Volume 1 considers some of the key theological influences on Dante. The contributors discuss what ‘doctrine’ might have meant for Dante and consider the poet’s engagement with key theological figures and currents in his time including: Christian Aristotelian and scholastic thought, including that of Thomas Aquinas; Augustine; Plato and Platonic thought; Gregory the Great; and notions of beatific vision. Each essay offers an overview of its topic and opens up new avenues for future study. Together they capture the energy of current research in the field, test the limits of our current knowledge and set the future study of Dante’s theology on firm ground.
Patrick M. Gardner Plato and Platonisms in Dante’s Poetry
The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.1 Lord Whitehead’s famous reductio ad Platonem might seem absurdly simplifying, especially out of context; but even so it has more than a grain of truth, and by its candour brings to light – better than many subtler claims – both the pressing need for those interested in Dante’s philosophical theology to examine his relationship to medieval Platonic traditions, and the great dif ficulty involved. The need and the dif ficulty have the same reason: in European philosophy, directly or indirectly, Plato is everywhere. This holds just as well for the Latin West in the Middle Ages, with a precision: directly almost nowhere, indirectly almost eve- rywhere. The theologians of Dante’s day did not, by and large, know the Dialogues;2 but Plato’s most central teaching – the Forms or Ideas – was relatively well-known and rightly attributed, even if its transmission as an encapsulated doctrine did not adequately represent the dialectical thrust towards these realities which Plato envisioned.3 And if, furthermore, the 1 Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality, ed. by David Ray Grif fin and Donald W. Sherburne (New York: The Free Press, 1978), p. 39. 2 In addition to the Timaeus, discussed below, Cicero’s translations of the Meno and Phaedo were preserved, but much less inf luential. See Raymond Klibansky, The Continuity of the Platonic Tradition During the Middle Ages: Outlines of a Corpus Platonicum Medii Aevi (London: The Warburg Institute, 1939)...
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