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American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 78, Issue 2, Spring 2004


John Marenbon
Pages 329-348

Boethius and the Problem of Paganism

“Problem of paganism” is my name for the set of questions raised for medieval thinkers and writers, and discussed by some of them (Abelard, Dante, and Langland are eminent examples), by the fact that many people—especially philosophers—from antiquity were, they believed, monotheists, wise and virtuous and yet pagans. In this paper, I argue that Boethius, though a Christian, was himself too much part of the world of classical antiquity to pose the problem of paganism, but that his Consolation of Philosophy was an essential element in the way medieval writers saw and resolved this problem. In particular, because it was a text by an author known to be Christian which discusses philosophy without any explicitly Christian references, it opened up the way to treating texts by ancient pagan philosophers as containing hidden Christian doctrine.