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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 #1

[Piccarda]: "Brother, the power of love appeases our
will so – we only long for what we have;
we do not thirst for greater blessedness.
Should we desire a higher sphere than ours,
then our desires would be discordant with
the will of Him who has assigned us here,
but you'll see no such discord in these spheres;
to live in love is – here – necessity,
if you think on love's nature carefully.
The essence of this blessed life consists
in keeping to the boundaries of God's will,
through which our wills become one single will;
so that, as we are ranged from step to step
throughout this kingdom, all this kingdom wills
that which will please the King whose will is rule." (Par. III, 70-84)

All of Piccarda's talk about love is really a discussion about free will. The souls in the heaven of the moon, do not "desire a sphere higher than ours / [because] then our desires would be discordant with / the will of Him." This really means that the blessed souls have aligned their free wills to God's will. This becomes clear later when she talks about "keeping to the boundaries of God's will / through which our wills become one single will." Because God wills what is just, when the blessed align their wills to His, they have no need for "thirst[ing] for greater blessedness" because they have gotten exactly what they want and deserve.

Quote #2

[Beatrice]: "That which Timaeus said in reasoning
of souls does not describe what you have seen,
since it would seem that as he speaks he thinks.
He says the soul returns to that same star
from which – so he believes – it had been taken
when nature sent that soul as form to body;
but his opinion is, perhaps, to be
taken in other guise than his words speak,
intending something not to be derided.
If to these spheres he wanted to attribute
honor and blame for what they influence,
perhaps his arrow reaches something true. (Par. IV, 49-60)

One of Dante's doubts, spurred by seeing inconstant souls on the moon, is that if souls originate from these stars, live according to their faults, and return to them at death, the stars basically ordain human life and threaten the concept of free will. This theory had been published before by Timaeus, a Greek philosopher. Here, Beatrice dismisses Dante's fear, implying that the stars do not predestine human life, but only influence it. In light of what we know so far, though, these stars have a somewhat unwelcome influence over human lives.

Quote #3

[Beatrice]: "If violence means that the one who suffers
has not abetted force in any way,
then there is no excuse these souls can claim:
for will, if it resists, is never spent,
but acts as nature acts when fire ascends,
though force – a thousand times – tries to compel.
So that, when will has yielded much or little,
it has abetted force – as these souls did:
they could have fled back to their holy shelter.
Had their will been as whole as that which held
Lawrence fast to the grate and that which made
of Mucius one who judged his own hand, then
once freed, they would have willed to find the faith
from which they had dragged; but it is all
too seldom that a will is so intact." (Par. IV, 73-87)

Here we learn that some forms of free will are better or more "intact" than others. Those with perfect free will learn to stand up for what is right. Beatrice cites St. Lawrence, an early proponent of Christianity in the days of old pagan Rome, who is said to have willingly "held…fast to the grate" when he was grilled alive by Emperor Valerian for his beliefs. Mucius, who tried to assassinate Porsena for besieging Rome and was punished by being burnt alive, willingly thrust his hand into the fire while unwaveringly telling Porsena that he would eventually be killed by Romans. These two figures are exemplars of perfectly intact free will.

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