Dante: The Responsible-Self Meme
Dante’s celebrated Commedia or Divine Comedy is most often known as one of the great Western classics of poetry and literature; however, this chapter focuses on its intense focus on personal identity and personal responsibility as Dante understood it through his deep Christian faith and worldview. In contrast to Greek tragedy, where a character’s fate is pre-determined, Dante hammers home the very modern lesson of accepting responsibility for one’s own fate and how to do the work to make that happen. His detailed account of purgatory, a relatively recent construct in his time, gave the perfect backdrop for his message. Unlike the Greek notion of an afterlife, Dante portrayed individual’s personalities as carrying with them into the afterlife. Even one’s penance is personal and individualized in this Christian focus on ethics, responsibility, and forgiveness. His focus on man’s freedom, without which the reward and punishment system of the afterlife would be pointless, is a key evolutionary transition point, which values the rational and reasoned free will of man’s ability and sets the stage for the imminent fifteenth-century Renaissance.