Dante and Epicurus
A Dualistic Vision of Secular and Spiritual Fulfilment
Italian Perspectives 25
Legenda: Oxford, 2013
Dante and Epicurus seem poles apart. Dante, a committed Christian, depicted in the Commedia a vision of the afterlife and God’s divine justice. Epicurus, a pagan philosopher, taught that the soul is mortal and that all religion is vain superstition. And yet Epicurus is, for Dante, not only the quintessential heretic but an ethical ally. The key to this apparent paradox lies in the heterodox dualism – between man’s two goals of secular felicity and spiritual beatitude – at the heart of Dante’s ethical, political and theological thought.
George Corbett is Junior Research Fellow of Trinity College, and Affiliated Lecturer of the Department of Italian, the University of Cambridge.