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Late Medieval Ideas

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Louie Alvarado

on 8 November 2011

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Transcript of Late Medieval Ideas

Thomas Aquinas Dante Machiavelli Science and Religion Ethics and Poltics Political science Summa Theologica Divine Comedy - Inferno The Prince Aritstotle's Philosophy Physics and Metaphysics Based on Aristotle's ethics
People must have faith regadless of evil experiances
Evil experiance are just a lack of good or misguided desire
People in power must not lose faith and call upon thier own power
Society and the individual will suffer The science of manipulation
Politicians must maintain power
Power = order and security Beginning of scientific inquiry Theology – understanding of God and religion using Aristotle’s logic Theology as Superior to Philosophy
Aquinas is a theologian who employs philosophy in an attempt to provide, insofar as possible, a rational explanation of doctrines that are revealed knowledge, or matters of faith. Although the Summa Theologica is in some respects a work of philosophy, its primary purpose is as a work of theology. This distinction was important to Aquinas and his fellow Scholastics, who held that theology and philosophy proceed according to different paths. Theology concerns itself with knowledge that has been revealed by God and that man must accept on faith. Philosophy, at least as defined by Aristotle, is concerned with knowledge that man acquires through sensory experience and the use of the natural light of reason. In other words, philosophy attempts to arrive at general principles through a consideration of that which is perceived by the senses and then rationally evaluated. While some subjects, such as knowledge of the existence of God, are common to theology and philosophy, theology also encompasses subjects that reason cannot fathom, such as the mystery of the Holy Trinity.
Following Aristotle’s famous dictum that “all men by nature desire to know,” Aquinas holds that people naturally seek knowledge of that which is their true goal and happiness, that is, the vision of God. While reason and philosophy have their respective roles in the acquisition of knowledge, they are inherently limited in their ability to apprehend all truths. Question 1 of part 1 of the Summa considers the nature and extent of “sacred doctrine,” or theology. Aquinas concludes that, although theology does not require philosophy to promote knowledge of God, philosophy nevertheless can be of service to the aims of theology.
Question 2 of part 1 concerns the existence of God and is subdivided into three Articles. In the First Article, Aquinas maintains that the proposition “God exists” is self-evident in itself, but not to us, and thus requires demonstration. The Second Article concludes that such a demonstration is indeed possible, despite objections to the contrary. The famous Third Article addresses the question of whether God exists, and in this Article, Aquinas offers his Five Ways as proofs for the existence of God.
First, we observe that some things in the world are in motion. Whatever is in motion is put into motion by another object that is in motion. This other object, in turn, was put into motion by still another object preceding it, and so forth. This series cannot go on backward to infinity, though, since there would otherwise be no first mover and thus no subsequent movement. Therefore, we must conclude that there is a first unmoved mover, which we understand to be God.
Second, we observe that everything has an efficient cause and that nothing is or can be the cause of itself. It is impossible, though, that the series of causes should extend back to infinity because every cause is dependent on a prior cause and the ultimate cause is thus dependent on a previous cause. So if there is no first cause, there will be no intermediate causes and no final cause. But the absence of such causes clearly does not square with our observation, and so there must therefore be a first efficient cause, which everyone calls God.
Third, we observe in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, as they come into existence and pass out of existence. Such things could not always exist, though, because something that could possibly not exist at some time actually does not exist at some time. Thus, if it is possible for everything not to exist, then, at some time, nothing did exist. But if nothing ever did exist, then nothing would exist even now, since everything that exists requires for its existence something that already existed. Yet it is absurd to claim that nothing exists even now. Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must be something the existence of which is necessary. Now, every necessary thing has its necessity caused by something else or it does not. Since it is impossible for there to exist an infinite series of causes of necessary things, we must conclude that there is something that is necessary in itself. People speak of this thing as God.
Fourth, beings in the world have characteristics to varying degrees. Some are more or less good, true, noble, and so forth. Such gradations are all measured in relation to a maximum, however. Thus, there must be something best, truest, noblest, and so on. Now, as Aristotle teaches, things that are greatest in truth are also greatest in being. Therefore, there must be something that is the cause of being, goodness, and every other perfection that we find in beings in the world. We call this maximum cause God.
Finally, we observe in nature that inanimate and nonintelligent objects act toward the best possible purpose, even though these objects are not aware of doing so. It is clear that these objects do not achieve their purpose by sheer chance but rather according to a plan. Any inanimate or nonintelligent object that acts toward a purpose, though, must be guided by a being that possesses knowledge and intelligence, just as an arrow is directed by an archer. Therefore, there must be some intelligent being that directs all natural things toward their purpose. We call this being God.
D ANTE ALIGHIERI WAS BORN IN 1265 IN FLORENCE, Italy, to a family of moderate wealth that had a history of involvement in the complex Florentine political scene. Around 1285, Dante married a woman chosen for him by his family, although he remained in love with another woman—Beatrice, whose true historical identity remains a mystery—and continued to yearn for her after her sudden death in 1290. Three years later, he published Vita Nuova (The New Life), which describes his tragic love for Beatrice.
Around the time of Beatrice’s death, Dante began a serious study of philosophy and intensified his political involvement in Florence. He held a number of significant public offices at a time of great political unrest in Italy, and, in 1302, he was exiled for life by the leaders of the Black Guelphs, the political faction in power at the time. All of Dante’s work on The Comedy (later called The Divine Comedy, and consisting of three books: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso) was done after his exile. He completed Inferno, which depicts an allegorical journey through Hell, around 1314. Dante roamed from court to court in Italy, writing and occasionally lecturing, until his death from a sudden illness in 1321.
Dante’s personal life and the writing of The Comedy were greatly influenced by the politics of late-thirteenth-century Florence. The struggle for power in Florence was a reflection of a crisis that affected all of Italy, and, in fact, most of Europe, from the twelfth century to the fourteenth century—the struggle between church and state for temporal authority. The main representative of the church was the pope, while the main representative of the state was the Holy Roman Emperor. In Florence, these two loyalties were represented by the Guelph party, which supported the papacy, and the Ghibelline party, which supported imperial power. The last truly powerful Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II, died in 1250, and by Dante’s time, the Guelphs were in power in Florence. By 1290, however, the Guelphs had divided into two factions: the Whites (Dante’s party), who supported the independence of Florence from strict papal control, and the Blacks, who were willing to work with the pope in order to restore their power. Under the direction of Pope Boniface VIII, the Blacks gained control of Florence in 1301. Dante, as a visible and influential leader of the Whites, was exiled within a year. Dante became something of a party unto himself after his exile. His attitudes were, at times, closer to those of a Ghibelline than a Guelph, so much did he dislike Boniface. The pope, as well as a multitude of other characters from Florentine politics, has a place in the Hell that Dante depicts in Inferno—and not a pleasant one.
The title The Comedy is thus appropriate in two ways. First, the poem is written in the vernacular, which was considered appropriate only for a comedy. Second, the plot mirrors the flow of a classical comedy, progressing from the horrors of Hell to the joys of Heaven Evil as the Contradiction of God’s Will
In many ways, Dante’s Inferno can be seen as a kind of imaginative taxonomy of human evil, the various types of which Dante classifies, isolates, explores, and judges. At times we may question its organizing principle, wondering why, for example, a sin punished in the Eighth Circle of Hell, such as accepting a bribe, should be considered worse than a sin punished in the Sixth Circle of Hell, such as murder. To understand this organization, one must realize that Dante’s narration follows strict doctrinal Christian values. His moral system prioritizes not human happiness or harmony on Earth but rather God’s will in Heaven. Dante thus considers violence less evil than fraud: of these two sins, fraud constitutes the greater opposition to God’s will. God wills that we treat each other with the love he extends to us as individuals; while violence acts against this love, fraud constitutes a perversion of it. A fraudulent person affects care and love while perpetrating sin against it. Yet, while Inferno implies these moral arguments, it generally engages in little discussion of them. In the end, it declares that evil is evil simply because it contradicts God’s will, and God’s will does not need further justification. Dante’s exploration of evil probes neither the causes of evil, nor the psychology of evil, nor the earthly consequences of bad behavior. Inferno is not a philosophical text; its intention is not to think critically about evil but rather to teach and reinforce the relevant Christian doctrines.
Political Arguments
An unquestionably significant part of Dante’s aim in writing Inferno was to offer a large-scale commentary on the political nightmare of fourteenth-century Florence, from which he had recently been exiled. He makes his assertions in various ways. First, he condemns political figures with whom he disagreed by scattering them ruthlessly throughout Hell. Second, because Dante sets the action of Inferno several years before the years in which he wrote it, he can predict, as it were, certain events that had already taken place by the time of his writing. He issues these seeming predictions via the voices of the damned, apparently endowed at death with prophetic powers. In these souls’ emphasis on the corruption and turmoil of the so-called future Florence, Dante aims pointed criticism at his former home. Third, Dante asserts throughout the poem his personal political belief that church and state should exist as separate but equal powers on Earth, with the former governing man’s spirit and the latter governing his person. Thus, in his many references to Rome, Dante carefully mentions both its spiritual and secular importance.
The poem’s arresting final image provides another testament to the equal importance of church and state: Lucifer chews both on Judas (the betrayer of Christ, the ultimate spiritual leader) and on Cassius and Brutus (the betrayers of Caesar, the ultimate political leader). Treachery against religion and against government both warrant placement in Hell’s final circle. While Dante emphasizes the equality of these two institutions, he also asserts the necessity of their separation. He assigns particularly harsh punishments to souls guilty of broaching this separation, such as priests or popes who accepted bribes or yearned for political power.
M ACHIAVELLI composed The Prince as a practical guide for ruling (though some scholars argue that the book was intended as a satire and essentially a guide on how not to rule). This goal is evident from the very beginning, the dedication of the book to Lorenzo de’ Medici, the ruler of Florence. The Prince is not particularly theoretical or abstract; its prose is simple and its logic straightforward. These traits underscore Machiavelli’s desire to provide practical, easily understandable advice.
The first two chapters describe the book’s scope. The Prince is concerned with autocratic regimes, not with republican regimes. The first chapter defines the various types of principalities and princes; in doing so, it constructs an outline for the rest of the book. Chapter III comprehensively describes how to maintain composite principalities—that is, principalities that are newly created or annexed from another power, so that the prince is not familiar to the people he rules. Chapter III also introduces the book’s main concerns—power politics, warcraft, and popular goodwill—in an encapsulated form.
Chapters IV through XIV constitute the heart of the book. Machiavelli offers practical advice on a variety of matters, including the advantages and disadvantages that attend various routes to power, how to acquire and hold new states, how to deal with internal insurrection, how to make alliances, and how to maintain a strong military. Implicit in these chapters are Machiavelli’s views regarding free will, human nature, and ethics, but these ideas do not manifest themselves explicitly as topics of discussion until later.
Chapters XV to XXIII focus on the qualities of the prince himself. Broadly speaking, this discussion is guided by Machiavelli’s underlying view that lofty ideals translate into bad government. This premise is especially true with respect to personal virtue. Certain virtues may be admired for their own sake, but for a prince to act in accordance with virtue is often detrimental to the state. Similarly, certain vices may be frowned upon, but vicious actions are sometimes indispensable to the good of the state. Machiavelli combines this line of reasoning with another: the theme that obtaining the goodwill of the populace is the best way to maintain power. Thus, the appearance of virtue may be more important than true virtue, which may be seen as a liability.
The final sections of The Prince link the book to a specific historical context: Italy’s disunity. Machiavelli sets down his account and explanation of the failure of past Italian rulers and concludes with an impassioned plea to the future rulers of the nation. Machiavelli asserts the belief that only Lorenzo de’ Medici, to whom the book is dedicated, can restore Italy’s honor and pride.


Statesmanship & Warcraft
Machiavelli believes that good laws follow naturally from a good military. His famous statement that “the presence of sound military forces indicates the presence of sound laws” describes the relationship between developing states and war in The Prince. Machiavelli reverses the conventional understanding of war as a necessary, but not definitive, element of the development of states, and instead asserts that successful war is the very foundation upon which all states are built. Much of The Prince is devoted to describing exactly what it means to conduct a good war: how to effectively fortify a city, how to treat subjects in newly acquired territories, and how to prevent domestic insurrection that would distract from a successful war. But Machiavelli’s description of war encompasses more than just the direct use of military force—it comprises international diplomacy, domestic politics, tactical strategy, geographic mastery, and historical analysis. Within the context of Machiavelli’s Italy—when cities were constantly threatened by neighboring principalities and the area had suffered through power struggles for many years—his method of viewing almost all affairs of state through a military lens was a timely innovation in political thinking.
Goodwill & Hatred
To remain in power, a prince must avoid the hatred of his people. It is not necessary for him to be loved; in fact, it is often better for him to be feared. Being hated, however, can cause a prince’s downfall. This assertion might seem incompatible with Machiavelli’s statements on the utility of cruelty, but Machiavelli advocates the use of cruelty only insofar as it does not compromise the long-term goodwill of the people. The people’s goodwill is always the best defense against both domestic insurrection and foreign aggression. Machiavelli warns princes against doing things that might result in hatred, such as the confiscation of property or the dissolution of traditional institutions. Even installations that are normally valued for military use, such as fortresses, should be judged primarily on their potential to garner support for the prince. Indeed, only when he is absolutely sure that the people who hate him will never be able to rise against him can a prince cease to worry about incurring the hatred of any of his subjects. Ultimately, however, obtaining the goodwill of the people has little or nothing to do with a desire for the overall happiness of the populace. Rather, goodwill is a political instrument to ensure the stability of the prince’s reign.
Free Will
Machiavelli often uses the words “prowess” and “fortune” to describe two distinct ways in which a prince can come to power. “Prowess” refers to an individual’s talents, while “fortune” implies chance or luck. Part of Machiavelli’s aim in writing The Prince is to investigate how much of a prince’s success or failure is caused by his own free will and how much is determined by nature or the environment in which he lives. Machiavelli applies this question specifically to the failure of past Italian princes. In Chapter XXV, Machiavelli discusses the role of fortune in determining human affairs. He attempts to compromise between free will and determinism by arguing that fortune controls half of human actions and leaves the other half to free will. However, Machiavelli also argues that through foresight—a quality that he champions throughout the book—people can shield themselves against fortune’s vicissitudes. Thus, Machiavelli can be described as confident in the power of human beings to shape their destinies to a degree, but equally confident that human control over events is never absolute.
Virtue
Machiavelli defines virtues as qualities that are praised by others, such as generosity, compassion, and piety. He argues that a prince should always try to appear virtuous, but that acting virtuously for virtue’s sake can prove detrimental to the principality. A prince should not necessarily avoid vices such as cruelty or dishonesty if employing them will benefit the state. Cruelty and other vices should not be pursued for their own sake, just as virtue should not be pursued for its own sake: virtues and vices should be conceived as means to an end. Every action the prince takes must be considered in light of its effect on the state, not in terms of its intrinsic moral value.
Human Nature
Love endures by a bond which men, being scoundrels, may break whenever it serves their advantage to do so; but fear is supported by the dread of pain, which is ever present.
Machiavelli asserts that a number of traits are inherent in human nature. People are generally self-interested, although their affection for others can be won and lost. They are content and happy so long they are not victims of something terrible. They may be trustworthy in prosperous times, but they will quickly turn selfish, deceitful, and profit-driven in times of adversity. People admire honor, generosity, courage, and piety in others, but most of them do not exhibit these virtues themselves. Ambition is commonly found among those who have achieved some power, but most common people are satisfied with the status quo and therefore do not yearn for increased status. People will naturally feel a sense of obligation after receiving a favor or service, and this bond is usually not easily broken. Nevertheless, loyalties are won and lost, and goodwill is never absolute. Such statements about human nature are often offered up as justifications for the book’s advice to princes. While Machiavelli backs up his political arguments with concrete historical evidence, his statements about society and human nature sometimes have the character of assumptions rather than observations.

Princes should always act to solve problems before problems fully manifest themselves. Political disorders are easy to solve if the prince identifies them and acts early. If they are allowed to develop fully, it will be too late. Examples of his Advice The coldhearted, calculating logic for which Machiavelli is renowned shines through in Chapter V. His argument that devastating a region is often the most reliable way of securing power does not even attempt to address the moral or ethical objections to his advice. His rationale is strictly pragmatic: the only reason to spare the institutions of newly conquered states is that keeping old institutions alive might help keep citizens happy, subdued, and submissive under the new ruler. Machiavelli imagines subjects who are self-interested, but not to an extreme degree. They are not concerned with forms of enlightenment or self-improvement, yet they still notice (and appreciate) improvements in their overall well-being. Though generally obedient and complacent, they will not hesitate to rise up against their ruler should he offend them. The Prince devotes little space to the concerns of subjects, and Machiavelli’s picture of the common people, though detailed, is not complex. Louis XIV’s famous statement, “L’Etat, c’est moi” (“The state is me”), accords with the philosophy espoused in The Prince: The ruler is the state, and the state is ruler. The people hardly matter. One of the most significant components of Machiavelli’s argumentative style is his use of definition by division, a rhetorical device that can be quite convincing. This device can be described schematically as “A prince must accomplish X. Accomplishing X entails either method Y or method Z. Y is preferable to Z, so a prince should choose method Y.” It is a logical and practical line of reasoning, but if the original assumption linking the chain of logic is fallacious, then all the conclusions that follow are necessarily questionable. If Y and Z aren’t the only way to accomplish X, then the course of action that Machiavelli proposes for a prince is not necessarily the best possible option Very important Machiavelli’s oft-quoted line “Anyone compelled to choose will find far greater security in being feared than in being loved” is sometimes misinterpreted to suggest that a prince need not worry about public opinion. But Machiavelli explicitly argues the contrary: it is critical that a prince avoid the hatred of his subjects. The statement is less radical than it might seem. People, states Machiavelli, are all self-interested to a certain degree. During difficult times, this sense of self-interest is stronger than any sense of obligation toward the ruler or the state. No matter how strongly they might love their prince, people will not follow orders if it means sacrificing their own well-being. The only motivating factor that can guarantee citizens’ obedience to a prince’s orders is the threat of punishment. These chapters give us further insight into Machiavelli’s view of human nature. Men are naturally deceitful and untrustworthy. They are likely to break promises. They are easily impressed by appearances and results. They are selfish but somewhat naïve. They respect and praise virtue, but most do not possess it themselves. These assumptions about the basic behaviors and attitudes of the general population underlie all of Machiavelli’s suggestions for the actions of princes. If the populace is intelligent, well-educated, and acutely aware of history, the prince will not be able to generate the deceptive image that Machiavelli argues is integral to successful leadership. Although these assumptions may or may not be true, Machiavelli is much more willing to make unsupported generalizations about human nature than about history. His historical examples are painstakingly accurate and demonstrate Machiavelli’s great erudition. But he does not support his descriptions of human behavior with the same wealth of evidence. Protocol Main Idea Intresting points Deep questions How did these Late Medieval Ideas help Europe evolve into the Enlightenment Era? INFERNO opens on the evening of Good Friday in the year 1300. Traveling through a dark wood, Dante Alighieri has lost his path and now wanders fearfully through the forest. The sun shines down on a mountain above him, and he attempts to climb up to it but finds his way blocked by three beasts—a leopard, a lion, and a she-wolf. Frightened and helpless, Dante returns to the dark wood. Here he encounters the ghost of Virgil, the great Roman poet, who has come to guide Dante back to his path, to the top of the mountain. Virgil says that their path will take them through Hell and that they will eventually reach Heaven, where Dante’s beloved Beatrice awaits. He adds that it was Beatrice, along with two other holy women, who, seeing Dante lost in the wood, sent Virgil to guide him. Virgil leads Dante through the gates of Hell, marked by the haunting inscription “ABANDON ALL HOPE, YOU WHO ENTER HERE” (III.7). They enter the outlying region of Hell, the Ante-Inferno, where the souls who in life could not commit to either good or evil now must run in a futile chase after a blank banner, day after day, while hornets bite them and worms lap their blood. Dante witnesses their suffering with repugnance and pity. The ferryman Charon then takes him and his guide across the river Acheron, the real border of Hell. The First Circle of Hell, Limbo, houses pagans, including Virgil and many of the other great writers and poets of antiquity, who died without knowing of Christ. After meeting Horace, Ovid, and Lucan, Dante continues into the Second Circle of Hell, reserved for the sin of Lust. At the border of the Second Circle, the monster Minos lurks, assigning condemned souls to their punishments. He curls his tail around himself a certain number of times, indicating the number of the circle to which the soul must go. Inside the Second Circle, Dante watches as the souls of the Lustful swirl about in a terrible storm; Dante meets Francesca, who tells him the story of her doomed love affair with Paolo da Rimini, her husband’s brother; the relationship has landed both in Hell. In the Third Circle of Hell, the Gluttonous must lie in mud and endure a rain of filth and excrement. In the Fourth Circle, the Avaricious and the Prodigal are made to charge at one another with giant boulders. The Fifth Circle of Hell contains the river Styx, a swampy, fetid cesspool in which the Wrathful spend eternity struggling with one another; the Sullen lie bound beneath the Styx’s waters, choking on the mud. Dante glimpses Filippo Argenti, a former political enemy of his, and watches in delight as other souls tear the man to pieces. Virgil and Dante next proceed to the walls of the city of Dis, a city contained within the larger region of Hell. The demons who guard the gates refuse to open them for Virgil, and an angelic messenger arrives from Heaven to force the gates open before Dante. The Sixth Circle of Hell houses the Heretics, and there Dante encounters a rival political leader named Farinata. A deep valley leads into the First Ring of the Seventh Circle of Hell, where those who were violent toward others spend eternity in a river of boiling blood. Virgil and Dante meet a group of Centaurs, creatures who are half man, half horse. One of them, Nessus, takes them into the Second Ring of the Seventh Circle of Hell, where they encounter those who were violent toward themselves (the Suicides). These souls must endure eternity in the form of trees. Dante there speaks with Pier della Vigna. Going deeper into the Seventh Circle of Hell, the travelers find those who were violent toward God (the Blasphemers); Dante meets his old patron, Brunetto Latini, walking among the souls of those who were violent toward Nature (the Sodomites) on a desert of burning sand. They also encounter the Usurers, those who were violent toward Art. The monster Geryon transports Virgil and Dante across a great abyss to the Eighth Circle of Hell, known as Malebolge, or “evil pockets” (or “pouches”); the term refers to the circle’s division into various pockets separated by great folds of earth. In the First Pouch, the Panderers and the Seducers receive lashings from whips; in the second, the Flatterers must lie in a river of human feces. The Simoniacs in the Third Pouch hang upside down in baptismal fonts while their feet burn with fire. In the Fourth Pouch are the Astrologists or Diviners, forced to walk with their heads on backward, a sight that moves Dante to great pity. In the Fifth Pouch, the Barrators (those who accepted bribes) steep in pitch while demons tear them apart. The Hypocrites in the Sixth Pouch must forever walk in circles, wearing heavy robes made of lead. Caiphas, the priest who confirmed Jesus’ death sentence, lies crucified on the ground; the other sinners tread on him as they walk. In the horrifying Seventh Pouch, the Thieves sit trapped in a pit of vipers, becoming vipers themselves when bitten; to regain their form, they must bite another thief in turn. In the Eighth Pouch of the Eighth Circle of Hell, Dante speaks to Ulysses, the great hero of Homer’s epics, now doomed to an eternity among those guilty of Spiritual Theft (the False Counselors) for his role in executing the ruse of the Trojan Horse. In the Ninth Pouch, the souls of Sowers of Scandal and Schism walk in a circle, constantly afflicted by wounds that open and close repeatedly. In the Tenth Pouch, the Falsifiers suffer from horrible plagues and diseases. Virgil and Dante proceed to the Ninth Circle of Hell through the Giants’ Well, which leads to a massive drop to Cocytus, a great frozen lake. The giant Antaeus picks Virgil and Dante up and sets them down at the bottom of the well, in the lowest region of Hell. In Caina, the First Ring of the Ninth Circle of Hell, those who betrayed their kin stand frozen up to their necks in the lake’s ice. In Antenora, the Second Ring, those who betrayed their country and party stand frozen up to their heads; here Dante meets Count Ugolino, who spends eternity gnawing on the head of the man who imprisoned him in life. In Ptolomea, the Third Ring, those who betrayed their guests spend eternity lying on their backs in the frozen lake, their tears making blocks of ice over their eyes. Dante next follows Virgil into Judecca, the Fourth Ring of the Ninth Circle of Hell and the lowest depth. Here, those who betrayed their benefactors spend eternity in complete icy submersion. A huge, mist-shrouded form lurks ahead, and Dante approaches it. It is the three-headed giant Lucifer, plunged waist-deep into the ice. His body pierces the center of the Earth, where he fell when God hurled him down from Heaven. Each of Lucifer’s mouths chews one of history’s three greatest sinners: Judas, the betrayer of Christ, and Cassius and Brutus, the betrayers of Julius Caesar. Virgil leads Dante on a climb down Lucifer’s massive form, holding on to his frozen tufts of hair. Eventually, the poets reach the Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, and travel from there out of Hell and back onto Earth. They emerge from Hell on Easter morning, just before sunrise. The Importance of Aristotle’s Four Causes
Aquinas adopts Aristotle’s doctrine of the Four Causes and couches much of his theology and philosophy in its terms. (See Chapter 2, Aristotle, Physics, p. 47.) The Four Causes are (1) material cause, (2) formal cause, (3) efficient cause, and (4) final cause. The material cause, as its name implies, pertains to matter or the “stuff” of the world. Matter is potentiality, that is, that which something can become. The formal cause is the form or pattern that governs a particular thing, or the genus to which it belongs. The formal cause can also be called a thing’s essence. For example, the formal cause of a particular human being is his or her humanity, the essence of what it means to be human. God is the only creature embodying pure actuality and pure being, and God is thus the only pure formal cause. The efficient cause is what we normally understand by the word cause and indicates something that has an effect. The final cause is the goal or purpose toward which a thing is oriented.
Each of these causes is given a special application in Aquinas’s thought. The concept of material cause is crucial to his view of how humans gain knowledge of the external world and also appears in his proofs for the existence of God. The concept of formal cause is essential to his theory of knowledge and the nature of man but also defines his conception of God, whom Aquinas sees as complete actuality and thus without potential. The concept of efficient cause predictably appears in his theory of knowledge about the physical world but also explains human action, which is directed by the will. The concept of final cause explains the nature of the will itself, which naturally strives to achieve its goal of beholding the Divine Essence.
Venacular means: common language. In Dante's world The official scholar language as Latin, but his venacular was Italian. Why does he chose to write in the venacular? Philosophy is a discipline (subject) that tries to understand the world by using reason, logic and or experience. Theology is a discipline that tries to use philosophy to understand God and or religion Scholastics were theologians that used Aristotle’s philosophy in their theology
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