Dante’s The Divine Comedy illustrates one man’s quest for the knowledge of how to avoid the repercussions of his actions in life so that he may seek salvation in the afterlife. The Divine Comedy establishes a set of moral principles that one must live by in order to reach paradiso. Dante presents these principles in Inferno where each level of Hell has people suffering for the sins they committed during their life. As Dante gets deeper into Hell the degrees of sin get progressively worse as do the severity of punishment. With that in mind, one can look at Inferno as a handbook on what not to do during a lifetime in order to avoid Hell. In the book, Dante creates a moral lifestyle that one must follow in order to live a morally good, Catholic life. Dante creates Hell based on Aristotle’s moral philosophy in Nicomachean Ethics where Aristotle claims that “the proper function of man consists in an activity of the soul in conformity with a rational principle, or, at least, not without it” (Nicomachean Ethics 1098a ll. 3-5). Consequently, Dante uses Hell as a lesson for the living to help them understand that their actions will lead to repercussions in the after life. Through this, Dante dictates that in order to reach ‘paradiso’ one must behave rationally in accordance with God’s will, and by doing so, makes Hell a personification of the characteristics Aristotle advises people to avoid.
Dante structures Hell in agreement with the characteristics Aristotle tells us to avoid by using them as the divisions Hell breaks down into. In The Inferno there are three distinct levels of Hell: incontinence, malice, and mad beastiality (violence). These div...
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...enerally angry people. In both of these cases, Aristotle and Dante share the view that one must not succumb to impulses nor keep too much to himself in order to lead the most meaningful life possible.
Aristotle and Dante have many similar qualities in their works that allow the reader to view Hell in the Inferno as a personification of the qualities Dante tells us to avoid in Nicomachean Ethics. These shared qualities such as the three divisions of sin, and the similar notion of virtue contribute to the idea that Dante borrowed many of his thoughts from Aristotelian thought in order to create both the structure and content of Hell. The punishments those in Hell face, represent what not acting in conformity with the soul does to a person and allows that person to visualize the repercussions for the sins they have committed that contrast a good moral understanding.
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