The Attack on Wisdom

“Do you think that this is the first time that Wisdom has been attacked and endangered by a wicked society?  Did I not often of old also, before Plato’s time, have to battle in mighty struggle with arrogant stupidity?  And in his day, was I not beside his teacher Socrates when he won the prize of a martyr’s death?  And after him the crowd of Epicureans and Stoics and the rest strove as far as they could to seize his legacy, carrying me off protesting and struggling, as if I were part of the booty, tearing my dress, which I wove with my own hands, and then went off with their torn-off shreds, thinking they possessed all of me.Boethius-Philosophia And because they seemed to be wearing certain bits of my dress some were ignorantly accepted as my servants, and were abused by the delusions of the uneducated mob.” Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy I. iii. Loeb Classical Library No. 74, trans. S.J. Tester. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 1918), p. 141-43. [Emphasis added]

Boethius, the late Roman aristocrat, languished in prison for about a year before his execution at the command of the Ostrogothic king, Theodoric.  He wrote this famous work as a consolation to his soul.  It demonstrates the depth of his philosophical learning and his understanding of truth, knowledge, and ethics.  Here Lady Philosophy describes the history of her treatment at the hands of evil, delusional mob.  Clearly, Boethius places himself within the tradition of philosophical martyrs persecuted by the unenlightened.  After Lady Philosophy  identified a list of suffering philosophers including Socrates, Zeno, and Seneca; she explained to Boethius:

“The only cause of their deaths was that they were brought up in my ways, so that their behaviour and pursuits were seen to be utterly different from those of wicked men.  So it is no wonder if we are buffeted by storms blustering round us on the sea of this life, since we are especially bound to anger the wicked.  Though their forces are large, yet we should hold them in contempt, for they are leaderless and are simply carried hither and thither at random in their crazed ignorance.” Ibid., pp.142-43

 

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