This paper consists of the following sections. They are as follows,
Introduction: Why did I choose this topic?
Main part: My observations (Interesting characters/Influence on moral structure/etc.)
Dante Alighieri – a person who changed my view of life! In that topic, I would like to explain to you why I think Dante is a symbol of highest intelligence.
When I read The Inferno without any prior cognition of the relationship between the Greek and Roman cultures I was confused by Dante’s design of Hell. Dante has placed the characters whose sins include lust, wrath, and violence in the upper circles of Hell; in the lower, more evil circles are sinners who lied, deceived, and committed treason.
The Inferno as I said earlier has a lot of references to Greek culture (Greek Mythology).There is some information about the aforementioned mythological characters below.
“All those who perish in the wrath of God
Here meet together out of every land;
And ready are they to pass o’er the river,
Because celestial Justice spurs them on,
So that their fear is turned into desire.
This way there never passes a good soul;
And hence if Charon doth complain of thee,
Well mayst thou know now what his speech imports.”
In this part of the poem we recognized that Charon resolves the problem of transportation. In mythology Charon carries souls of the newly deceased across the rivers Styx and Acheron that divided the world of the living from the world of the dead. A coin to pay Charon for passage, generally an obolus or danake, which were sometimes placed in or on the mouth of a dead mandanake.
There standeth Minos horribly, and snarls;
Examines the transgressions at the entrance;
Judges, and sends according as he girds him.
In circle two, Minos judges the sinners and decides how they will serve one’s sentence. Minos as I know is the son of Zeus and Europa whom we know from Greek Mythology. Also in Homer’s Odyssey our character plays the same role, that of a judge, in another world:
“Minos, glorious son of Zeus… holding a golden sceptre, and passing judgments on the dead, who stood and sat around the king, seeking justice, throughout the spacious gates of Hades’ home” (Homer, 11.733-37)
According to the Odyssey he spoke with Zeus every nine years or for nine years. He got his laws straight from Zeus himself. When Minos’ son Androgeos had won the Panathenaic Games the king, Aegeus, sent him to Marathon to fight a bull, resulting in the death of Androgeos. Outraged, Minos went to Athens to avenge his son, and on the way, he camped at Megara where Nisos lived.
Learning that Nisos’ strength came from his hair, Minos gained the love of Scylla and her aid in cutting off her father’s hair so that he could conquer the city.
However, after the victory, he punished Scylla for her treachery against her father by tying her to a boat and dragging her until she drowned. I cannot explain his decision, whether he was just or cruel. Perhaps it was one of the reasons why Dante used this character to judging sinners.
Cerberus, monster cruel and uncouth,
With his three gullets like a dog is barking
Over the people that are there submerged.
Red eyes he has, and unctuous beard and black,
And belly large, and armed with claws his hands;
He rends the spirits, flays, and quarters them.
Cerberus looked like a three-headed dog with a snake’s tail, on the back of a snake’s head, as eerie as his mother. According to other descriptions, he has 50 heads or 100 heads, and in another mythology, he is depicted with a human powerful body and hands and one head of a mad dog. In one of the hands was a severed head of a bull that killed with its breath and on the other hand the head of a goat, which with its eyes hit the victims. In the works of vase painting sometimes depicted are biceps.
“PAPE Satan, Pape Sat ` an, Aleppe!”
Thus, Plutus with his clucking voice began;
And that benignant Sage, who all things knew,
Plutus in Greek mythology – is a god of wealth. However, in Dante’s Inferno we see him as a demon who protects the 4th circle where the miserly and wasteful sinners serve a sentence.
My Sage towards him shouted: “Per adventure
Thou think’st that here may be the Duke of Athens,
Who in the world above brought death to thee?
Get thee gone, beast, for this one cometh not
Instructed by thy sister, but he comes
In order to behold your punishments.”
In Greek mythology, the Minotaur is a mythical being depicted in Classical eras with the head of a bull and the body of a man, or as defined by Roman poet Ovid, a creature “part man and part bull”. The Minotaur inhabited at the hub of the Labyrinth, which was a developed maze-like structure created by the architect Daedalus and his son Icarus, under King Minos of Crete. The Minotaur was finally killed by the Athenian hero Theseus. In Crete, the Minotaur was recognized by the name Asterion, a name joint with Minos’ foster-father.
Influence of Aristotle on moral structure of Dante’s Inferno
In the words of Dante himself, “Morality is the beauty of philosophy”. And it was the moral principles of Aristotle, or “The Philosopher” as he was often called by intellectuals of the thirteenth century, that affected Dante’s treatment of morality in the Inferno. Aristotle observed man as a responsible, balanced being that is free to think, consider matters, and choose.
Therefore, man is, if he has the aptitude to act rationally (the sinners in Dante’s Inferno are either not capable to act in this method or abuse this exclusive human skill) and comprehend his circumstances and the choices that he makes, answerable for the consequences of his activities. Certainly, to display the deepness of Aristotle’s impact on Dante’s vision of morality, Dante wrote to his supporter, Can Grande delle Sala, that the moral purpose of his work was “to express man’s independence of choice and following obligation for his moral completions and disappointments”. Dante was not just attentive in categorizing what establishes benefit and drawbacks; he cautions more significantly about the consequences of this performance. To Dante, the approach of one’s existence in the afterlife was a straight result of one’s mode of presence throughout life. Precisely, it was Aristotle’s teleology – thoughts relating to the resolve or conclusion of human existence, volunteer against involuntary act, choice, discussion, and accountability as explained in his Nicomachean Ethics that influenced Dante’s concepts on morals and chiefly his ordering of the magnitude of sins in the Inferno. Dante’s Hell, a place of depravity and perpetual penalty, is separated into nine different zones. Each zone is a place distinguished by a precise category of sin with a suitable punishment (i.e. contrapasso). These zones can in turn be gathered into larger subdivisions of which there are three: sins due to desipience, violence and fraud, and finally treason and betrayal.
Aristotle’s philosophy is prevailed by teleology – everything exists for a purpose. That is to say, all things need and move in the direction of their end or final reason; and when they have achieved it they no longer desire (for wish infers an absence of something). It is the claim of Aristotle in his Ethics that all men desire happiness as their final cause (which could also be explained as fulfillment, comprehensiveness, joy, or end). Furthermore, man holds as part of his nature the means to attain this completion; by perfecting his intelligence and the coherent elements of his soul, he is able to live a life of ethical asset and indeed to find pleasure in the “just” life. However, most men are incapable to recognize this level of moral perfection. Even though they may aim near to happiness as their end, many people get joy from the incorrect source, for example, in money, sex, or other things the surplus of, which typically describes vice. Hence, the problem is not what the crucial goal of a man is; the question is in what manner he hopes to attain this goal. He is to be judged not by his vital end but by the way in which he realizes it.
To really understand Aristotle’s effects on Dante’s outlook of morals, nevertheless, one must, first of all comprehend that the gravity of sins rises in terms of an action from the lower to the higher parts of human nature. For “whoever would appreciate Dante … must forever move away the suitable concept that the most culpable form of sins are those, in which man is most nearly like the beasts of the field”. It is a far greater sin to excessive use the human powers of motive and reflect in order to achieve a spiteful end than it is to be surmount by illogicality and be overpowered by passion. For as the Dante-pilgrim says as he attains the gateway of Hell, “I have reached the place of those who have lost the decent of the intellect”.
The first anxious souls that the Dante-pilgrim meets are not in Hell at all. They are the do-nothings, the Ignavi. They are, what they were: neutral. Yet Aristotle detained that the final reason in most things is contained not in a state but in action. And Dante, in following Aristotle’s most rudimentary tenet of what embodies the moral nature of man, is leftward with no approach to characterize these completely inactive humanities due to the humble fact that they took any action that would allow one to characterize them. They refuse to function as responsible human beings. The useless nature of their existence is reproduced in their penalty, which contains in consecutively in circles after signs as they are provoked by wasps and hornets which control them to take some sort of act, useless as it may be.
Outside these emotional states are the honorable pagans who are also reserved separate of the gates of Hell. Aristotle’s viewpioint of the involuntary and voluntary as a method of differentiating among the aggregate of guilt and blame one should have in relative to one’s actions is vigorous to considerate the punishment of these spirits. For when good point and excellence are voluntary “we accept commendation or blame; when involuntary, we are forgiven, and sometimes even commiserated”. And it is for these souls that Dante demonstrates pity, writing how during his meeting with Virgil “excessive sadness held his heart”. Virgil’s “sin”, if such it is, of not adoring the Christian God was not an active choice that he made. He was humbly born before Christianity was the authorized religious conviction of the Roman Empire and never had a chance to know the Christian God. So, his “fault” is not nearly as grave as those who have an acquaintance of God, yet still do not correctly identify Him, such as the heretics in the Sixth Circle of Hell and those like Satan in the lowest point of Hell who openly protested in contradiction of God or their chiefs in a more careful manner. Thus, the righteous pagans merit some sort of pity. The “sin” of Virgil is not a voluntary one and does not merit the advance punishment of Hell. The good pagans are therefore punished maybe persistently being in the absenteeism of the God who would content their knowledgeable desires.
Therefore, the first moral partition in Dante’s Inferno is resolute by Aristotle’s idea of voluntary against involuntary activities. For the first sinners elsewhere, the righteous pagans are those that dynamically chose to sin. These sinners are regarded as by self-indulgence, an unreasonable feeling, yet “deliberated no less a part of human lives than reasoning is, and hereafter, the activities of a man spring from passion and appetite. It would be ridiculous then to sum them as involuntary”. The sins of self-indulgence comprise desire, glutton, hoarding/spending, and baseless anger. These sins are established are at the very maximum of Hell in Circles II through V. These are sinners who have been directed by their animalistic natures.
However, the sins are still discussed to be voluntary on Aristotle approval, because a voluntary act is one in which the initiative lies with the agent who knows the specific conditions in which the deed is performed. This suggests that acts due to desire and appetite are voluntary, because these sinners have a fixed end in mind. They get their gladness from self-indulgence and act in accordance with these aims. Therefore, the two lovers of the Second Circle, Francesca and Paolo, for example, merit penalty for their voluntary sin of lust. Furthermore, their acting in unawareness of the consequences of their actions is mixed by the fact that they do not pity what they have done. This lack of penitence is another criterion for distinguishing between a voluntary and involuntary agent according to Aristotle. Francesca and Paolo fault their sins on things like the writer of the love story that they were reading, in spite of the fact that they acceptable themselves to be governed by passion and therefore voluntarily sinned and should be seized answerable for their sin. Moreover, to admiration and blame a person’s appointments it is even more significant “whether or not a man positively opposes pressure”. Those whose sin is complimented by self-indulgence do not resist compulsion at all, since they do not focus their own illogical wishes to purpose. Furthermore, they are answerable for their sins because, even though it seems that they do not have control over their self-indulgent propensities, these people have “attained these characters voluntarily, for a given kind of activity creates a given kind of character and a self-indulgent man primarily had the opportunity not to become unfair or self-indulgent.
Beyond the meaning of the voluntary and the involuntary in Aristotle’s principled structure is the idea of choice. And this is, like the gap between voluntary and involuntary, that defines the next division in Dante’s Inferno. For sinners that decision their sin, thus employing the coherent part of their soul, are more active, more voluntarily count in their sin. They deceive their single, human aptitude to make a lucid choice since choice “is not mutual by irrational beings” (Ar. That is why those that practice heresy, fraud, and those that commit suicide are punished more intensely in hell than the self-indulgent. Their sins are not only voluntary, but they are a consequence of vigilant, calculated discussion. They sin with their brainpower,
and they unavoidably do it voluntarily, for the rational procedure of choice is transported about by negotiation. They are not merely carried away by the irrationality of self-indulgence since “choice encompasses reason and thought” .To Aristotle choice was,
it is not the same as voluntariness; voluntariness is a broader term … we can define an act done on the branch of the moment as a voluntary act, but not the consequence of choice … It seems to be an error to recognize choice as some people do, with appetite,
passion, wish, or some other form of view … choice seems to be worried with the things that lie within our power … a choice is
acclaimed for being directed to the appropriate object or for being properly
Suicide, for example, is the intentional taking of one’s life and the corruption of the rational share of one’s soul; those that preparation deception vigorously and rationally lies in order to carry about some previously planned end. Dante’s prime example of fraud is Ulysses, a man characterized by a brilliant, skillful mind, who uses it for the purposes of deception. It is at this point in Dante’s journey through Hell, parenthetically, that the pilgrim sees without a hesitation that he no longer has understanding for these kinds of sinners and, in fact, kicks the head of one of the conspirators, not entirely by fault.
Discussion brings us one level lower, to the final level of Hell; though deliberation escorts all features of choice, it primarily exemplifies choice that is made very prudently. And in the Circle of Treason, fraud and heresy are taken one step more. For treason is really just a more methodically planned and wider-reaching, more spiteful form of fraud, and the open revolt against God by Satan and others is a more focused, deliberate version of heresy. Not only are these sins systematically thought through, but they are done with full acquaintance of the agent that the action that they take is sinful; these kinds of sins signify the antithesis of a regretful sinner and characterize the lowest kind of sinner.
Such was the influence of Aristotle’s Ethics on Dante that he observed Aristotle not just as the “master of those who know” but as the “master of human life”. To claim that Dante’s opinion of morality is totally determined by Aristotle would of course be incorrect. The Inferno is in many ways a mixture of the traditional “deadly sins” of Christian theology, with orientation to Aristotle’s concepts of choice, knowledge, reason and accountability. The Divine Comedy can be read on many dissimilar stages, and something like Dante’s treatment of morality depends on so much more than the moral theory of Aristotle. Still, Aristotle has a strong attendance in the Inferno and the care of Aristotle’s logic in declaring the fact that man is a responsible agent accompanies very well with Dante’s view of Hell as a place of everlasting damnation that sinners have brought upon themselves due to their immoral actions on earth.