Theses Doctoral

The Commedia's Metaphysics of Human Nature: Essays on Charity, Free Will and Ensoulment

Ballesteros, Humberto

This dissertation aims to show that the Commedia develops an original and coherent philosophy of human nature. Deploying the methodologies of two separate disciplines, the history of philosophy and literary criticism, it places the poem’s ideas in the intellectual context in which they developed, and analyzes the learnedness, freshness and validity of its conclusions.
The topic is divided in three themes, discussed in the same number of chapters:
1) Love and desire. After following Arendt in tracing a tension in Augustine’s works between the theological primordiality of dilectio Dei and the biblically endorsed importance of love for one’s neighbor, I argue that the Commedia develops a concept of social charity that seeks to reconcile that seminal Christian paradox.
2) Free will. Based on a study of the theory of free will advanced by Purgatorio and Paradiso, I advance the idea that Dante’s metaphysics and psychology of human freedom, particularly in regards to his description of the workings of absolute and relative will, contrast in a fundamental way with Aquinas’ in the Appendix of the Summa theologica; and based on that conclusion, and on an analysis of the example of Piccarda Donati, it is possible to conclude that the Commedia not only postulates a hierarchy of volitions as a necessary condition for human freedom, but also defines free will as the ability to formulate a self-forming action.
3) Body and soul. Based on the account of the creation of the universe found in Paradiso XXIX, I argue that the Commedia’s cosmos is strictly hylomorphic, and postulate that this theory also applies to the relationship between body and soul. Thus the transumanar depicted by the last canticle, far from a rejection of worldly existence, rather implies a reencounter with those inalienably human characteristics, but on a higher plane.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Barolini, Teodolinda
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 7, 2015