- Dante’s Hermeneutics of Salvation: Passages to Freedom in the “Divine Comedy” by Christine O’connell Baur (review)
- The Thomist: A Speculative Quarterly Review
- The Catholic University of America Press
- Volume 72, Number 4, October 2008
- pp. 684-688
- View Citation
- Additional Information
684 BOOK REVIEWS Thomists have too often neglected the supposit or individual subject as the third element, next to esse and essence. Particularly interesting is Guerard des Lauriers's argument that whatever belongs in God ad rationem vel subsistentis, vel essentiae, vel ipsius esse (ScG IV, cc. 11, 13) reflects itself in a participated way in the distinction between supposit, essence, and the act of being in created beings (308-15). I hope to have given the reader a glimpse of this complex but intriguing and engaging study which makes a forceful case for a return of a classical metaphysics within (French) Thomism. Father de Blignieres deserves our gratitude for recovering, through the lens of Fr. Guerard des Lauriers, an important part of twentieth-century Thomism. Equally impressive is his knowledge of a large number of contemporary Thomists (of which I have mentioned only a few) which enables him successfully to show the ability of Guerard des Lauriers's thought to integrate these newer perspectives. Theological-Philosophical Institute St. Willibrord Vogelenzang, The Netherlands J6RGEN VIJGEN Dante's Hermeneutics of Salvation: Passages to Freedom in the "Divine Comedy." By CHRISTINE O'CONNELL BAUR. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007. Pp. 327. $55.00 (cloth). ISBN 978-0-8020-9206-9. A decade ago, in Dante's InterpretiveJourney (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), William Franke observed, "Professional Dante criticism sometimes has a tendency to avoid or bracket the unanswerable, ultimate, philosophical, and theological questions that are nevertheless cause for perennial wonderment on the part of the readers of the poem.... That the project of the Commedia is to reveal theological truth may be said to be fairly widely accepted even among specialists.... Nevertheless, we as critics are content on the whole to leave Dante's theological affirmations opaque, treating them as natural enough for someone of Dante's time and temperament, but not seriously allowing that they could have any claim upon us in reading his poem today" (181-83). Franke is pointing to a paradox of contemporary Dante reception: the Comedy has ever more readers, ever fewer of whom are equipped to make any sense of, much less accept, the profound medieval and Catholic understanding of man and the world, and the claims to prophetic truth or revelation, that form the very motivation and substance of the poem. If we ignore all that-philosophy, theology, God, Catholic belief and morality, afterlife, providential view of history, salvation and damnation, the call to conversion-aren't we missing the whole point of the poem, its challenge to us? BOOK REVIEWS 685 Those who seek to engage the Comedy's challenge, its moral-existential claim on the reader, can either try to make Dante's philosophical-theological understanding live again and matter for the modern reader (including Catholics), or else they can attempt to translate that challenge into terms more familiar or palatable to our own time, in particular into the language of psychology or of movements in contemporary philosophy. In The Metaphysics ofDante's Comedy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), I pursued the first path; in Dante's Interpretive Journey, William Franke pursued the second. Franke read the Comedy through the lens of the existential-ontological hermeneutic philosophy of Heidegger and Gadamer, to see how the text and the philosophy could illuminate each other. A decade later, Christine Baur's book takes up precisely the same project. The essential principles, and the outlines of much of the analysis, were already laid out by Franke, a fact that Baur, despite her frequent citations from Franke, perhaps does not sufficiently acknowledge. Franke's book is philosophically more penetrating than Baur's, and it analyzes the hermeneutic philosophical method in relation to the Comedy with greater objectivity and critical sophistication. But Baur develops the outline of Franke's analysis in much greater (sometimes repetitive) detail, and extends it to passages and questions not treated by Franke. Her book is carefully structured, with an almost Scholastic articulation of argument, and her analysis is lucid, precise, exhaustive, and often strikingly perceptive. Baur begins by arguing "that Dante belongs to a hermeneutic tradition, extending (at least) from Augustine to Hans-Georg Gadamer" (16), for which the subject...