Boethius's Views
Quick revise

Boethius was very well-educated and had worked on translating and interpreting the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. Before he was executed under suspicion of disloyalty to his monarch, and while imprisoned, Boethius wrote :“On the Consolation of Philosophy”

Boethius is called the last of the Romans and is considered a Christian martyr.

Boethius’ aims

  • To question what we mean by divine foreknowledge.
  • To explore the meaning of eternity.
  • To discuss two kinds of necessity-
  • Simple and Conditional
  • To prove that God rewards and punishes justly.

What we mean by divine foreknowledge? / What makes God’s understanding different?

All rational creatures judge the Divine Being to be eternal, so we should start by explaining the nature of eternity, for this will reveal to us the nature of the Divine Being and the capacity of divine knowledge.

This takes a significant time to explain according to boethius:

This becomes clear when we consider temporal things: “whatever lives in time lives only in the present, which passes from the past into the future, and no temporal thing has such a nature that it can simultaneously embrace its entire existence, for it has not yet arrived at tomorrow and no longer exists in yesterday”

Boethius on the Problem of Freedom and Determinism

Is Human Freedom Compatible with God’s omniscience?

 If God already knows with complete certainty whatever you will ever do, how could your future be up to you to determine?

How could you be genuinely free in planning your life and enacting your plans if God already knows what you will plan and what you will do?

Boethius argues that what an omniscient God foresees in the future must happen.  Whether it happens because he sees it or, he sees it because it will happen is irrelevant.

God may not directly cause our actions but in seeing them they become necessary and we cannot do otherwise.  Boethius says this causes problems:

  • It is pointless for God to reward or punish because all actions are predestined
  • If actions are foreseen but not prevented isn’t God responsible?
  • Why bother to pray because the outcome won’t change?

Boethius’s answer to the problem…

In the Consolation of Philosophy Lady Phil. states that’s God’s foreknowledge is not the cause of future events happening.

The free will of humans cause these things; God surveys the whole of time in an eternal present.  That is, all of what we call time is “now” for God.

Boethius understood the word eternal to mean timeless, rather than everlasting.  Boethius argued that if God is eternal he is not subject to time. 

God is eternal and therefore outside time present, past and future.

Omniscience and an everlasting God – an example…

Peter Geach (1916- ) uses the analogy of playing chess with a grand master.  Although you are free to make a move where ever you like, the grandmaster will ultimately win the game!

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