayer has no value, what will be left to unite us to the sovereign Lord of all things? And so mankind must, as you said earlier, be cut off from its source and dwindle into nothing.
The contemplation of this sevrance from "divine grace" leads Boethius into Poem 3 in which he asks how the "human mind overcome by the body's blindness" can know the truth which it longs to discover. He finds a tentative answer in the concept of some vague remembrance of a pre-carnal "forgotten" knowledge of God, a "general truth" of which the mind has "lost its grasp of particulars."

This poem, however, does nothing to address the core issue raised in Chapter 3, the apparent conflict between God's foreknowledge of what will, and hence must, happen and the existence of human free will, and hence responsibility. If all human behavior is predetermined, how can anyone be justly held accountable? Thus God is presented as all-powerful but unjust. If, however, human beings are free to choose their actions, then the future becomes contingent, and God's foreknowledge is rendered uncertain and dependent upon human decisions. Throughout Boethius' analysis of this dilemma, Lady Philosophy has been uncharacteristically silent, a situation which will obviously not last. How will she address this vexing question which continues to plague generations of thinkers? Stay tuned for further developments.

Statistics: Posted by magpie — 03 Feb 2006, 18:42


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2006-01-25T20:49:35+00:00 http://cslewis.drzeus.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=4434&p=63609#p63609 <![CDATA[The Consolation of Philosophy • Book 4, Chapters 5 to 7]]>

For I would be less surprised if I could believe that all things happened as the result of accidental chance. But my belief in God and his governing power increases my amazement. Since He often gives joy to the good and bitterness to the wicked, but on the other hand often reverses this dispensation, how can all this be distinguished from accidental chance unless we understand the cause of it?
Philosophy's immediate reaction is to tell Boethius that he doesn't know what he is talking about, supporting her response with Poem 5 which lists several popular superstitious misconceptions about astronomical phenomena.

This short chapter sets up the much longer discussion in Chapter 6 in which a distinction is drawn between Providence and Fate.

The generation of all things, and the whole course of mutable natures and of whatever is in any way subject to change, take their causes, order, and forms from the unchanging mind of God. This divine mind established the manifold rules by which all things are governed while it remained in the secure castle of its own simplicity. When this government is regarded as belonging to the purity of the divine mind, it is called Providence; but when it is considered with reference to the things which it moves and governs, it has from very early times been called Fate.
Thus Providence as divine reason is an attribute of God while Fate belongs to the realm of mutable things. Providence is concerned with the general order while Fate directs particulars. Providence is the unfolding of divine purpose while Fate is the unfolding of finite experience.

Just as the craftsman conceives in his mind the form of the thing he intends to make, and then sets about making it by producing in successive temporal acts that which was simply present in his mind, so God by his Providence simply and unchangeably disposes all things that are to be done, even though the things themselves are worked out by Fate in many ways and in the process of time.
Moreover, while Providence governs all things, some things are not subject to Fate. Using the analogy of multiple spheres orbiting a central point, Philosophy argues that those things which are closest to the center (ie. God) are the most immune to the mutability of Fate.

This, however, does not answer Boethius' question about why the wicked are at times rewarded and the good at times suffer. Philosophy counters by arguing that we cannot really know who is good or evil.

But is human judgment so infallible that those who are thought to be good and evil are necessarily what they seem to be? If so, why are men's judgments so often in conflict, so that the same men are thought by some to deserve reward and by others punishment?
And even if we could know, that which is good for one person may not be good for another. Thus only God knows what each individual either deserves or needs. After reiterating this point at great length with numerous examples, Philosophy asserts that Providence only seems unjust because human reason is too limited to comprehend God's ways.

But it is hard for me to recount all this as if I were a God, for it is not fitting for men to understand intellectually or to explain verbally all the dispositions of the divine work. It is enough to have understood only that God, the Creator of all things in nature, also governs all things, directing them to good. And, since He carefully preserves everything which He made in his own likeness, He excludes by fatal necessity all evil from the bounds of his state. Therefore, if you fix your attention on Providence as the governor of all things, you will find that the evil which is thought to abound in the world is really nonexistent.
This answer to the question of theodicy, which is as old as the voice which spoke to Job out of the whirlwind, is echoed in Poem 6, a lyrical declaration of God's complete control over all creation.

The final chapter of Book 4 offers a short summary of the previous arguments to which it adds Philosophy's "proof" that all forture is good.

Since all fortune whether sweet or bitter has as its purpose the reward or trial of good men or the correction and punishment of the wicked, it must be good because it is clearly either just or useful.
But of course it would have to be good since Philosophy has already argued above that evil is nonexistent. Perhaps it is the result of my own current situtation, but despite its brilliance, I find this syllogistic tour de force disturbingly unsatisfactory. And perhaps I am not alone in this. Looking over the writings of Lewis, it is relatively easy to trace the influence of Boethius in The Problem of Pain, an influence which is starkly absent from A Grief Observed. In the face of suffering, logic will only take you so far, and there are times when it is both more honest and more consoling to say,
Lewis wrote:
Sometime is is hard not to say, "God forgive God." Sometimes it is hard to say so much. But if our faith is true, He didn't. He crucified Him.

Statistics: Posted by magpie — 25 Jan 2006, 20:49


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2006-01-25T19:28:24+00:00 http://cslewis.drzeus.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=4128&p=63596#p63596 <![CDATA[The Consolation of Philosophy • re: Book 4, Chapters 3 & 4]]>
I was intrigued by your suggestion that I might somehow consider the "Founding Fathers" to be "complete subjectivists." Actually quite the opposite is the case. The authors of the Declaration of Independence were directly influenced by the French philosophes who asserted a universal human right to "life, liberty, and property." It is understandable that some of these colonists would be reluctant to attribute rights of property to all men, including those who were themselves property (ie. their own slaves), but I find their choice of a substitute term problematical. Happiness is presented as a totally external commodity to be pursued, and it is that pursuit alone which is claimed as a right. As an external entity, that which is thus pursued can be denied, or if once attained, can be taken away by an equally external agent. This is precisely why the concept of happiness as an objective entity has always seemed to me to be woefully inadequate.

I was also startled to see that you linked Boethius with "Aristotle and other natural philosophers." While he was indeed acquainted with Aristotle, some of whose works he translated, he was far more heavily influenced by the idealism of St. Augustine and through him the neo-platonists. However, my point is not to revive the old realist/nominalist debate which came significantly later than Boethius. Rather my objection is to Lady Philosophy's continual use of "happiness" and "goodness" as if they were interchangeable essences (or platonic forms if you will) with no distinction between them.

For that reason, I much prefer your own argument that happiness is an internal quality.

There's a vast difference between being happy at one particular moment -- having the psychological contentment accompanying the possession of a good -- and the quality of happiness pursuing a good life. The latter is a disposition, a habitual inclination, and does not primarily refer to the fleeting emotions of sorrow, anger, contented happiness, etc. ... A happy person in this sense can have unhappy feelings yet still have an inner disposition which enables him to make virtuous decisions (and become a god).
In my present circumstances, I find your words far more "consoling" that those of Lady Philosophy.

Statistics: Posted by magpie — 25 Jan 2006, 19:28


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2005-12-31T14:55:03+00:00 http://cslewis.drzeus.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=4128&p=58645#p58645 <![CDATA[The Consolation of Philosophy • Re: Book 4, Chapters 3 & 4]]>
Hold on there, this is a common misunderstanding -- one which would have the Founding Fathers, with their "pursuit of hapiness," as complete subjectivists.

That is not what adherents to the perennial philosophy mean by "happiness": we moderns have warped it's meaning to resemble our own immediate-pleasure-seeking lives.

"(T)his insight...Boethius...expresses in an oft repeated characterization of happiness as "a life made perfect by the possession in aggregate of all good things." So conceived, happiness is not a particular good itself, but the sum of goods." --Mortimer Adler

There's a vast difference between being happy at one particular moment -- having the psychological contentment accompanying the possession of a good -- and the quality of happiness pursuing a good life. The latter is a disposition, a habitual inclination, and does not primarily refer to the fleeting emotions of sorrow, anger, contented happiness, etc. The opposite of a happy life as Boethius, Aristotle, or other natural philosophers conceive it, is a tragic life. To explain what Boethius means about our own rewards and punishments, we have to make a further distinction, because as you note Christ did not live a life replete, as a long string of happy emotions -- Boethius does not have this in mind. Nor could we call Christ's life happy, as opposed to tragic, as a whole. What then does Boethius have in mind? The answer is to make the distinction between limited and unlimited goods: those not within our power to possess, and those that are -- outside circumstances, and inner dispositions. The opposite of happiness in this sense is neurosis. A happy person in this sense can have unhappy feelings yet still have an inner disposition which enables him to make virtuous decisions (and become a god). What of the self-deluded who think their possession of one good to the exclusion of all others makes them happy? Well, as Mill said, “…if the fool…(is) of a different opinion, it is because (he) only know(s) (his) own side of the question. The other party to the comparison knows both sides.” It would be self-evident to anyone thus shown, experientially, the “other side” (the wicked shown what it means to be good) that he was a “fool.”

Jesse

Statistics: Posted by Kolbitar — 31 Dec 2005, 14:55


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2005-12-22T21:19:30+00:00 http://cslewis.drzeus.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=4128&p=57505#p57505 <![CDATA[The Consolation of Philosophy • Book 4, Chapters 3 & 4]]>

We have demonstrated that happiness is the good for which all things are done. Absolute good, therefore, is set up as a kind of common prize for all human activity. Now this prize is always achieved by good men, and further, no one who lacks the good may rightly be called a good man.
In other words, the good always receive their reward because those who do not possess it are not good. (If you are not happy, then shame on you!) Continuing her equation of happiness and goodness, she then concludes,

Since the good is happiness, all good men are made happy by the very fact that they are good. And we have already shown that those who are happy are gods. Therefore, the reward of good men, which time cannot lessen, nor power diminish, nor the wickedness of any man tarnish, is to become gods.
This argument only holds if one accepts the premise that happiness and the good are interchangeable essences, a premise which not only flies in the face of a great deal of human experience, but one which also has denigrating implications for the "man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," the true God (not merely a god) who "became flesh and dwelt among us." But then Incarnational theology has been strangely absent from this work, once again raising the question of Boethius' intended audience in a society still torn by the Arian controversy.

The same circular reasoning is employed to demonstrate that the wicked are always punished.

For, since good and evil, reward and punishment are opposites, the rewards of the good necessarily indicate the opposite--the punishment of the wicked. Therefore, just as virtue is the reward of virtuous men, so wickedness itself is the punishment of the wicked.
Moreover, just as the good become gods, the wicked cease to be human.

You learned earlier that whatever is, is one, and that whatever is one, is good; it follows then that whatever is must also be good. And it follows from this that whatever loses its goodness ceases to be. Thus wicked men cease to be what they were; but the appearance of their human bodies, which they keep, shows that they once were men. To give oneself to evil, therefore, is to lose one's human nature.
This conclusion is supported by a catalogue of vices and their emblematic animals, a recitation which leads to the declaration,

In this way, anyone who abandons virtue ceases to be a man, since he cannot share in the divine nature, and instead becomes a beast.
This is supported (quite predictably) by the ensuing poem which recounts the story of Ulysses and Circe who turned his sailors into swine.

As one might expect given his circumstances, Boethius protests,

Still, I wish that these cruel and wicked minds were not permitted to ruin good men.
But his objection is quickly overruled by the explanation that the power of the wicked is actually their punishment.

If, however, the power which they are thought to have were taken from them, their punishment would be greatly diminished. For, though this may seem incredible to some, the wicked are necessarily more unhappy when they have their way than they would be if they could not do what they wanted to do.
Thus Philosophy sets the theme for the remainder of Chapter 4, the premise that the wicked are powerless and miserable no matter what appearances to the contrary might suggest. Arguing that

If wickedness makes men miserable, the longer they are wicked the more wretched they must be.
she conlcudes,

That the wicked are happier when they are punished than when they evade justice.
This she demonstrates as follows:
1. The good are happy and the wicked miserable.
2. One who is unhappy but who achieves some good is happier than one whose unhappiness is "unmixed with the slightest good."
3. One who has no good and increases in evil is unhappier than one who has achieved some good.

Therefore, the wicked receive some good when they are punished, because the punishment itself is good inasmuch as it is just; conversely, when the wicked avoid punishment, they become more evil, because you have already admitted that such impunity is evil because it is unjust. Therefore, the wicked who unjustly escape punishment are more unhappy than those who are justly punished.
But all this presupposes that Philosophy has already successfully proved that the wicked are miserable, an assertion which depends in turn upon our acceptance of the inherent equivalence of happiness and goodness.

Ever the obedient student, Boethius accepts her argument, but then observes,

But, if we consider the ordinary judgment of men, who is likely to find these ideas credible, or who will even listen to them?
(I was about to say that myself.) Never at a loss for words, Philosophy responds, not with a logical argument, but rather with an emotional diatribe against human blindness, enslavement to feelings, and general baseness. From this outburst, she jumps to her next assertion.

Most thoughtless people will not even grant another equally strong argument to the effect that those who injure others are more unhappy than those whom they injure.
This she demonstrates as follows:
1. The wicked deserve to be punished.
2. The wicked are unhappy.
3. Those who deserve to be punished are miserable.
4. The one who does an injury deserves punishment.
5. The one who does evil is more miserable than the one to whom it is done.
From this sequence, she derives an interesting idea for the legal system.

But at present, lawyers take the opposite tack. They try to arouse sympathy in the judges for those who have suffered grave injury, when those who have harmed them are much more deserving of pity. Such criminals ought to be brought to justice by kind and compassionate accusers, as sick men are taken to the doctor, so that their disease of guilt might be cured by punishment.
This same sentiment is exhoed in the final words of the ensuing poem:

If you would give every man what he deserves, then love the good and pity those who are evil.
It is interesting to note that after calling wickedness a disease, Philosophy speaks of those who are evil, not those who do evil. Is wickedness a series of behaviors, an acquired condition, or an integral aspect of one's essence? (Perhaps this question is moot since earlier Philosophy has argued that evil does not exist.) Besides its implications for the penal system, this chapter raises the issue of determinism versus free will, a question which Boethius will not address until Book 5. Nonetheless, there seems to be a troubling pattern of tautological "proof" by the clever definition of terms. As Humpty Dumpty once explained to Alice,

When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less...The question is, which is to be master--that's all.

Statistics: Posted by magpie — 22 Dec 2005, 21:19


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