Boethius (3): God is Happiness

Some scholars make much of the fact that Boethius, as he is writing The Consolation of Philosophy at the end of his life, frames his book as a dialogue with Lady Philosophy rather than with Christ or God.  Some have even suggested that it represents Boethius’s turn, in his final days as his life is falling part, from Christ to paganism or neo-Platonism.  I don’ think that this is very helpful at all.  For starters, we have to remember that Boethius lived at a time in which philosophy was less clearly distinct from Christianity.  Its easy to dismiss medieval Christians like Augustine, Boethius, and Anselm as “Platonic,” as though that fact itself discredited them.  It would be far more helpful, however, to examine the specific ways in which Platonic influence is at work in a particular thinker’s thought, and how this influence affects them, because Platonic thought and Christian thought have many areas of overlap.  In many ways, C.S. Lewis is just as “Platonic” as Boethius or Anselm.

In addition, its very difficult to see Lady Philosophy as representing an alternative to Christianity when throughout the book she continually points Boethius back to God as the highest good and the goal of all things.  For example, this past week I read Book III, which is an extended argument in which Lady Philosophy shows Boethius that God is happiness.  Its interesting that in III.X, Lady Philosophy sets forward an argument that is strikingly similar to Anselm’s famous ontological argument for God’s existence.  It really makes me wonder if Anselm may have been directly or indirectly influenced by Boethius, although I suppose its also possible that the similarity is simply the influence of Augustine on them both.  In any case, I’m convinced that Lady Philosophy simply serves in The Consolation as a representation of Truth, and the handmaiden to Boethius’ Christian faith, not an alternative.

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