Volume 51, Issue 4, December 2011
Matthew D. Walz
Stoicism as Anesthesia
Philosophy’s “Gentler Remedies” in Boethius’s Consolation
Boethius first identifies Philosophy in the Consolation as his medica, his “healer” or “physician.” Over the course of the dialogue Philosophy exercises her medical art systematically. In the second book Philosophy first gives Boethius “gentler remedies” that are preparatory for the “sharper medicines” that she administers later. This article shows that, philosophically speaking, Philosophy’s “gentler remedies” amount to persuading Boethius toward Stoicism, which functions as an anesthetic for the more invasive philosophical surgery that she performs afterwards. Seeing this, however, requires understanding how Philosophy draws out Boethius’s spiritedness in the first book and how in the second book she sublimates it into an intellectual and volitional apathy toward the things of fortune, i.e., into a Stoic attitude toward that which is other. Significantly, though, the Stoicism to which Philosophy leads Boethius is of a mitigated sort, inasmuch as friendship is not included among the things of fortune to which Boethius is anesthesized, an exception that opens up Boethius to genuine wonder and, consequently, to genuine philosophizing.