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Dante and Aristotle - Ethical Frameworks

            In Dante's Inferno, Virgil delineates that, there are "three dispositions that Heaven refuses, Incontinence, malice, and mad bestiality " (Inferno, Canto XI, 80). The sinners are characterized by their immoderacy and inability to regulate their desires. Vices in the inferno thus concur with Aristotle's Ethical framework insofar as vice, as posited by Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, is characterized similarly by immoderacy and incontinence. As Dante proceeds through each circle of Hell, the severity of punishment for each sinner seems to increase, representing the degree of immorality Dante identifies with each respective sin. The circles are structured in accordance with the Aristotelian conception of virtue and vice: they are grouped into the sins of wantonness, violence, and fraud. Each circle condemns some sort of excessive or deficient act, the very same structure of morality we find in Aristotle's Doctrine of the Mean. Indeed, it seems Aristotelian morality is the very source out of which conceptions of sin in the Inferno are constructed. Although their Ethical agendas are constructed differently and Aristotle's Ethics lack sins against God, Dante and Aristotle generally seem to condemn the same sins (either an extreme or a deficiency). The structure of Dante's Inferno narrowly accords with Aristotle's Ethical framework.
             The sins of incontinence are deemed the mildest of sins (Canto XI, 80) and thus appear in the second through seventh circles, on the outskirts of Hell. The lustful person accords his actions to his appetites and thereby neglects reason. This is a highly Aristotelian conception of vice: reason must always be appealed to and regulate the appetites. He writes, "he who pursues them [the pleasures concerned with those bodily indulgences] to excess and avoids excessive pains not from rational choice but in opposition to it and his thinking, is called incontinent " (1148a, Nicomachean Ethics).

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