Dante’s Inferno Punishment


Evil accompanies human life and shortens it in case people choose a vicious way of behavior. Many prominent artists tried to conceptualize the vices and warn the humankind about crucial mistakes. Dante was one of the first thinkers who considered the whole variety of vices and created the system of correlation between them and the God’s punishment. Even though he attempted to generalize all manifestations of unworthy activities, he did not mention particular cases of acting immoral, which are also significant. In particular, student’s dishonesty in the form of cheating on an exam is an instance of idleness and those who commit it should be punished in line with the concept of the Inferno similarly to heretics as evil doers by coercion to the Sisyphean labor.

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I consider cheating on an exam to be a particular case of idleness, as well as spiritual apathy and egoism that encourages an individual to commit unworthy actions with minimum efforts for the sake of the personal profit. It means that people who make up their minds to cheat support their egoism and do not want to improve their personality, hence standing on the position that it is wiser to choose the simplest way to reach the goal. Egoism and idleness as an opposition to the Christian values of altruism, love, and hard work could thus be a part of the vices pyramid according to Dante. Vices exist in the Inferno. Therefore, all students who decide to cheat may have to consider the possibility of going to hell after death due to the immoral behavior and disrespectful attitude towards others, in particular, their tutors.

Cheating on an exam presupposes idleness and unwillingness to learn the material to be able to complete it independently. In a more general sense, it means the readiness to lie and betray moral principles of the academic community for the sake of the own interests, which do not comply with such an aim as self-improvement of an individual. In addition to that, cheating as a particular case of idleness presupposes confidence of students that there is no universal moral rule, no ultimate value, and no guiding ethical principles that every person has to follow in accordance with the inner consciousness. Thus, they do not have any criteria to evaluate their actions and lack understanding of the necessity to strive for the morality. Moreover, such students support lies as a legitimate method of reaching goals.

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As a particular case of lying and idleness, cheating on an exam may be located in the beginning of the Inferno next to the heretics as evil doers. Cheating as a sin has to lead to a particular punishment. Since such location is not in the very depths of the hell, the concept of contrapasso suits the definition of the measure of punishment. It means that the penalty has to be adequate with respect to the essence of the performed sin. By relying on the concept of contrapasso, justice exists in the hell because the principle of the adequacy of the punishment presupposes application of the vice to the sinner so that the former could experience the harm of such behavior by himself/herself. Dante suggests the following punishment for those who were not able to cope with their anger and laziness: “They smote each other not alone with hands/ But with the head and with the breast and feet/Tearing each other piecemeal with their teeth” (11). It means that the author chooses cruel punishment for this kind of vice. Taking this into account, it is possible to presuppose the punishment that has to be introduced for the academic dishonesty.

Students who resort to cheating on exams will suffer from the inability to achieve good results, as well as facing the necessity to strive for them with the help of honest means, but inability to use them. Moreover, those who control evil doers will be aggressive and cruel in relation to them. The type of punishment expressed above needs further explanation.


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Those students who resort to cheating will never be able to achieve anything in life with the help of worthy means. In particular, they will suffer from hopelessness due to the fact that the Inferno’s guards will make them cheat, punish for cheating, and force to start the work over again so as to make their efforts meaningless, eternal, and painful. The pain occurs due to the psychological despair because of the Sisyphean labor that presupposes an eternal struggle for success with the defined defeat at the very beginning of the way. It means that the punishment has to consist in an absurd demand to act and eternal external barriers and cruel penalties that make it impossible to reach the final goal. This circle of suffering becomes unbreakable and the person can realize the sinfulness of lying and become its victim by himself/herself. In addition to that, the physical pain has to occur because of the sophisticated and cruel punishment of students who have to eternally suffer from consequences of their egoistic and immoral action, which they consider to be an appropriate way of human behavior and attitude towards other people.

To sum up, academic dishonesty may take place in Dante’s Inferno as an embodiment of the vice relating to laziness and egoism that bring about confidence in the moral permissibility to resort to unworthy means in order to accomplish personal goals. In particular, cheating on an exam is a type of such behavior. Punishment for it has to be rough and uncompromising: such people have to suffer from an eternal constraint of being engaged in the Sisyphean labor via cheating, which is at the same time a cause to punish them. Therefore, such punishment implements Dante’s concept of contrapasso as an adequate measure of punishment that has to correspond to the sin and its severity.


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