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Dante and Aristotle: Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso, Part One

Sign up for this college-preparatory course to explore the profound connection between Aristotle’s timeless philosophical principles and Dante Alighieri’s magnum opus, the Divine Comedy. Uncover the intricate layers of Dante’s narrative as it intertwines with Aristotle’s ethical and metaphysical teachings, providing you with a unique and enriching philosophical journey. This is an intellectually stimulating course that will stay with you for years to come.

Total classes: 15

Prerequisite: None. However, students must come to the first class having read Inferno,

Cantos 1-3 and Supplement 1-4 (found in the syllabus on the course page upon registration) and answered the associated questions via the Reading Dante software (provided free).

Suggested grade level: 11th to 12th grade. Advanced 10th-grade students accepted.

Suggested credit: One full semester Philosophy

Special Notes: This course only takes 16 students. We recommend that you register early. This is a two-semester course. Students are expected to register for Part Two, which is offered in the spring. After all, you would not want to go through the Inferno without reaching Paradise!


Dante famously honors Aristotle—whom both he and Aquinas call The Philosopher—with the title il maestro di color che sanno (the master of those who know). The Florentine poet’s most famous work owes much to Aristotle and to those influenced by him. From canto to canto and line to line, Dante’s masterpiece bears the mark of Aristotle’s thought and insights into questions natural, human, and divine.

This two-semester course is a deep dive into The Divine Comedy as seen through the eyes of Dante, the philosopher, and his master teacher. Students will work their way through the Comedy slowly, reading small groups of cantos, each clustered around a feature or distinction found in passages from Aristotle’s own works. Where the distinction between vice and incontinence is of importance, passages from the Nicomachean Ethics shed needed light. And where the joys of Heaven are an occasion for Dante to fall silent in respectful awe, Aristotle stands by his side, observing only that

“…such a life would be too high for man; for it is not in so far as he is man that he will live so, but in so far as something divine is present in him; and by so much as this is superior to our composite nature is its activity superior to that which is the exercise of the other kind of virtue. If reason is divine, then, in comparison with man, the life according to it is divine in comparison with human life. But we must not follow those who advise us, being men, to think of human things, and, being mortal, of mortal things, but must, so far as we can, make ourselves immortal, and strain every nerve to live in accordance with the best thing in us; for even if it be small in bulk, much more does it in power and worth surpass everything.”



Cantos 1-3 and Supplement 1-4

Cantos 3-5 and Supplement 4-6

Cantos 6-8 and Supplement 6-8

Cantos 8-10 and Supplement 8-11

Cantos 11-13 and Supplement 11-13

Cantos 13-15 and Supplement 13-14

Cantos 16-18 and Supplement 14-15

Cantos 18-20

Cantos 21-23 and Supplement 15-16

Cantos 23-25 and Supplement 15-16

Cantos 26-28

Cantos 28-30 and Supplement 16

Cantos 31-33 and Supplement 16-17

Cantos 33-34

First Test | Inferno

Materials and Homework

Course materials: Dante, The Portable Dante, trans., ed. Mark Musa. Penguin ISBN #978-0-14-243754-4 https://amzn.to/42CUOHi Supplementary Readings (supplied free as a pdf). Reading Dante software, a free online system created by the instructor.

Homework: Homework for most class sessions (excluding preparation for the tests) will include: carefully reading several cantos from the Divine Comedy, along with associated readings from the Supplement (syllabus will be provided), answering a few questions on those readings using the Reading Dante software (provided free), and reviewing material from recent classes. Students should set aside two-three hours of outside work for every in-class hour.

Important Dates

Class dates: Tuesdays, August 27 to December 17, 2024 (No class Oct. 8 & Nov. 26)

Starting time: 4:00 PM Eastern (3:00 Central; 2:00 Mountain; 1:00 Pacific)

Duration: 55 minutes

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