Aquinas and Dante: Perfecting Human Reason Essay

Words: 1828
Pages: 8

Julia Caldwell
Professor Albrecht
Development of Western Civilization
2, February, 2013
Aquinas and Dante: Perfecting Human Reason

Aquinas and Dante: Perfecting Human Reason
Despite the fact that Dante’s reader doesn’t encounter St. Thomas Aquinas within the Comedia until Paradise, the beliefs and teachings of Aquinas are woven throughout the entirety of the famous poem. St. Thomas Aquinas’s cosmology and theology are used as the foundation for Dante’s Comedia, and for this reason it is no surprise that the experiences of the Pilgrim symbolically reflect many of Aquinas’s teachings. The Pilgrim’s experiences on his journey through the afterlife reflect what Aquinas called the, “two-fold truth concerning the divine being, one to
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Since Virgil never believed in the faith of the divine mysteries while he was still on Earth, his intellect is unable to grasp an understanding of God’s will. In conclusion, because Virgil doesn’t use faith to perfect his reason, his own will can never be aligned with the will of his Creator. Virgil specifically alludes to the fault in his faith when he distinguishes between pagan and Christian prayer. He admits that his own prayers, along with the prayers of all pagans, “had no access to God” (Purgatory, 225). Unlike pagan prayers, which according to Virgil in the Aeneid are powerless in a universe predestined by the Fates, Christian prayers are an embodiment of human participation with the true divine. By taking part in prayer, the individual takes part in the theological virtues that “are infused by God alone” and “direct us aright to God” (Summa Theologiae, Handout II, 11). It is only through the participation in these theological virtues that an individual can be guided toward God Himself. These virtues are the perfecting agents by which the human will and intellect are pushed toward their “last act” (Summa Theologiae, Handout II, 8). This last act is the attainment of happiness in the vision of the Divine Essence. Rather than try to explain concepts beyond what his reason can grapple with, Virgil asks his pupil to wait for Beatrice to answer his questions on this subject: “Do not try to resolve so deep a doubt; wait until she shall make it