Boetius of Dacia

Boetius of Dacia

Boetius (or Boethius) of Dacia (latinization for "Bo of Denmark" (as Dacia was often used as the Latin term for Denmark)) was a 13th century Danish philosopher.

Boetius was born in the first half of the 13th century. Not much is known of his early life, and the attempt to connect him to known persons from Denmark or Sweden has not been successful [Boethius de Dacia, "Verdens evighed", Det lille forlag, 2001, p. 8 (in Danish)] . All that is known is that he went to teach philosophy at the University of Paris. There he associated with Siger of Brabant, and with Siger (together with such figures as Roger Bacon and Jean Buridan) shared the unusual career path of continuing to teach for some time as arts masters rather than quickly moving on to study in the theology faculty or finding non-academic employment. He was condemned by Stephen Tempier in 1277 as being a leading member of the Averroist movement. Boetius fled Paris with Siger, and appealed to Pope Nicholas III. He was detained at the pontifical curia at Orvieto, and went on to join the Dominicans in Dacia.

Boetius was a follower of Aristotle and Averroes, and wrote on logic, natural philosophy, metaphysics, and ethics, though some of his works have not survived. His central position was that philosophy had to follow the arguments where they led, regardless of their conflict with religious faith. For him, philosophy was the supreme human activity, and in this world only philosophers attained wisdom; in his book "On the Highest Good, or On the Life of the Philosopher" he offers a fervently Aristotelian description of man's highest good as the rational contemplation of truth and virtue. Among the controversial conclusions that he reached are the impossibility of creation "ex nihilo", the eternity of the world and of the human race, and that there could be no resurrection of the dead.

Despite his radical views, Boetius remained a Christian, and attempted to reconcile his religious beliefs with his philosophical position by assigning the investigation of the world and of human nature to philosophy, while to religion he assigned supernatural revelation and divine miracles. He was condemned for holding the doctrine of double truth, though he was careful to avoid calling philosophical conclusions that ran contrary to religion true "simpliciter"; in each branch of knowledge, one must be careful to qualify one's conclusions. The conclusions that the philosopher reaches are true "according to natural causes and principles" ("De Aeternitate Mundi", p. 351). Though philosophers must be free to reach and to discuss such conclusions, faith has a higher source; human reason being fallible, it must give way to faith in matters of genuine conflict.


*Boetius of Dacia, "The Sophisma 'Every Man Is of Necessity an Animal'", in Norman Kretzmann and Eleonore Stump [edd & trans.] "The Cambridge Translations of Medieval Philosophical texts. Volume One: Logic and the Philosophy of Language" (1988, Cambridge University Press; ISBN 0-521-28063-X)
*John Marenbon, "Later Medieval Philosophy (1150–1350)" (1991, Routledge; ISBN 0-415-06807-X)
*Armand A. Maurer, "Boetius of Dacia", in "The Encyclopedia of Philosophy", ed. Paul Edwards (Collier Macmillan, 1967)


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