Honest Boethius

Just finished The Consolation of Philosophy yesterday. The final three chapters deal with those lovely questions of divine foreknowledge, determinism, and human agency. Boethius, an unapologetic Platonist, unsurprisingly advances the Platonist argument that the same action that seems undetermined to “human” reason can be known exhaustively to a divine mind.

Such an argument normally infuriates me; the person “in the know” advances an inscrutable divine mode of knowledge with one hand and gives an exhaustive account of the character of that knowledge with the other. (And the really irritating ones compare it to the trick where one offers a three-year-old a great big nickel in exchange for an itty bitty dime.)

Yet when Boethius advances it, I still don’t disagree, but I don’t get mad. I thought at first that the classicist in me was giving him a pass. But when I spent a few minutes thinking about it, I realized that when the argument comes off of Boethius’s page, it’s not Boethius saying it: it’s Philosophy personified. At least Boethius is craftful enough to let a semi-divine character make claims about divine knowledge.

The argument is still bunk, of course. 🙂


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