De Monarchia By Dante Alighieri Book I Chapter XI: The World Is Best Ordered When In It Justice Is Preëminent.

BASSANO, Jacopo 
Adoration of the Shepherds 

And it came to pass, that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled. This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and family of David, To be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child. And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. Lk

The world is best ordered when in it Justice is preëminent.

1. Further, the world is disposed for the best when Justice reigns therein; wherefore, desiring to glorify that age which seemed to be dawning in his own day, Virgil sang in his Bucolics, “Now doth the Virgin return and the kingdoms of Saturn.”1 For they called Justice the Virgin, and called her also Astraea. The kingdoms of Saturn meant those happiest times which men named the Age of Gold. Justice is preëminent only under a Monarch; therefore, that the world may be disposed for the best, there is needed a Monarchy, or Empire.

2. To make the assumption plain, it must be understood that Justice, considered in itself and in its distinctive nature, is a certain directness or rule of action avoiding the oblique on either side, and refusing the comparison of more or less in degree, as whiteness considered in the abstract.2 Certain forms3 of this kind, though present in compounds, consist in themselves of simple and invariable essence, as the Master of the Six Principles4 rightly claims; yet such qualities admit the comparison of more or less in degree as regards the subjects5 in which they are mingled, when more or less of the qualities’ opposites are mixed therein. Therefore, when with Justice is intermixed a minimum of its opposite, both as to disposition and operation, there Justice reigns. Truly, then may be applied to her the words of the Philosopher: “Neither Hesperus, the star of evening, nor Lucifer, the star of morning, is so wonderfully fair.”6 Then, indeed, she is like to Phœbe beholding her brother across the circle of the heavens, from the purple of morn’s serene.7

3. Man’s disposition to Justice may meet opposition in the will;8 for when will is not wholly unstained by cupidity, even if Justice be present, she may not appear in the perfect splendor of her purity, having encountered a quality which resists her to some degree, be it never so little. So it is right to repulse those who attempt to impassion a judge. In its operation, man’s justice may meet opposition through want of power; for since Justice is a virtue involving other persons, how can one act according to its dictates without the power of allotting to each man what belongs to him?9 It is obvious from this that in proportion to the just man’s power will be the extent of his exercise of Justice.

4. From our exposition we may proceed to argue thus: Justice is most effective in the world when present in the most willing and powerful man; only a Monarch is such a man; therefore Justice subsisting in a sole Monarch is the most effective in the world. This prosyllogism runs through the second figure10 with intrinsic negation, and is like this: All B is A; only C is A; therefore only C is B. That is, All B is A; nothing except C is A; therefore nothing except C is B.

5. The former statement11 is apparent from the forerunning explanation; the latter, first, in regard to the will, second, in regard to the power, is unfolded thus. In regard to the will, it must first be noted that the worst enemy of Justice is cupidity, as Aristotle signifies in the fifth book to Nicomachus.12 When cupidity is removed altogether, nothing remains inimical to Justice; hence, fearful of the influence of cupidity which easily distorts men’s minds, the Philosopher grew to believe that whatever can be determined by law should in no wise be relegated to a judge.13 Cupidity is impossible when there is nothing to be desired, for passions cease to exist with the destruction of their objects. Since his jurisdiction is bounded only by the ocean,14 there is nothing for a Monarch to desire. This is not true of the other princes, whose realms terminate in those of others, as does the King of Castile’s in that of the King of Aragon. So we conclude that among mortals the purest subject for the indwelling of Justice is the Monarch.

6. Moreover, to the extent however small that cupidity clouds the mental attitude toward Justice, charity or right love clarifies and brightens it. In whomever, therefore, right love can be present to the highest degree, in him can Justice find the most effective place. Such is the Monarch, in whose person Justice is or may be most effective. That right love acts as we have said, may be shown in this way: avarice, scorning man’s competency,15 seeks things beyond him; but charity, scorning all else, seeks God and man, and therefore the good of man. And since to live in peace is chief of man’s blessings, as we said before, and since this is most fully and easily accomplished by Justice, charity will make Justice thrive greatly; with her strength will the other grow strong.16

7. That right love should indwell in the Monarch more than in all men beside reveals itself thus: Everything loved is the more loved the nearer it is to him who loves; men are nearer to the Monarch than to other princes; therefore they are or ought to be most loved by him.17 The first statement is obvious if we call to mind the nature of patients and agents; the second if we perceive that men approach other princes in their partial aspect, but a Monarch in their totality. And again, men approach other princes through the Monarch, and not conversely; and thus the guardianship of the world is primary and immediate with the Monarch, but with other princes it is mediate, deriving from the supreme care of the Monarch.

8. Moreover, the more universal a cause, the more does it possess the nature of a cause, for the lower cause is one merely by virtue of the higher, as is patent from the treatise on Causes.18 The more a cause is a cause, the more it loves its effect, for such love pursues its cause for its own sake. As we have said, other princes are causes merely by virtue of the Monarch; then among mortals he is the most universal cause of man’s well-being, and the good of man is loved by him above all others.19

9. Who doubts now that a Monarch is most powerfully equipped for the exercise of Justice?20 None save he who understands not the significance of the word, for a Monarch can have no enemies.

10. The assumed proposition21 being therefore sufficiently explained, the conclusion is certain that Monarchy is indispensable for the best ordering of the world.

[1. ]Ecl. 4. 6. Statius in his eulogy of Virgil, Purg. 22. 70, paraphrases this passage of the Fourth Eclogue: “The world renews itself; Justice returns, and the first age of man; and a new progeny descends from Heaven.” Use is made of the same in Letter 7. 1.

[2. ] One of the books of the Convito, which was never written, was to have been devoted to this “moral virtue.” Conv. 1. 12. 4: “Of this subject I shall treat fully in the fourteenth book.” So Dante affirms again, l. c. 4. 27. 5: “Justice will be treated of in the last book but one of this volume.” The word “justitia,” used in the De Mon. according to the definition here of “regula sive rectitudo,” is employed elsewhere by Dante with varying meanings, ranging even to a synonym of perfect goodness and God Himself.

Conv. 4. 17. 13: “The eleventh [moral virtue] is Justice, which disposes us to love and practice righteousness in all things.”

Inf. 29. 56: “Justice that cannot err” punishes those in hell. In Purg. 19. 77 the sufferings endured “both hope and justice make less hard.” Again in Purg. 16. 71, it is “Justice to have for good joy, and for evil woe.”

Par. 4. 67: “That our justice should appear unjust in the eyes of mortals is argument of faith and pertains not to heretic depravity.”

Par. 6. 103: “Let the Ghibellines . . . work their arts under another ensign, for he ever follows that amiss who separates justice and it.” L. c. 121: “The living justice makes our affection sweet within us, so that it can never be wrested to any unrighteousness.”

Par. 18. 115: “O sweet star, what manner and what number of what gems showed me that our justice is an effect of the heaven wherein thou art set.” In this same canto Dante sees the motto of the empire, 90 ff., “Diligite justitiam . . . qui judicatis terram,” in the words which open the Book of Wisdom. For Thomas Aquinas on Justice, see S. T. 2-2. 57. 1, 58. 1.

[3. ] Forms may be substantial or accidental; substantial, when they give things being or essence; accidental, when they give things qualities or attributes. Whiteness is an accidental form which is intrinsically absolute. More or less whiteness is only possible when some other accidental form is mixed with it. Cf. infra, par. 3.

[4. ] Gilbertus Porretanus was a scholastic logician, a theologian, and Bishop of Poitiers, a pupil of Bernard of Chartres and of Anselm of Laon. His chief logical work was De Sex Principiis, and it gave him the name by which Dante designates him. A criticism of the ten Aristotelian Categories, it drew a distinction between the first four (formae inhaerentes), substance, quality, quantity, and relation, and the other six (formae assistentes), and it became one of the most popular works in the schools.

[5. ] Dante uses “subject” to mean either an entity or an underlying element.

[6. ]Eth. 5. 1. 12.

[7. ] The sun and moon are again referred to in this way, Par. 29. 1: “When both the children of Latona, brooded over by the Ram and Scales, together make of the horizon a belt.”

[8. ]Par. 15. 1: Into “a benign will . . . is dissolved always the love which inspires righteously, as evil concupiscence is unto the unjust will.”

[9. ]Eth. 5. 1. 15, 17, 20.

[10. ]Analyt. Prior. 1. 5. The second figure is characterized by having the common term (A in this case) in the predicate, both in the major and minor premise, and by having one premise positive and one negative.

[11. ] That is, Justice is most powerful in the world when present in the most powerful and willing subject.

[12. ]Eth. 5. 2. 5.

Covetousness, cupidity, or avarice, the desire for other than that which is the intention of God, Dante makes the root of every wrong. Individual self-seeking destroys the form, or order, of the universe. It is related to the evil of multiplicity treated of in De Mon. 1. 15. Those guilty of avarice were punished in the fourth circle of Inferno, canto 7; Simoniacs in the eighth circle, Malebolge, canto 19; and usurers just above in the seventh circle, Inf. 17.

Inf. 12. 49: “O blind covetousness! O foolish wrath! that dost so spur us in our short life, and afterward in the life eternal dost in such evil wise steep us!” Purg. 19. 121; 22. 23, 34.

Purg. 20. 82: “O avarice, what canst thou do more with us, since thou hast so drawn my race to thee that it cares not for its own flesh!”

Par. 27. 121-124: “O covetousness, which dost so whelm mortals under thee that none has power to draw his eyes forth of thy waves! Well flowers in men their wills; but the rain unbroken turns to sloes the true plums.”

Par. 30. 138: Henry came before his time to Italy because “The blind covetousness which bewitches you has made you like the child who is dying of hunger and drives away his nurse.”

For further reference to cupidity, see note, Aquinas Ethicus, Vol. 2. p. 396. Rickaby.

[13. ]Rhetoric 1. 1. 7. Conv. 4. 4. 1: “The whole earth . . . should be under one prince, . . . possessing everything, and therefore incapable of further desire.”

[14. ]Aen. 1. 287: “Imperium Oceano, famam qui terminet astris.”

In the letter to Henry VII, Letter 5. 3, the idea is amplified: “The power of the Romans is limited neither by the confines of Italy, nor by the shores of three-horned Europe. For although through violence its dominions may have been narrowed on all sides, none the less, since it extends to the waves of Amphitrite by inviolable right, it barely deigns to be girded round about by the ineffectual billows of the ocean. For to us it was written: ‘Of illustrious origin shall Trojan Caesar be born: his empire shall end with the ocean, his fame with the stars.’ ”

[15. ] “Perseitate hominum.” Witte instances the same word, Ockham, Quatuor Libros Senten. 1. 2. 4: “Omnis propositio, in qua praedicatur passio de suo subiecto cum nomine perseitatis, esset falsa, quodest absurdum.” Ducange defines it thus: “Perseitas hominum = facultas per se subsistandi.”

[16. ]Purg. 15. 71: “In proportion as charity extends, increases upon it the eternal goodness.”

Par. 3. 43: “Our charity locks not its doors upon a just wish.” L. c. 70: “A virtue of charity sets at rest our will, which makes us wish that only which we have.”

[17. ]Conv. 1. 12. 2: “Proximity and goodness are the causes that engender love.”

Conv. 3. 10. 1: “The closer the thing desired comes to him who desires it, the greater the desire is.”

Purg. 27. 109: “And already, through the brightness before the light, which arises the more grateful to pilgrims, as on their return they lodge less far away.”

More, Utopia: “The king . . . should love his people, and be loved of them; . . . he should live among them, govern them gently.”

[18. ]De Causis, Lect. 1. This pseudo-Aristotelian treatise, probably of Arabic origin, was regarded with great reverence in the Middle Ages, and commentaries were written upon it by Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, and Aegidius Romanus. Prantl, Geschichte der Logik im Abendlande, Vol. 3. pp. 8-10.

[19. ]Conv. 4. 4. 3: “Before the coming of the aforesaid officer [the emperor] no one had at heart the good of all.” Cf. l. c. 4. 5. 3.

Utopia: “A prince ought to take more care of his people’s happiness than of his own, as a shepherd is to take more care of his flock than of himself.”

[20. ] In Par. 18 occurs what Butler calls the “apotheosis of the personified empire,” and there its relation to justice is made plain. See note 2 in the present chapter of De Mon.

[21. ] That “Justice is preëminent only under a Monarch.”