- Dante Alighieri
- (1265–1321)Italian poet and philosopher. Born in Florence, Dante sought the consolations of philosophy after the death in 1290 of his beloved Beatrice Portinari, who was the wife of the painter Simone de Bardi. Active in the political life of Florence, Dante was sent to Rome as an envoy to the papal court in 1301, and while absent was condemned to exile. He never returned to Florence, but died an honoured guest of Guido da Polenta, the ruler of Ravenna.Dante's principal conventional philosophical work is the Convivio, or Banquet (1304–8), intended as a series of fourteen treatises of which only four are complete. De Monarchia (c. 1313) contains Dante's political theory. But it is his masterpiece, the Divina Commedia, begun possibly as early as 1307, and finished just before his death, that is universally acknowledged as the literary embodiment of the moral, religious, and philosophical ideals of the late 13th and early 14th centuries. The poem divides into three parts. In the first, the Inferno, Dante visits the circles of Hell, with their increasingly wicked moral transgressors (the scale goes from apathy, which is scarcely damned at all, to the basest treachery). The punishments do not increase in severity in step with the faults, but represent the kind of retribution or loss that a particular vice brings—for example, the lovers Paolo and Francesca are ceaselessly whirled in a storm. In the Purgatorio the poet encounters the repentant sinners who await redemption, and in the last circle of this, the earthly paradise, he is reunited with the dead Beatrice, who in the Paradiso introduces him to the ascending circles of beauty and light, culminating in the vision of God. In the heaven of the sun (light) Dante encounters the souls of twelve wise men, who are Albert the Great, Aquinas, the Venerable Bede, Boethius, Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite, Gratian, Isidore of Sevile, Peter Lombard, Paul Orose, Richard of Saint-Victor, Siger of Brabant, and Solomon. Perhaps surprisingly, given that it is Augustine's equation of light with spiritual excellence that infuses the whole poem, it is Aquinas, who thought that light could only be predicated metaphorically of spiritual substances, who guides him at this point. In accordance with Dante's Christianized Neoplatonism, the heaven of the sun is above the heaven of the moon, where live those who could not quite keep their vows of chastity, above the heaven of Mercury, where there are those who tried to acquire glory by good deeds, and of Venus, where dwell those who loved intensely in their lives. But it is below the heaven of Mars (reserved for martyrs), of Jupiter (just and wise princes), Saturn (contemplatives and mystics), of the fixed stars (saints, Apostles, and the blessed), and well below the Crystalline heaven, or primum mobile , where Dante encounters the angelic hierarchies, and finally the Empyrean, where, losing Beatrice, he is able with the help of the Virgin Mary and St Bernard to direct his gaze at the point source of light, the love which moves the sun and the stars, God himself.
Philosophy dictionary. Academic. 2011.