Participation and the good: A study of Boethian metaphysics

Siobhan Frances Nash Marshall, Fordham University


This dissertation deals with Boethian metaphysics. Its object is to determine and define its doctrine of participation. It primarily analyzes the Quomodo Substantiae and the Consolatio Philosophiae, the two works in which Boethius presents his metaphysics. Now, in Boethian metaphysics participation is closely interconnected with the nature of the ontological goodness of complex things. For the doctrine is the means whereby Boethius explains how complex things can be ontologically good and yet not be God. Our analysis showed that explaining why complex things are ontologically good entails solving a two-part problem. For the good is both a substantial property of all things and the object of desire. It is, as such, both a property which contingent things possess insofar as they are and a property which they acquire. What this means is that one must explain both the exitus and redditus of complex things in order to understand why they are ontologically good. This is precisely what Boethius does in his attempt to define the ontological goodness of complex things. The Quomodo delineates complex things' exitus and the Consolatio defines their redditus. The means whereby Boethius defines their exitus and redditus, then, is participation. Thus, participation in his metaphysics is both substantial and dual. There is, however, another duality in his doctrine of participation. For Boethius's account of the exitus and redditus of complex things concentrates on determining both their intrinsic and extrinsic causes, i.e., their formal and efficient causes. Hence he claims that both complex things' exitus and redditus is two-fold: complex things must participate in both their formal cause and God in order to exist and be perfect.

Subject Area

Philosophy|Literature|Middle Ages

Recommended Citation

Marshall, Siobhan Frances Nash, "Participation and the good: A study of Boethian metaphysics" (1998). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9825869.