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.