From the author of How Proust Can Change Your Life, a delightful, truly consoling work that proves that philosophy can be a supreme source of help for our most painful everyday problems. Perhaps only Alain de Botton could uncover practical wisdom in the writings of some of the greatest thinkers of all time. But uncover he does, and the result is an unexpected book of both solace and humor. Dividing his work into six sections -- each highlighting a different psychic ailment and the appropriate philosopher -- de Botton offers consolation for unpopularity from Socrates, for not having enough money from Epicurus, for frustration from Seneca, for inadequacy from Montaigne, and for a broken heart from Schopenhauer (the darkest of thinkers and yet, paradoxically, the most cheering). Consolation for envy -- and, of course, the final word on consolation -- comes from Nietzsche: "Not everything which makes us feel better is good for us." This wonderfully engaging book will, however, make us feel better in a good way, with equal measures of wit and wisdom.
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Consolation of Philosophy (Latin: Consolatio Philosophiae) is a philosophical work by Boethius, written around the year 524. It has been described as the single most important and influential work in the West on Medieval and early Renaissance Christianity, and is also the last great Western work of the Classical Period. Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius, commonly called Boethius (c. 480–524 or 525 AD), was a philosopher of the early 6th century. He was born in Rome to an ancient and prominent family which included emperors Petronius Maximus and Olybrius and many consuls. His father, Flavius Manlius Boethius, was consul in 487 after Odoacer deposed the last Western Roman Emperor. Boethius, of the noble Anicia family, entered public life at a young age and was already a senator by the age of 25. Boethius himself was consul in 510 in the kingdom of the Ostrogoths. In 522 he saw his two sons become consuls. Boethius was imprisoned and eventually executed by King Theodoric the Great, who suspected him of conspiring with the Eastern Roman Empire. While jailed, Boethius composed his Consolation of Philosophy, a philosophical treatise on fortune, death, and other issues. The Consolation became one of the most popular and influential works of the Middle Ages.
In the Symposium, Plato presents a fantastic dinner-party set in Athens in 416 BC, where the guests include Aristophanes, Socrates, and the most famous Athenian of his day, Alcibiades. A sequence of dazzling speeches culminates in Socrates' brilliant account of the views of Diotima, a prophetess who taught him that love is our means of trying to attain goodness.
Throughout Antiquity and the Middle Ages, literature was read with the ear as much as with the eye: silent reading was the exception; audible reading, the norm. This highly original book shows that Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy - one of the most widely-read texts in Western history - aims to affect the listener through the designs of its rhythmic sound. Stephen Blackwood argues that the Consolation's metres are arranged in patterns that have a therapeutic and liturgical purpose: as a bodily mediation of the text's consolation, these rhythmic patterns enable the listener to discern the eternal in the motion of time. The Consolation of Boethius as Poetic Liturgy vividly explores how in this acoustic encounter with the text philosophy becomes a lived reality, and reading a kind of prayer.
Boethius was an eminent public figure under the Gothic emperor Theodoric, and an exceptional Greek scholar. When he became involved in a conspiracy and was imprisoned in Pavia, it was to the Greek philosophers that he turned. THE CONSOLATION was written in the period leading up to his brutal execution. It is a dialogue of alternating prose and verse between the ailing prisoner and his 'nurse' Philosophy. Her instruction on the nature of fortune and happiness, good and evil, fate and free will, restore his health and bring him to enlightenment. THE CONSOLATION was extremely popular throughout medieval Europe and his ideas were influential on the thought of Chaucer and Dante.
In the last fifty years the field of Late Antiquity has advanced significantly. Today we have a picture of this period that is more precise and accurate than before. However, the study of one of the most significant texts of this age, Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy, has not benefited enough from these advances in scholarship. Antonio Donato aims to fill this gap by investigating how the study of the Consolation can profit from the knowledge of Boethius' cultural, political and social background that is available today. The book focuses on three topics: Boethius' social/political background, his notion of philosophy and its sources, and his understanding of the relation between Christianity and classical culture. These topics deal with issues that are of crucial importance for the exegesis of the Consolation. The study of Boethius' social/political background allows us to gain a better understanding of the identity of the character Boethius and to recognize his role in the Consolation. Examination of the possible sources of Boethius' notion of philosophy and of their influence on the Consolation offers valuable instruments to evaluate the role of the text's philosophical discussions and their relation to its literary features. Finally, the long-standing problem of the lack of overt Christian elements in the Consolation can be enlightened by considering how Boethius relies on a peculiar understanding of philosophy's goal and its relation to Christianity that was common among some of his predecessors and contemporaries.
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