What do the character and description of Lady Philosophy tell us about Boethius’s understanding of philosophy?

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The first important element of the character of Lady Philosophy is that she is a fundamentally pagan figure. Although Boethius himself was a Christian, this book has no explicit references to Christianity and is a purely philosophical one. Lady Philosophy herself is a pagan figure connected to traditional Greek philosophy...

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The first important element of the character of Lady Philosophy is that she is a fundamentally pagan figure. Although Boethius himself was a Christian, this book has no explicit references to Christianity and is a purely philosophical one. Lady Philosophy herself is a pagan figure connected to traditional Greek philosophy rather than a Christian saint. Although Christians might see a parallel between her and Hagia Sophia ("holy wisdom"), a title referencing the Virgin Mary, the connection is not explicit.

The figure of the Lady Philosophy will remind philosophically educated readers of Diotima in Plato's Symposium, who is a guide for humans from consideration of earthly to divine love. In the same way that Diotima embodies love, so lady Philosophy embodies philosophy itself and its consolatory wisdom: something chaste and beautiful that can lead a soul from worries about immediate problems in this world to contemplation of the divine.

The description of the Lady Philosophy is that of a traditional pagan goddess, blending the divine and human. The dress woven by her own hands reminds readers of Athena, the goddess of wisdom, distinguished for her weaving ability. The damage to her clothes suggests the neglect that Philosophy had suffered. Additionally, the sternness of her demeanor compared to the more approachable Muses suggests the austerity and lack of sentimentality that will appear in her speeches. She is seen as stern rather than approachable and authoritative and as someone who demands strength rather than encouraging weakness.

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