Volume 87, 2013
Aristotle Now and Then
Anne M. Wiles
The Aristotelian Structure of Justice in the Divine Comedy
The argument of this paper is that the Aristotelian analysis of justice and related concepts provides the best framework for understanding the structure and importance of justice in Dante’s Commedia. After giving a synopsis of the principle features of Aristotle’s account of justice in Book 5 of the Nicomachean Ethics, I consider a few scenes from the Inferno, the Purgatorio, and the Paradiso, showing how the punishments and rewards Dante describes are based on the Aristotelian analysis of justice. Finally, I show that Dante, following Aristotle’s views on the metaphysics of the human person, recognizes that argument alone is inadequate to the task of educating the reader on the proper care of the soul, and that Dante’s effective use of images, makes the abstract Aristotelian concept of justice vivid and attractive, and its opposite repulsive.