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La Consolation de Philosophie

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La Consolation de Philosophie...

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4.1 out of 5 stars
16 total reviews
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The Consolation of Philosophy is Boethius' attempt to wrap his mind and soul around the problem of theodicy. Specifically, Boethius, a philosopher in the 4th-5th cent. AD, is coming to grips with his own unjust suffering and impending death. As he languishes in a prison cell, he writes Consolation, in which Philosophy herself descends to talk with him specifically about his own plight, as well as the problem of evil generally in this world. Boethius divides his conversation with Philosophy into five books, each of which tackles a specific issue, question, or argument. Book I: Philosophy descends from heaven to meet Boethius in his cell. Boethius airs his complaints to her, culminating his argument by stating, "And now you see the outcome of my innocence--instead of reward for true goodness, punishment for a crime I did not commit." Philosophy lays out the thesis of her response: "Your defenses have been breached and your mind has been infiltrated by the fever of emotional distraction...You have forgotten your true nature." Book II: Philosophy argues that money, power and fame (collectively called Fortune) are destined to go away, and one's fortune can be reversed at any moment. Therefore, these things cannot bring true happiness--so why worry if they are taken away? Book III: Philosophy sketches out the true cause of happiness. Namely, true happiness can be found in God alone, because only He completely embodies what it means to be happy. The closer one draws to God, the happier one will be. Book IV: Philosophy turns to a discussion of good and evil. Today, we might say she is answering the questions, "Why do good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people?" Her answer is that ultimately all things that happen to a good person are good (because they are either reward or discipline), and all things that happen to a bad person are bad (because they are either punishment or correction). Book V: Philosophy wraps up her conversation with Boethius by examining the relationship of free will to God's foreknowledge. She argues that because God sees all things as an eternal present, he necessarily knows the future, though from our vantage point as travelers through time, the choices we make are genuinely free. Like many people out there, last year (2011) was a rough one for my family and me. We went through a lot of trials, and my faith was stretched to the limit. Admittedly, things in my life were not nearly as bad off as they were for Boethius, but nevertheless I found myself making many of the same complaints and observations that he did. For this reason, I really appreciated The Consolation. As the book progressed, I was able to identify with and internalize Philosophy's overarching argument, which is summarized well by Romans 8:28, "All things work together for good for those who love God." While some of Philosophy's logic is suspect (e.g., the idea that evil is nothing, which unfortunately is just a clever equivocation of terms), there are many, many more nuggets of wisdom that still ring true some 1500 years later. I highly recommend this book for anyone who needs reassurance in time of suffering.

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La Consolation de Philosophie... LA CONSOLATION DE LA PHILOSOPHIE


Series Title
Ldp Let.Gothiq.
Livre de Poche
Book Format
Publication Date
October, 2008
Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)
6.90 x 4.30 x 0.50 Inches

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1-5 of 16 reviews

Brilliant! Going in, I...

Brilliant! Going in, I expected this to be difficult, like Plotinus, but it was actually very readable. It reminded me in places of The Republic, although the character of Boethius is much more lovable than that of Socrates. Also, I was fuzzy going in on whether Boethius was writing as a Christian or a Platonist. As it turns out, he has a foot in each camp. Christian-ish Neoplatonism, with a dash of Stoicism added in. Or maybe he was a Christian but decided to write his defense of philosophy without reference to divine revelation, just because? It is hard to tell. Anyway, this was just marvelous! Boethius tackles the big questions of monotheism: theodicy, providence vs free will (which he does a particularly nice job with, btw); eternity vs infinity (this isn't one of the Big Questions, or has never been for me, but I found it fascinating anyway!), etc. Not that his answers, particularly to that of suffering, are fully satisfactory, but whose are? He doesn't tie himself in knots, the way Aristotle and Plotinus do, and the poems in between the prose sections are lovely. The notes in this edition (Ignatius Critical Editions) are fantastic. Not only do they tell you everything you want to know (and maybe a little more), but they are on the Bottoms of the Relevant Pages, where notes Belong! I Love not having to flip to the back of the book to read the notes. Plus, the binding is a nice sturdy one, which makes a nice change (hint, hint, Oxford World's Classics!). The notes explain all the people, events, and stories a reader might not know, and also the works that Boethius is (or may be) referencing - the Bible, Hesiod, Homer, Horace, Virgil, Juvenal, Lucretius, Aristotle, Plato, Cicero, Augustine, etc. They also point to later authors who drew on Boethius, particularly Aquinas, Chaucer, Dante, Shakespeare, Milton (and not forgetting John Kennedy Toole!). Great book, great notes. *The Contemporary Criticism, at the end, was less impressive. This was a collection of six essays on Boethius & the Consolation, by various authors (all college professors, with schools noted), none of which I found indispensable. Out of the six, I read the second, third, and fourth, and found them mildly interesting. The first, fifth, and sixth I tried but gave up on. I think it says something good about Boethius and his translators/footnoters that I didn't feel much Need for explanatory essays!

Boethius was the adopt...

Boethius was the adopted son of Symmachus a highly committed christian and consul at Rome in the late 5th century AD. Boethius in his turn also became consul and the was then appointed by Theodric (King of Italy) to a high ranking position at his court at Ravenna. After a year in post Boethius fell foul of court intrigue and was imprisoned on charges of treason. Whilst in prison and hopeful of reprieve he wrote the Consolation of philosophy. His reprieve never came and he was executed around 525 AD. The Consolation is not a religious tract, it is more a philosophical argument for the existence of God and its aim is to provide comfort to all unfortunate souls who find themselves like Boethius in extreme distress. There are five short books: Book 1: introduces the persona of philosophy and Boethius pours out to her his woes. She promises to provide medicine to cure his moral sickness. Book 2: is a condemnation of the material advantages that Boethius has already enjoyed and looks forward to a time when these will no longer be needed. Book 3: examines the nature of true happiness and the search for true good and puts forward the idea that the perfect good in which lies true happiness is God. Book 4: examines whether God apportions appropriate justice to good and evil men in the world and attempts to explain the apparent irrationality in which the widespread operation of chance seems to be at odds with Gods wise governance. Book 5: asks the question; how can man's free will be reconciled with divine providence. a summary of the arguments then lead the prisoner to spiritual freedom, to shake off the shackles of earthly serfdom and rise to be at one with God. When philosophy first visits Boethius he is surrounded by the muses of poetry, which she drives away calling them "these harlots". A question the reader might ask is whether Boethius would have been better off sticking with the muses of poetry. I think the logical arguments that are easily followed would convince many people that philosophy is the better bet. There are of course gaps in the logic to the modern mind but overall I thought that much of what is said seemed to speak to me down the ages. The one big issue that is not examined satisfactorily is why there is evil in the world If God is omnipotent, A knotty question I know but the consolation seems to shy away from this. I read the Oxford world's classics edition translated and introduced by P G Walsh, which I found to be excellent. Each chapter of text is either introduced or followed by a poem and these are worth the price of the book alone. They either sum up the text or give additional information. I loved them. Walsh provides plenty of background information and his notes are easy to follow and precise. The only advice I would give to readers before starting the book would be to make sure that they are familiar with the basic tenets of Neoplatonism. Walsh has a short chapter on it but to get the most out of the consolation which is based on neoplatonism do a bit of background reading. I will return to this marvellous little book, especially those poems

Philosophy in the figu...

Philosophy in the figure of a woman is calling Boethius to his better self having him realise that what he has lost - his honour, his freedom, his library, his fame & wealth - are inconsequential, they do not matter. Philosophy is bringing him to a true understanding. We need to abstract from time, from the process of life, to see things as how they would appear to an eternal being and we can rise to this perspective through philosophy. The consolation in regards to death is realising that when you die what you lose is the present moment as the past has ceased to be and the future has not yet to come. What you think you're losing is insufficiently important. Philosophy an take you into a world of higher understanding intellectual and moral.

I had received not 1 b...

I had received not 1 but 3, fine recommendations for this book. First, was from Ignatius J. Reilly c/o [John Kennedy Toole], of course. Second, was from my sister, who obtained her BA in Philosophy many years ago. Third was from the late great Professor Rufus Fears, via a Teaching Company lecture dealing with life-changing books. It is not well known today but was an extremely popular treatise from the early Medieval times onward and it greatly influenced western thought. I particularly enjoyed the lyrical sections interspersed between the dialogues between Philosophy and her student, the imprisoned Boethius.

This book is a dialogu...

This book is a dialogue between the female personification of Philosophy, and the author Boethius, in the sixth century A.D. He is in a bit of a fix, and is considering profound philosophical questions. The topics include free will and determinism, the nature of God, human nature, goodness, justice, and they are discussed between the two characters who present arguments and make decisions. There are also numerous verses relating to the topics throughout the book, which act in a way as summaries. The arguments and topics are very much of Platonic and Aristotlean origin, often with a Neoplatonic interpretation. Though the book is religious in purpose, it is a philosophical work that aims to support the tenets of religion without reference to scripture, using only reason. Boethius has a great literary style, which makes this book very nice to read, though the book is just as valuable for how it deals with the big questions. In many aspects it is more satisfying than some of Plato's lesser dialogues, which often reach no conclusion, and in which it is not immediately obvious what we are being taught. Boethius gets to the point, gets the arguments out, and makes decisions. On some things I do not believe he is correct, but a lot of the thought is incisive, and the philosophy on the whole is just as good, if not better, than Augustine's Confessions. These books have a fair amount in common, but are also very different. This book ought to be part of the education of anyone studying philosophy, and happily it has the value of being effortless to read, unlike many other important works.

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