Donne Gentili, Furies, and Sirens: Dante and the Metamorphoses of Philosophy Abstract The Convivio recommends the exercise of the theological virtues as the primary means to achieve true Wisdom, which is the participation in the knowledge of the truth that God made available to men through creation, at the beginning of time, and through the revelation of the Word, both before and after the Incarnation. From this principle, which grounds and nourishes in Dante the call to pursue and teach philosophy, emerge two inverse and reciprocal processes, whose complementarity assures for man the achievement of happiness (or beatitude), the very goal of his life: 1) the process of natural reason, regulated by the norms of the sciences, which is sure and irrefutable when it operates correctly in its appropriate sphere of inquiry, but is destined to remain imperfect and unfulfilled before the incomprehensibility of the divine mysteries; 2) the process of theological reason, founded on the voluntary adherence to the contents of the divine word—full and exhaustive but not reducible to a developed and detailed understanding of the transcendent object—and governed by the principles of intellectual science. The poetic art, especially with its methodic use of metaphors (in particular, the figure of the personified feminine—from the Donna Gentile to Matilda), strives for Dante to reconcile these two opposing forms of accessing the truth, thereby assuring its convergence in an inclusive, absolute, and solid wisdom. Particularly significant indications of this process of the poetic fulfillment of the human search for truth are offered by the allegorical analysis of characterized figures found throughout the Commedia, from the frequent occurrence of colors corresponding to the virtues (green, white, red for hope, faith and charity); to the three steps of the stairway for entering purgatory; to the dress of Beatrice herself and the three feminine personifications that accompany her in the mystical procession of earthly paradise; to the contrasting image of the representation of the three Furies at the entrance of the city of Dis; to the parallelism of the “stuttering woman” (femmina balba) dreamed in Purgatory and the Homeric sirens; and to the parallelism between the myth of Ulysses, the vain searcher for terrestrial wisdom, and the life of Francis of Assisi, dedicated to the search for true philosophical-theological knowledge.
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