Dante's Understanding of the Two Ends of Human Desire and the Relationship between Philosophy and Theology

Journal of Religion 91 (2):158-187 (2011)
Abstract
I discuss Dante’s understanding that human existence is “ordered by two final goals” and how this understanding defines philosophy’s and theology’s respective scopes of authority in guiding human conduct. I show that, while Dante devalues the philosophical authority associated with the traditional Aristotelian emphasis on the significance of contemplative activity, he does so in order to highlight philosophy’s ethico-political authority to guide human conduct toward its “earthly beatitude.” Moreover, I argue that, although Dante subordinates earthly beatitude to spiritual beatitude, he nonetheless maintains that philosophy’s authority to reveal a path to spiritual beatitude requires its fundamental independence from theology.
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