Teaching the Divine Comedy's Understanding of Philosophy


This essay discusses five main topoi in the Divine Comedy through which teachers might encourage students to explore the question of the Divine Comedy’s treatment of philosophy. These topoi are: (1) The Divine Comedy’s representations in Inferno of noble pagans who are allegorically or historically associated with philosophy or natural reason; (2) its treatment of the relationship between faith and reason and that relationship’s consequences for the text’s understanding of the respective authoritativeness of theology and philosophy; (3) representations in the Divine Comedy that relate to the question of the practical value of philosophical (not to mention theological) speculation; (4) the text’s treatment of the respective merits of practical and contemplative activities; and (5) its implicit defense of philosophy’s authority with respect to ethical and political questions.

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