Friday, September 7, 2012

Playing Aquinas


I had forgotten that Aquinas had a Neapolitan connection, once having taught at the university here, until I stepped into a Dominican Church this morning and found a chapel dedicated to him.

I once 'played' him in a philosophy of religion lecture (for visiting American students) opposite a fellow student (to whom teaching had been farmed out). He 'played' Wittgenstein. We debated how language related to the world and as a saint I had the audience on my side both as they were good Catholic folk from Pennsylvania and because Aquinas has the more accessible argument!

It was an unfortunate piece of casting as I was as thin as a rake and St Thomas was notoriously fat (to the point of having tables adapted to accommodate his belly) nor was I then either a Catholic or a saint! I tried remedying the former, the latter is still a work in progress!

In this depiction (above) he looks rather fierce, bad tempered and probably in need of his lunch!

I wonder if there are still Thomists (or neo-Thomists) - I expect so such is the fertility of the saint's mind. He was certainly right on the corrosive power of usury to economic, social and moral bonds! He was deeply influential on my two principal philosophy teachers: from the first came qualified agreement and from the second abiding revolt (and both were Jesuits). I think, on the whole, I was closer to the second.

The programme of separating faith and reason ultimately diminished both. Religion became an affect of the soul, the world became separated and circumscribed by reason rather than the world being a meaningful living cosmos apprehended by intellectual vision that is, in its very nature, a religious world (rather than one created by a 'religious' being). The world was opened to a different kind of usage whose consequences gather pace (one that Aquinas himself would have deplored).

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