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Episode #017 ... Boethius

2014-03-26 | 🔗

On this episode of the podcast, we learn about the medieval neoplatonist philosopher Boethius. We find out how he came to be wrongly convicted of treason and subsequently sentenced to death, and how this led him to write a philosophical text that solved one of the oldest problems in philosophy. We manage to compare the main characters of Boethius’ book to Lady Liberty and Eeyore selling a rice cooker on QVC, and explain why Boethius believed that we’re all just contestants on a never-ending episode of Wheel of Fortune. All this and more on the latest episode of Philosophize This!

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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me being dramatic, really try to put yourself in that's it and ask yourself what would be important to you in that moment, but if this was a medieval neo, Platonists philosopher who found him self. In that moment, up until that point, he really pretty good standing in the world will consider It was living in a society that was growing increasingly corrupt and intolerant by the day. Mean the roman empire was crumbling at the time. I guess honoring people we can look back and see where all that was heading, but the people of the time didn't know that Boethius didn't know that and to top it off, the entire peninsula of ITALY was controlled by a group of wonderful gentlemen known as the ostrogoths. Let me tell you about who, but we face, ended up workin, for when we talk about the Ostrog Ass, they were by a guy named Theodoric, the great now just to get an idea if the types of moves this guy would pull in the interesting gaining and sustaining power. Let me just tell you about how he took control of ITALY in the first place
he was finding an army led by a guy named Odo Acer, the otter wins a couple battles, just so the that or gets on his back foot a little bit. Right when he's in this place of vulnerability, a bishop acts as a meat or between the two leaders and arranges this meeting, negotiation for a peace treaty. Theatric agrees to a treaty were both of them would be Keeping the area together in both would make decisions. It would be kind of a joint ruling, they would combine our forces and they have a period of peace in the region. So they come to an arrangement the iterate, calls a celebratory banquet we're all gonna sit down. We're gonna, have a feast and revel in this new era, that we have everybody's going to be happy. Let the banquet the Oteri stands up. He makes a toast. You know he does a little clinky thing on, glass, and then he stamped soda waste or in the neck. It says an attacks called. Anonymous Feliciano that right after Theodore kills them quote that same day,
all of Oda Wasters Army who could be found anywhere were killed by order of the Roderick, as as all of his family Oda wasters, wife soon a Gilda was stone to and his brother Ono Wolfes was killed by archers while seeking refuge in a church? The Oteri exile. Although the waste her son Thi, like the gall, but when he attempted to return it Italy, the Roderick recount him killed to end quote now. This guy is the ruler of everything, but, more importantly, he is Boethius boss. This is the guy he's an ado. These are two. It's kind of funny belief. Is his life resembles a common theme in Hollywood in pop culture. This tons of examples, but the example that comes to mind for me, is the prince of Egypt, which, by the way, highly underrated dream works. Movie Even more underrated soundtrack, beautiful songs on it, but I think for the show that reference might be a little about you're really it doesn't matter. We ve all heard this Or you have, but we feel told in some capacity he was or
and at a very young age and was adopted by a rich, aristocratic family, and this privileged upbringing yielded a top level education for his extremely above average brain, and this warranted him eventually being given a job, as the chief adviser took the Rhonda Rick the great now. The reason why his up bringing its significant is because he led a very privileged life and one typical hallmark of a person who was spoiled, rotten all throughout their childhood. Is it they don't appreciate anything and look, I'm not saying, but weakness was by any means. The extreme version of this now is. Sadly belonged on my super sweet sixteen, but it's not crazy to think that there were some remnants of it's still in thesis might read were later removed by this unjust sentencing to death, in fact wanted to tell you about how but weakness ended up in prison, and the first place. There was a meeting of the Royal Council in Verona where a guy named Cypriots accused a guy named albanus of treason, but neither the
guys are really important. The important part is what but we theist it. He was a loyal guy. He came to Albania defence and tried to show every one how flawed their way of thinking was he going to shine light upon their delusions. He said quote the church, just Syrians is false, but if albinos did that, so also have I and the whole Senate with one accord done it. It is false. My Lord King Input. Now this is the part of the movie where everybody spoke to look at each other, certain nodding to each other knowingly in complete silence. This was to be like. Oh yeah, he's right he's right. You guys look at how far we ve fallen. Thank you boethius. Thank you for bringing us back down to earth. One person starts clapping really slow, but that's not what happened instead, they just go out. So I guess Boethius is to take em. Why didn't work out that? Well so, all of a sudden, but we do
spines himself convicted to death, stripped of everything stripped of his home, his family, his work, and now you his freedom from thereon out. His existence consisted of him sitting in this dark cell, wrongly accused of treason just waiting to be put to death And this is why I ask that question at the top of the show for some I was wrongly convicted to death. I mean I'd, be a lot of things. I'd be angry, I'd be well. Probably weeping I mean to be honest. I probably like one of those prisoners and the pirates of the care. I got the bone outside of the cage just trying to coax the dog over with the keys one things sure I certainly wouldn't be riding a philosophical text that solves one of the oldest problems in philosophy and thereby paves the for all subsequent medieval philosophy. So why did he do it? Why did Boe theist? Do it most of the writing from bethes before he convicted
death or commentaries on Aristotle and, besides, that it's not a lot of original work. It's usually other commentaries on random subjects or other greek philosophers. Why did he choose to start now? What I think is that when you unjustly have everything taken away from you, including your life four boethius. That process was so traumatic that it was only after he was removed from that largely privileged life up until that point He truly understood the value of philosophy. The book he wrote waiting for death is called the constellation of philosophy because philosophy consoles us within that adversity that the world inevitably throws our way. The book starts out really really dark, like depressing Boethius is ready to die, he's sat
at his angry he's all the things that I would be and really he's all the things you expect somebody to be if there were gonna, be wrongly put to death, but remember this is just a character in a book. The real, but with the US is writing the book he's in a completely different mental state than the guy in the book. Now in the book when, but we Phaeaces sitting in his cell, wallowing in his own misery, complaining about his situation, he looks up and sees this woman standing there powering over him. But it's not just a woman. It's a really strange woman. She has all these weird characteristics, her her height keeps fluctuating she. She has. This really strange glow about her, but, more importantly, Boethius notices that she has, greek letters sewn into her dress, like embroidered letters. He looks at the top of her dress and it's a letter theta the bottom of her dress. She has the letter pi. He also notices that she's carrying a stack of books in one hand
and a sector in the other him. Personally, I always think of the statue of liberty to try to remember her while this stuff, Woman is known As lady philosophy, the letter theta sown into the top of redress that symbolizes the Metaphysics branch of philosophy in the letter pie down at the bottom symbolizes, the branch of ethics she supposed to be a physical embody, the philosophy she's also supposed to be the physical embodiment of wisdom to Boethius remember, but we, this was a NEO platonists. This lady philosophy serves the same per. Stop a weakness as Socrates serve to Plato and his dialogues, the quintessential wise person and a true philosophy of the author, but with your stays humble throughout this book, though, whenever he watched, Q, VC or any one of those tv sales channels. They always pair up to people that would never actually be friends in real life through the most dissimilar people in the world. There is always one guy for some reason that knows absolute
we everything about this, this rice cooker that he's trying to sell you like. He knows a creepy amount about that rice cooker and the other guy. He's talking to always knows nothing about anything he's managed to navigate the world throughout his entire life. He managed to tie his shoes every morning, yet he's even heard of rice before let alone tried to cook it and this rice cooker. The greatest thing he's ever seen, will in the constellation of philosophy, but with you, Is the quintessential naive half of this equation and lady full ass philosophy, is the quintessential wise person whose educating him on his wrong thinking. The irony is that both of them are actually Boethius throughout the book, he lays out a lot of great stuff, not all of its new revolutionary stuff, but all of its written in a very satisfying way
The step that was revolutionary is enough to make him the most influential philosopher of the time period. But before we hear the infinite wisdom of lady philosophy, we need to talk about Aristotle, one of the most famous works by Aristotle and one that's been talked about a lot in recent years. His work called on interpretation now, but we face in many later philosophers respond to this work directly and now seems like the best time to talk about it. On our show, I mean if we talked about it, when we did the episode on Aristotle. If I referenced it now, it would just be a vague memory, but it's actually very important that we understand where Aristotle was coming from. The thing we're gonna talk about is sometimes known as Aristotle see, battle, analogy, The big question that Aristotle addresses in this part of on interpretation is the question of our things predestined and out of our control or do we as humans get to choose what we do.
What Aristotle says is that nobody would disagree that there are statements that can be directly contradictory to each other right, two people holding opposite viewpoints were one of them has to be true, and one of is ass to be false. He could think of a million different examples of this, but the one that Aristotle uses that one person says there will be a sea battle tomorrow and the other person says there won't be a sea battle to Morrow. Now one of these has to betrayal. There either will be a sea battle tomorrow or there won't be and because it's the type of contradiction where one guy has to be right and the other guy has to be wrong. The statement is Jim this true now as it will be tomorrow, when it actually happens or doesn't happen. If it's true that there is going to be a sea battle to Morrow, you could say that there needs to be a sea battle. Tomorrow,
you could say that there is no situation possible where there can't be a sea battle tomorrow, because that statement is true right now the implication so. This is that nothing at all is possible, except for what actually happens now. This is an ancient Greek, very array italian way of looking at something else. It's a lot more fun earlier? Does in modern times in the times of the wealthiest, the popular belief was that God knows what will happen to morrow. He knows. He knows whether the sea battle will or will not take place. But if that's true, how much control do we really have over our actions. Last episode, we talked about Saint Augustine and his explanation for how it's possible that a supernatural God can exist And still allow evil to happen in the world. His answer, if you remember, has to do with free, will, God wanted and created a world where humans possess free? Will Saint Augustine said that, if that
It's the case. Then evil is something we need to be willing to accept. As a possibility. I mean it's not that God wants evil to happen. It's not that he couldn't stop things from taking place. It's just that, if he did, it would blow the whole system, then people don't have free will anymore, and how can you eternally judge someone One based on something other than immoral actions taken based on their own volition, now believe he has had all of this information, but we theist answers the question of how can we we said to have free will if God already knows what we're gonna do in the future, by making a distinction between divine for knowledge and predestination. When I first read, but we face this changed the way. I look at things. What but we face as is that there is a huge difference between God. Knowing something will happen and gone
pre slating out everything that will happen and we have no control over it, but that's just part of what Boethius says. We need to be clear on this, though God's knowledge of things that have happened are happening or will happen is a different thing than God forging a destiny for everyone ahead of time that they can't deviate from knowing something will happen, doesn't predestiny it to happen now, if you're, a really smart person and you're quick at thinking, you might say that once we made that distinction, why are we even here? Let's say God only knows what you're gonna do before you do it. Why not just have judgement day on the first day of existence mean he already knows whether you're going to follow the rules well enough to be admitted into the country club. Doesn't that just make our free will? A bunch of smoke and mirrors that aren't really necessary while, but we feel would argue that quote everything is known
not according to itself but according to the capacity of the Knower end, quote the way we can apply this brilliant concept to what we're talking about with free will right now is by understood meaning that we perceive everything in the world through the lens of being a human being that human interpretation of things may be useful to us in a lot of ways. But it would be naive to think that it's, the complete picture of anything mean just how a goldfish might look of its special and think that you're living room is the rest of the ocean here and beings might miss, perceive things too now. It believe me, says were the most guilty of Miss. Perceiving is the nature of time. Remember Saint Augustine says: that time doesn't really exist. It's a human construct that we use to categorize information about the world around us. Well, atheists agreed, but he said that because, as human we live in a constant blocks of past present and future. We think about time
in a very narrow way. We think about it in terms of things that have happened, things that are happening now and things that are gonna happen, but God, on the other hand, as Saint Augustine said as well exist outside of time. He lives inside of an eternal present, maybe a better way to think of it would be to think about it in terms of now you interact with things that are in the present right now. If you and your friend decide one day that you're going to get in shape, you guys are going to go start jogging and your jargon, along with your friend and you start to get light headed you start to feel sick visions of hot. Pockets and cupcakes whirling around in your head, your friends, knowledge that you jogging right now in this moment, doesn't change. Ability to stop jogging bend over and through
the walk all over the pavement. Just like that's the interaction in this present moment. Gods, knowledge of your future doesn't stop you from changing it. He lives in an eternal present. Now, if you still disagree, Were the sentries go by and you start being more and more right, but try to appreciate the brilliance at work here, but we face was wrongly, can the death rotting in a cell writing about these machinery. Conversations he's having with this lady philosophy I may affect right now is a good time to talk about how, but we feel says, philosophy serves to consult us in times of hardship. So, as I said before, the constellation of philosophy starts out with, but we feel is really depressed and sad. He goes on and on about it I mean it's a little bit like ie or, and then Lady philosophy, the wise owl of when the poor swoops on it and corrects his faulty ways of thinking that are leading to this place.
That he's in she asked him what's wrong. He tells her about about the meeting and the wrongful conviction and the unjust tyrants that took away everything from him, his wealth, his home, his career and, ultimately, his life. and lady philosophy, at least in her own way. Just kind of scoffs, Adam she sees a situation she hears what he has to say and she still doesn't see any reason to be acting like your right now. She says the belief is quote. If I have fully diagnose the cause- nature of your condition you are wasting away and pining and longing for your former good fortune. It is the loss of this which your imagination works upon. You has so corrupted your mind. I know the many disguises of that monster fortune and the extent to which she seduces with friendship, the very people she is striving to cheat
until she overwhelms them with the unbearable grief at the suddenness of her desertion end quote now to boethius when and things, happen, and we allow them to affect us, we or wallowing in our bad fortune. Our misfortunes, when I think of fortune, I think of LAS Vegas Nevada. Beautiful city to place, I really wish I could go again and I'm not even much into the the whole prostitution scene or the main lining drug scene, and if you ve ever been there for a few days You might have had a similar experience to me. I walked into the v. Casinos. On the first day I got there and I see the people, the sea of people playing the slot machines and I think well. This is awesome. Awesome. All these people have hope. Maybe it'll be me that hit that big jackpot
you're. The casino strictly regulates the pay out that the slot machines do. And yes, I know the odds are heavily against me, but maybe just me maybe I'll be the lucky ones, but with each day that passes, and the slot machines are still packed with people, and you start I see some with a look of almost desperation in their eyes. You start to see people do in all these weird superstition things attributing winning and losing two things other than chance? You know, like I just didn't, have my my lucky rabbits put on the outside of my clothes. That's why I lost that one you see the casino handing out free drinks to all the people gambling, Maybe you see the same person from yesterday on the same machine and it looks like they ve been there every day for the past decade. I found myself feeling less excited about that collective sense of hope, and I started
sorry for some of these people and as I was walking around all the casinos posts signs that give out the number to the problem gambling hotline, they might be legally obligated to do that, but they still do it well. Boethius would say we all need to call that problem. Gambling hotline, but it's not because we're all playing the Kitty cat slot machine too much it's, because we share the same delusional expectation of nothing but good fortune in our everyday lives. When Boethius is sulking in his cell and complaining about his loss of good fortune, lady philosophy tells him that fortune is like a wheel, a wheel of fortune, the things that he had considered good fortune weren't, actually things that he had at all his health, his freedom, his house, his clothes. These things don't actually belong to him
so. How can they be taken away from him? And besides, his situation is far from the worst thing that ever happened to any one may, even as he waits in his cell lady philosophy points out that he still has tons of fortune. She points to his ability to reason and his ability to write his ideas down. In fact, when you add up everything honestly, even if your sentenced to death, how can you really say that you aren't on the net positive side of fortune but with yes, this quote, balance out the good things in the band that have happened in your life, and you will have to acknowledge that you are still way ahead. You are unhappy because you have lost those things in which you took pleasure, but you can also take Britain, the likelihood that what is now making you miserable but also pass away end quote: some people might see this a warming over of Buddhism or stoicism,
and there really are a lot of similarities, but to put it in terms of a wheel of fortune, that's constantly giving and taking way, all the earthly things that we see as good, really makes me think of myself is no different than the people playing the slots in LAS Vegas, except while they're using disposable vacation income, I'm wagering my own happiness. The bottom line was this: if you follow philosophy to a t, you are impervious to all these misfortunes in the world. The real thing you should focus on is virtue virtues. Are the tools used use to achieve happiness? Boethius said quote ones. Virtue is all that one truly has because it's not imperilled by the vicissitudes of fortune end quote in fact it's the types of things that humans. Would
typically see is bad fortune, that's actually the greatest fortune, because it's that fortune, that does the most good for the person in the long run, that's receiving it. The things we see as good fortune are actually pretty deceptive,
because they allow us to delude ourselves into thinking that we are truly happy when in actuality, these conditions are extremely fragile. At least misfortunes show us how bad things could be and therefore, how good we currently have it Bethea says quote: all fortune is good fortune for it either rewards disciplines amends or punishes, and so is either useful or just end quote now it's time for the question of the week, there's a famous adaptation of a quote by Plato. That says we can easily forgive the child, who is afraid of the dark. The real tragedy is the adult who is afraid of the light. I feel a little bit like the adult that was afraid of the light recently. I was too afraid to quit my.
And just realize that it really wasn't that dangerous in reality so philosophies this is there anything you're. Currently scared of that really is just a shadow on a cave wall. Sometimes things look completely different when they have Platos light shining on them. Thank you for everything. Talk to you soon, hey guys. If you love, philosophies this and want to make sure you never miss an episode, consider signing up for email notifications. Whenever a new episode is released, I will personally send you an email telling you. It was released, along with a short summary to peak your interest picture guaranteed to make you smile and pretty much anything else. Interesting in the philosophical world that week, you can sign up on the front page of Steven West show dot net and, as always, thank you for wanting to know more today than you did yesterday.
Transcript generated on 2020-10-01.