Monday, March 03, 2008

Boethius on Philosophy and Statesmanship

Although the cares of my consular office prevent me from devoting my entire attention to these studies, yet it seems to me a sort of public service to instruct my fellow-citizens in the products of reasoned investigation. Nor shall I deserve ill of my country in this attempt. In far-distant ages, other cities transferred to our state alone the lordship and sovereignty of the world; I am glad to assume the remaining task of educating our present society in the spirit of Greek philosophy.

[In Categorias, E. K. Rand translation, quoted in F. Anne Payne, King Alfred and Boethius, U Wisconsin P (Madison, WI: 1968) p. 7; I've placed the Latin below for those who are interested.]

Yet you [i.e., Philosophy] were the one who through the mouth of Plato decreed this inviolable axiom, that states would be happy and prosperous if either those devoted to wisdom should rule them, or if it were to happen that those who did rule them devoted themselves to wisdom. And it was through the mouth of this same man that you warned that this was the compelling reason for the wise to enter into political life, that the rudders of the state not be handed over to its unrighteous and criminal citizens and so bring their disease and disaster upon the good. So it was in accordance with this authoritaitve pronouncement that I desired to put into action what I learned from you in the course of our private and leisurely lessons -- that is, the action of public service.

You and the God who planted you in the minds of the wise are my witnesses that no enthusiasm brought me to high office other than the enthusiasm for the community of all good people.

[Cons. Phil. I.4.5ff, Relihan translation, Hackett (Indianapolis: 2001).]

The Latin

In Cat.:

Et si nos curae officii consularis impediunt quo minus in his studiis omne otium plenamque operam consumimus pertinere tamen videtur hoc ad aliquam reipublicae, curam, elucubratae rei doctrina cives instruere. Nec male de civibus meis merear, si cum prisca hominum virtus urbium caeterarum ad hanc unam rempublicam, dominationem, imperiumque transtulerit, ego id saltem quod reliquum est, Graecae sapientiae artibus mores nostrae civitatis instruxero.

Cons. Phil.:

Atqui tu hanc sententiam Platonis ore sanxisti beatas fore res publicas si eas uel studiosi sapientiae regerent uel earum rectores studere sapientiae contigisset. Tu eiusdem uiri ore hanc sapientibus capessendae rei publicae necessariam causam esse monuisti, ne improbis flagitiosisque ciuibus urbium relicta gubernacula pestem bonis ac perniciem ferrent. Hanc igitur auctoritatem secutus quod a te inter secreta otia didiceram transferre in actum publicae amministrationis optaui. Tu mihi et qui te sapientium mentibus inseruit deus conscii nullum me ad magistratum nisi commune bonorum omnium studium detulisse.

Note that, strictly speaking, it is wisdom that Boethius links to statesmanship.

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