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Pagans and PhilosophersThe Problem of Paganism from Augustine to Leibniz$
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John Marenbon

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780691142555

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691142555.001.0001

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Dante and Boccaccio

Dante and Boccaccio

(p.188) Chapter 10 Dante and Boccaccio
Pagans and Philosophers

John Marenbon

Princeton University Press

This chapter considers the highly paradoxical position occupied by ancient pagans, who are considered genuinely and outstandingly virtuous and yet at the same are condemned to Hell. This paradox is discussed in detail before the chapter goes on to explain Dante's position in this paradox, by looking at Dante's attitude to pagan wisdom and its relation to Christianity, especially his adoption, but transformation, of the position of limited relativism which strictly separates the spheres of philosophical enquiry and Christian doctrine. The damnation of virtuous pagans turns out to be the price required by this approach, which remains deliberately paradoxical, despite Dante's innovation of placing them in a special part of Hell, where there are no physical torments. Furthermore, the chapter looks at another aspect of Dante's discussion of paganism — his treatment of Epicurus and his followers — and links it to a comparison with his great admirer and commentator, Boccaccio.

Keywords:   ancient pagans, Hell, pagan wisdom, virtuous pagans, Epicurus, Dante Alighieri, Giovanni Boccaccio

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