Study Questions for Boethius'

Consolation of Philosophy (Penguin Classics, 1999)

Created by Dr. Jan Garrett

This Version Revised August 24, 2006

The boldfaced numbers refer to pages in the 1999 edition.

1. How does Boethius describe the woman whom he discovers standing beside him? (3-4, 35-36)

2. How does she diagnose B's problem? (6, 38) What does she say that Boethius needs now?

3. What philosophical/theological problem does Boethius raise on p. 12 (1969: 44)? How does he relate it to his own situation? (13-15, 45-46)

4. What does Philosophia mean when she says that Boethius has wandered far from his true home? (16-17)

5. What does Boethius admit concerning God the Creator (19, 50)? The government of the world (20, 52)? What question can't he answer because he fails to understand it? (19, 50-51) Why, according to Philosophia, does he think of his life as a result of chance and hazard? (20, 51)


6. What pejorative label does Philosophia give to Fortune? (22, 54) Why does she refuse to consider Fortune a goddess (as many ancient Romans did)? (What is the relation of this discussion to what the Stoics say about preferred and rejected indifferent things?)

7. What has Boethius failed to understand about Fortune? (23-24, 55)

8. Where is happiness located? What is the most precious thing to a person? In what must happiness consist? (31, 63)

9. How is happiness related to our rational nature? Why can't Fortune lead to happiness? (31, 63)

10. How does Philosophia argue that wealth is no great thing? What distinction does she make between money and speech as a good? (33, 65) (To which is virtue similar?)

11. Why are things like fancy clothing and servants of little value, and perhaps even of negative value? (34-35, 66-67)

12. What argument is given on pp. 35-36 (1969: 67-68) concerning the relationship between a good and whatever (whoever?) it belongs to? What conclusion does Philosophia draw?

13. What is Philosophia's view on the value of high office and power? (40, 72) When Boethius denies that he places much emphasis on riches, power and high office, how does Philosophia convict him of seeking fame and high reputation? (40-41, 72-73) How does she show the insignificance of fame? (41-43, 73-75)


14. How is happiness described on p. 48 (1969: 79)? (What earlier philosophers describe happiness in approximately this way?)

15. Why is wealth, fame, power, position, or pleasure (any one) a mere shadow of happiness? (III 2-9) What conclusion does Philosophia draw? (65, 96)

16. Try to formally reconstruct (i.e., in numbered steps) the argument on p. 68-69 (1969: 99) for the existence of a perfect being.

17. How does Philosophia show that this entails the existence of God? (69, 99)

18. By what argument does Philosophia try to prove that supreme happiness is identical to God? (70-71, 101-102)

19. What other things valued by human beings are, when properly considered, identical to God? (72, 102-103)

20.How does Philosophia argue that the supreme divinity or supreme happiness is a unified good which could properly be called the good? (74, 104-105)

21. On what basis does Philosophia argue that everything desires unity? (75-76, 106-108) goodness? (77, 108) God? (79, 110)

22. So how, or by what means, does God rule the world? (78-80, 109-111) Now, has Boethius learned something which he did not understand at the start?

23. What argument does Philosophia introduce on p. 81 (1969:112) ? What is Boethius' suspicion--why?


24. What problem does Boethius pose? (85, 116)

25. How does Philosophia argue that in fact the good are strong and get what they want? (88-90, 119-21)

26. How does Philosophia argue that the wicked person "ceases to exist"? (91, 122) In what sense is this conclusion a generally Platonic one, though Plato himself may never have drawn it?

27. What is the reward received by good persons? (93, 124) What is the punishment of the wicked? (93-94, 124-25)

28. What does the character Boethius bemoan in IV 4 (96, 127)? What triple "degree of misfortune," according to Philosophia, do cruel and wicked persons suffer? (96, 127)

29. If we sympathize with the perpetrator of a crime, what should we wish for the wrongdoer? Explain. (100-101, 131)

30. What is the relationship between what we call Fortune or Fate and the working out of God's Providence? (108-109, 139-140)


31. How is "chance" now defined? Is it compatible with Providence? (117, 148)

32. What necessarily has free will? (118, 149)

33. What problem does Boethius propose? (119-120, 150-51)

34. What problem for morality does Boethius see arising out of the doctrine of fore-knowledge? (122, 153)

35. What problem regarding prayer does Boethius note? (122, 153-54)

36. What relevance does the question whether there are present knowable events have to the question at issue? (125; see also 135-36)

37. Explain: everything is known not according to its own nature but by the ability to know of those who do the knowing. (125-26, 157) Compare the cognitive levels in this account with the cognitive levels in Plato's account in the Divided Line passage at the end of Republic book vi? (This passage is found in Annas' anthology, Voices of Ancient Philosophy, at pp. 175-77.)

38. In what relation does the superior manner of knowledge stand to the inferior? (127, 158)

39. What analogies does Philosophia use as a basis for the claim that divine intelligence views future events other than we do? (130-31, 161-62)

40. What is eternity? How is it unlike temporal things? (132-33, 163-64)

41. How does God possess and comprehend the past and the future? (133, 164)

42. Is God co-eternal with the universe? Is God older than His creation? (133, 164) Explain B's answers.

43. Does God progress through endless life? (133-134, 164-65) Does God change or move? (134, 165)

44. Why is "God's foreknowledge of the future" a flawed formula for naming the topic of this discussion? (134, 165)

45. Is there a sense in which future events are necessary? If so, how should we characterize this kind of necessity? (135-36, 166-167)