December 17th. Candidate mmm2401. Word count: 3474

Islamic philosophical origins of the

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2.2. Islamic philosophical origins of the Divina Commedia.

George B. Stone suggests that certain aspects of the how the Purgatory is represented in the Divina Commedia can be traced back to Islamic philosophers and their political thought. A characteristic of the terraces of Mount Purgatory, are “its various images drawn from pagan, Hebrew and Christian writings”. The diverse body of imaginaries used by Dante in his comprehensively Christian piece of literature, is indebted to al-Fārābī’s Principles of the Views of the Citizens of the Perfect State. This is a text that offers guidance towards political happiness and harmony. It defends Plato’s model of the philosopher king insofar as “the philosopher knows what makes for the city’s true felicity, and thus the perfect city is ruled by the philosopher.” Recognising that there are few “philosophers” (ie. individuals sufficiently wise and fit to rule), al-Fārābī argues that the philosopher “in his role as prophet or religious lawgiver, presents [to his fellow citizen] knowledge leading to political happiness in symbolic or imaginative form.” From this, he moves on to pointing out that each type of population or community should be exposed to a customised and unique set of images or stories that illustrate and communicate the greater and wise message of the philosopher. Al-Fārābī thus tolerates and even recognises the necessity for “a multiplicity of virtuous religions”.14

The Divina Commedia’s vast palette of references and its “ecosystem” of imagery (from Greek mythology, to the depiction of Dante’s medieval contemporaries) embraces al-Fārābī’s pragmatic strategy of storytelling and soft manipulation of the thought.

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