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Dante and Islam$
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Jan M. Ziolkowski

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780823263868

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823263868.001.0001

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Dante and the Falasifa:

Dante and the Falasifa:

Religion as Imagination

(p.114) Dante and the Falasifa
Dante and Islam

Gregory B. Stone

Fordham University Press

Through a discussion of the central cantos of Purgatorio, this essay shows that Dante’s view on the relation between philosophy and religion is consonant with that of the Islamic rationalists (e.g. al-Fārābī, Avicenna, Averroës), according to whom religious revelation does not provide knowledge of truth that would otherwise transcend philosophy’s grasp but rather provides, for the masses of ordinary people, imaginative representation of universal intelligibles—things that philosophers understand without imagery. At the center of the Commedia Dante shows the harmony between the moral laws revealed by the prophetic imagination (i.e., as scriptural revelation) and the practical wisdom conceived by the philosopher. Purgatorio dramatizes those various events of prophetic imagination by which revelation concerning right practice has been given in the past, to Christians and non-Christians alike. Prophets render in particular images, for the communities in which they have been raised, those things that philosophers (such as Vergil) know as abstract universals. Prophecy is the reception in the imagination (and thus in a material and historically determined form) of what the philosopher knows through practical intellect. Purgatorio’s central canto shows us that behind the curtain of the language of religious revelation stands Vergil, with his philosopher’s cognition of practical wisdom.

Keywords:   Religion, Philosophy, Imagination, Prophecy, Revelation, Rationalism

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