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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.

Quote #7

[Cacciaguida]: …"Contingency,
while not extending past the book in which
your world of matter has been writ, is yet
in the Eternal Vision all depicted
(but this does not imply necessity,
just as a ship that sails downstream is not
determined by the eye that watches it)." (Par. XVII, 36-42)

Contingency, or "the events of the material world" (as defined by Mandelbaum), basically solves the problem between God's omniscience (his "Eternal Vision") and man's free will. Just because God knows everything that will happen does not mean that he causes things to happen. Instead, events are contingent (or dependent) upon one another, meaning that man still has the free will to choose how he will act.

Quote #8

[Cacciaguida on Dante's destiny]: "You shall leave everything you love most dearly:
this is the arrow that the bow of exile
shoots first. You are to know the bitter taste
of others' bread, how salt it is, and know
how hard a path it is for one who goes
descending and ascending others' stairs.
And what will be most hard for you to bear
will be the scheming, senseless company
that is to share your fall into this valley;
against you they will be insane, completely
ungrateful and profane; and yet, soon after,
not you but they will have their brows bloodred.
Of their insensate acts, the proof will be
in the effects; and thus, your honor will
be best kept if your party is your self." (Par. XVII, 55-69)

Cacciaguida tells Dante of his own fate. However, according to the theory of contingency, Dante – armed with this foreknowledge – has the free will to do everything in his power to prevent his exile.

Quote #9

[Cacciaguida]: "Son, these are glosses of what you had heard;
these are the snares that hide beneath brief years.
Yet I'd not have you envying your neighbors;
your life will long outlast the punishment
that is to fall upon their treacheries." (Par. XVII, 95-99)

In a more optimistic view of fate, Cacciaguida assures Dante that he will be saved; this is how his "life will long outlast" those of his treacherous "neighbors." One might read this as a warning to Dante not to use his free will in any ill-becoming way that would threaten his foretold salvation.

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