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Discussion -Boethius > Consolation of Philosophy - Book 5

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7399 comments Anybody ready to start discussing Book 5 yet? I'm not, but I should be getting back to serious reading in the next few days.

Meanwhile, the discussion is perking along wonderfully without me. Keep it going!

And you don't need to do it all this week -- we have also scheduled next week for an overall discussion of the whole book. So we have two weeks left of formal discussion of the Consolation, though of course every discussion here stays open forever.

Onward!


message 2: by Patrice (new)

Patrice | 6058 comments So, we're back to the idea of "chance". What do you think? When we started the discussion I quoted War and Peace and it seems Tolstoy must have read Boethius. He also thinks that chance doesn't really exist. I go back and forth.

I recently had a discussion about this with my son who does brain research. He explained that genes mutate randomly, by chance. What causes a disease? Part of it is just chance. I said that it sounds as though what he calls "chance" is really just an unknown cause. He agreed.

I'm still not sure, though. He said that he's seen people enter the hospital and die because they chanced to get a bad dr. Had they come when a better dr. was on call, they would have gotten well.
Seems to me the bad dr. should be fired. The cause is poor management.

Chance implies that there is nothing we can do. Maybe we have to think that there is a cause, whether or not things happen randomly. If we don't think there is a cause, we won't search for it. People have created causes for illness forever. Evil eyes, God's punishment, broken hearts. When we find the right microbe and the right antibiotic, we forget all of the other ideas.


message 3: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1191 comments Sometimes we call it "chance" when we cannot trace the chain of causation. But at the quantum level, the universe seems to be truly probabilistic, at least as far as we can tell. An elementary particle is not really in one place, but it can manifest itself literally anywhere with finite probability. On the other hand, we can calculate the probability distributions very precisely (in simple cases), and when you assemble billions of elementary particles together the chance of the whole not behaving according to classical (non-quantum) mechanics is so remote that you'll never see it. But every now and then something happens at the macro level because some photon interacted with a molecule here and not there (for instance, a genetic mutation) and the world spins off in a different direction, purely by chance.


message 4: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7399 comments Roger wrote: "Sometimes we call it "chance" when we cannot trace the chain of causation. But at the quantum level, the universe seems to be truly probabilistic, at least as far as we can tell. An elementary pa..."

The question is, is it really random chance that the photon interacts here and not there? Or is it following some principle that we not only don't understand but believe doesn't exist?

Can there be an effect without a cause? That's really the question, isn't it? Aristotle was big on cause and effect; even if we don't know the cause, it's still there. We may not be able to understand the chain of events which leads from the butterfly in the Amazon jungle to the chewing gum on the street in Chicago, but aren't both are the result of the sequence of events which started a long time ago?

I admit to having a lot of trouble with the very concept of causeless effect.


message 5: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1191 comments Think of it as the photon having free will. It just decides where it will interact.


message 6: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (booksontrial) | 2189 comments Roger wrote: "Sometimes we call it "chance" when we cannot trace the chain of causation. But at the quantum level, the universe seems to be truly probabilistic, at least as far as we can tell. An elementary pa..."

My layman explanation of chance by quantum mechanics is that it is based on "free will", i.e., the elementary particle's potentiality to spin in a direction which cannot be predicted in advance.

It can be and has been argued that free will is not incompatible with God's foreknowledge. Just because physicists can't predict the outcome, doesn't mean the Almighty can't either.


message 7: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1191 comments I think Boethius would say the the Almighty doesn't "predict" the future like we would, He "sees" it. Since He stands outside of time, He sees the present and the future at the same time, so to speak. It's a mode of existence outside of our true understanding, I suppose.


message 8: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (booksontrial) | 2189 comments Roger wrote: "I think Boethius would say the the Almighty doesn't "predict" the future like we would, He "sees" it. Since He stands outside of time, He sees the present and the future at the same time, so to sp..."

I agree. But the Almighty also operates in time, and to predict/prophesy future events to mere mortals is one way of showing his Power.


message 9: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 3442 comments Nemo wrote: "But the Almighty also operates in time, and to predict/prophesy future events to mere mortals is one way of showing his Power. ."

It seems from Book 5 that God transcends time completely and has no need to operate in time. All of time is immediate for him. "God sees those future events which happen of free will as present events." From this point of view, what need has God of time at all?


message 10: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (booksontrial) | 2189 comments Thomas wrote: ""God sees those future events which happen of free will as present events." From this point of view, what need has God of time at all? ..."

Not sure I understand your question. God has no need of time, just as he has no need of the whole creation. Could it be that he does it simply because it pleases Him to do so?


message 11: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 3442 comments Nemo wrote: "Thomas wrote: ""God sees those future events which happen of free will as present events." From this point of view, what need has God of time at all? ..."

Not sure I understand your question. God ..."


My question was rhetorical. You made the distinction that God "also operates in time." As far as I can tell from Boethius' account in the Consolation, this is not the case. God stands completely outside of time. It may be our perception that He acts in time, but this is not so. All of time and everything that happens in time is for Him a fait accompli.


message 12: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (booksontrial) | 2189 comments Thomas wrote: "God stands completely outside of time. It may be our perception that He acts in time, but this is not so. All of time and everything that happens in time is for Him a fait accompli. ..."

If God "stands completely outside of time", it seems to follow that He is not omnipresent, since where there is time, there is no God?


message 13: by Silver (new)

Silver Nemo wrote: "If God "stands completely outside of time", it seems to follow that He is not omnipresent, since where there is time, there is no God? "

I do not think that it is that God does not exisist where there is time but that the perception of time for God is not the same the way in which mortals perceive time. For God time as we know it to be does not exisist, becasue for him the past, present, and future all occur within one single moment.

But that does not mean he is not a presence, he just does not work within our own limited ability to see and understand time. So in that you can say he is not with us/present only for the moments of our own awareness but he is present for all of our moments, including those we ourselves are not yet aware of and those which happened long behind us.

So he does not operate within our hours, days, weeks, but for him it all is one.


message 14: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 3442 comments Nemo wrote: "If God "stands completely outside of time", it seems to follow that He is not omnipresent, since where there is time, there is no God? "

I suppose that does follow. Boethius is concerned with the temporal paradox that seems to contradict human free will, so he doesn't talk about the spatial paradox. But God is equally outside space to the same degree and for the same reasons. On the other hand, Boethius argues that God is present in the created world by virtue of his design -- God has designed fate and providence to steer us toward the Ultimate Good (which is God Himself.) So God is present in the plan of his creation, but he is not present in a temporal or spatial way.


message 15: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (booksontrial) | 2189 comments Thomas wrote: "God has designed fate and providence to steer us toward the Ultimate Good (which is God Himself.) So God is present in the plan of his creation, but he is not present in a temporal or spatial way. ..."

It doesn't compute. How do we, who live in time and space, move toward God who is outside of time and space?


message 16: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (booksontrial) | 2189 comments Silver wrote: "he is not with us/present only for the moments of our own awareness but he is present for all of our moments, ..."

I think of the phrase, "Think globally, act locally". Does God "see in eternity, operate in the present"?


message 17: by Bill (last edited Jul 02, 2011 01:06AM) (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 250 comments Nemo wrote: "It doesn't compute. How do we, who live in time and space, move toward God who is outside of time and space? ..."

Time and space are both conceptual derivatives of motion (or change). If everything froze absolutely still, both space and time would impossible to conceptualize, since both are not measurable without motion or change.

God does not move (or change). He is the unmoved mover. So time and space originates in God, through the physical universe (space-time) which which he sets in motion, but space-time has no other relation to Him which can be conceptualized.

Since the word 'toward', in its primary meaning, is a spatial term, it cannot be related as such, in any way we can conceptualize, to a changeless, motionless, God. However, 'toward' can be a teleological metaphor for whether or not we are becoming more like Him as opposed to less so.

This is my theological concept of a God, which may or may not exist.


message 18: by Silver (new)

Silver Nemo wrote: I think of the phrase, "Think globally, act locally". Does God "see in eternity, operate in the present"?
"


Yes, I think that is a good way to put it.


message 19: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 3442 comments Nemo wrote: "It doesn't compute. How do we, who live in time and space, move toward God who is outside of time and space?
"


I think this is one of the reasons Boethius prefers to speak of "The Good" rather than God. God transcends space and time, and transcendence doesn't compute, it's true. That's why some people don't believe in God.


message 20: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 3442 comments Bill wrote: "Since the word 'toward', in its primary meaning, is a spatial term, it cannot be related as such, in any way we can conceptualize, to a changeless, motionless, God. However, 'toward' can be a teleological metaphor for whether or not we are becoming more like Him as opposed to less so."

Well put, Bill.


message 21: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (booksontrial) | 2189 comments Thomas wrote: "Nemo wrote: "It doesn't compute. How do we, who live in time and space, move toward God who is outside of time and space?
"

I think this is one of the reasons Boethius prefers to speak of "The Goo..."


The Wheel of Fortune and Providence remind me of the eye of the storm. Boethius is spinning desperately in the storm (Fortune), and Philosophy tells him that there is calm and stillness in the eye of the storm (Providence). If I were Boethius, I'd ask, "How do I get there?"


message 22: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (booksontrial) | 2189 comments Bill wrote: "However, 'toward' can be a teleological metaphor for whether or not we are becoming more like Him as opposed to less so. ..."

That's an Augustinian notion. I don't know if you've read St. Augustine, Bill, if not, you might find his works to your liking. :)


message 23: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Nemo wrote: "Thomas wrote: "Nemo wrote: "It doesn't compute. How do we, who live in time and space, move toward God who is outside of time and space?
"

I think this is one of the reasons Boethius prefers to sp..."


Beautiful, Nemo!


message 24: by Bill (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 250 comments Nemo wrote: "That's an Augustinian notion. I don't know if you've read St. Augustine, Bill, if not, you might find his works to your liking. :) .."


Just got back from my 4th of July camping trip.
I have not read Augustine yet. To be honest, I haven't read many classics at all. But I have read some. I have read a lot of Soren Kierkegaard, so Augustinian influence may have come through.

Anyway, I do intend to read Augustine some day.


message 25: by Patrice (new)

Patrice | 6058 comments Thomas wrote: "Nemo wrote: "Thomas wrote: ""God sees those future events which happen of free will as present events." From this point of view, what need has God of time at all? ..."

Not sure I understand your..."




Do you think it's like re-reading a book? We know where it's going?


message 26: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7399 comments Nemo wrote: "If God "stands completely outside of time", it seems to follow that He is not omnipresent, since where there is time, there is no God? "

I don't think that's what's meant by standing outside of time. I see it more as an observer standing beside a railway track. The observer isn't on or part of the track, is standing completely outside of the track, and yet is able to observe the track being built, being repaired, to see trains running up and down it. The trains (assuming normal operation) are restricted to the track, and the train itself may have no conception that there is anything to life other than going up and down the track. As in Flatland, it can't see anything except straight ahead of itself and straight behind itself. But the observer sees all that and also sees all the landscape, the environment within which the train runs, etc. So he is outside the track, but fully knowledgeable of all the events of and on the track.


message 27: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7399 comments Thomas wrote: "Nemo wrote: "It doesn't compute. How do we, who live in time and space, move toward God who is outside of time and space?
"

I think this is one of the reasons Boethius prefers to speak of "The Good" rather than God. God transcends space and time, and transcendence doesn't compute, it's true. That's why some people don't believe in God. "


Am I then correct that what you're driving at is that we can all, I think, accept that the Good is outside of time and nowhere (though also everywhere), yet in a non-physical usage of the word we can make sense of the concept of moving toward the Good.


message 28: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7399 comments With regard to Boethius's description (not really a definition, I started to use that term and then corrected myself) of free will in Prose2, where he says "'There is freedom,' said she; 'nor, indeed, can any creature be rational, unless he be endowed with free will. For that which hath the natural use of reason has the faculty of discriminative judgment, and of itself distinguishes what is to be shunned or desired. Now, everyone seeks what he judges desirable, and avoids what he thinks should be shunned. Wherefore, beings endowed with reason possess also the faculty of free choice and refusal."

doesn't this suggest that animals also have free will since they move toward what is desirable and avoid what should be shunned?

(I don't care for that translation much, it's the James translation from Gutenberg, but it's on line so easy to cut and paste from!)


message 29: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 3442 comments Patrice wrote: "Do you think it's like re-reading a book? We know where it's going?
"


We don't, but He does. He wrote the book! ;)


message 30: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 3442 comments Everyman wrote: "Am I then correct that what you're driving at is that we can all, I think, accept that the Good is outside of time and nowhere (though also everywhere), yet in a non-physical usage of the word we can make sense of the concept of moving toward the Good. "

I think so. The Perfect Good (which as a Platonic idea can never be perfectly realized in this life) is outside our imperfect realm of space and time, but it is in all its perfection the aim of our hearts' desire.


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