Vision Magazine’s, “Dante Alighieri and The Divine Comedy

vision-magazine-on-dante“The Comedy demonstrates the significant influence of Greek philosophy. Dante didn’t read Greek; it seems his philosophical grounding came from religious convent schools founded by Dominican or Franciscan monks. Scholars suggest that the Dominicans would have instilled in their pupil the methodology of Thomas Aquinas’s magnum opus, Summa Theologica. They would likewise have grounded him in the writings of Aristotle and the church Fathers. The logic of Aristotle, which had been out of vogue for centuries, regained popularity in the decades preceding Dante’s birth, giving rise to Christian rationalism. Thus, even though the Bible is by far the most dominant source for the Comedy, in Dante’s hands Scripture became materia poetica, reshaped through an Aristotelian moral system.

“In terms of the idea of the human soul, for example, Dante ‘follows the dominant Western tradition,’ namely ‘that each human soul is created by God, destined for union with a particular human body, and infused by God into the embryo before birth’ (The Cambridge Companion to Dante. This Western tradition owes much not only to Aristotle’s ideas but to his mentor Plato’s concept of the eternal soul, denying only its preexistence. Yet Dante was not a dualist in the Cartesian or Neoplatonic sense. According to Dante scholar Robin Kirkpatrick, ‘his very conception of a human soul denies that he could be. For Dante—as for Aristotle—the soul, or (in Italian) anima, is neither more nor less than the animating form of the body.'” [. . .]    –Daniel Tompsett and Donald Winchester, Vision Magazine, 2013.

John Took, Why Dante Matters: An Intelligent Person’s Guide (2020)

“The year 2021 marks the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri, a poet who, as T. S. Eliot put it, ‘divides the world with Shakespeare, there being no third.’ His, like ours, was a world of moral uncertainty and political violence, all of which made not only for the agony of exile but for an ever deeper meditation on the nature of human happiness.

“In Why Dante Matters, John Took offers by way of three in particular of Dante’s works – the Vita Nova as the great work of his youth, the Convivio as the great work of his middle years and the Commedia as the great work of his maturity – an account, not merely of Dante’s development as a poet and philosopher, but of his continuing presence to us as a guide to man’s wellbeing as man.

“Committed as he was to the welfare not only of his contemporaries but of those ‘who will deem this time ancient,’ Dante’s is in this sense a discourse overarching the centuries, a discourse confirming him in his status, not merely as a cultural icon, but as a fellow traveller.”   —Bloomsbury

See also the Virtual book launch event held at UCL’s Institute for Advanced Study, November 24, 2020.

Le interviste impossibili: Umberto Eco incontra Beatrice

“Qui puoi ascoltare ‘l’intervista impossibile’ che Umberto Eco realizzò con Beatrice, la ‘donna di Dante.’

[. . .]

In questo dialogo, il filosofo italiano è il primo a offrire a Beatrice la possibilità di esprimere le proprie opinioni e i propri sentimenti. La vostra immagine di Dante Alighieri ne uscirà certamente alterata.

Beatrice discute con Eco in un ottimo italiano, ma utilizza spesso (siamo infatti, almeno dal suo punto di vista, nella Firenze del XIII secolo) espressioni e forme che non appartengono all’italiano standard di oggi.”    –Italiana Lingua e Cultura, YouTube, June 29, 2016

Hilbert’s Inferno

hilbert-inferno-omni-magazine“Hell may be the most interesting part of Dante’s famous poem, but its physical existence has always been a topic of debate among philosophers and theologians. If either space or time is finite—a distinct possibility in our current theories of cosmology—how can there be room for a potentially infinite number of sinners for eternity? In what he admits is a speculative proposal, University of Edinburgh philosopher Alasdair Richmond suggests that a hell large enough for an infinite number of the damned could be contained within the boundaries of a finite space, and could provide infinitely-long punishment, even if time itself is finite—but only with the help of time travel. The quite literally devilish trick is a kind of time loop, but not an exact loop. (That would mean that the damned merely suffer through the same experience over and over, without any awareness of the eternal nature of their plight—which is not suffering enough for the traditional idea of Hell.) If the loop shifts and the gap shrinks just the tiniest bit each time around, you end up with an ever-tightening time spiral. You can fit an infinite number of spirals in a tiny amount of space the same way an infinite number of points lie between any two other points on a line. This hell, which Richmond calls ‘Hilbert’s Inferno’ (for pioneering mathematician David Hilbert), might deliver truly eternal torment to an infinite population of sufferers, while the non-suffering and temporally finite universe moves steadily onward, toward its own non-judgmental doom.” — Omni Magazine (December 12, 2017)

Richmond’s 2013 paper can be accessed in the Wiley Online Library (institutional login required).

Pascal’s Wager 2.0

28stoneWeb-blog480-v2“[…] But the ethical value is a matter of my own judgment, independent of religious authority. And the understanding may be only a partial illumination that does not establish the ultimate truth of the ideas that provide it, as, for example, both Dante and Proust help us understand the human condition, despite their conflicting intellectual frameworks. None of this will interfere with a commitment to intellectual honesty. […]”    –Gary Gutting, The New York Times, September 28, 2015