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Chapter 1

One chapter per week study of a book that profoundly influenced C. S. Lewis.

Chapter 1

Postby Guest » 03 Apr 2005, 22:43

I just finished reading ch.1. I do plan on re-reading it and thinking about it throughout the week but I want to get down my first impressions now!

It was easy to understand, which was nice.

The poem is distressing; the man is undone. I did read, on Stanley's recommendation, Lewis's thoughts about Boethius in The Discarded Image and he mentioned the possibility of relating Boethius to Existentialists and they are who came to mind while reading the poem. He contrasts the period before his calamity,
"happier days"
"I gloried"
"my youth's full spate"
"transient goods did show"
"renown"
"Death finds no welcome in contented life."

with those after:
grief, sad, tears, dread, old, woes, sorrow, untimely, trembling, distress, weeping, low, unwanted, down.

B. seems to me to be using the idea of a "break" that ruptures one way of being with another. One thing that seems to emerge from such a break is a new perspective.

This perspective is the one one has when one is "brought low" as B. says. He is "down" and "low."

Of course, he writes that despite his renown he was "insecure." This reminded my of Lewis's quote from Milton at the beginning of Surprised by Joy, "Happy, but for so happy ill secured." Isn't this the condition of us all?

Well, I have to run for now. I suppose these are more or less my thoughts on the poem. I'll come back soon with my thoughts on the text.

Rudi
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Re: Chapter 1

Postby Guest » 05 Apr 2005, 19:43

Well, the text is so straightforward that I really don't have any questions for clarification of its meaning. Does everyone (anyone!) think so? I suppose I only, at this point, have some thoughts on some of the images employed by B.

I've never read, nor discussed, this book w/ anyone before and so at this point I only know that the woman is "Philosophia" because I read this in The Discarded Image and it certainly fits her description. I suppose she is the "embodiment" of philosophy.

Any thoughts on why a woman has been chosen to represent philosophy?

"...her glowing eyes penetrated more powerfully than those of ordinary folk,..."

I guess I consider this the promise of philosophy and it's why I, I reckon, I'd like to read this book! If philosophy can't deliver wisdom, the kind that requires exploration, I don't think I'd be interested in it at all. So, I guess I'm glad that B. and I are on the same page here!

I liked his descrption of her as being variable in height. I took it to mean that she explores both the experiences we have in everyday life but that the character of philosophy is to question everything, an unrestricted "field" of knowledge. To me, one of THE philosophical questions is, "What does it all mean?

I also like the description of her clothes, the finest thread, imperishable material, covered w/ dust! I love that. The finest minds went into this transcendent wisdom but, because of neglect, it has been covered over. Much like Luther, from what I've been told, believing the meaning of being a Christian had been covered over and had to be recovered. I like this type of approach to anything. It makes me feel like I'm an archaeologist recovering some ancient treasure, I hope the book bears this out!

I have no idea why she is so vehemently opposed to the Muses of poetry. I guess maybe we'll see why later. I should say, I read her explanation, I just don't "get it" yet. Of course, she too has Muses and she composes her own verse, I see, to be read when I tackle the next chapter.

I like how he talks about "awaiting" her. It creates a "posture" that suggests to me a spirit of receptivity rather than a spirit of aggression. I like that; it seems to me a mark of respect. I don't have Lewis's Experiment in Criticism handy but he articulates an approach to learning that is receptive in nature and that resonates well, I think, with the idea of "awaiting."

All in all, this is some of the most accessible and approachable philosophy that I've been exposed to. I like it, so far.

Rudi
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Re: Chapter 1

Postby Karen » 05 Apr 2005, 19:56

rudif wrote:Any thoughts on why a woman has been chosen to represent philosophy?


Perhaps because in the Bible wisdom is personified as a woman?

Prov 4:6-9 Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor.

Prov 8:1-6 Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; beside the gates leading into the city, at the entrances, she cries aloud: "To you, O men, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind. You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, gain understanding. Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right.
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Re: Chapter 1

Postby Guest » 05 Apr 2005, 21:51

Karen,
Do you have any thoughts why the Bible does the same thing? Is this a common image?
Rudi

PS-Karen, you're a woman so I better beat you to the punch, I know your first answer will be, "Isn't it obvious?" haha!
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Re: Chapter 1

Postby Karen » 05 Apr 2005, 22:11

rudif wrote:Karen,
Do you have any thoughts why the Bible does the same thing? Is this a common image?
Rudi


It's common in Greek thought, where wisdom is personified as Sophia, hence the word philosophy: philo (love) + sophia (wisdom). I don't know much about the subject before Biblical times, so I'll just postulate that the Hebrews, inspired by God, invented the idea. :)
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Re: Chapter 1

Postby Karen » 05 Apr 2005, 23:41

rudif wrote:Karen, PS-Karen, you're a woman so I better beat you to the punch, I know your first answer will be, "Isn't it obvious?" haha!


Actually, it wasn't. I guess I'm not a typical woman. ;)
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Re: Chapter 1

Postby Guest » 05 Apr 2005, 23:49

Karen,
Thanks; an impressive little bit of etymology (or is it entomolgy, I always get those confused)!
Rudi
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Re: Chapter 1

Postby Robert » 06 Apr 2005, 13:00

I have read Book I, which I read some years back and am recalling the text to my memory. A couple of things right off I see in the opening. One, Bothius, by characterizing Philosophy as a woman, seems to imply that it is a soothing, beautiful, attractive nature. But, by the same token, he tells us Philosophy has wisdom and authority by such passages as...in her right hand she carried books (wisdom) and in her left a sceptre (authority).

Another thing I noticed was, and a bit of real history, the author was thrown in prison for some treason against the Goths (who had just recently taken hold of this region of the Roman empire) by hiding documents, I presume, that would have condemned the Roman senate. thus, he was labeled one 'Hoping for the freedom of Rome'.

But, in spite of all this, he was not in the wrong. The Goths were just trumping up charges as a means of consolidating their power and hold on Rome. In other words, Boethius felt as if he had followed the guidance of Philosophy (wisdom and GOd's authority), but was left high and dry. And, he also retells the plight of other philosophers persecuted by the state, like Socrates and Seneca. All of whom lost.

In the midst of this, I find Philosophy's answer to his despair very interesting. First, she tells him to remmeber that it may not be the season of his fortune. In other words, he may have to wait, as if waiting for autumn, to reap the benefits of following God's guidance through Philosophy.

But, I think the most significant piece of advice that Philosophy offers is to remember who he is. She seems to be saying to Boethius that his despair is not spawned from his perceived misfortune (the imprisonment, his property seized by the Goths, etc.), but from a disconnect he has received between himself and his mind. He is only focusing on the outer conditions of his life, which are not respective objects to the soul. Rather, if he were to look deeper within himself and find that calm peace that is 'beyond' the physical world, he will see God's purpose, if but faintly, and will not despair.
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Re: Chapter 1

Postby Guest » 08 Apr 2005, 04:28

First impressions from reading chapter one:

First and foremost, this so echoes the Book of Job in Boethius’ complaint that its similarity is just amazing. The second thing that hits me is that this must have been the pattern for Lewis’ Till We Have Faces; the mold into which he cast Orual’s complaint. Of course, Orual was wrong, and Boethius has a case, but that was simply to highlight the perversity of Orual’s perspective. It was a mockery of the real case, and, when all was said and done, even Boethius—who had been legitimately wronged—had to be corrected.

Second, any person that claims that Boethius is not Christian for some pagan philosophical following is just a nut. His allusions to Christian concepts go past the philosophic foundations.

Third, this is completely tangential, but this is the second time I’ve recently read Reason cast as a person (the first was Romance of the Rose). Because Reason is considered the daughter of God, I always imagine Reason the same as I would Athena!!! They’re the same person in my mind, and at times it drives me nuts. But, I can’t get rid of it. There’s the Odyssey, there’s Athena. There’s Boethius, there’s Athena. For some reason, Reason simply has grey eyes.

Fourth, here are some individual lines that struck me:

These are the very women who kill the rich and fruitful harvest of Reason with the barren thorns of Passion.


This imagery is very striking to me: the thorns are always taken as the price of the Rose…but when there is no Rose and only Thorns to be had…**trails off in thought**

The solo cause of their tragic sufferings was their obvious and complete contempt of the pursuits of immoral men which my teaching had instilled in them.


Does this passage remind you of anything?

If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.


-- -- -- --

Your defences have been breached and your mind has been infiltrated by the fever of emotional distraction.

Distraction…Screwtape Letters anyone? Not that I am *trying* to relate everything back to Lewis, but I am beginning to see why this is a Top Tenner.

-- -- -- --

Reason here is personified so sweetly—I wish in that form she could come as an older sister and just have tea with me. She is gentle, paced and determined—not brash or jealous the way she is portrayed by Jean de Meun (Romance of the Rose).

Now that I have all that off my chest I will look at other comments to date…

Rudif wrote:
Any thoughts on why a woman has been chosen to represent philosophy?


Seeing as traditionally, women are portrayed as anything but reasonable, I can see the conundrum. See my above thoughts on Athena…perhaps my derivation is not accidental after all. Beyond that, all I can think of is that Reason has always been thought to be some form of consort, and since men have done the writing, that consort is a she. Secondly, perhaps there is some help-mate quality to Reason. After all, Adam did take his wife’s advice, ill as it was. Perhaps it is a function that is female in gender (I am speaking spiritually, not literally, and of course not all those female possess Reason).

Rudif wrote:
I have no idea why she is so vehemently opposed to the Muses of poetry. I guess maybe we'll see why later.


Poetry is traditionally regarded as an emotional exercise.

Robert wrote:
But, I think the most significant piece of advice that Philosophy offers is to remember who he is. She seems to be saying to Boethius that his despair is not spawned from his perceived misfortune (the imprisonment, his property seized by the Goths, etc.), but from a disconnect he has received between himself and his mind. He is only focusing on the outer conditions of his life, which are not respective objects to the soul. Rather, if he were to look deeper within himself and find that calm peace that is 'beyond' the physical world, he will see God's purpose, if but faintly, and will not despair.


Amen to that. Good thoughts!!

Well, I guess that does it for now. This is already one of my favorite books. I can’t wait to get to more of it. :)
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Re: Chapter 1

Postby Colleen » 11 Apr 2005, 01:17

Quick question: Chapter 1 in my version is called Boethius' Complaint. That is all we were planning to read/discuss last week? Or were we supposed to read all of Book 1 this past week? That would be a bit much, for me, at least. I see Chapter 2 is ridiculously short--so what's our next assignment?

I have read Chap. 1 and enjoyed it, but I have little to add to the comments.

Thanks,
Colleen
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Re: Chapter 1

Postby Guest » 11 Apr 2005, 01:40

The Medieval Chick wrote:First and foremost, this so echoes the Book of Job...

Good point, I hadn't thought of that; could be a fruitful comparison.
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Re: Chapter 1

Postby Guest » 11 Apr 2005, 01:44

Hi Colleen,
Yes, we were just going to read Ch.1 for week ending 4/8, Ch.2 for w/e 4/15, etc. I know the chapters are small and that that means there won't always be a lot to comment on but I can't imagine anyone being able to stick with it if it were a book each week, including myself. Yes, I just finished reading Ch.2 so, I'm off to a new topic...(!)
Rudi
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Re: Chapter 1

Postby magpie » 15 Apr 2005, 21:42

I know that I am jumping in late because I just got back from my trip, but here goes.

I was not at all surprised to find Philosophy personified as a woman. In the Old Testament the standard image for Wisdom is female and is often placed in direct contrast with another female image, that of Folly. (This pervades the entire Book of Proverbs). Not only is the Greek word for wisdom, "sophia," in the feminine case, but so also is the Hebrew word, "hokmah." Moreover, in Proverbs Wisdom is presented as participating in God's initial act of Creation.

I also at first wondered why Philosophy expressed such violent condemnation of the poetic Muses. But then I reread the passage and saw that she called them "whores from the theater." It seemed that she was not opposed to poetry as such (after all she turns right around and composes a poem herself), but only a certain type of poetry. In modern terms, she might be attacking shallow sentimental verse or trashy fiction which have lured her suffering disciple from giving proper attention to the wisdom which he most needs in his time of trial.
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Re: Chapter 1

Postby Guest » 20 Apr 2005, 12:53

magpie wrote:I was not at all surprised to find Philosophy personified as a woman.
No, but what is the reason, underneath all the images?
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Re: Chapter 1

Postby Guest » 20 Apr 2005, 12:55

magpie wrote:It seemed that she was not opposed to poetry as such (after all she turns right around and composes a poem herself), but only a certain type of poetry. In modern terms, she might be attacking shallow sentimental verse or trashy fiction which have lured her suffering disciple from giving proper attention to the wisdom which he most needs in his time of trial.

Good point, I like how you put that.
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