Stanford Studies in Language and Literature. 1941: Fiftieth Anniversary of the Founding of Stanford University

By Hardin Craig | Go to book overview

DANTE AND HONORIUS OF AUTUN

OLIVER M. JOHNSTON
Stanford University

Chapter XVI in book III of the De Monarchia is the key to the structure of the Divine Comedy. It contains the argument on which the poet bases his need of two guides through the realms of eternity. As man partakes of both the perishable and the imperishable, there exists for him a twofold end, the happiness of this life, which consists in the activity of his natural powers, and the happiness of eternal life, which consists in the enjoyment of the countenance of God. In order to achieve these two ends he needs two kinds of knowledge. For the attainment of happiness in the present life, he must follow the teachings of philosophy, and for the attainment of eternal happiness, he must follow revelation or spiritual teachings, which transcend human reason :

Duos igitur fines Providentia illa inenarrabilis homini proposuit intendendos : beatitudinem scilicet huius vitae, quae in operatione propriae virtutis consistit, et per terrestrem Paradisum figuratur; et beatitudinem vitae aeternae, quae consistit in furitione divini aspectus ad quam propria virtus ascendere non potest, nisi lumine divino adiuta, quae per Paradisum coelestem intelligi datur.

Ad has quidem beatitudines, velut ad diversas conclusiones, per diversa media venire oportet. Nam ad primam per philosophica documenta venimus, dummodo illa sequamur, secundum virtutes morales et intellectuales operando. Ad secundam vero per documenta spiritualia, quae humanam rationem transcendunt, dummodo illa sequamur secundum virtutes theologicas operando, Fidem, Spem, scilicet et Caritatem.1

Dante then states that a twofold directive agent is necessary for man, in accordance with the twofold end; the Supreme Pontiff to lead him to eternal life by means of revelation, and the Emperor to guide him to temporal happiness by means of philosophic instruction. In the Divine Comedy the two kinds of knowledge necessary for the guidance of man are represented by Virgil and Beatrice, the former symbolizing philosophy or reason guides him to happiness in this life, and the latter representing revelation guides him to eternal bliss.

The purpose of this article is to call attention to the fact that the distinction between the two ends of man and the knowledge necessary for

____________________
1
De Monarchia, III, 16, 43-63.

-96-

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