Using the inspirational works (The Consolation of Philosophy) of Boethius, Norman D. Livergood writes how philosophy can help strengthen one’s resolve whilst attaining equanimity of mind despite difficult or life threatening circumstances.
The following is an excerpt from Livergood’s enlightening essay ‘How Philosophy Emboldens the Soul’:
Today, people worldwide suffer the continual onslaughts of one form of tyranny or another: political, economic, social, religious, or educational. We quite rightly feel ourselves to be “imprisoned” in the morass of corruption, war, and spreading fascism. We feel our plight keenly and wonder how we can respond in a meaningful and effective way.
The situation of the classical writer Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (480-524 C.E.), who was imprisoned by a Roman emperor before being murdered, was much more extreme than our condition. But we can gain a great deal of insight into our present predicament by thoughtfully examining the book he completed in prison just before his slaying: The Emboldenment of Philosophy.
During the Middle Ages and beyond, the Emboldenment was the most widely copied work of secular literature in Europe. It was one of the most popular and influential philosophical works, read by statesmen, poets, and historians, as well as by philosophers and theologians. It is through Boethius that much of the thought of the Classical period was made available to the Western Medieval world.
Boethius deliberately chose an extraordinary style in which to write his Emboldenment of Philosophy: Menippean Satire, a fusion of allegorical tale, platonic dialogue, and lyrical poetry. Menippean satire was associated with works which ridicule the pretensions of imperious claims to wisdom. Emboldenment is written in sections alternately of narrative prose and contemplative verse, which display an elegant command of the lineaments of Latin poetry.
Because Boethius wrote Emboldenment as a Menippean satire, we must recognize that even the title speaks in an ironical tone. When we read the first part of the book and find Lady Philosophy telling Boethius, “snap out of that sorry state of self-pity,” we recognize that this is anything but a solacing, “here, here, it’s okay” kind of comforting, soothing, or pitying. It’s a stirring emboldenment of Boethius which only Philosophy–the divine Lady Wisdom–can provide.
Read More: How Philosophy Emboldens the Soul written by Norman D. Livergood
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