The meaning of “Quantum Quia”

I take the opportunity of the 700th anniversary of Dante‘s death to explain the meaning of this blog’s name.

Illustration by Gustave Doré.

In Dante’s Purgatorio, Canto III, Virgil warns Dante about the limits of human intellect, which is able to understand and describe relations between events (the quia, Latin for “because/for”), but not the events’ “true reality”.

Fast forward to the 21st century, I believe that this viewpoint is close in spirit to the idea, which I’m very fond of at present, that the deepest laws of physics tell us more about our “learning mechanisms” than they do about “reality” (whatever that means).

Here is the excerpt from Dante’s Purgatorio, Canto III, verses 37-45:

“State contenti, umana gente, al quia,
che se possuto aveste vedere tutto
mestier non era parturir Maria;
e disiar vedeste sanza frutto
tai che sarebbe lor disio quetato,
ch’etternalmente è dato lor per lutto:
io dico d’Aristotile e di Plato
e di molt’altri”; e qui chinò la fronte,
e più non disse, e rimase turbato.

The same excerpt in English:

“Mortals, remain contented at the quia;
For if ye had been able to see all,
No need there were for Mary to give birth;
And ye have seen desiring without fruit,
Those whose desire would have been quieted,
Which evermore is given them for a grief.
I speak of Aristotle and of Plato,
And many others;” and here bowed his head,
And more he said not, and remained disturbed.