Volume 78, Issue 2, Spring 2004
John R. Fortin
The Nature of Consolation in The Consolation of Philosophy
Does The Consolation of Philosophy console? Is Philosophy able to bring the prisoner not simply to an acceptance of and reconciliation with his situation, but further to move him beyond this to ultimate peace through philosophical activity? The Consolation does offer some consolation but only ironically and not in the way intended by the character Philosophy. Philosophy is attempting to bring the prisoner to a philosophical experience in which he will contemplate and enjoy eternal truths, and thereby be consoled. Nevertheless the prisoner will in the end reject this project which takes him away from what he perceives to be his life’s work. Philosophy’s failure to console the prisoner is disconsoling in part to herself because the prisoner ultimately rejects her invitation to become a martyr for her sake. It is disconsoling in part to the prisoner who seeks a consolation that would support his firmly held desire to remain engaged in public life.