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Society individual and values Dante Alighieri perspective

Thesis Statement

How Dante perceived Society, individual, values; what shaped his perceptions?

Dante’s work is comprehensive and it reflects the societal development and ideological changes, which were occurring that age. To understand how Dante viewed society, individuals and values, his quote, from his famous work, Divine Comedy, can studied and scrutinized.

The Darkest places in hell are reserved for those, who maintain their neutrality, in time of moral crisis.

This quote, from Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri, clearly depicts that the Dante believed that a person must be morally and politically correct. The politics, of Florentine was corrupt and most of the people believed the Ends justify means, which had created more social, economic and political challenges. During this time, Dante promulgated that it is imperative to be socially and morally correct and take such decisions or measure that could ensure lasting tranquility and peace.

In his work, The Divine Comedy, which actually was a tragedy, Dante Alighieri did not only promulgate his political and religious views, but had also interpreted the established religious doctrine. He was of the view that not only individuals, but also society had moral obligations, which are necessary to be fulfilled to ascertain that society evolves and progress in right direction.

Dante has also challenged the clergy, as he believed that political and religious groups had destroyed the social fabric, because of their vested interests. He asserted that values were deteriorated and interpretations were corrupted to further political and economic interests.

To understand truly Dante’s work and the evolution or progress of society and his interpretation of progress and redemption, it is essential to understand and acknowledge that Divine Comedy, which is comprised of three parts, was written during the time of renaissance and he was very much influenced by other ideas, religious and political. Therefore, there is need to understand this work, of Dante, in historical context.  

Dante’s Society

The concept of society, its understanding and its role has changed with the civilizational development. When the organized life started, the concept of state started to mature and institutions started to develop, the concept and role of society was very different. As the political-economic system altered, so did the concept and role of society, which shaped behavior and attitudes, of communities, dwelling in a social set-up.

Dante Alighieri was born in the age renaissance, during which old notions and percepts were being contradicted by new concepts and ideas, which were more comprehensive, logical, bold and diverse. It was the age, when the established order was being challenged by new economic and political realities, which yielded social and intellectual resistance.

Unlike Machiavelli, who came later, Dante believed in a just society. A society based on principles and values, which could ensure justice and social equality. This was because Dante concluded, based on his rational conjecturing, that only a just and progressive society can progress. He had also subtly further the idea that morally right individuals must constitute a society and protect it from moral and other deterioration.

The study, of Dante work, also suggests that he strongly he disliked the strong role of clergy, in political affairs. He believed that politics was one of the manifestations of society and reflected different notions, prevailing in society.

Therefore, when clergy or pope interfered in the political matters, it offended Dante and from this, it is simple to deduce that Dante believed that role of Clergy or religions should be minimum in political and social affairs. It must also be recognized that during that age there social, political and economic realms transcend and amalgamate, with one another.


The concept of society is connected, strongly and positively, to individuals. Dante agreed with this notion and in his famous work, Divine Comedy, the subjects were individuals, who made choices, for which they had to face consequences. During his epic escape or ascend, from inferno to Purgatorio and from there to heaven.

The ideal individual, pictured or conjectured, by Dante was, actually shaped by his theological perceptions and understandings.   Therefore, to understand the individual, which constitutes the conjectured or ideal society, of Dante, it is imperative to understand his theology, depicted as Beatrice.

The Christian concept, of Salagia or seven vices shape an individual and determine morality. In his work, the Divine Comedy, the seven circles of inferno, represent these vices and there individuals, which were trapped in it. During his political career, when Dante actively participated to improve society, which depicted decadence and moral decline.  Dante was disappointed on how he was treated and he despised the events, which forced exile upon him. During this phase, of his life, Dante feel betrayed and he concluded that if individuals would not be apposite, morally and politically correct, the society would not sustain, and it would eventually start to decline.

Like many intellectuals, of his time, Dante was convinced that morally correct people would form a greater and more progressive society. Therefore, the emphasis should be on individual, not the system. However, despite of the fact that his theological understanding was shaped by Christianity, Dante believed and promulgated, through his work, that clergy should not enforce a certain interpretation.

This is very evident from the fact that Dante’s own interpretation, of Christian theology, slightly differed from the classical Christian theological interpretation. Consequently, the character and the role, of an individual, also slightly differed from the conventional understanding and perception. It is also to be acknowledged that Dante viewed clergy as corrupt institution, which further this idea that he also never truly accepted the interpretation, of Catholic Church’s theology, regarding society and individuals.


The objective, of Divine comedy, which was tragedy, was to compel people to re-access or re-evaluate their morals and values. The work had various objectives. From the language of the work, it becomes evident that Dante wanted to address general audience and not just a certain section of the society. It is also evident from the narrative that Dante believed that morally correct person is indispensable for a society. He suggested that when values are upheld, societies develop and progress is achieved. Values are a mean to realize social and political objectives.

Values, as per Dante, are also essential, as they shape individuals character, which is basic constituent, of an ideal society. Therefore, if values were be correct, the characters of individuals would be shaped in such a way that it would facilitate the evolution of society and its individuals.


When we try to understand the Date’s perception, it is imperative to scrutinize or study these perceptions, in the historical and cultural context. This is because all notions and ideas are valid, only for a certain time, and they become obsolete, as the time progress. Therefore, in this paper, when attempted to explore and study, Dante’s perceptions, regarding society, individuals and values, we studied them in their historical context.

From the study it becomes apparent that Dante did not agree with the conventional perceptions, regarding society, individuals and values. His theological interpretation, which was depicted as Beatrice, helped him shape his perceptions. Another feature, which influenced his perceptions, was events that occurred in his life. Because of his political notions and position, he had to leave his native and favorite city, Florentine. During this phase, which was tragic and moving, he re-addressed his political-social and theological notions and concepts. In addition, he re-evaluated his values, which profoundly influenced his character.

It becomes very evident that Dante’s society, individual and values are formed by Christian theology. However, Christian theology was slightly differently interpreted by him, which made it un-conventional, but yet very Christian.

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