The Metaphysics of Dante's Comedy

The Metaphysics of Dante's Comedy

The Metaphysics of Dante's Comedy

The Metaphysics of Dante's Comedy

Synopsis

The recovery of Dante's metaphysics - which are very different from our own - is essential, argues Christian Moevs, if we are to resolve what has been called "the central problem in the interpretation of the Comedy." That problem is what to make of the Comedy's claim to the status of revelation, vision, or experiential record - as something more than imaginative literature. In this book Moevs offers the first sustained treatment of the metaphysical picture that grounds and motivates the Comedy, and the relation between those metaphysics and Dante's poetics. Moevs arrives at the radical conclusion that Dante believed that all of what we perceive as reality, the spatio-temporal world, is in fact a creation or projection of conscious being. Armed with this new understanding, Moevs is able to shed light on a series of perennial issues in the interpretation of the Comedy.

Excerpt

Good books have been written about Dante's passionate engagement with the world in space and time: history, politics, human action and emotion, the unfolding of divine providence. Good books have been written about details of Dante's thought: his philosophical sources, his moral and political ideas, his views on particular philosophical or theological questions, his views on poetry. What has been missing is a book about Dante's metaphysics, about the understanding of reality, or more precisely about the understanding of the relation between the world and the ground of its being, that constitutes the philosophical-theological foundation, and to a large degree the motivation of all Dante's concerns, whether historical, political, religious, or poetic. the center of these concerns is revelation: the progressive unveiling of truth or being, in or through finite reality, that constitutes salvation history, both of the individual and of humanity. Since Dante conceives his Comedy as both an account and an instrument of individual and universal salvation history, one could say that his central concern is the (revelatory) poetics of his own poem. Thus the subject of this book will be the metaphysical picture that grounds and motivates the Comedy, and the relation between those metaphysics and Dante's poetics.

A book on Dante's metaphysics is necessary because his understanding of reality is so foreign to our own. To present Dante's ideas about the cosmos, God, salvation, history, or poetry within the unquestioned context of widely diffused post-Enlightenment presuppositions (as is usually done) can be self-defeating: those ideas will emerge distorted or diminished, deprived of their force, of the penetrating understanding that formed them. Dante's philosophical or theological ideas in particular often become dead chess pieces . . .

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