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PHL100Y1 Lecture Notes - Diplopia, Endangerment

Course Code
Peter King

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Consolation of Philosophy 1-3
Greece taken over by Italians
Barbarian who set himself up of king was replaced by another
oTheodoric came to power
Boethius was born into wealthy family
oParents died very young
oAdopted by even richer family
oOld line of nobility
oImportant figure in society
oCentral person in Rome
oUnder Theodoric: master of offices
oAll went to pieces
oSomeone in senate made comments that it was sad that the proper catholic
Italians were ruled by a Barbarian catholic
oSenator put in jail
oBoethius enraged and stood up for senator
o“No more treasonous than I say”
oSo he was thrown in prison for treason, plotting to overthrow the king and
sex with demons
oUnder house arrest for a time, then jail cell, within a year executed
oWrote Consolation of Philosophy while imprisoned waiting to be executed
oResponds to the Crito
Looking for some sort of consolation while imprisoned
oLooks to philosophy
oWhat’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:
oWhy don’t people get what they deserve?
oThat is, why are goods and evils distributed in the world with apparently
no regard to individual desert?
oAnswering this question is the philosophical aim of the Consolation of
Lady Philosophy diagnoses the Prisoner’s problem as a (temporary) cognitive
failure: he ahs “forgotten himself for a while.”
oHence he must be cured, first with gentle with remedies (book 2) and then
with stronger medicines, i.e. fewer assumptions (book 3).
oThis explains the “double vision” effect
oWe 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)
oBoethius should count his blessings (2.4.5-9)
oHe 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
The ‘second wave’ of therapy offers three arguments ephemeral goods cannot
provide happiness
oFirst 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)
oJones either knows (1a) that fortune is fickle, or (1b) doesn’t know that
Fortune is fickle
oIf (1b), then Jones can’t actually be happy (though he may think he is
oIf (1a), then Jones either (3a) cares about losing goods of Fortune or (3b)
doesn’t care about losing them
oIf (3b), then they must not be essential to Jone’s happiness, and hence not
make him happy
oIf (3a), then Jones will be anxious about losing them, and hence not be
oTherefore: 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
oSince the goods of Fortune are all external, they are lost at death, and so
death should be a tragedy
oBut there are cases where people have cheerfully embraced death
King thinks that this could just be resignation to death not
oHence the goods Fortune can’t make anyone happy, since their loss need
not make on sad
Fortune’s False Goods
Third, Lady Philosophy argues that Fortune’s goods aren’t worthwhile even apart
from the fact that they can be lost
o2.5.2: Suppose that the gifts of Fortune were not ephemeral and transitory:
what is there in them that can ever become yours, or, once examined and
weighed, is not worthless?
Remainder of Book 2 is devoted to making good on this claim in three specific
oWealth 92.5)
oHonours and power (2.6)
oReputation (2.7)
oA list to which Boethius later adds physical pleasures and distinguished
honours and power
oAnd that is the last round of the “gentler remedies” for the Prisoner’s
The Drastic Remedies
Lady Philosophy now starts on the most aggressive therapy, arguing that the
traditional goods of Fortune are each failures
oThey promise what they are intrinsically incapable of delivering
Aiming at sufficiently
Two main arguments
It’s possible to be wealthy and yet not sufficient, shown by