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Book 3, Chapter 11

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

Book 3, Chapter 11

Postby magpie » 26 Nov 2005, 17:08

Having already argued in Chapter 10 that God is "the perfect good" and hence "true happiness," Lady Philosophy goes on to explain that absolute prefection and happiness require unity.
Therefore, if these partial goods cannot be truly good if they are different, but are good if they become one, then clearly they become good by acquiring unity...But, if you also grant that every good is good by participating in the perfect good, then you should concede by a similar line of reasoning that the good and the one are the same. For things are of the same essense if their effects are of the same nature.
But then she makes a sudden leap into a discussion of an entirely different sort of unity, namely the existential unity of individual entities.
And do you also understand that everything that is remains and subsists in being as long as it is one; but that when it ceases to be one it dies and corrupts?
What follows is a long description of the inherent "desire" within animals and plants to seek their own survival. This attitbution of "desire" to non-rational entities reminds me of George Bernard Shaw's famous (or imfamous) idea of the "Life Force." If you want an entertaining response to Darwinian Natural Selection, read the preface to Back to Methuselah. I assaure you that you will never look at a giraffe in the same way again.

From organic life, Philosophy moves on to the inorganic realm to which she attributes this same "desire": rocks to maintain their solidity, water to persist in its flow, and fire to remain indivisible. Here Boethius seems almost a precursor to Alfred North Whitehead and the subsequent process theologians who assert that each entity (called an "event") seeks to enjoy the greatest degree of self-actualization.

Philosophy concedes that human will can and does create exceptions to this otherwise universal quest.
For often the will is driven by powerful causes to seek death, though nature draws back from it. On the other hand, the work of generation by which alone the continuation of mortal things is achieved, is sometimes restrained by the will, even though nature always desires it.
Nonetheless, she insists that:
(1) Without unity existence cannot be sustained.
(2) All things desire unity.
(3) Unity is the same as goodness.
(4) All things desire the good.
Therefore Boethius can now see:
The end, or goal, of all things. For surely it is that which is desired by all; and since we have identified that as the good, we must conclude that the good is the end toward which all things tend.


Thus this chapter concludes, as did the one before it, by asserting that God is to be defined as absolute good and the essence of true happiness, adding only the element of unity to the divine attributes. But this concept of "unity," with its extrapolated applications in the natural realm, remains vague and abstract. It almost seems as if Boethius is using the term in a variety of ways, not all of them fully compatible. The unity of body and spirit within each living thing could with equal logic lead to its individualization rather than its unification with the One. Nor does the concluding poem with its emphasis upon seeking one's own inherent wisdom, resolve this ambiguity.
The man who searches deeply for the truth, and wishes to avoid being deceived by false leads, must turn the light of his inner vision upon himself. He must guide his soaring thoughts back again and teach his spirit that it possesses hidden among its own treasures whatever it seeks outside itself.
This assertion reflects the author's persistently high view of human capacities which leads him to proclaim
for the body, with its burden of forgetfulness, cannnot drive all light from his mind.
Would that this were true! But sadly, for those afflicted by dementia, it is not.
"Love is the will to extend one's self in order to nurture one's own or another's spiritual growth."
M. Scott Peck

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