Volume 78, Issue 2, Spring 2004
M. V. Dougherty
The Problem of Humana Natura in the Consolatio Philosophiae of Boethius
In Boethius’s Consolatio Philosophiae one finds a rather unusual argument contending that human beings can lose their natures as the result of immoral or virtuous activity. A number of texts in the work argue that the polarities of beast and god serve as options for those who lead highly immoral or highly virtuous lives. This argument is examined in detail in light of its philosophical ancestry. I argue that those who think the Boethian doctrine is Platonic in origin tend to read the texts about the loss of human nature as metaphorical. I then suggest that if one places the argument in an Aristotelian context one is able to see it as a metaphysical argument, and more
particularly, as part of Boethian psychology. This paper thus provides a new context for approaching Boethius’s contention that human beings can lose their natures.