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PHL lecture, nov. 10.doc

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Peter King

Consolation of Philosophy 1-3 • Greece taken over by Italians • Barbarian who set himself up of king was replaced by another o Poisoned o Theodoric came to power • Boethius was born into wealthy family o Parents died very young o Adopted by even richer family o Old line of nobility o Important figure in society o Central person in Rome o Politics o Under Theodoric: master of offices o All went to pieces o Someone in senate made comments that it was sad that the proper catholic Italians were ruled by a Barbarian catholic o Senator put in jail o Boethius enraged and stood up for senator o “No more treasonous than I say” o So he was thrown in prison for treason, plotting to overthrow the king and sex with demons o Under house arrest for a time, then jail cell, within a year executed o Wrote Consolation of Philosophy while imprisoned waiting to be executed o Responds to the Crito • Looking for some sort of consolation while imprisoned o Looks to philosophy o What’s the problem Boethius is facing The Prisoner’s Lament • CP 1.4. Not the traditional ‘Problem of Evil,’ but the (related) Problem of Desert: o Why don’t people get what they deserve? o That is, why are goods and evils distributed in the world with apparently no regard to individual desert? o Answering this question is the philosophical aim of the Consolation of Philosophy • Lady Philosophy diagnoses the Prisoner’s problem as a (temporary) cognitive failure: he ahs “forgotten himself for a while.” o Hence he must be cured, first with gentle with remedies (book 2) and then with stronger medicines, i.e. fewer assumptions (book 3). o This explains the “double vision” effect o We will concentrate on the stronger medicines Popular consolations • Lady Philosophy begins with the “sweet persuasiveness of rhetoric” which has to be guided by philosophy to stay on the right road (2.18) o Boethius should count his blessings (2.4.5-9) o He ought to recognize that good fortune only comes with (the possibility of) adverse fortune (2.4.4)  Good fortune may pass, but by the same token so does adverse fortune (2.4.11) The Fleeting Goods of Fortune • (2.4.25-29). • The ‘second wave’ of therapy offers three arguments ephemeral goods cannot provide happiness o First argument  Happiness is the highest good  A good that cannot be taken away is better than one that can be taken away  The goods of Fortune can all be taken away  Therefore: the goods of Fortune cannot provide happiness • An obvious objection might be that (2) is flawed, since there might not be any good that cannot be taken away. But the point here is that transitory goods don’t measure up to the conceptual requirements for the highest good • Second argument (2.4.26-27) o Jones either knows (1a) that fortune is fickle, or (1b) doesn’t know that Fortune is fickle o If (1b), then Jones can’t actually be happy (though he may think he is happy)  Deluded o If (1a), then Jones either (3a) cares about losing goods of Fortune or (3b) doesn’t care about losing them o If (3b), then they must not be essential to Jone’s happiness, and hence not make him happy o If (3a), then Jones will be anxious about losing them, and hence not be happy o Therefore: the goods of Fortune do not make Jones happy • The central claim here is that you can’t be happy unless you know that Fortune is fickle, in which case you should not care about transitory goods • The third argument is as follows o 2.4.28-29 o Since the goods of Fortune are all external, they are lo
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