Virtues and Vices with Aristotle and Dante

Topics: Hell, Virtue, Heaven Pages: 2 (759 words) Published: August 6, 2013
Aristotle once wrote “The excess of virtue is a vice” and nothing illustrates this lesson quite as clearly as Dante’s Inferno, as he travels through the depths of hell and learns of the unfortunate souls who reside there - some of who knowingly committed the most heinous and crimes against humanity, but also those who simply took the virtues they were taught to live by to unreasonable lengths until they became their very undoing.

A section of hell has been reserved for those who were uncommitted in life, meaning that they never committed themselves to any cause, good or evil. These souls reside just outside the gates of hell, denied entry to both heaven and hell because they never made a choice between the two. “This miserable mode / Maintain the melancholy souls of those / Who lived withouten infamy or praise.../ The heavens expelled them, not to be less fair / Nor them the nethermore abyss receives / For glory none the damned would have from them” (Dante 15. 34-36, 40-42). Because they never bled for a cause during their lifetime, they are fated to bleed now. Wasps and flies sting them as they stumble in the darkness and worms feed and fester in their open wounds. Yes, they might followed all of the rules in life. Yes, they might have been decent enough people in the greater sense but, when it came down to it, they never made a conscious moral decision.

Some say that those who see evil being done, but do nothing to stop it are just as evil as those actually committing the sin in the first place and I believe that Dante would agree. An extreme, real-world case would be the murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964, who was raped and killed in full view of a New York City apartment, of which the residents failed to do anything to help her. None of those neighbors raped her or physically killed her. They technically didn’t break any law or rule. But their complete diffusion of responsibility, their complete ignorance of evil, is arguably just as despicable....
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