The Torn Robe of Philosophy: Philosophy as a Woman in The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius

Part of the Women in the History of Philosophy and Sciences book series (WHPS, volume 3)


Symbolic figures like Sophia, Philosophia or Lady Reason represent feminine features in texts of the Western philosophical tradition that are often overlooked in their later interpretations. The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius (480–524), one of the most widely read philosophical texts of medieval times, includes a dialogue between the imprisoned Boethius who awaits his death sentence and Philosophia, a feminine personification of philosophy. In my interpretation of Philosophia, I analyze how the practice of philosophy she and Boethius stage in this text consists of working with and reflecting on the difficult emotions he struggles with. This argument is based on how ancient meanings of the noun sophia include practical, embodied, and sensual knowledge and not only theoretical knowledge. My interpretation hence involves underscoring feminine elements of philosophical reasoning that includes embodiment and emotions. Philosophia resurfaces in many philosophical texts, such as in Christine de Pizan’s The Book of the City of Ladies (1405), one of the greatest feminist books of the middle ages, where Lady Reason teaches the author to help her trust her feelings and judgements about women.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of IcelandReykjavikIceland

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