The Freedom to Choose.
One of the main overall intentions of Dante’s Comedy is to show the resulting rewards and punishments according to our exercise of our own Free Will. The concept of Freedom to Choose our actions is central to the whole cosmology of Dante and the Medieval Theology. We are born with certain individual inclinations, but how we relate to these impulses and choose to rationally manage them, is something we can choose – and better so through increased knowledge and education within the intellectual and spiritual domains. In many ways this is Dante’s explicit Project with the Comedy, to provide this education to better equip us how to exercise our Free Will more aligned with our higher aspirations, and also to help us towards the common goal – of Happiness.
In some ways the freedom to deliberate and choose an action might also be seen as what actually constitutes ourselves, that which deepest seen is our soul actively “being” something. And the claim in Dante is that this ability can be nuanced, grown, and guided towards a better understanding – as a crucial element of good life and in a wider sense good communities and cultures. This is in parts also largely motivated by his contemporary times and the fall and corruption of his home town Florence in the late 12 and early 13 hundreds. His efforts to mitigate this downfall is partly aimed at the culture itself, and partly indirectly through the individuals as building blocks of the culture.
The concept and inquiries into the nature of the Free Will is spread throughout the three Realms of the Comedy, but the insistence we meet on the Third Terrace of Mount Purgatory blinded by a thick, black cloud of smoke (symbolic of Wrath), is that the Freedom to Choose is a gift to be cherished and cultivated. And as this learning sinks into the Pilgrim, the black cloud is gradually becoming lighter with sun rays slowly penetrating through it. Without the Will, an Inferno or a Paradiso would not make sense or exist. They represent states of consequences, embedded in the fabric of reality, that we ourselves can freely choose between once we have gained a certain level of understanding of this fabric. And thus the motivation to climb and ascend, might grow even stronger.