Boethius, Anicius Manlius Severinus

Boethius, Anicius Manlius Severinus
(c. 475/480–524)
Roman philosopher and theologian. Born in Rome of an aristocratic family, the son of a consul (and father of two more), Boethius served as consul and the principal minister for Theodoric the Ostrogoth, who ruled Italy from 493 to 526. However, he fell out of favour, was exiled and imprisoned at Pavia, and executed a year later. It was while he was in prison that he wrote his masterpiece, De Consolatione Philosophiae (On the Consolations of Philosophy ), but before that he had written extensively on mathematics, science, logic, and theology. His translations included Aristotle's Categories, Prior Analytics, Posterior Analytics, Topics, and Sophistical Refutations, whilst his translation of Porphyry's Introduction (Isagoge ) to the Categories of Aristotle, together with his own commentaries, became the standard textbook for medieval logic, and initiated the enduring medieval controversy over the nature of universals . His own solution to the problem as it is raised by Porphyry, that universals ‘subsist in sensible things, but they are understood apart from body’, is Aristotelian, although there is also evidence that he inclined towards a more robust Platonism.
The Consolations of Philosophy, one of the most influential books of the Middle Ages, is a dialogue between Boethius, who writes in prose, and a personified Philosophy, who answers in verse. It divides into discussions of the fundamental purpose of the universe, the unreliability of fortune and the false promise of many ways of trying to achieve happiness, the goodness of God, and the compatibility of human freedom with his foreknowledge. This last leads Boethius to investigate the nature of time and the nature of God. The work is not, however, Christian in spirit, but more concerned with God as an abstract or Platonic idea: Boethius inclines to a kind of pantheism in which those who are happy or blessed participate in God. Its classical calm and freedom from sectarianism and superstition, coupled with the circumstances of its composition, give the Consolations an unmistakable moral authority.

Philosophy dictionary. . 2011.

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