by Dante Alighieri
Paradiso Fate and Free Will Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Canto.Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation.
[Beatrice to Dante]: "At that point – I would have you see – the force
to which one yielded mingles with one's will;
and no excuse can pardon their joint act.
Absolute will does not concur in the wrong;
but the contingent will, through fear that its resistance might bring greater harm, consents." (Par. IV, 106-111)
Free will seems related to love. If we recall Purgatorio canto XVII, natural love always holds God as the object of love, while "mental love" can choose to love the wrong object in the wrong proportion. Here, "absolute will does not concur in the wrong"; it always stands up for right while the lesser "contingent will, through fear that its / resistance might bring greater harm, consents [to wrong]."
[Beatrice]: "The greatest gift the magnanimity
of God, as He created, gave, the gift
most suited to His goodness, gift that He
most prizes, was the freedom of the will;
those beings that have intellect – all these
and none but these – received and do receive
this gift: thus you may draw, as consequence,
the high worth of a vow, when what is pledged
with your consent encounters God's consent;
for when a pact is drawn between a man
and God, then through free will, a man gives up
what I have called his treasure, his free will." (Par. V, 19-30)
In explaining how vows work, Beatrice reminds Dante that only God's infinite goodness gave man the gift of free will. Like life itself, free will is a gift from God which man has a responsibility to honor and use virtuously. Thus, when someone makes a vow, he knowingly renounces the free will God has given him and puts himself solely at the mercy of God's will.
[Dante to Charles Martel]: "…so may you clear the doubt
that rose in me when you – before – described
how from a gentle seed, hash fruit derives."…
[Martel]: "The Good that moves and makes content the realm
through which you now ascend, makes providence
act as a force in these great heavens' bodies;
and in the Mind that, in itself, is perfect,
not only are the natures of His creatures
but their well-being, too, provided for;
and thus, whatever this bow shoots must fall
according to a providential end,
just like a shaft directed to its target.
Where this not so, the heavens you traverse
would bring about effects in such a way
that they would not be things of art but shards." (Par. VIII, 91-108)
Here, Charles Martel explains how seeming aberrations from Fate – such as sons who are morally unlike their fathers – are indeed part of God's plan. Such seeming errors on God's part are explained and justified through providence. So what may initially seem evil, like a bad prince whose father was a good king, ultimately works toward mankind's well being.