Richard Wu's Reviews > Dante: Monarchy

Dante by Dante Alighieri
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it was ok

On offer is a dearth of poetic and rhetorical value speckled with false etymologies, category errors, double standards, motivated reasoning, and misquotations aplenty. That aside, the Achilles heel of syllogistic reasoning is that any swarm of far-fetched premises may be deployed to force a logical conclusion; they need not correspond to the actual state of things—indeed they rarely are able—and where they do, their rhetorical power resides solely in the mind of the one making the argument, as opponents may ignore, dismiss, or censor even the most airtight of these syllogisms without giving them one molecule of oxygen (much to philosophers’ chagrin).

Since we’re here, we might as well ask the measure by which soundness is evaluated. De Monarchia nourishes its premises with verses from Scripture, thus introducing (at least) two further hidden assumptions: that Scripture is a valid basis for assessing statements, and more crucially that he who is interpreting Scripture can do a proper job of it. Hermeneutics being of course a far cry from mathematics, even those who grant the first of these will almost invariably dispute the second:
In reply to this, I accept the literal meaning of Matthew and their interpretation of it, but I reject what they try to infer from it. [p.75]
It devolves into a he-said-she-said. In fact, another axiom of Matthew’s, 26:52, is quite appropriate: “Live by the sword, die by the sword.” Dante who proposed trial by combat as a surefire method of determining the divine logic of Right has no problem embiggening the analogical scope of “combat” beyond duels between men and physical bouts writ large:
It therefore remains to argue the case only with those who, motivated by some zealous concern for Mother Church, are unaware of that truth which we seek; and so it is with them… that I engage in battle in this book in the cause of truth. [p.68]
So he should’ve been fine with his expulsion from Florence in the same way he would’ve had the Jews and Persians accede to their Roman subjugation, though none of these parties fought, legally or physically, “by free agreement of both sides… solely out of a passionate concern for justice”; some phantasy is required to contort these terms to the events concerned. Other propositions, a moment’s thought suffices to falsify:
And what can be brought about by a single agent is better done by a single agent than by more than one. [p.23]
Obviously not if more people can do it faster or better, but the real calamity is how no qualifiers are supplied; the statement stands absolute as an obelisk, ripe for jeers. On the other hand, to say that that which is best brought about by a single agent is better done by a single agent than by more would be correct—correct and tautological, and meaningless. But can a meaningful set of qualities possessed by the generality of events best manifested by singletons be produced? I challenge you thus.

As for monarchy, the myriad reasons why it should be a desirable form of governance have been so thoroughly invalidated by both theory and practice that those now hearkening for the return of history they’ve never lived belong wrapped more securely in straightjackets than the most psychotic of mental ward inpatients (who at least cannot be actively malicious). Sure, with a perfect king in a perfect kingdom in a perfect world, but Dante still pushing this tripe after Constantine’s donation dashed yet another of his ideals into pieces… Ne puero gladium:
[T]hose who have never studied philosophy acquire the habit of philosophical truth more easily and perfectly than those who have studied for a long time and become familiar with false notions. [p.23]
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Reading Progress

July 30, 2018 – Started Reading
July 31, 2018 – Finished Reading
August 1, 2018 – Shelved

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