Boethius’ Understanding of Being and KnowledgeJune 27, 2021
One of Boethius’ main aims was to reconcile Plato and Aristotle. This essay continued in the philosophical understandings that followed him, whether implicitly or implicitly.
However, the attempt to bring together the thoughts of these pagan philosophers has been used to better understand a universe in which God is the creator, and the mind and rules that govern that universe.
Therefore, all kinds of philosophical formations that would eliminate this anxiety in the shortest way were taken into consideration by Boethius. While trying to understand the universe, Boethius thought of a reality shaped by God above all beings. God, according to him, is pure form. Aristotle used a similar expression in his Metaphysics; it seems that Boethius got help from him in this matter.
The pure form of God means that he is also a pure being, that is, esse ipsum (Wulf, 1951: 110). Being itself also means that it is Good. Boethius thinks that the greatest distinction between God and beings is the distinction between being (esse) and essence (id quod est).
According to him, those created by God are composed of various parts, and none of these parts are structures that can survive on their own (Boethius, Liber De Hebdomadibus, II-V). For example, man is composed of soul and body. The human soul is like a prison in the body, like a bird in a cage. At this point, just as in Aristotle, for Boethius, man is a composite structure made up of soul and body.
However, Boethius said that the truth resides in the soul and that the search for truth must be done in the soul. Stating that the illuminating light of truth weakens after its relationship with the body, Boethius argued that the learning activity is the task of renewing this weakened light as a result of the soul bending over itself. In this regard, Boethius follows Plato’s teaching of remembering (anamnesis) (Wulf, 1951: 112 and Boethius, Consolatio Philosophiae, III, poem II).
According to Boethius, who thinks that our senses produce effects that activate the human mind and therefore it is important to be heard, it is impossible to think of the human mind as a blank slate (tabula rasa). In the human mind, there is a darkness caused by the weakening of the light of the mind and many concepts that are hidden because of this darkness. Here, our senses bring about a kind of sensory interaction that will activate our souls in a way that causes these hidden concepts to emerge (Consolatio Philosophiae, V, poem 5).
From this point of view, it is possible to say that according to Boethius, there is no content abstracted from what our senses produce in the formation of our concepts. Our concepts are structures that we are born with, and these are the contents that were formed in our previous life (Maurer, 1982: 26). Based on what we have discussed so far, we can say that Boethius’ understanding of knowledge is Platonic. From this point of view, when the position of Boethius in the discussion of universals is briefly discussed, we can say that he still maintains the Platonic line.
According to him (Boethius, Commentarii In Porphyrium A Se Translatum), universals are not simply concepts in the mind, but realities that have their own permanence and existence. As with any structure that has permanence on its own, universals are disembodied existences. However, this immateriality is not by nature; but it emerges as a result of abstraction. Since immaterial existence is immaterial, it does not have three-dimensional space. Therefore, there is no possibility for universals to exist outside of individuals. This is not true in two ways: as ideas in God’s mind and as concepts in our minds. Therefore, universals exhibit existence both in the mind and outside the mind.
The discussion of universals constitutes one of the most important problems of the Middle Ages. In his Introduction to Isagoge or Aristotle’s Categories, Porphyrios asks three questions about the genera and species we think, through which we judge reality. Accordingly, 1. Do these genera and species really exist in nature; Or are they purely mental formations? 2. If these are realities, are they material or not material? 3. They exist apart from sensible things, or are they in them? According to the answers given to these questions, philosophers took place in various ranks.
These ideas and these concepts have the ability to perceive and comprehend at many different levels. In the plane in which people live, the highest ability is called reason (ratio). The faculty we call reason has the ability to understand and contemplate the universal structure that exists in individuals, that is, the concept. Above the mind is the ability to understand (intelligentia). It is a divine faculty and is beyond the power of the mind and all the faculties below it.