Dante’s Comedìa and Our Comprehensivity

11 November 2021 in Resource Center.

Our comprehensivity is our facility for comprehensive thinking and action. One way to build our understanding of comprehensive practice is to look for precursors in historical works. This resource will examine the comprehensive ideas used by Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) in his great works La Vita Nuova and the Comedìa (more commonly known as The Divine Comedy even though Dante never used that title).

Since January 2021 The Greater Philadelphia Thinking Society and 52 Living Ideas have organized group explorations of Dante’s greatest works to commemorate the septicentennial of his death seven centuries ago. The project has been organized through the web page Reading Dante in 2021 where many learning aides including two free on-line video courses were listed to support participants of the project. This resource surveys ideas for deepening our understanding of the practice, values, and history of comprehensive inquiry and action that might be highlighted by participating in a project exploring Dante’s great works.

Assessing Dante’s Contribution

Around 1294 Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) published a collection of poems with supporting prose for context under the title La Vita Nuova (The New Life). In 1320, the year before he died, Dante completed his magnum opus, the Comedìa (Comedy), which consists of three parts Inferno (Hell), Purgatorio (Purgatory), and Paradiso (Paradise). As the commemorative project Reading Dante in 2021 approaches its end, we might reflect on what to make of Dante’s contribution. Giuseppe Mazzotta’s 19 minute introductory lecture for his free on-line 2008 video course “Dante in Translation” (with 24 YouTube videos) on Open Yale Courses gives an assessment which we can reflect upon after reading Dante.

Mazzotta suggests many different ways of characterizing Dante’s work: a journey to “seeing God face to face and come back to talk about it”, an epic poem, an autobiography, a romance, and an encyclopedia or “a circle of knowledge”. Throughout his course, Mazzotta calls the poem prophetic, philosophical, historical, sublime, humanistic, theological, scientific, geometrical, musical, a poetry of hope, justice, the future, and more.

What is the nature of Dante’s Comedìa?

10 years ago, I read Dante’s La Vita Nuova and the Comedìa using the Mark Musa translation and watched and took extensive notes on the Mazzotta videos in a four month period (24 videos totaling nearly 27 hours). I summarized my learning from that experience in the essay Dante’s Great “Commedia” or Poetry as a way of Knowing.

For this year’s commemorative reading, I re-read the Musa translation in eleven months giving me plenty of time to read each Canto (the Comedìa is divided into 100 sections or Cantos) at least two or three times, I reviewed some of my old notes and the transcripts to Mazzotta’s videos, I watched the 54 video lectures (nearly 92 hours worth) and notes by Teodolinda Barolini on Digital Dante at Columbia University, I searched for context in the commentaries on the Dartmouth Dante Project and in Wikipedia, and read and searched the poem on the Princeton Dante Project (which includes the Robert and Jean Hollander translation), and I wrote commentary and questions for the community that formed around the Reading Dante in 2021 project.

Reading La Vita Nuova before the Comedìa is highly recommended. For those who are not experienced readers of poetry, Dante’s practice in La Vita Nuova of dividing his poems into parts and then describing the meaning of each part provides excellent guidance in learning the art of interpreting poetry. These skills are helpful for understanding the much more difficult poetry of the Comedìa. In addition, there are many important passages in the Comedìa where a line, scene, image, or idea from La Vita Nuova is referenced. La Vita Nuova also helps the reader attune their historical mindset to the culture of the Florence, Italy of 700 years ago, the poetry of the Troubadour tradition, and its ending provides a prescient prelude to the Comedìa putting Dante’s whole project in dramatic context. This context from La Vita Nuova makes reading it before the Comedìa extremely valuable for most readers.

As I re-read Dante this year, I looked for evidence in the text for Mazzotta’s broad list of characterizations of the Comedìa. Each of his identifications resonates as true to me here at the end of my reading, but as I watched Teo Barolini’s video lectures and read her notes, I tuned into the alternative themes, ambiguities, and counter-narratives that reveal the poem to be more complex than any characterization could possibly capture. In fact, for each of Mazzotta’s characterizations, I found that even when the theme is prominent, Dante complicates it with other themes, connections, and ambiguities. The lens of interpreting the Comedìa through key themes and ideas might thus obscure its nuances and distort our perspective on the work. For some readers, having a list of themes might provide a helpful list of targets to key in on during their reading. But, I came to wonder if Dante’s poem is intentionally anti-thematic or maybe just extremely multi-thematic.

I identified four qualities of the poem that seemed preeminent to me. First, throughout the poem it includes verbal puzzles where the reader is expected to recognize details from the culture of Dante’s time including the mythological figures and histories of the ancient world, specifics about the Judeo-Christian-Islamic heritage in Europe and the Middle East, as well as many details of the political and religious life of the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries centered in Florence but broadly concerned with Italy and Europe as well.

These poetic riddles both make the poem engaging and exasperating when you learn, again and again, that you simply do not know enough of the culture of Dante’s time to decipher his text. It may be fun to solve riddles like in Inferno 1.26-27 “the pass / that never let a living soul escape” (Mark Musa translation) which is a periphrasis or circumlocution for the dark wood referenced in verse 2 (Robert Hollander’s commentary calls this “a much disputed passage”: and this is one of the easy ones!).

However, the text is filled with an incessant stream of riddles. Sometimes the riddles can be solved on your own by reading the whole poem at least twice: clues from later Cantos frequently transform the reader’s understanding of what came before. But, many are harder to solve like the one in Paradiso 30.1-9 where we find an elaborate and baroque nine line periphrasis that builds upon a now obscure ninth century Islamic astronomical calculation to refer to an hour before dawn. How many hours per page of poetry must a reader invest in trying to solve Dante’s riddles before abandoning their own interpretive imagination to turn to the seven centuries of accumulated predigested puzzle-solving work of the many commentators on the poem to grasp its meaning second-hand? And frequently the commentaries disagree! But, the clues they provide often give the historical and literary context needed to inform your own interpretation.

Secondly, the poem is deeply steeped in the orthodoxy of early fourteenth century Florentine religious values. However, it is unclear to me if this is a protective facade from which Dante can take a moral high ground to strongly critique the Church and the politics of his era, or if the author is, in fact, an orthodox Christian monarchist who used his poem and its lofty themes and language to rail against his religious and political enemies. In Paradiso 27.40-66 in the “voice” of Saint Peter and in 30.130-148 in the “voice” of his guide Beatrice, he adds decisive doses of invective against the Church. This reader could not help but wonder if Dante’s incessant papal critiques and desired imperial unification of Italy might best be characterized as an eloquent and sublime political hit piece.

Thirdly, given how much of world culture and world literature is referenced in Dante’s Comedìa, it is clearly a work of comprehensive exploration. It’s opening line “Midway along the journey of our life” (Mark Musa translation) evokes the guiding allegory of the journey of our lives with the invitation that the reader, too, can learn how to live, how the world works, and how to understand it all either vicariously through the pilgrim’s adventures or allegorically through interpretation. In other words, the poem is overtly a work of comprehensive learning.

Lastly, perhaps the best characterization of the poem is that it is a work of great literature. It’s engaging, dynamic dialogue and imagery have inspired generations. Literature is always subject to the interpretations of its readers and maybe what you the reader make of the poem is more important than what it has meant to past readers and commentators who might have characterized it too parochially.

The Virtues of Comprehensivity in the Comedìa

All traditions of inquiry and action are characterized by the values which guide its practice. These values can be called the epistemic virtues for that system of learning and doing. In previous resources, we have identified ten important epistemic virtues for comprehensive exploration. Let us examine Dante’s Comedìa to see to what extent it embraces each of these values. A less complete list of these epistemic virtues was included in the resource on Comprehensivism in the Islamic Golden Age.

𝟏. Adequate Breadth: the aspiration to engage and accommodate a sufficiently large and diverse collection of other traditions in our explorations. In Buckminster Fuller’s terms, this aspiration is the injunction to begin all our explorations with Universe which he defined as “all of humanity’s consciously-apprehended and communicated experience.” Breadth and depth were introduced in the resource Humanity’s Great Traditions of Inquiry and Action and elaborated on in the resource on The Comprehensive Thinking of R. Buckminster Fuller.

Breadth is pervasive throughout the Comedìa. Inferno is a broad exploration of bad actions (sin). Purgatorio is a broad exploration of virtues and vices, good and bad motivations. Paradiso is a broad exploration of the intellectual principles believed to make the world work. Another breadth found in the Comedìa is in the range of prior literature that Dante references: from the Odyssey to Virgil’s Aeneid and Ovid’s Metamorphoses to Aristotle, Cicero’s De Amicitia (On Friendship), Augustine’s City of God and Confessions, Ibn Rushd (Averroës) to Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy to the Bible (particularly, the Song of Songs, Book of Psalms, Book of Wisdom, Gospel of Matthew, and Book of Revelation) and much more. These literary references and the cultural figures they evoke is immense, it is epic: the Comedìa surveys some two millennia of prior literature.

The Comedìa is continually negotiating the boundaries of the breadth of acceptable human knowing and doing. One of its far-reaching images for unacceptable transgression of knowledge is given by Ulysses in Inferno 26.97-99 “[nothing] could quench deep in myself the burning wish / to know the world and have experience / of all men’s vices, of all human worth” (Mark Musa translation). In Lecture 8 of his course on Dante, Giuseppe Mazzotta says “Dante implies and seems to agree with, if one were to read the trajectory of the Divine Comedy [the Comedìa], that there is no knowledge worthy of its name unless it is connected to some degree of transgression. That somehow transgression is part of knowing”. Perhaps Dante’s exploration of the transgression of knowledge is the Comedìa’s gloss on the importance of an adequate breadth. Transgression may be seen as the attempt to be all knowing which is humanly impossible: comprehensive exploration, instead, requires an adequate breadth.

𝟐. Adequate Depth: the aspiration to comprehend each subject explored in as much detail as is judged reasonable. The limitations on the breadth and depth of our comprehensivity was first explored in the resource The Necessities and Impossibilities of Comprehensivism and elaborated on in the resource The Whole Shebang: “to understand all and put everything together”.

The evocative poetic voice of the Comedìa can produce substantial depth with what might seem a paucity of words. For example in Inferno 4.144 “Averroës who made the Commentary” indirectly reminds us of the translation movement of the twelfth century where Aristotle’s teachings were reacquired from the Islamic world and then became very influential in the thirteenth century with the work of Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, and many others. Intertextual, intercultural references like these open a world of depth with just one line of poetry.

The Comedìa also achieves depth by repeatedly exploring topics. The theme of justice is, perhaps, the most deeply explored subject in the Comedìa as Dante keeps addressing it in Canto after Canto, passage after passage. Other deeply explored subjects include the nature and role of language (especially poetry), the cultural history of Italy, the integration of Aristotle’s thinking with Christianity, the body, the importance of learning and understanding, the importance of love and desire, the role of the Greek and Roman traditions in medieval Christianity, and many more.

𝟑. Empiricism: the aspiration to both infer hypotheses and to assess them from the concrete evidence in humanity’s inventory of experience, in the Universe as defined by Buckminster Fuller. Empiricism was explored in the resource The Inductive Attitude: A Moral Basis for Science and Comprehensivism.

The most prominent and intensive example of empirical thinking in the Comedìa occurs in Paradiso 2.49-148 where Beatrice describes a battery of experiments and arguments to test hypotheses and draw conclusions to explain the mottled appearance of the Moon. The text includes two lines that clearly value empiricism, “by experiment, / the source which fills the rivers of man’s art” in verses 95-96 (Mark Musa translation).

𝟒. Multiple Working Hypotheses / Multiple Perspectives: the recognition that there are always multiple perspectives from which to consider a subject and multiple hypotheses that may help us understand it. Therefore, comprehensive inquiry and action aspires to identify and consider sufficient numbers of perspectives and hypotheses to adequately inform our analytical, synthetic, and integrative imaginations. Multiple working hypotheses were explored in the resource The Value of Multiple Working Hypotheses and multiple perspectives were explored in the resource Shifting Perspectives and Representing The Truth.

In Paradiso 2.49-148, which we just mentioned, explores two hypotheses. In Paradiso 8.91-148, in the interchange with Charles Martel, Dante learns in verses 122-126 “the very roots / of man’s activities must be diverse: / one man is born a Solon, one a Xerxes, / one a Mechizedek, another he / whose flight cost him the life of his own son” (Mark Musa translation). This suggests that society needs at least the talents and perspectives of lawyers, warriors, priests, and artisans (if your cultural knowledge and imagination is broad enough to interpret Dante’s name/qualities periphrasis or if you have access to a commentary that explains it). Further evidence for multiple perspectives can be found in the heaven of the Sun, Paradiso 10-14, where Dante meets 24 diverse scholars some of whom strongly disagreed with each other in life.

In the following passage, Dante emphasizes the importance of making distinctions to clarify one’s thinking so that we can judge better. Such distinctions are an elementary form of perspective or alternative hypotheses:

Let this be leaden weight upon your feet
   to make you move slow as a weary man
   both to the 'yes' or 'no' you do not see,

for he ranks low, indeed, among the fools,
   who rushes to affirm or to deny,
   no matter which, without distinguishing.

Paradiso 13.112-117, Mark Musa translation

In addition, The poet’s art of juxtaposition causes the Comedìa to reverberate with thoughts engaging multiple perspectives and hypotheses throughout. This is one of Dante’s strongest epistemic virtues for comprehensive thinking. It is probably why the poem resonates so much for so many readers.

𝟓. Adequate Wholeness for Meaning Making: the recognition that the meaning making process involves the dynamics of gestalt shifts and gestalt crystallizations that bring into focus identified complexes of interdefined, resonant relations that form significant wholes. Jan Zwicky highlights this idea as “the experience of meaning” as discussed in the resource on The Whole Shebang: “to understand all and put everything together”.

Dante has one glimpse of the experience of meaning in this metaphor:

As one who suddenly beholds a thing
   incredible will first believe and then
   misdoubt and say: "It is—it cannot be!"

Purgatorio 7.10-12, Mark Musa translation

This is a wonderful insight, but it blurs doubts and hesitations with mistake mystique and it fails to see gestalt learning as the art of meaning-making.

𝟔. Mistake Mystique: realizing that there will always be inherent gaps in our understanding, communication, and desired outcomes (designs), mistake mystique is the aspiration to identify and further minimize these gaps through iterative comprehensive exploration and design. Formulating good questions can help us identify and negotiate these gaps. Mistake mystique was introduced in the resource Mistake Mystique in Learning and in Life and elaborated on in the resource Redressing The Crises of Ignorance.

Evidence that in the thirteenth century mistake making was strongly and negatively sanctioned can be seen in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s commentary on Inferno 15 where Dante meets his former teacher: “This Ser Brunetto Latini was a Florentine, and a very able man in some of the liberal arts, and in philosophy; but his principal calling was that of Notary; and he held himself and his calling in such great esteem, that, having made a mistake in a contract drawn up by him, and having been in consequence accused of fraud, he preferred to be condemned for it rather than to confess that he had made a mistake”. In Purgatorio 3.8-9 after Cato confronts the penitent for gathering around Casella negligently singing one of Dante’s canzone, a type of poetic song, Dante muses “O dignity of conscience, noble, chaste, / how one slight fault can sting you into shame!”

I found no real sense of mistake mystique as an epistemic virtue in the Comedìa.

The idea of the purgation of sin in Purgatorio provides a kind of ritualized response to sin, to mistake-making. But, the Comedìa is downright cruel and inhuman when it comes to sin. Yes, there are interesting passages about repentance: in Inferno 27.67-129 where Guido da Montefeltro is a fraudulent repentant condemned to Hell and in Purgatorio 5.88-129 Bonconte da Montefeltro, Guido’s son, is a saved repentant; but, the issue here is fraud not mystique, not a heightened value or interest in the mistake as a vital tool for learning and doing.

Dante’s notion of sin often leads to a violent self-flagellation as on the terrace of pride where we learn in Purgatorio 10.100-139 that the souls carry as punishments weights on their backs compressing them, in the most severe cases, “with chest pressed tightly down against its knees” (verse 132, Mark Musa translation) to the degree of their sin. So Dante considers mistakes and their ritual atonement, but his treatment is horrific, tortuously inhumane, and anything but the kind of mistake mystique that is both healthy and necessary for effective comprehensive inquiry and action.

However, there is a gesture toward valuing mistakes in the comical passage near the end of Paradiso 28.121-139 where Gregory the Great laughs at his mistake in ranking the angels. And a tantalizing but ambiguous verse after the ecstatic vision near the beginning of the terrace of wrath that may evoke some sentiment for mistake mystique: “I came to know my errors were not false” in Purgatorio 15.117 (Robert and Jean Hollander translation). Throughout the poem, the pilgrim asks questions expressing his doubts. While these could indicate mistake mystique, the assumption is always that a guide will explain and the pilgrim will “learn” The Truth. Sometimes these explanations include ambiguities, but the poem seems to believe that there is always a right answer and the doubts just require some instruction which sometimes involves learning the limits of human knowing.

Even considering these approximations to mistake mystique, I feel Dante has no mystique, no positive heightened value or interest in mistake-making, at all. Maybe mistake mystique is a modern value: we might not find it articulated in older literature?

𝟕. Generalized Principles: the aspiration to refine the meaningful wholes we identify through consideration of the gaps seen by our mistake mystique into principles that abstract and accommodate vast subsets of Humanity’s accumulated inventory of experiences. Generalized principles were introduced in the resource The Comprehensive Thinking of R. Buckminster Fuller and further developed in the resource on Redressing The Crises of Ignorance.

Even though Dante seems to have no awareness of the crucial intermediate processes of forming wholes in meaning-making and in negotiating the inherent gaps with mistake mystique, following ancient traditions he succeeds in identifying generalized principles. In this passage Dante summarizes the generalized principle or theory of reflection developed and experimentally validated by Ibn al-Haytham in his famous Kitāb al-Manāẓir (Book of Optics):

A ray leaps back from water or from glass,
   reflecting back the other way as it
   ascends in the same way it first came down,

forming an angle with the plummet-line
   exactly equal to the incidence—
   as theory and experiment both show;

Purgatorio 15.16-21, Mark Musa translation

The idea that “theory and experiment” must agree was emphasized by Ibn al-Haytham in the early 1000s. It is an emphatic formulation of the value of empiricism which is a very effective but more elementary approach than mistake mystique. Here are several more examples of generalized principles from Paradiso:

In 1.98-141, Beatrice answers Dante’s question in verse 99 “how I can rise through these light bodies here” with a general explanation of how the Universe operates as indicated in verse 121 “The Providence that regulates the whole” (Mark Musa translation). In 2.49-148 where, as mentioned previously, Beatrice explains the variegated appearance of the Moon with in verse 147 “the formal principle” of “different virtues mingle differently” in verse 139 (Mark Musa translation). In 7.19-148, Beatrice explains a complex theological doctrine of “how just vengeance can justly be avenged” as the question is posed in verse 21 (Mark Musa translation). Each piece of her argument is an asserted generalized principle, since all arguments are based on generalized principles.

𝟖. Integrity: the aspiration to accommodate and account for each experience, perspective, hypothesis, idea, and generalized principle relevant to our inquiry and/or action as an all-encompassing coherent whole or schema. That is, the aspiration to integrate our comprehensive exploration into a comprehensively integral whole, into an integrity. The idea of integrity was introduced in the resource Chronofiles: Data Mining Your Life for Comprehensive Thinking.

One of the themes in Paradiso is how Dante’s doubts and his desire to understand are addressed by Beatrice and other splendors. One of the clearest instances of this is after Beatrice explains the difference between conditional and absolute will:

Such was the flowing of the holy stream
   that pours down from the Fountain of All Truth
   that it now laid both of my doubts to rest.

Paradiso 4.115-117, Mark Musa translation

Beatrice’s words are “the flowing of the holy stream” and God is “the Fountain of All Truth”. But this is received wisdom and not the kind of human wrought effort to puzzle out sometimes contradictory ideas into an interaccommodative comprehensive integrity. Nevertheless, the epistemic virtue of integrity is clearly in the Comedìa even if it usually takes the form of received wisdom.

𝟗. Comprehensive Comprehension (or thoroughly refined ignorance): the aspiration to structure all our learning from the previous eight epistemic virtues with a fabric of questions (which systematically interrogate the gaps identified by our mistake mystique) to situate all our experiences, perspectives, hypotheses, ideas, generalized principles, and integrities in our thoroughly refined ignorance, our ever-evolving and always nuanced design judgment, our comprehensive comprehensions. The idea of refined ignorance was introduced as the “Hypostasis of Knowledge” in the resource on Redressing The Crises of Ignorance and expanded on in the resources on Comprehensivism in the Islamic Golden Age, Shifting Perspectives and Representing The Truth, and The Whole Shebang: “to understand all and put everything together”.

There are a few hints that Dante understood aspects of comprehensive comprehension. For example, in Inferno 11.93 “it pleases me no less to question than to know” (Robert and Jean Hollander translation) we see that Dante understood the importance of questions. Dante also sometimes sees the value of ignorance, for example, on the terrace of avarice after the dramatic earthquake and loud shout from all sides, the narrator muses:

Never before, unless my memory errs,
  had my blind ignorance stirred up in me
  so violent a desire for the truth

as I felt now, racking my brain to know.

Purgatorio 20.145-150, Mark Musa translation

Dante even imagines our ignorance as a profoundly important principle for humility:

No Mr. or Miss Know-It-All should think,
   when they see one man steal and one give alms
   that they are seeing them through God's own eyes,

for one may yet rise up, the other fall.

Paradiso 13.139-142, Mark Musa translation

In addition, to never putting the value of questions and ignorance into anything like the form of our comprehensive comprehensions, Dante has several passages that attribute a negative valence to ignorance and asking the wrong question which are antithetical to the curiosity and values of psychological safety that seem crucial for our comprehensivity. In Inferno 7.70-71, we find “O foolish race of man, / how overwhelming is your ignorance!” and in Paradiso 21.103-105 “I put aside that question which his words / had so proscribed me from” (Mark Musa translation).

𝟏𝟎. Collaborative Comprehensive Exploration: the aspiration to listen to and work with others by sharing our individually articulated experiences, perspectives, hypotheses, ideas, generalized principles, integrities, and comprehensive comprehensions to collaboratively compose new comprehensive comprehensions or their underlying components that we might not have imagined independently. This idea was introduced in the resource on Redressing The Crises of Ignorance as a reformulation of Buckminster Fuller’s ideas about education automation.

Except in the heaven of the sun, Paradiso 10-14, where 24 dancing scholars interact with the pilgrim, I get no sense that Dante understood the social design of comprehensive comprehensions through collaborative exploration. Instead, I get the sense that in Dante’s Comedìa all wisdom comes from wise guides who, in turn, see reflected glimpses of divine light.

In sum, we have seen that Dante’s Comedìa has many but not all of the epistemic virtues we use in comprehensive exploration. The extent to which Dante’s text embraces comprehensive practice shows that it is an important work in the history of the tradition of comprehensive inquiry and action.

What, if anything, in Dante’s Comedìa shows affinity for our comprehensivity, our facility for comprehensive exploration?

The Value of the Comedìa for Comprehensive Practice

Reading the Comedìa with its riddles, metaphors, and allusions that require a broad understanding of the literature, history, and culture of medieval Florence, gives a thorough workout for one’s comprehensivity, for one’s facility for comprehensive inquiry and action to better understand and participate in the world. What are some of the benefits of engaging the Comedìa as a tool for comprehensive learning?

  • To better understand the sciences, philosophies, poetry, music, art, literature, politics, religion, and many other cultural currents of the middle ages.
  • To give those who are weak at reading poetry a sustained project to redress those deficiencies.
  • To better understand how the poetic tradition developed in the middle ages in Europe.
  • To learn from the poetry of the epic tradition, which documents both the famous and lesser known characters of history to give a sense of the individual’s role in world history.
  • To assay the most comprehensive cosmic context of a human life as one poet saw it in the middle ages.
  • To learn the great difficulty of distinguishing the commentaries that interpret literature for us from the original work itself: do I accept what I read and my interpretation or do I accept the commentator’s assertions or both/neither (meaning both and neither simultaneously)?
  • To assay the role of justice, love, and desire in our lives and to contrast our views with Dante’s medieval views.
  • To get a mental workout thinking about the design of our lives in considering Dante’s exploration of the sins, virtues, vices, and principles of his wonderfully fictitious Universe.
  • To become familiar with the Comedìa‘s iconic images, scenes, and characters which are constantly referenced in modern culture.
  • To better understand the development of the modern world.
    • I learned that long before Descartes’ “introduction” of the dualism of mind and body, Dante was obsessed with the importance of the body in Christian belief.
    • I reminded myself that long before Christopher Columbus, Dante understood that the Earth was spherical contradicting the myth that Washington Irving introduced in his highly fictionalized biography of Columbus.
    • I reminded myself that in the medieval value system sin meant in toward the center of the Earth and virtue and bliss was out toward the heavens. So scientists such as Carl Sagan, Martin Rees, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stuart Firestein, and many others who falsely proclaim that heliocentrism removed Earth from a privileged position are badly mistaken. On the contrary heliocentrism placed the ugly sin of the Earth with Lucifer at its very center into the purity of God’s domain in heaven where there is no sin! Scientific thinking has been sullied by this mistake since 1686 when Fontenelle invented what Dennis R. Danielson dubs the Copernican Cliché.
  • To assay the history of comprehensive practice and learn about the values of comprehensivity which are articulated in this 700 year old work. We looked at some of these historical roots in the resource on Comprehensivism in the Islamic Golden Age. The translation movement of the twelfth century which provided Latin translations of Islamic works and other ancient works that had been lost in Europe, also provided important context for Dante’s fertile imagination. As we have detailed above, Dante was able to leverage this broad cultural context to give us his outstanding exemplar of comprehensive imagination that continues to inspire and sometimes exasperate its readers.

What value, if any, do you find in the Comedìa for your comprehensive practice?

This essay was written to provide ideas in support of the 17 November 2021 session of “Comprehensivist Wednesdays” at 52 Living Ideas (crossposted at The Greater Philadelphia Thinking Society) and the 5 December 2021 event “Reflecting on Dante’s Inspired Poetry for his Septicentennial” (crossposted at The Greater Philadelphia Thinking Society).

Addendum: 2h 23m video from the 17 November 2021 event:

Addendum: 8m collection of excepts from the above video summarizing the list of proposed Epistemic Virtues for Comprehensive Learning:

Read Other Resource Center Essays

Posted by CJ Fearnley

Explorer in Universe.

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