A sticky question in Paradiso

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A sticky question in Paradiso

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Abr 4, 2014, 12:40am

My students were grappling with an interesting question from Paradiso, and I thought I'd see what you good folks made of it. In Paradiso Canto XXIV, Peter quizzes Dante about faith. When asked the sources of his faith Dante mentions Scripture, the "parchments Old and New." (XXIV:91-96) Peter asks him how he knows these to be true, and Dante rather shamelessly begs the question, saying "the proof that what I read is true is in the works that followed; Natures hand could never heat or forge that kind of iron." (100-102)

Peter, not surprisingly, calls him out on this, saying: "Tell me, how do you know these words ever were? You use as proof and nothing more, what still needs to be proved." (103-105)

To this, the best argument that Dante offers is that the fact that Christianity spread so fast, without further miracles or proof of miracles, is the greatest miracle of all. (106-111) Despite the fact that this is an awful argument, and begs the question scarcely less than his first statement, the 'Te Deum' sounds, and Dante has passed the test.

Remembering that is is, in essence, Dante asking himself this question, why? Why ask it when he can only give so poor an answer? Why not have the pilgrim confess he has no better answer? After all, he has never demurred to admit his own failings thus far, and told us that he does not understand, words fail him, or he fears, and so on. Better yet, why not have the Pilgrim claim that it is faith (upon which he is being tested) that assures him of the truth?

I find this exchange puzzling. Is Dante the Poet trying to make us ponder the answer ourselves? Is this something with which he struggles? Or is this argument simply a default response in his time (if so, I am unaware of it)? At any rate, Dante, as such an ardent student of Aquinas, should be able to do better!

What are your thoughts here?

Abr 19, 2014, 7:50pm

Happy Easter!
Let's remember that Dante started, some years ago, his otherworldly trip approximately on this night.
I think that, considering the number of members, this group could merge with the "Dantisti". one.


Abr 21, 2014, 10:11pm

>2 nisgolsand: Allessandro, I would be more than happy to welcome Dantisti members, or vice versa. I created this group in hopes o creating new interest when my attempts at reviving Dantisti seemed unsuccessful. Activity here has been spotty, though there have been some very pleasant discussions when they happen. Welcome!

Abr 30, 2014, 2:02am

Dante has a way of rendering us speechless.

Editado: Abr 30, 2014, 6:50am

>4 anthonywillard: - It might be a good preparation for the afterworld. "Inferno" guests have few occasions for speaking up - I'm under the impression they're too busy with their punishments for talking to their neighbours. Possibly, the situation might be better for "Purgatorio" and "Paradiso" inhabitants, but I really don't know. Is there any definitive study on the matter?

Mayo 7, 2014, 12:59pm

>5 nisgolsand: That's a fascinating question, nisgoland. Certainly the shades Purgatorio and Paradiso seem more willing to converse with each new realm. The question may not be how willing or busy they are, but how many opportunities they have to converse with someone who is not in the same circumstance as they are. One assumes, for example, that the sous in Purgatory know at least the general stories of those situated near them, for it would be, in most important ways, the same story. THough certainly Dante seems to suggest that, at least among the philosophers and theologians in the circle of the Sun, there is much conversation. Then again, he says the same of those in Limbo....

A fascinating question indeed!