BECK index

by Boethius

Book V

1. Philosophy Discusses Chance
I. "In Persian Rock Cliffs"
2. Freedom of Will Varies
II. "It Oversees All"
3. What About Foreknowledge and Freedom?
III. "What Discordant Cause Released"
4. Divine Intelligence Reconciles Them
IV. "Formerly the Stoics Brought Forth"
5. The Highest Intelligence
V. "In How Many Varied Shapes"
6. The Eternal Knows All

She had spoken and was turning the direction of the speech
toward handling and explaining other subjects.

Then I said, "Your encouragement is in fact correct
and absolutely most worthy of your responsibility,
but what you just now said about providence
being a question complicated by many other things
I am experiencing in reality.
For I am asking whether you think
chance is anything at all and what it is."

Then she said, "I am in a hurry
to pay off the debt of the promise
and open up for you the way by which you may go back home.
But these things though very useful to have acknowledged
nevertheless for a little while
are averse from the trail of our purpose,
and there is a concern lest tired out by side-trips
you may not be capable of traversing the straight journey."

"Have absolutely no concern for that," I said;
"for instead it might be a rest for me
to understand that by which I am most charmed.
At the same time, when the flank of your argument
might be established by every undoubted belief,
none of the consequences may be argued."

Then she said, "I will humor you,"
and at the same time the beginning was as follows:
"If in fact," she said, "one may define chance to be
some event produced by accidental movement
and by no connection of causes,
I would confirm chance to be nothing at all
and except for an indication of the subject matter
I would determine it to be an absolutely empty word.
For with God confining all things in order
can there be any place left for randomness?

"For it is a true sentence
that nothing arises out of nothing,
which none of the ancients ever opposed,
though they might not lay it down as a working principle
but as a subject of the material
as if this were a kind of foundation
of all reasonings about nature.

"But if something should arise from no causes at all,
it will seem to be arisen from nothing;
but if this is unable to arise,
it is not possible for chance at any rate
to be like this which we defined a little before."

"What then," I asked, "is there nothing
which can rightly be called either chance or accidental?
Or is there something, even though the crowd may miss it,
for which such words may be appropriate?"

"My Aristotle," she said, "defined it in his Physics
both briefly and by reason near the truth."

"In what way?" I asked.

"Whenever," she said, "something is managed
for the sake of some matter and something other
than what was intended from the purposes happens
it is called chance,
as if someone in digging the ground
for the purpose of cultivating a field
should come upon a mass of buried gold.

"Then this is believed to have happened by accident,
not from nothing it is true,
for it has its own causes,
whose unforeseen and unexpected coincidence
seems a chance occurrence.
For if the cultivator was not digging the field's ground,
if the depositor had not buried his money in that place,
the gold would not have been discovered.

"So these are the causes of the accidental saving,
which comes about from the causes
exposed to it and flowing together with it,
not from the intention of the one managing it.

"For neither the one who buried the gold
nor the one who cultivated the field
intended that this money should be discovered,
but, as I said, it coincided that
what the former buried the latter dug up,
and so it concurred.

"So it is all right to define chance to be
an unexpected event from causes flowing together in these
which are managed for the sake of something else.
While that order makes causes concur and so flow together
proceeding from the inevitable connection
which descending from the source of providence
arranges all things in their places and times.

"In Persian rock cliffs, where turned on one following
a fugitive shoots aggressive darts in their breasts,
Tigris and Euphrates release themselves from one source
and soon disunite into unjoined waters.
If they should combine course and return again into one,
each shoal's stream which draws may flow together,
ships and trunks plucked by the river come together
and the mixed stream may entwine accidental ways;
nevertheless the very steepness of chance's earthy abyss
and the order of the falling flow guide these wanderings.
Thus luck which seems to float with reins surrendered
submits to bridles and goes itself by law."

"I am paying attention," I said,
"and agree that it is just as you say.
But in this sequence of causes clinging to itself
is there any freedom for our judgment
or does the fatal chain constrain
the very movements of human souls too?"

"There is," she said;
"nor could there be any rational nature
unless freedom of judgment should support the same.
For whatever by reason can use it naturally
has the judgment by which it may discern each one;
by itself then it may distinguish avoiding or choosing.
Truly everyone seeks what one judges one to be choosing,
while one shuns what one evaluates one is avoiding.

"Therefore reason belongs in the very ones in which
the freedom of willing and of refusing also belong,
but I am not establishing that this is equal in all.
For in celestial and divine substances there is
both sharp judgment and uncorrupted will
and the effective power of the readily chosen.

"While human souls must in fact be more free
when they keep themselves in contemplation of divine mind,
while less when they fall out toward bodies,
and even less when they may be compressed in earthly limbs;
while the last is slavery when addicted to vices
they have fallen from the possession of their own reason.

"For when they have lowered their eyes
from the light of the highest truth to lower and dark things,
soon they become misty from a cloud of ignorance,
are disturbed by ruinous moods,
in which approaching and agreeing
they encourage slavery which has been brought on themselves
and are in a way captured by their own freedom.

"Nevertheless that intuition discerns from the eternal
the whole of providence which is watching
and arranges everything predestined by their merits.

"'It oversees all and listens to all,'
sings Homer with the honey-flow of the mouth
about the bright sun with its clear light;
nevertheless the weakness of its rays
is not able to break through with light
the innermost bowels of the earth or of the sea.

"Not so the creator of this great world:
for this one watching all from heaven
none blocks it with a pile of earth,
nor does night obstruct it with black clouds;
what may be, what might have been and may come
in one stroke of the mind it discerns;
because it alone looks back at everything
you could call it the true sun."

Then I said, "Look,
again I am confused by more difficult ambiguity."

"What is that?" she asked.
"Of course I am already guessing
by which things you may be upset."

"It seems,' I said, "to oppose and so disagree too much
for God to foreknow the universe
and for freedom's judgment to exist for anyone.
For if God foresees all and cannot in any way be mistaken,
what providence has foreseen to be the future must result.

"Therefore if from eternity it foreknows
not only the actions of humans
but also the deliberations and wishes,
there will be no freedom of judgment;
for neither any other action
nor any will whatever could exist
except what an infallible divine providence
might have preconceived.

"For if things were able to be turned aside
differently from how they are foreseen,
the foreknowledge of the future will not already be sure,
but opinion rather is uncertain;
which to believe about God I judge is wrong.

"For I do not approve of that argument
by which some believe themselves able
to unloose this question's knot.
For they say the reason why the future of events exists
is not because providence has foreseen it to be,
but on the contrary rather because what the future is
cannot escape the notice of divine providence
and by that method this must fall back on the opposite side.

"For they say it is not necessary
for that which is foreseen to happen,
but it is necessary that future things are to be foreseen---
as if truly which may be the cause of which thing,
whether foreknowledge is the work of necessity's futures
or necessity the work of providence's futures,
and so should we not press on to demonstrate that,
howsoever the order of the causes may hold itself
the result of the foreknown matters is necessary
even if foreknowledge of the resulting
does not seem to impose necessity on future matters.

"And in fact if someone should sit,
the opinion which infers that one is sitting must be true;
and so again from the converse,
if concerning someone the opinion be true because one sits,
one must be sitting.

"Then it is necessary in both cases,
in this fact of the sitting,
but certainly in the other of its truth.
But not for this reason is someone sitting
because the opinion is true,
but rather this is true
because someone sitting has preceded.
So though the cause of the truth
may proceed from another side,
nevertheless a common necessity belongs to both.

"It is similarly evident to argue this
about providence and future matters.
For even if for this reason they are foreseen
because they are future things,
truly the reason they result
is not because they are foreseen,
nonetheless either the things coming must be foreseen by God
or the things foreseen must result as foreseen,
which alone is adequate for destroying freedom of judgment.

"Now really how absurd it is
that the result of temporal matters
is said to be the cause of eternal foreknowledge!
What other reason is there to think that
God foresees future things because they are about to result
than to suppose that what has happened only once
is the cause of that highest providence?

"Besides, just as when I know what is
it itself must be so
when I have learned what the future is
it itself must be the future;
so it arises then that
the result of the foreknown matter could not be avoided.

"Finally if someone should think that
something is different from the reality it has itself,
it is not only not knowledge,
but it is a false opinion
very much different from true knowledge.

"Therefore if what is such a future
that its result may not be certain and so necessary,
how could it be foreknown that it is to result?
For just as knowledge itself is impervious to falsity
so that which is conceived by it
also cannot be conceived otherwise.

"For indeed the reason why
knowledge should be free from deception is because
it must have such a reality as this by itself
so that the knowledge comprehends that it has it by itself.

"What then, in what way does God foreknow
these uncertain future things?
For if it thinks coming things inevitable
which it is actually possible may not result,
it is mistaken;
which it is not only wrong to feel
but even to mention aloud.

"But if accordingly it determines future things
to be just as they are such that it may recognize
equally whether they are to arise or possibly not arise,
what foreknowledge is this,
which comprehends nothing certain, nothing stable?
Or does this refer to that ridiculous prophecy of Tiresias

'Whatever I may say either will be or not'?

"Also how would divine providence be better than opinion
if like humans it judges things uncertain
whose result is uncertain?
But if with that most certain source of all things
nothing can be uncertain,
certain is the result of these
which that might have foreknown firmly as future things.

"Therefore there is no freedom
in human deliberations and actions,
which the divine mind
foreseeing all things without the error of falsity
binds to the one and constrains the result.

"Once this is accepted it is clear
how much the downfall of human matters follows.
For in vain are rewards or penalties
set before the good and bad,
which no free or voluntary movement of souls has earned,
and what now is judged most fair
will seem most unfair of all,
either to punish the dishonest or reward the honest,
whose own will does not emit one or the other
but necessity compels the certainties of the future.

"Then neither vices nor virtues would be anything,
but rather there would be
a mixed and so indiscriminate confusion of all merits;
also nothing more wicked can be contrived,
since every order of things should be drawn from providence
and nothing should be permitted to human deliberations,
it arises that our vices too
should be traced back to the author of all goods.

"Then there is no reason in either
hoping for or praying to avert anything;
for what would anyone either hope for or even pray to avert
when an inflexible sequence
connects all the things being chosen?

"Taken away then is that unique commerce
between humans and God,
evidently of hoping for and praying to avert,
if in fact for the price of fair humility
we deserve the inestimable recompense of divine grace;
which is the only way by which humans seem able
to converse with God and join with that inaccessible light
before they too should obtain it themselves
by means of praying.

"If in having accepted the necessity of future things
these may be believed to have none of the powers,
what will there be by which we could connect
and so adhere to that highest principle of things?
Therefore it will be necessary for the race of humans,
just as you were singing a little before, to crack
having been separated and so removed from its source.

"What discordant cause released
the agreements of things? What God
established such wars between two truths
so that what at different points may exist as single
the same mixed should refuse to be coupled?

"Or is there no discord between the truths
and do they always cohere with themselves definitely,
but is the mind covered over by the blind body parts
unable by the fire of suppressed light
to recognize the thin grip of things?

"But why does it burn with such love
to discover the hidden signs of truth?
Does it know what troubles it is desiring to learn?
But why does it work to know the signs?

"Or if it is ignorant, why does it seek blindly?
For who unaware would wish for anything?
Or who could pursue the unknown
or where would one come upon it?
Who ignorant could recognize the discovered form?

"Or when it perceives the deep mind
does it know alike the highest and the single,
now built by the cloud of body parts
has it not on the whole forgotten itself
and losing the sum holds the individual?

"Then whoever searches for truths
is in neither condition; for one does not know
nor yet is one thoroughly ignorant of everything,
but retaining the highest which it remembers
one deliberates from above reconsidering the visions,
so that one could add the forgotten parts
to the ones preserved."

Then she said, "Old is this complaint about providence
Cicero when he distributed 'Divination' eagerly ridiculed,
and the matter was questioned absolutely
by you yourself long and often,
but not by any means has it been explained by any of you
thus far diligently and powerfully enough.

"The cause of such mist is that
the movement of human reasoning is not able
to apply to the singleness of divine foreknowledge,
which if in any way could be contemplated,
absolutely nothing would remain ambiguous.
So this at last I'll attempt to make clear and so explain,
if before that I deal with what you set in motion.

"For I am wondering why you should think
that refuting argument less effective
which because it considers foreknowledge
not to be the cause of the necessity for future matters
thinks freedom of judgment not hindered by foreknowledge.

"For surely you do not draw
the argument of the necessity of future things
from anywhere but from the fact that
things which are foreknown cannot not result?

"If then forethought does not add
any necessity to future matters,
which you even acknowledged a little before,
why is it that the outcome of voluntary matters
should be compelled toward a certain result?

"Now for the sake of argument,
so that you may turn to what should follow,
let us propose that no foreknowledge exists.
Then surely, as many things as pertain to this,
which come from judgment
may not be compelled toward necessity?

"Not at all."

"Let us propose secondly it does exist,
but it imposes nothing of necessity on things;
the same freedom of will, as I believe,
will remain whole and so complete.

"'But,' you may say,
'although foreknowledge of events
is not a necessity for future things,
nevertheless it is a sign they are of necessity coming.'

"Then in this case, even if there were no forethought,
the outcome of future things would still be necessary;
and in fact every sign only shows what may be,
while it does not cause what it designates.

"Therefore the previous demonstration is that
nothing happens except out of necessity,
so that it may be apparent that
forethought is a sign of this necessity;
otherwise if the latter does not exist,
the former in fact could not be a sign
of that thing which does not exist.

"While already the proof is established
supported by a strong argument,
not from signs nor from evidence sought outside
but from agreeing and necessary causes being drawn.

"But how could it arise that
what are foreseen to be future things may not come about?
Truly it is as if we should believe that
future events do not exist
which providence foreknows do exist,
and so instead of that rather we should think,
although they may result,
yet they have had nothing of necessity in their nature
so that they should result.

"What here you may easily weigh will be allowed:
and in fact as long as more subjects arise
we observe them with the eyes,
just as those drivers who perform in chariots
in restraining and turning are watched,
and in this way others also.
Surely then necessity does not compel
any of those things to so occur?"

"Not at all; for the effect of skill would be in vain
if all things should be moved by compulsion."

"Then since the same things which occur
are free of arising by necessity
before they may occur
future things are without necessity.
Therefore there are some things about to happen
whose outcome may be unrestricted by any necessity.

"For in fact I think there is no one who will say
that what occurs now might not exist
before coming events should occur.
Then even these forethoughts have free results.

"For just as knowledge of present things
brings in of necessity nothing for these which occur
so foreknowledge of future things
brings in of necessity nothing for these which are coming.

"'But,' you may say, 'this is the very thing to be doubted
whether there could be any forethought of those things
which have no necessary outcomes.'
And as a matter of fact they seem to disagree,
and you think if they may be foreseen necessity follows,
if necessity ceases very little is foreknown,
and nothing can be grasped by knowledge except the certain.

"But if outcomes which are uncertain
are foreseen as if they were certain,
it is the mist of opinion, not the truth of knowledge;
for to think a thing should have
anything different from itself
you believe to be opposite from the integrity of knowledge.

"The cause of this error is because
all things which are known which anyone knows
one thinks to be understood
so much from the power and so the nature of themselves.

"But it is the complete opposite;
for everything which is understood is grasped
not according to its own power
but rather according to the ability of those understanding.

"For as may be made clear by this brief example,
in one way sight in another way touch
recognizes the same roundness of a body;
the former staying at a distance
looks at it all at once by the rays it has thrown,
while the latter clinging to the sphere
the connected movement around the circumference itself
also grasps the roundness in parts.

"Also in one way sensation, in another imagination,
in another reason, in another intelligence
observe the same person.
For sensation examines the shape
constituted in the subject matter,
while imagination examines the shape alone without matter;
while reason transcends this too
and weighs by universal consideration the appearance itself
which belongs to the individualities.

"While the eye of intelligence rises higher;
for having surpassed the circumference of the universal
it observes that single form itself
by the clear apprehension of the mind.
In which the greatest consideration is this:
for the higher power of grasping encircles the lower,
while the lower in no way rises up to the higher.

"For sensation is not able to grasp anything except matter
nor does imagination observe universal appearances
nor does reason catch the single form;
but intelligence as if looking from above
by the conceived form differentiates all
which actually are underneath,
but by this method it grasps the form itself,
which could be known to no other.

"For it understands both the universal of reason
and the shape of the imagination and sensible material
nor is it by using reason or imagination or the senses,
but by that one stroke of the mind formally,
as I may say it thus, watching all.

"Reason too when it looks back at some universal
using neither imagination nor the senses
grasps the imaginable or the sensible.
For this is what so defines
by the universal of its conception:
a human is a rational two-footed animal.

"This not only may be a universal idea,
but no one is ignorant that
the imaginable and sensible are a reality
because that considers it not in imagination or sense
but in a rational conception.

"Imagination too, even though it has taken its beginning
of seeing and forming shapes from the senses,
nevertheless in the absence of sense
it surveys every sensible thing
not by the sensible but judging by imagined reason.

"Do you see then that in understanding
all things should use their own ability
rather than those of the things which are understood?
Nor is it wrong;
for since every judgment is an act of the one judging,
it is necessary that everyone should carry out their work
not from another but from one's own capability.

"Formerly the Stoics brought forth
old ones too hidden
who could believe the senses and images
from bodies outside
were impressed on minds,
just as formerly with a swift pen
the practice was to fix pressed letters
on a smooth page which should have no marks.

"But the mind if thriving with its characteristics
explains nothing with its impulses,
but lays experiencing so much
subdued by the marks of bodies
and empty like in a mirror
it represents the images of things,
from where does this idea so thrive
in souls discerning all things?

"What power sees through the individuals
or what differentiates the things learned?
What recovers the things differentiated
and selecting one course after another
now engages its head in the highest things
now departs into the lowest,
then bringing itself back to itself
refutes the false with the true?

"This is an efficient cause
very much more powerful
than that which only experiences
the impressed marks of matter.

"Nevertheless it precedes rousing
and so moving the powers of the soul
in the passive living body
when either light strikes the eyes
or the voice makes noise in the ears.

"Then the aroused energy of the mind
holds the appearances which are inside
calling similar ones into motion,
attaches them to marks from outside
and inside mingles the images
with the stored away forms.

"But if in feeling bodies,
however much otherwise exposed qualities
may affect the instruments of the senses
and the body's experience may precede
the energy of the active soul,
which in itself may provoke the action of the mind
and arouse meanwhile on the inside the dormant forms,
if in feeling bodies, I say,
the soul is not distinguished by the experience,
but out of its own power judges
the experience subjected to the body,
how much more do those
who are unqualified by all the moods of the body
not follow external objects in distinguishing,
but extricate the action of their own mind!

"And so by this argument various ideas
might yield to diverse and different means.
For sense alone went to all the other immobile animals
destitute of ideas, such as are the sea's shellfish
and others which are raised clinging to the rocks;
while imagination is for mobile beasts,
in whom some already seem to be endowed
with avoiding and desiring;
while the reason of the human race is so important
just as intelligence alone is of the divine:
thus this idea may be better than others
which by its own nature understands not only its own
but subjects of other ideas too.

"What then, if sense and imagination
are opposed to reasoning saying that
that from the universal is nothing
which reason may think it contemplates by itself?

"For that which is sensible or imaginable
cannot be universal;
then either the judgment of reason is true
and the sensible is not anything
or, since there may be known to be
more subjects in the senses and imagination,
the concept of reason is empty,
because it might consider
what should be sensible and so individual
as if they were something from the universal.

"To this if reason itself should answer in reply in fact
that it perceives both what may be sensible
and what imaginable in the logic of the whole,
while those cannot attain the understanding of the whole
since their idea could not exceed corporeal shapes,
while concerning the understanding of things
it is rather trusting in stronger and more perfect judgment:
in a dispute like this then should not we,
in whom belongs the power of such great reasoning
as well as of imagining and also of feeling,
rather approve the position of reason?

"It is similar to how human reason thinks that
divine intelligence does not contemplate future things
except as it understands them itself.
For so you discuss it:
if in these which don't seem to have
certain or necessary results
their coming cannot be foreknown for certain.
Then there is no foreknowledge of these things;
if we actually may believe that to be in these,
there will be nothing that does not happen out of necessity.

"If then just as we are reason's participants
so we could have the judgment of the divine mind,
just as we have judged
imagination and sense ought to yield to reason
so we shall assess it most just
for human reason to submit itself to the divine mind.

"Therefore, if we can, let us rise up
to the summit of that highest intelligence;
for there reason will see
what it cannot contemplate in itself:
and that is, where in a moment
even what doesn't have a certain outcome
certain and definite forethought nevertheless may see,
and it would not be opinion
but rather the inclusive singleness
of the highest knowledge with no boundaries.

"In how many varied shapes do animals move on the lands!
For some are in a stretched body and sweep the dust
and drag a continuous furrow by the breast's roused force;
some are wanderers for whom the wings' lightness beats winds
and swims in fluid flight in the vast space of the sky;
and some like to press these footprints only on steps
either to pass over green plains or to go under forests.

"Though you may see all differ in various forms,
yet sense is able to weigh downward the stupid faces;
the unique race of humans lifts the lofty summit higher
and stands in an easy upright body and looks down on lands.

"This figure advises, unless earthly you fool with evil:
you who in an upright look seek heaven and reveal the front,
to the sublime should bear the soul too,
lest weighed to the ground the mind should sink lower
than the higher lifted body.

"Then since, as was shown a little before,
everything which is known is understood
not from its own nature but from comprehending,
let us examine now as much as possible
what may be the condition of the divine substance,
so that we could also recognize what its knowledge may be.

"Then that God is eternal
is the judgment by the common reason of all peoples.
Then let us consider what eternity may be;
for this will make clear to us at once
divine nature and knowledge.
Then eternity is at once
the total and perfect possession of interminable life.
This is more clearly evident
from comparison of the temporal.

"For whatever lives in time
that present proceeds from the past into the future
and nothing is established in time
which could embrace at once the entire space of its life,
but in fact it does not yet apprehend tomorrow
while it has already lost yesterday;
in life today too you do not live more fully
than in that passing and transitory moment.

"Then what submits to the condition of time,
that may, just as Aristotle supposed about the universe,
never begin to be nor does it cease
and its life is extended in the infinity of time,
nevertheless it is not yet such
that it rightly may be believed to be eternal.
For not all at once is it permitted
to comprehend and so grasp the space of infinite life,
but the future not yet, it does not have the past already.

"So what comprehends and so possesses at once
the entire fullness of interminable life,
to whom nothing of the future may be absent
nor has anything of the past vanished,
it is rightly asserted to be eternal
and it must be both present in control of itself
to always stand by itself
and have present the infinity of passing time.

"Thus not correctly do some,
who when they hear this universe viewed by Plato,
neither to have had a beginning of time
nor is there to be a failure of conditions,
in this way they think the created universe
is co-eternal with the creator.

"For it is one thing to be led through interminable life,
which Plato attributed to the universe,
another for the presence of the interminable life
to be embraced all at once,
which it is obvious is a characteristic of the divine mind.
Nor should God be seen as older
than the created things in the amount of time
but rather in the property of a single nature.

"For that infinite movement of temporal things
imitates this state of the present immobile life,
and since it could not represent and so equal it,
from immobility it falls into movement,
from singleness of the present it degenerates
into the infinite quantity of the future and so the past,
and since it is unable to possess
all at once the fullness of its life,
this by itself which in some way never ceases to be that
to some it seems to emulate
what it cannot fulfill and so express
binding itself to whatever presence
of this brief and fleeting moment,
which since it carries a certain image
of that remaining presence,
with whatever it has touched it stands out
so that they seem to be.

"While since it could not remain,
the infinite march of time took hold of it
and the action from that method is that
it might continue the same life the fullness of which
it has not been able to embrace by enduring.
And so if we wish to apply worthy names to things,
following Plato let us say that God is in fact eternal,
while the universe is perpetual.

"Since then every judgment comprehends
according to its nature things which are subject to it,
it is moreover with God
always an eternal and so an immediate state;
knowledge too having surpassed every motion of that time
remains in the singleness of its present
and embracing the infinite spaces of the past and future
it contemplates all things
as if they were already produced in its single cognition.

"And so if you wish to consider the foreseeing
by which it distinguishes all,
you will more correctly evaluate it
not to be foreknowledge as if of the future
but knowledge of a never failing presence.
Thus it is called not foreseeing but rather providence,
because established far from things below
it may watch all as if from the eminent summit of things.

"Why then do you claim that necessary things should arise
which are illuminated by divine light,
since humans in fact may not cause
necessary things to be which they may see?
For your having observed the present which you perceive
surely does not add any necessity to them, does it?"

"Not at all."

"Yet if the worthy comparison is
of the divine and the human present,
as you see certain things in this your temporary present
so that perceives all things in its eternal one.
Therefore this divine forethought
does not change the nature and property of things
and looks at the presence of such things with itself
even as future things one day come about.

"Nor does it confuse the judgments of things
and with one observation of its mind
it distinguishes coming things
whether by necessity or not by necessity,
just as when you see at once
a person walk on land and the sun rise in the sky,
even though both are observed at the same time
nevertheless you distinguish them
and decide the former is voluntary and the latter necessary.

"So then divine observation looking through all
does not at all disturb the quality of things
which are present in fact with itself
while future in regard to the arrangement of time.
Thus this may not be opinion
but rather an idea based on truth,
since it understands what is to exist
which the same is not unaware of existing free of necessity.

"At this point if you should say that
what God sees is about to happen cannot not result,
and that what cannot not result occurs out of necessity,
and should bind me to this name of necessity,
I'll admit in fact the matter is of the most solid truth,
but it is one which hardly any explorer has approached
except by the divine.

"For I'll answer that the same future
when it is referred to the divine idea seems necessary,
while when it is weighed in its own nature
it seems absolutely free and so released.

"As a matter of fact there are two necessities,
one single, for instance that all humans must be mortal,
the other conditional,
as when you may know someone is walking he must be walking.
For what everyone has learned
is unable to be otherwise than what is known,
but the latter condition does not imply
that the other former one is simple.

"For it does not cause this necessity by its own nature
but by the addition of a condition;
for no necessity compels the one stepping by will to march,
although whenever one is stepping
it may be necessary at that time to march.

"Then in the same way, if providence sees what is present,
it must be even though it may have no necessity in nature.
Yet God observes these future things as present
which come out of the freedom of judgment;
then these necessary results arise
according to divine observation
through the arrangement of the divine idea,
while considered through themselves
they do not abandon the absolute freedom of their nature.

"Then beyond doubt all things
which God foreknows to be the future will arise,
but some of them do originate from free judgment,
which although they may come out by existing
nevertheless they do not lose their own nature
in which before they arose they could not even come out.

"To what then does it refer that things are not necessary,
since on account of the arrangement of divine knowledge
by all the means of necessity the appearance comes out?
This of course is why that which I proposed a little before,
the sun rising and the stepping person,
which while arising cannot not arise,
nevertheless one of them was existing by necessity
even before it has arisen, while the other not at all;
so too what God has present beyond doubt exists,
but some of those things in fact result from necessity
while others result from the power of doing.

"Then this we said was not wrong
if they be referred to the divine idea they are necessary,
if they be considered through themselves
they are released from the bonds of necessity,
just as everything which is exposed to the senses
if you should refer to reason is universal,
if to itself you may regard them as individual.

"'But if it is in my power,' you may ask,
'to change the planned situation, I'll avoid providence,
since what that foreknows I shall have bravely changed.'

"I'll answer that you can in fact turn aside your plan,
but since the present truth of providence observes both
that you can and whether or not you may do it or change it
you cannot evade divine foreknowledge,
just as you could not escape observation of a present eye
although by free will you might turn to various actions.

"'What then,' you may ask,
'will divine knowledge be changed from my arrangement,
so that when I may want now this now that
that too may seem to alter
the changing conditions of knowing?'

"Not at all.
For divine observation anticipates every future,
and it turns them back and so recalls them
to the presence of its own knowledge;
it does not alter, as you think,
now this now the other by the alternating of foreknowing,
but remaining in one glance
it comes before and so embraces your changes.

"God is assigned this omnipresence
of comprehending and seeing
not from the result of future things
but from its own singleness.
From this that too is resolved
which you proposed a little before,
that it is unworthy if our future
is said to provide a cause of God's knowledge.

"For this power of knowledge
by an immediate idea embracing all
has itself established the method for all things,
while it owes nothing to posterior things.
Which since they may be so,
the freedom of judgment for mortals remains undefiled,
nor do the laws set forth rewards and penalties unfairly
for wills freed from every necessity.

"Also God remains a foreknowing observer of all from above
and the ever present eternity of its vision
concurs with the future quality of our actions
dispensing rewards to the good and punishments to the bad.
Neither are the hopes nor prayers placed in God in vain,
which when they are right cannot be ineffective.

"Then reject vices, cultivate virtues,
lift up your soul to right hopes,
offer to the heights humble prayers.
Great is the necessity of honesty indicated for you,
if you are not to deceive with appearances,
since you do all before the eyes of a discerning judge.

Notes to Book 5:

1: Aristotle, in his Physics II, 3, defines the material, formal, efficient, and final causes of things.

II: The Homer quote is said of the sun in the Iliad III, 277 and in the Odyssey XI, 109.

3: Horace (65-8 BC) makes fun of the legendary soothsayer Tiresias in his Satires II, 5.

4: The Roman statesman and prolific writer Cicero (106-43 BC) discussed providence in his Divination II, 8.

IV: The Stoics, named after the porch in Athens where Zeno of Citium taught in the early third century BC, recognized the impressions of the senses and imagination and attempted to rise above them.

6: Aristotle discusses whether the heavens and the universe are eternal in book I of On the Heavens, concluding that only the ungenerated can be eternal.

6: Plato's ideas on the eternity of the universe can be found in the Timaeus 28 and 37.

Copyright 1996, 2002 by Sanderson Beck

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The Consolation of Boethius

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