THE MURDER OF THOMAS AQUINAS
What happened to Aquinas
In Chapter 7, the author tells the story of Countess Ceccano, focusing on her investigation of the death of her nephew (Thomas Aquinas). Although the author does not go in to detail about the life of Aquinas, he describes him as having been a philosopher and theologian, who effectively used the new translations of Aristotle in to Latin in order to create a naturalistic system of philosophy that owes much to Aristotle. In his work (Summa Theologica) Aquinas was able to combine philosophy and theology, initiating a tradition that grounded philosophical claims in rationally plausible arguments. Through this work therefore, Aquinas changed the face of medieval philosophy as well as the rationally based theology of Catholicism.
Although the church and many others attribute Aquinas death to the injuries he suffered following an accident on his way to the Council of Lyon (where he was to defend his position against his enemies) his aunt, Countess Ceccano remains skeptical and is convinced that he was killed by his enemies under the orders of Jacques de Molay of the Knights Templar. The very first theme that becomes evident is that of male chauvinism. In this society, it is evident that women are looked down upon as is the case with Countess Ceccano. Although she believes that Aquinas was murdered, all the men she interacts with do not appear to take her seriously as is the case with the two clerics at Cistercian and the Count, who is reluctant to agree with what she says. From the way they respond to her, it becomes clear that they would not have showed her any respect is she was not a powerful woman from a strong family. It is through her interaction with such individuals as the count and the Bishop that we learn some of the reasons she is of the belief that Aquinas was killed.
According to the Countess, Aquinas was not only an intelligent individual, but also a man of peace, who argued for a peaceful interaction with the Muslims in addition to being opposed to the crusade. Through his philosophy and works therefore, Aquinas presented a new way of approaching the issues of the time. However, this meant peaceful interactions, which would have interfered with the activities of the crusaders, shutting them down, and ultimately affecting their influence and profits they gained through conflicts. It therefore becomes clear that there is a group that is disinterested in peace (Particularly the Teutonic Knights), and hope to maintain conflicts in order to continue benefiting from it. In order to do this, the eliminate anyone who stands in their way, which can be said to also be the main reason Bishop Benedict is poisoned having accepted to investigate what really happened to Thomas. The Bishop's murder go to suggest that there is a group trying to conceal the truth about Aquinas, which further validates the Countess's claims that Aquinas was murdered.
With regards to natural law, Aquinas is of the opinion that through natural law, all humans could participate in God's eternal law. However, he notes that this law is common to all nations and peoples, which also hold that what is good, should be done and pursued while evil should be avoided. This therefore cuts through religion, and allows all people, from different religious beliefs to use the natural law as a guide on what is good/right and what is not. One of the most important passages in the chapter involves the Countess talking about how the philosophy of natural law (natural philosophy) put Aquinas' life in danger. Through his fictive passage, the reader learns about his philosophical position. The Countess notes that:
“But there were those who wanted to excommunicate Thomas for his writings. They
Thought he was too bold, too much intrigued with natural philosophy.”
In this scenario, she is talking to the Bishop about the main reason Aquinas was killed, noting that his philosophy would lead to peaceful resolution with the Muslims. Through the passage, the dialogue, being a fictive piece, allows the reader to understand Aquinas a little better, and understand his philosophical position. Having been opposed to crusades, which involved matching in to the City of Jerusalem in addition to other conflicts with the Moslems; Aquinas used Aristotle's philosophy to derive the natural law/natural philosophy that would apply to all religions, and maintaining peace in the process. This represents the indirect discourse approach, which dominates the overall story.
Through the fictive narrative, the author is well able to use indirect discourse to represent the claims by the Countess in addition to representing Aquinas philosophical position. While I agree with the Countess that Aquinas was killed for his philosophical position, having provided a number of valid points in addition to the death of the Bishop, there are some cons with Aquinas argument on natural law. According to Aquinas, the natural law applies to all religions, and can be used to determine right from wrong. While this may be true in some cases, the reality is that individual religions may have different views on what is right and what is wrong. While one thing may be right and acceptable in one religion (for instance, stoning adulterous women to death in some religion) this would not be acceptable in others. For this reason, this law may present some challenges as a law that can be agreed upon by diverse peoples. On the other hand, the law has a pro in the event that it is not used from a religious point of view. In this case, people from different backgrounds would have to agree on what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. This would lay the rules to be observed by all.
One of the most pressing issues in the society we live in today is that of peace. Conflict between nations people of given regions around the world have continually pushed world leaders to engage in talks aimed at bringing about long lasting peace. However, as a good number of skeptics and conspiracy theorists will often argue, there are leaders and powerful individuals who find these conflicts beneficial and would therefore do little to contribute to peace. This has therefore resulted in whistleblowers like Edward Snowden being victimized to the extent that they go in to hiding. Such commodities as oil have been shown to be the primary causes of such conflicts as those in Sudan and other parts of the Arab world. While some would love to see peace coming in such regions, many suspect that those who are in a position to benefit may stand in the way, and even threaten those who threaten their interests. While this yet to be proven, it is true that nations or countries (particularly developing and third world nations) with valuable commodities are the ones with the most conflict. As such conflicts intensify, a few individuals with power continue to benefit. In such cases therefore, peace would affect them negatively, and thus it would not really be welcomed. On the other hand, with religious conflicts in the world we live in today, it may be necessary to find laws that would apply to all equally regardless of their religious beliefs. This would help resolves various issues on a level platform. The story highlighted in the chapter therefore applies well to the world we live in today.