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Addiction and the Reinterpretation of Desire in Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy

Sarah Powrie
Published: 1 January 2021

Abstract: In the Consolation of Philosophy, the philosopher Boethius represents his literary self as imprisoned literally and metaphorically. Even while he is literally incarcerated, the text argues that his psychological dependency on the benefits of wealth, power, and fame represents a graver threat to his wellbeing. The allegorical Lady Philosophy acts as Boethius's interlocutor and medical practitioner as she guides him through a therapeutic inquiry designed to make him more consciously aware of ways that his dependency undermines his autonomous selfhood. Lady Philosophy's dialectical treatment presents the modern reader with a productive therapeutic model for addiction that warrants attention at a time when addictive behaviors are on the rise and when researchers question the dominant disease model. Lady Philosophy affirms Boethius’s capacity for self-transformation. She regards his addictive habits as learned behaviors and guides him both in recognizing their latent harm and in redirecting his desire toward meaningful goals.
Keywords: Boethius / Philosophy / behaviors / addictive / literally / Consolation / model / treatment / Lady / guides

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