First published in the year 524 under the Latin title De consolatione philosophiae, this work had a major influence on Christian thought and philosophy throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance period. Written while Boethius was in prison awaiting execution for treason, the book takes the form of a dialogue between the author and the Lady Philosophy, exploring issues like the problem of evil (theodicy), free will and predestination, and the fickleness of fortune.
For those who might wonder how this work fits into the exploration of speculative fiction typically undertaken by Mythgard Academy seminars, the most direct connection is through the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Dr. Tom Shippey in particular has noted Boethian themes throughout Tolkien’s work, and an understanding of The Consolation of Philosophy can provide deeper insights into Tolkien’s works. More generally, various concepts from Boethius have found their way into science fiction and fantasy works, as well as pop culture at large, such as the metaphor of fortune as a perpetually rotating wheel, or rota fortuna. (Malcolm Reynolds: “Wheel never stops turning, Badger.” / Badger: “That only matters to the people on the rim.” — Firefly)
Of course, Boethius’ work can also be viewed as a speculative work in itself, with the character of Boethius in the book taking on a role similar to that of Dante in The Divine Comedy or Kurt Vonnegut in Slaughterhouse-Five (which has its own Boethian intersections in relation to free will and predestination). Whether speculative literature or something else, The Consolation of Philosophy is well worth exploring in its own right in addition to the extensive influence it has had on other writers and works over the centuries.
The Consolation of Philosophy is available in many translations and editions.
- Dr. Olsen will use the translation by Richard Green, which is available in inexpensive paperback editions from Amazon.
- Multiple free ebook editions are available at Project Gutenberg.
Either of these or another edition is suitable for participating in this seminar.
A Message from Dr. Corey Olsen
Mythgard Academy always welcomes anyone to attend for free. The first 100 participants each week are welcome to join us live. Those who cannot attend the live sessions can find them for no charge on our iTunes U course and on the Signum University YouTube channel.
Every series that we offer is made possible only through the generosity of the continued support of generous donors, who choose the books that we explore in our weekly sessions. So far this year, we have continued our examination of The History of Middle-earth series with Return of the Shadow, and after we a short trip through Boethius’ Philosophy, we will return again to the HOME series with The Treason of Isengard.
After that, who knows what we will look at next? This year we have many people who have been with us for years, along with a whole new group of donors who may swing votes in an entirely new direction. I’m excited to see where we end up the second half of the year. If you want to help determine what stories we look at in the future, there’s no better time to join than now! Visit our annual fund page to support our free seminars!
– Dr. Corey Olsen
The Consolation of Philosophy will meet on Wednesdays at 9:30 pm Eastern Time
Week 1: What’s Wrong with the World
Read: Book 1
Week 2: When Fortune Turns Again
Read: Book 2
Week 3: Looking for Happiness in All the Wrong Places
Read: Book 3
Week 4: From God and Back to God
Read: Q&A Catch-Up
Week 5: The Problem of Evil, Revisited
Read: Book 4
Week 6: God’s Point of View
Read: Book 5
Week 7: Free Will and God’s Knowledge
Choose Future Seminar Topics
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