Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

My Favorite Philosopher

Jesse Noe
May 6, 2014
Favorite Man in Prison
            Finding my favorite philosopher was harder than I expected. At first I looked for one that had the same views and ideas as me, but there wasn’t one I agreed with completely. So I moved on to finding one that I agreed with mostly, but this too proved harder than expected because I found that I agreed with most of them in some way or another. So I decided to find one that jumped out at me the most and left the biggest impression, and the story of Boethius in prison writing his last thoughts did just that. Ancius Manlius Severinus Boethius, his full name, was writing a book; a philosophy book, and Boethius thought of philosophy as a self-help, and an abstract way of thinking. He was accused of plotting against Theodoric, and was put in prison. While in his solitude of thinking, he wrote a book called The Consolation of philosophy, and this book became very popular in the middle ages.  In the book he ends up talking to a giant woman who is philosophy and tell him of how he has made her angry because he has forgotten her. The book is about their conversation, and I found that is has great philosophical ideas about luck, happiness, and God which was very interesting to me and I want to share.
             Luck is something that we all know. It is something good that happens to you by chance, and in Boethius’ book he and philosophy talk about it. Philosophy says that luck is always changing and that you might have it on day and not the next. Even the rich can find themselves broke in a day. So philosophy tells of how mortals let their happiness depend on luck and of one being lucky. She tells of how true happiness comes from inside. It’s something that human beings control and can keep from luck. With this kind of happiness you can be happy in any situation. Happiness then becomes a state of mind and this is something I can agree with. But what is it that we should find happiness in? That is different for everyone and something they have to find for themselves. For Boethius and me it is found in God, but it can be different for everyone. I would be interested to find out what it is for those who don’t believe in an afterlife because it would then have to be based on one distancing themselves from care. Avoiding pain at all cost? Some I think find that in drinking and doing drugs because they find they can think of the situation they are in or don’t really care. It’s interesting to find out what brings one happiness. For me I get it from my faith in God, a hope for a better life after this one, and serving others. There is more to it than that but that is for another time.
            One thing Boethius was troubled by was God knowing everything he would do before he would do it. He felt as if he had no say in the matter of what he is going to do. For example I am going to go exercise later today and on the way I can pull the car over without ever thinking that ever before. A split second decision and God knows it will happen. And the question is if God already knows what is going to happen, how can I have a genuine choice in the matter. I’ll quote from A Little History of Philosophy page 44. “If God knows what we are both going to do, how can either of us have a genuine choice about what we are going to do? Is choice just an illusion? It seems that I can’t have free will if God knows everything. Ten minutes ago God could have written on a piece of paper, ‘Nigel will carry on writing.’ It was true then, and so I necessarily would carry on writing, whether or not I realized this at the time. But if he could have done that, then surely I didn’t have a choice about what I did, even though it felt as if I did. My life was already mapped out in every tiniest detail. And if we don’t have any choice about our actions, how is it fair to punish or reward us for what we do? If we can’t choose what to do, then how can God decide whether or not we shall go to heaven?” This is a great question and one I’ve thought about before. You see let’s say that I have a friend that I know very well. We grew up together our whole lives and I know everything about him. So much so that I know how he thinks and how he acts. It becomes to where I can know what he is going to say before he says it. Does me knowing this take away his free will? Does he not still have a choice in the matter? Or let’s say that he is a smoker and I calculate when he is going to get his next urge to smoke based on the biology of his body and my advanced knowledge of all the sciences, and he goes out and smokes at the time I said he would. Is that then taking away his free will to do it? No, I don’t think it is because in the end, I’m not forcing him to do anything, and he is his own agent to act for himself, even though I know he will do it.

            These are some ideas I found thought provoking and that’s why Boethius is my favorite Philosopher as of right now, but I’m sure as I learn more about others it will change. I enjoyed my time learning about philosophy, and I hope to continue to learn more about philosophy and to keep asking questions. Have a great summer everyone and I hope to see everyone again.

1 comment:

  1. Very thoughtful essay, Jesse. But to your query about godless happiness - "I would be interested to find out what it is for those who don’t believe in an afterlife because it would then have to be based on one distancing themselves from care" - I'm not sure what it means to distance oneself from care, but some of the happiest and most caring, compassionate people I know disbelieve in any gods. If you mean not caring that life is a terminal condition, I'd say most atheists care deeply about that and are thus motivated to make the most of the life we've all been lucky enough to enjoy (and for the more compassionate among them, to make the lives of others more enjoyable as well).

    Boethius was a Platonist, and it's not clear that his god was a personal god at all. THe atheist Bertrand Russell admired him greatly, and wrote that "pagan philosophy [and Stoicism] had a much stronger hold on him than Christian theology."

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