Dante's Deadly Sins: Moral Philosophy in Hell

Dante's Deadly Sins: Moral Philosophy in Hell

Dante's Deadly Sins: Moral Philosophy in Hell

Dante's Deadly Sins: Moral Philosophy in Hell


Dante's Deadly Sins is a unique study of the moral philosophy behind Dante's master work that considers the Commedia as he intended, namely, as a practical guide to moral betterment. Focusing on Inferno and Purgatorio, Belliotti examines the puzzles and paradoxes of Dante's moral assumptions, his treatment of the 7 deadly sins, and how 10 of his most powerful moral lessons anticipate modern existentialism.
  • Analyzes the moral philosophy underpinning one of the greatest works of world culture
  • Summarizes the Inferno and Purgatorio, while underscoring their moral implications
  • Explains and evaluates Dante's understanding of the 'Seven Deadly Sins' and the ultimate role they play as the basis of human transgression.
  • Provides a detailed discussion of the philosophical concepts of moral desert and the law of contrapasso, using character case studies within Dante's work
  • Connects the poem's moral themes to our own contemporary condition


Almost seven hundred years of research and scholarship have focused on Dante Alighieri’s (1265–1321) Commedia. With the exception of Shakespeare, no single writer has been subject to as much analysis and critical commentary. Dante’s evocative images of the afterlife, clever rendering of philosophy expressed poetically, and vivid portrayals of Christian theology fire the imaginations of religious believers and nonbelievers alike. The enduring influence of Dante is undeniable and his place in the canon of Western literature is secure. Indeed, students of the humanities would be hard-pressed to consider themselves educated if they had never confronted the great Florentine poet.

But why publish another book on Dante? Has not everything of importance already been said? Do we risk straining reasonable interpretation and distorting Dante’s meaning if we continue to trade on his brilliance?

The Rationale

Yes, hundreds of books have been written about Dante’s Commedia. However, to the best of my knowledge, none has taken the approach to be found in the present work. Most books on Dante explain his vision and its connection to Christian theology; or unravel the literary or poetic dimensions of his work and its significance; or relate Dante to his literary and philosophy precursors and successors; and a few even explain the derivation of his moral theory from earlier religious thinkers and from the doctrines of Christianity. But I have not come upon a single book that teases out the practical, secular moral implications of the Inferno and Purgatorio.

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