Tommaso d'Aquino (1975) - full transcript


St. Thomas was born in that castle;

some say. Others say that he was born in Aquin.

However, they all agree that St. Thomas

is the greatest philosopher of Christendom.

I can't bear these historical trips.

Well, it's nice to see places, no?


Now, this is what is left of the castle of the Aquins.

It's not much, but not nothing.

Thomas was born here in 1225.

Well said: it's not much, but not nothing.

Let's say: what is left?

What is left of that huge phenomenon

that nobody would deny?

What is left of Thomism in today's intellectual world?


The idea of relying on reason to discover and ascertain truth.

Trust in reason, but not rationalism,

Using reason to climb from nature to God,

was for Thomas a demand of his faith,

which was candid and daring.

St. Thomas's originality lies in engendering

from his faith in the gospel

a courageous search of its rational foundations.

Is that little for you?

Consider that we are in the XIII century.

Trust in reason would be enough to make him a contemporary of ours.

You wouldn't say, I hope, we're in an age satisfied with reason?

Here, with his family,

with his father Landolph and mother Theodora,

Thomas spent his childhood years.

The Aquins had close ties with Emperor Frederick II himself.

But it was his mother who was in charge:

a driven woman, driven and ambitious.

Between 5 and 6, Thomas left from the ancient feudal castle

to Montecassino Abbey,

to study first under the supervision of the Abbot, a distant relative.

It's likely that the parents wished to enjoy the income from the abbey,

which was considerable.

From Montecassino, because of his propensity towards study,

Thomas was sent after a few years to the University of Naples,

to carry out, say, classical studies.

In Naples the great change occurred, his maturity, and choice.

Thomas doesn't take the Benedictine habit, as his family had intended,

but the white and black habit of the new Dominican Order,

which, as the Franciscan, attracted especially the young of those times,

fascinating them with its ideals of poverty

and its strong program of preaching the gospel to the Christian people.

I, Friar Thomas of Lentini, prior of this convent,

cloth you with the white Dominican habit

and give you the name of Friar Thomas Aquinas

I renounce to honors,

to riches,

to comfort,

to the power of my house.

I promise to be poor among the poor,

to bring the gospel wherever I am commanded,

with word, with study,

to enlighten and sanctify those who thirst for truth,

in the name of God, our Lord. Amen.

We can't ignore this place, because Thomas was imprisoned here

to pay for his disobedience in taking the Dominican habit.

Thomas is 19 years old, as he runs away to Paris

with his black and white habit,

in the company of his teacher John the Teutonic

and of 3 other comrades ordained with him.

His brothers and his mother Theodora, who have vainly sought him in Naples

and pursued till Rome with no success,

catches him near Bolsena.

There is some scuffle:

one brother tries to tear his habit, Thomas defends it,

but he cannot help to be lead back home as a prisoner.

They shut him up on this tower to come to his senses.

Why, my son, are you causing us such pain?

You cannot forget our affection.

You have always been so wise, don't be blind now.

You want to leave the Benedictines

for the Dominicans

and don't care for the great harm your are causing to our whole family?

It's an about-turn unworthy of you!

You had promised!

When you'd be of age, you'd become the Abbot of Montecassino,

an abbey that has jurisdiction over 7 dioceses, has weapons, a fortress, when needed!

Also Frederick, our emperor, was relying much

on the friendship ties between our house and Montecassino.

With your behavior you offend your family, the abbey, and even the Emperor!

I entered Montecassino as a child,

as you liked,

you, my mother, and our father.

I entered to study and was only a guest, a young student.

I didn't have a vocation.

Why are you accusing me of unfaithfulness?

No unfaithfulness at all!

Listen, my son.

We are here to talk with an open heart,

as in the intimacy of a family.

Let us share then our pains.

What has bewitched you and made you to flee?

Did you or didn't you flee without telling us? You can't deny this.

You fled to follow this new Dominican Order, with neither past nor credit.

A mendicant order!

A bunch of beggars living out of alms!

They don't even have the right to own a mount!

You, a son of the Aquins,

our brother.



my beloved brothers,

I must talk to you about vocation,

about a deep inner conviction.

I felt it by myself.

Nobody, believe me, has either bewitched or forced me.

We'd like to be convinced, not to be lead to punish you.

You speak of begging, mother.

I chose to be begging

and a job not in the fields, like the Benedictines'.

Another monastic form made of poverty and study.

Mine was not an escape.

I was following my path to Paris.

- Paris?
- Yes, Paris.

A path that may lead me with others, many young people,

towards a new way of thinking, reasoning, and spreading religion.

I want to bring the Good News and preach

especially among city people, the most lost of all.

I want to take part with my whole self in this new kind of evangelization

that the Franciscans and Dominicans have started.

I beg you to believe me: my choice is made.

I beg you to leave me free to follow my brothers.

You won't move!

You'll stay here

to reflect.

Thomas, we can't understand you.

It's useless.

He'll turn to his senses.

You'll see.

Let's go.

Bu he wouldn't bend.

Neither crying nor sweet words availed.

They try to conquer him with hunger: no result.

Then the brothers think of a persuasive method.

They bring from Naples a beautiful young woman.

Actually tradition may say so, but there are no documents.

A beautiful woman!

They cleverly teach her and introduce her into the tower.

She's scantily dressed.

Thomas is a healthy lad, just over twenty.

But he resists.

Thomas takes a piece of wood from the fire and draws a cross on the wall.

Thus his relation with women ends for ever,

which, moreover, is always a great waste of time.

While he had to concentrate only on his study.

Lucky him, but he was a saint!

These are the true facts, gentlemen!

Then he escapes from the tower with a rope, in a basket,

- helped ...
- Helped by whom?

Who knows? Here I too recognize uncertainty.

It is certain that he reached his companions to go to Paris.

Almost a whole year had passed.

These woods and bushes, which were almost wild at that time,

saw the hunts of Emperor Frederick II,

who here enjoyed his favorite pastime,

when he would leave the court of Palermo

and come to these territories.

It seems certain that Rainald Aquin, Thomas's brother, was Frederick II's favorite falconer.

Frederick II had transformed hawking into a true science,

almost a sort of philosophy.

He even composed a true-name treatise,

profiting from some notions taken from the great Aristotle's De animalibus.

The name of the treatise was The Art of Hunting with Birds".

Many Arabs were guests in Frederick II's court in Palermo.

Philosophers, men of letters, and poets.

During more than a 1000 years, the texts of Aristotle's philosophy were as if lost.

They had been changed by translators, annotators, and manualists.

At that time there was a desire, almost a frenzy,

to discover what Aristotle had really said

through the commentary of the Arabs.

To tell you the truth: an intoxication of Aristotelism and sciences.

Aristotle also as a hunting guide!

No doubt that also through the commentary of the Arabs another Aristotle was found

and some were afraid.

Think that Aristotelian philosophy had been prohibited

by the Bishop of Paris as a source of heresy,

but after only 20 years the ban had been revoked in practice.

Even when the ban was in force

the Dominican teachers would equally and bravely teach

Aristotle at the University of Toulouse.

Cultural autonomy or, if you wish, disobedience is not typical of today only.

On the contrary.

At that exact time, Thomas arrives in Paris:

he is twenty.

# You were so beautiful, #

# but now you smile no more. #

# So much love, my dear, #

# but you threw it away, #

# and it was your fault. #

# I'll write on the walls #

# your name, my dear. #

# I'll slowly put#

# my mouth on yours. #

# I'll sweetly sing for you, #

# for you. #

# Sleep, my sweet love, #

# sleep, your beautiful body #

# dreams of caresses it can no longer have. #

# Sleep, my sweet love, #

# dream your white dress #

# of when you'll get married. From the veil you'll give your hand. #

# You were beautiful, I know, #

# but now you wake up no more. #

# I'll throw along the river #

# all the flowers that you love. #

# And again I'll sing for you, #

# for you... #

# Sleep, my sweet love, #

# sleep, your beautiful body #

# dreams of caresses it can no longer have. #

# Sleep, my sweet love, #

# dream your white dress #

# of when you'll get married. From the veil you'll give #

We don't know with what heart, with what thoughts,

Thomas reacts to being in such a lively city

as was the Paris of the students in those years.

The chronicles describe this as it was fit for the time to write about a saint.

But how was Thomas really?

How can we picture him,

reconstruct his character?

What a strange handwriting!

It looks like block letters.

How could they understand it?

His intelligence appears exceptionally original.

It is a expert opinion in handwriting by one who didn't know he was dealing with Thomas's handwriting.

Although his handwriting is almost in block letters,

it is very spontaneous.

He could have been a musical composer,

a classical one, like Bach, for example.

Notice the steadiness and confidence of the handwriting,

with neither stubbornness nor uncertainty.

It's a character that, when resolved, doesn't pull back

and overcomes any obstacle not to be distracted from its goal.

He, the so called Angelic Doctor,

who has been presented in easily edifying biographical works

as peaceful, serene, and calm as a child,

from his handwriting appears as a strongly sensual character.

Hence he had to master himself, i>

to fight like few to make angelic what was strongly passionate.

When Thomas arrived in Paris,

students' life was concentrated in the Latin Quarter.

Unlike Bologna, which is a university, that is an association, of students,

Paris was a university of teachers,

and excelled as a theology school.

Theology: the science about God.

There were other faculties for sure,

the most famous was that of arts.

Then the faculty of canon law, the faculty of medicine...

In the faculty of theologies, of the 12 teacher positions,

6 were reserved to the seculars and 6 to the regulars.

That is 3 to the cathedral canons, 2 to the Dominicans

and one to the Franciscans.

But the Franciscans aimed at a second.

However, the seculars were opposed to this because they'd be in a minority.

The seculars were not laymen:

they were churchmen too,

but secular because they lived in the world,

unlike the regulars,

who were subject to the rules of a religious order.

Logic was the most important study subject

and left its mark not only on theology and philosophy,

but on the other disciplines as well.

It was necessary to give an objective form to studying.

Academic dispute, syllogisms,

ordered presentation of arguments pro and con some recurring propositions,

made the logical and mental habit of that time.

Because only the intellect was included.

What else could have been included?

If they wanted to discuss about truth, there was no other way of reasoning.

I understand it's hard to talk about it after centuries,

but what if we tried to reconstruct,

to recover the mentality of that time,

the reason of those disputes?

It's not easy!

I'd say it's impossible.

No, it is possible to reenact the terms of those disputes,

of those sessions that would last for days.

I'd say that we should try to repropose their meaning in modern terms.

At least the essence of those debates.

We are gathered

to continue in the development

of our theses.


we should specify

in what the teacher's

intellectual freedom consists.

John d'Amiens

would like


to clarify the thesis.

I say: let him speak.

The teacher's freedom depends much, in my opinion,

on what concept of truth we have.

If truth is something to be discovered through research of reason,

then research must be free

and with no impediment.

But if truth means

something that is revealed to us from above, then

truth is no longer to be discovered,

but only illustrated and developed.

You are denying the light of faith, the only leading to truth!



Freedom of research, Master John, and why not?

Nobody denies it, has ever denied it or will stop it.

As long as it is not freedom to say what one thinks,

without thinking what one says.


is there any doubt that our first guide,

our first instrument of investigation,

must be reason?

Friar Bonaventure of Bagnoreggio wishes to speak.

Let him speak!

Reason, I agree,

but enlightened by faith.

What can reason alone tell us about revealed truths?

It would be a reason trusting only in itself.

With what authority does reason endow itself with this total trust?

Using only reason would mean

to raise it as sovereign even against God.

Whoever denies reason, denies God that created it!

Without knowing, you deny God!

Tolerance! Tolerance!

We are still at the premises,

at the general questions,

and it's already a war!

Thomas Aquin, disciple of Albert the German, wishes to speak.

I much appreciate the zeal to clarify first some premises.

Because, without an agreement on them,

we won't be have a useful discussion later.

But while looking for an agreement on certain foundations,

I wouldn't like us to be deceived.

We must first realize how important is

to use our reason correctly

in considering revelation itself.

I'll bring you an example.

We teachers

are busy in the study of truth as it is revealed in the Bible.



However, since the dispute,

as well as any other research,

is free, open to all...

- And this in authentic sign of effective freedom, Master John! -

them, if we debate with the Jews,

the authority to be relied on

should be exclusively that of the Old Testament,

which the Jews accept.

But if also the Manicheans participate to the dispute,

who instead refuse the authority of the Old Testament

and recognize only that of the New,

then we should limit us to bring the authority of the New Testament.

What if you disputed with me, then?

I am Greek.

I accept both the Old and the New Testament.

What do you want then?

I don't accept the doctrine of the Latin annotators.

I only recognize the Greek.

It means that, when disputing with you,

I should rely exclusively on the doctrine of the Greek doctors,

whose authority you recognize.

What if you disputed with me, Friar Thomas?

I am Arab.

I refuse, reject the authority both of the Old and of the New Testament.

And even more so, I ascribe no authority to the thinking

both of the Greek and of the Latin fathers.

The greatest point of reference of our studies

is the commentary to Aristotle's works

by a philosopher yet unknown to you:


As for Averroes, we'll work on knowing him as soon as possible.

Besides, you are in the same conditions as those who are hostile.


of those who refuse any revealed truth.

Well you too have the right to an open and rigorous debate,

that may lead to the truth.

But to reach there,

when we dispute with you and with all those in your same conditions,

we must use exclusively the arguments of pure, natural reason,

in which all

- All! -

can understand and find.

Are you willing to do it, Friar Thomas?

I am ready to face the debate

using only pure reason.


You'll lose yourself, Friar Thomas,

and the enemies of the faith will overcome you with their sophisms.

Don't pour water into the wine of the Gospel.

It is a risk, if risk, that we must take,

since we have accepted to teach in a free school,

as this University of Paris is.

On the other hand, dear Friar Bonaventure,

it's not about pouring water into the wine of the Gospel.

Rather of changing the water into wine,

as the Lord did at the weddings of Cana,

to lead us to the understanding of the truth.

But which truth?


Truth is not ours or yours,

as it isn't not Greek or Arab!

If we reach the conclusion by using reason,

it will always be a conclusion accepted by all,

because we have used pure natural reason.

That is, we have used the method of Aristotelian logic.

That's exactly the formulation the secular teachers want to impose us!

I know,

but that's no valid reason to oppose it.

I propose a just and rational method

which may be accepted by all.


But which teachers will moderate the debate?

The seculars o the regulars, that is the mendicants?

You, Friar Thomas, seems to me to be animated with good intentions,

But will you of the mendicant orders,

subject to the discipline of the rule,

or we secular teachers,

who must not give an account of any rule,

any superior, any master?

I agree with you only if we will

manage the teaching.

But also you must yet answer to the Chancellor of the Bishop of Paris.

Truth reached trough reason

has neither superiors nor masters.

Truth is absolute master of itself,

and it's free

if reached by free operation.

Thus, against the tendency of XIII century Augustinians

to despise the inborn capabilities of human reason,

St. Thomas declared the capability of reason

to act as a genuine and sufficient cause of true knowledge,

within the limits of natural order.

Thomas, as a man and scholar of his time,

as a teacher open to every new course of thinking,

seems to me more important than Thomism itself,

intended as an immutable doctrine

and a resolver of any uneasiness of thinking.

We agree on this.

But for the rest...

For example, Aristotle's science, on which Thomas relies,

is remote from modern science.

But at that time it was...

it was really a great turn.

We live in a culture full of science and technology.

But XIII century men had made nature a sacred thing.

Since they had no means to dominate it, they feared it;

and, ignoring the causes,

they resorted to the supernatural and legendary.

Bringing into this world the need of a rational analysis of reality

was not a little thing.

We propose the following question:

Was the tunic worn by Jesus on Golgotha

valuable or not?

Let William of Saint-Amour speak.

Doubtless most valuable,

for it was the tunic of a God.

It must have been gold-embroidered,

a royal tunic:

King of the Jews

was written also on the cross.

Why, no!

For me it was of humble material,

similar to the Franciscan habit.

It was also the symbol of the poverty of a God

who accepts death to redeem mankind.

I fully agree with Friar Bonaventure.

Moreover, I argue that if Jesus's tunic had been valuable,

they would not have made him wear mockingly

in the Praetorium another tunic,

which was indeed of gold.

But he was a king,

the King of the Jews!

The Roman soldiers played dice over it.

It must have been valuable.

It was a tunic sewn by his mother, Mary.

A mother's labor of love.

With no value for the world,

without gold,

without precious ornaments.

I wouldn't trust the unit with which you mendicants measure poverty.

You're no true example of that.

Rather I accuse you of dressing perhaps like the poor,

but of securing riches and money by any means

for your works of power!


Our convents are the only refuge for the poor of the cities.

William of Saint-Amour is right!



Thomas's working years in Paris matured his thinking,

gave him fame,

but procured him also hostility,

in a place where the opposition of the secular teachers

was stronger and stronger.

From the Franciscan and Dominican new way of living and teaching,

they saw part of their influence on university culture taken away,

of which, till recently, they had the monopoly.

The Dominicans and even more the Franciscans,

not content with teaching in their schools,

have come here, in the university,

and the doors have been flung wide to them!

They had the right!

Against the nine posts occupied by you seculars,

only two posts went to the Dominicans

and one to the Franciscans!

There were terms to be satisfied!

Terms of knowledge and age!

Thomas the Dominican had maybe knowledge,

but not age.

Yet he was admitted to teaching when 31 years,

instead of 35, as prescribed.

And Bonaventure the Franciscan...

But he is of great renown!

I cannot deny his age, but I deny his knowledge!

Yet also he entered the faculty of theology as teacher.

And from one, the chairs reserved to them have become 3!

From the point of law, this has been and continues to be an abuse!

An abuse from Rome, who protects the mendicant orders,

and from the Bishop of Paris, who slavishly obeys to Rome!

I am the chancellor.

And of this I personally answer to the Bishop of Paris.

I beg your pardon.

My temperament betrayed me.


Your temperament...

However, we have now a new weapon,

which will allow us to get rid

of the Franciscans and the Dominicans on doctrine grounds.

I found at least 31 errors in this book written by a Franciscan.

An Introduction to the Eternal Gospel by Gerard of Borgo San Donnino.

Until now they only talked,

they kindled the students' spirits,

but we had nothing to use against them.

Now we have a written text.

And, with your permission,

I'll report him to the Pope!

I, Gerard of Borgo San Donnino,

come among you to announce the last word

by a Calabrese abbot:

Joachim of Fiore.

The Eternal Gospel

is the announcement of peace and true love.

In his 3 books of The Eternal Gospel

Joachim of Fiore brings the news of a third kingdom,

which will be what we are all waiting for,

the kingdom of love.

There was a first era, or a first period,

that of the Father, which is the Kingdom of Creation.

Then, in the fulness of times, as the Apostle Paul marvelously puts it,

came the Kingdom of Redemption,

which open to man the ways of salvation.

But it is still to come

- and I repeat it with the words of Joachim of Fiore -

the Kingdom of the Holy Ghost has still to begin,

which is love.

It will be the kingdom of peace

and of love.

Let's wait for it!

Let's find its signs!

But we must not only know how to interpret its meaning,

we must prepare that kingdom!

Why reporting him to the Pope?

In the Third Kingdom,

foretold by Joachim of Fiore

and preached by Gerard of Borgo San Donnino,

it is announced an age when the Church hierarchy

(pope, cardinals, bishops) and every visible sign

will be outdone,

they will no longer exist.

Here! What absurd fantasies do the mendicants preach!


And false as their poverty.

They walk the streets as poor,

they don't ride horses because it would be against poverty.

But what's really their condition?

Where is their exalted poverty?

Maybe in their convents?

Or in their schools?

But aren't they already filled with riches and comforts,

while calling themselves beggars?

I'll report them to the Pope!

I wrote it all down.

And many have read my book.

They are the dangers of the last times!

In that circumstance,

Thomas strenuously defended the rights of the Dominicans

and Friar Bonaventure did his part in defense of the Franciscans

How did they defend themselves?

By throwing overboard good Gerard da San Donnino,

who deserved a better treatment,

and having Joachim of Fiore's Eternal Gospel condemned.

Yes, Thomas maintained that the time of revelation

was over with the redemption,

that is with the Kingdom of the Son (of Jesus Christ).

In other words, there's nothing more to add to the New Testament.

Thomas was recalled to Italy expressly to enlighten the Curia

about the scandal unleashed through William of Saint-Amour's pamphlet.

Some affirm he was present at Anagni,

personal counselor of the Pope,

when Alexander IV,

by the advice of commission of theologians,

condemned William of Saint-Amour's pamphlet,

ordered its destruction

and decreed William's expulsion from the faculty of theology.

That unleashed an uprising among the students and the secular teachers,

who instead sided with the expellee.

In Italy Thomas was...

in Viterbo

at the Studium Curiae,

then in Orvieto, then again in Viterbo

and more permanently in Rome, at St. Sabina Convent.

Thomas returned to Paris after almost 10 years,

approximately in 1269,

as a recognized theologian of great authority

within his order and in the Church.

His enlightening opinions are requested from many places.

To Friar Bassian, a Venetian lector,

who asks me for an answer over 36 articles about most diverse questions,


Having read your letter,

I found within a great numbers of questions

to which you ask me to reply

in 4 days.

To the Countess of Brabant,

who asks me for the solution of some cases regarding the taxation of Jews:

I received Your Excellency's letters

and fully understood the care you have concerning the rule of your subjects

and the love you have towards our Order,

praising God who has breathed into your heart the seeds of such virtues.

Back to Father General John of Vercelli:

Ma from the beginning I declare

that many of those articles do not belong to the doctrine of faith,

rather to that of the philosophers.

But it is very dangerous

that things not belonging to the religious sphere

are affirmed or denied as if they belonged.

To the King of Cyprus, Hugo II.

It seemed to me appropriate I should write for you a book on kingship,

in which I should carefully expound the origin of government and the office of a king,

according to the authority of Holy Writ

and the teachings of the philosophers

as well as the practice of worthy princes.

Back to Father General, John of Vercelli:

Hence it seems to me

that what the philosophers generally opined

and that does not oppose our faith,

are neither to be affirmed as dogma of faith,

nor to be denied as contrary to the faith,

not to give an opportunity to the wise of this world

to despise the doctrine of faith.

Meanwhile in Paris theological wrestling had resumed with no holds barred.

Averroes, Aristotle's Arab annotator,

was the fashionable author,

the idol of young students.

And a teacher of the faculty of arts,

Siger of Brabant,

became his champion,

dragging with him several colleagues and many disciples

ready to fight for their new idol.


Aristotle wrote On the Heavens,

but till now we only read and knew only some parts.

Now, with the translation and complete commentary of the great Averroes,

we can affirm and conclude

that matter is eternal.

It is not a perishable substance,

destined to be consumed

and to disintegrate.

We affirm this first newest point:

the eternity of matter.

But Averroes says more:

our actions are influenced by the celestial bodies,

by the stars in heaven in general.

But there are some action that, in some cases,

are not only influenced,

but are determined: this is new!

If we are ruled by the stars, what is left of morality?

What merit do we have in choosing good?

What guilt do we have in doing evil?

What is left of freedom then?

Which side are you on?

I believe in freedom.

What are you doing?

Is this the way to debate?

Master Siger,

we only say what we think.

So you want to blunt those good arguments

against those accusing us to impose them with violence and fraud?

Many of us teachers of art

feel attracted not only to Aristotle,

but to Averroes's commentary.

But I tell you

that, by blindly following Averroes's teaching,

you come to conclude coherently that the soul is not immortal.

If we said this prematurely,

we could forbidden to teach by the Bishop of Paris.

And it would be a damage for truth.

We must instead study seriously

and come to conclusions only with irrefutable reasoning.

Sure, while the others impose their doctrine on all Paris!

Just for this we must go deeper before exposing ourselves.

Because our adversaries' camp is fierce.

Thomas is come from Italy

with a lot of texts by Aristotle

directly translated from Greek.

Some particularly prepared disciple or monk

must have translated them for him,

because Thomas does not know Greek.

I have also evidence

that at the Dominican Study

there is already an Arabic language course,

to allow the Order of Preachers

to control directly

Averroes's commentary of Aristotle.

How could we go unprepared to the debate

with such adversaries?

I pray you to continue thus:

I someone wants to reply something against the policy of our Study,

let him do it in full freedom of doctrine,

but let him not go blabbering in stables,

before young students,

who do not know what to reply.

But let him propose publicly

and in writing what he has to say.

Continuing with you, my trusty Reginald,

the letter to Father General.

There is a great turmoil in Paris.

Our Order must defend truth from many fronts.

But Providence willed to provide me with an unexpected tool.

During my stay in Orvieto,

had the chance of meeting my Flemish brother William of Moerbeke,

who had long sojourned in Greece

and perfectly knew the Aristotelian texts.

Having become friend with my brother of Moerbeke,

I warmly encouraged him...

to translate...

immediately and with utmost exactitude...

the Aristotelian texts,

beginning from those...

that hare most hotly debated...

by our detractors.

As for learning Arabic,

it already allows us...

to understand exactly...

some controversial passages of Averroes.

En continuing...

my pamphlet...

On the Uniqueness of Intellect...

against the Averroists,

thus I say and you write:

If someone...

wishes to say anything in reply...

to what we have written,

let him write, if he dares,

directly the opposite.

He will find that...

not only I,

who am the least of men,

but many others zealous for the truth,


to document our conclusions.

He has too much sanguine humor.

After this bleeding he'll feel better.

Do not doubt!

As for me,

I shall wait for my gainsayers..

with absolute firmness.

No, rather write:

...for my gainsayers with humility,

with patience,

and with utmost understanding,

But with absolute firmness

as far as truth is concerned.


# He drinks, she drinks, the soldier and the maiden. #

# What a great party! #

# The friar drinks with the maid, long thighs and nice skirt. #

# You drink with your sister, drink, drink from the bottle. #

# Drink, drink from the bottle. #

# He drinks red wine, good wine. #

# What a great party! #

# The saint drinks with the devil, he drinks in the madhouse. #

# You drink with your sisters, drink, drink till you burst. #

# Drink, drink till you burst. #

# Tom drinks, Dick drinks, the innkeeper drinks with the baker. #

# What a great party! #

# As a thief in the night, he steals the wine from the barrel. #

# A few quarts of good wine are worth more of a ruby. #

# A few quarts of good wine. #

# He drinks, she drinks, the soldier and the maiden. #

# What a great party! #

# The friar drinks with the maid, long thighs and nice skirt. #

# You drink with your sister, drink, drink from the bottle. #

# Drink, drink from the bottle. #

# Tom drinks, Dick drinks, the innkeeper drinks with the baker. #

# What a great party! #

# As a thief in the night, he steals the wine from the barrel. #

# As a thief in the night, he steals the wine from the barrel. #

# A few quarts of good wine. #

Do you learn these nursery rhymes in college?

There they debate whether the world will ever end.

What do you say?

Well! I know we all have to die. I'm certain of this.

But will the world end, yes or no?

It'll have a longer life than ours.


Then, over the centuries, it will wear out little by little.

and finally it will die.

It will break up like a stone

or as a crust of bread.

We'll take you to the university to debate with the Averroists.

With whom?


Don't be afraid!

They won't eat you up.

If you bring us to drink.


It seemed useful to call you

to agree on a preposition for a public debate

about the eternal creation of the world.

I, as it is known,

consider valid the Averroist position

about the eternity of the created world

and, hence, on the eternity of motion.

We maintain instead,

on the base of the authority of Sacred Scripture,

that the world had a beginning and will have an end.

And we oppose, in agreement with Plato and Augustine,

that position, which is really Aristotle's,

but Averroes's,

who, we think, interpret too personally Aristotle.

I must admit that many of my Dominican brothers

side with Bonaventure's positions,

Friar Bonaventure's.

And I am also with him with all my heart.

But I cannot associate myself with the method with which he reaches his certitude.

Then how can you say, Thomas, that you are with me with all your heart?

Sure, with all my heart,

but not likewise with all my intellect.

I say that both the thesis affirming the origin and end of the world,

and the thesis affirming its eternity

cannot be demonstrated with reason.

Then on what do you base your certitude?

As you do, on Scripture.

From Scripture I know that the world originated in time and I accept it.

But I refuse to maintain that with reason

one could validly demonstrate that he, who maintains

the origin of the world from eternity, is wrong.

With reason we can neither reach one nor the other conclusion.

And I also say

that we cannot cause greater damage to religion

than affirming as rationally demonstrable

a doctrine of faith that cannot instead be demonstrated with reason.

You're tired, brother Thomas,

your adversaries don't give you rest.

[THOMAS] We must first seek the kingdom of God.

There is no time to rest.

We must announce the truth to all.

This is our true vocation.

But you have taught and written much:

the Summa contra gentiles...

It is not enough.

Paris has become a Babel.

The confusion of tongues.

We must write a Summa for the novices, for the beginners,

so that the Christian doctrine may be clear to all.

Hence let us start with zeal and no waste of time

this new and conclusive work.


But you must rest, Friar Thomas,

not because your mind has shown some cloudiness,

but so that by resting you may meditate even more clearly.

Your are good, Reginald,

and it moves me hearing how concerned you are about the clearness of my intellect.

But we must hasten instead,

because I feel premonitory signs of fatigue and dimness.

Know that...

the intellect...

has a last moment of very bright light before dimming.

As the memory of the dying man

remembers and sees as in a mirror all the moments of his life.

And then in will be...



bewilderment, and death.

Therefore I will hasten.

There are two engagements I cannot postpone.

To one of them I must dedicate

from now on all the days of my life.

It's the writing of the new Summa,

where I'll collect all the theological prepositions of our schools.

A Summa theologica.

The other engagement,

The debate On the Uniqueness of Intellect against the Averroists,

short in time but difficult

because of the passions invading men's intelligence.

And not only of teachers working at the university.

They tell me that a convict refused absolution from his crimes

because, as a perfect Averroist, maintained

that, if there is one and the same intellect in all men,

there cannot be any difference between them,

or any diversity of merit in their works.

Hence is St. Peter's soul is now in Heaven, said he,

he would be saved.

Because he knew...

that if we are all one intellect...

we'll equally have...

after our life...

the same fate.

Our homage

and our gratitude are for the Bishop of Paris,

who wanted to attend in person

to today's debate,

which portends to be

particularly difficult.

I wanted to be here

to follow your debates in person,


at least recently,

they have been for me,

your bishop and father,

a source of sadness from the conflicts

and turmoils, never seen before

at the faculty of theology.

After the quarrel of the different teachers' factions,

there came the students' protests,

which more than once did not allow for the debates to continue.

Trespassing all limits, as it happened,

may mean that knowledge,

the source of happiness,

is already turning into the flame of hate.

This must not happen in any case.

Now I will listen

and inform myself personally.

Let the debate start, then.

I announce the general theme:

On the Uniqueness of the Substantial Form.

First, I would like to ask

if we all agree in explicitly referring to Aristotle.

We accept much of Aristotle,

but we do not deem right to give him an exclusive and superior place,

to leave aside beforehand both Plato and the Neoplatonics,

and even more Augustine.

I wish first of all to declare,

siding in this with Friar Bonaventure,

that for me the entire problem of knowledge

is the same that was for Plato.

As the complex is born from the One

and goes back to the One.

Even if for doctrine and method I often refer to Aristotle.

I say Aristotle,

not Averroes.

If we return to the troublesome question of the purpose of knowledge,

it is like reopening the problem of God.

We have not come here to debate this.

We cannot define God through direct knowledge,

but through His derivatives.

The mystics had the direct vision of Him.

Allow me:

one can come to God through various ways,

but the essence of the proof lies here:

in the relation between cause and effect.

The created universe manifests its antecedent,

that is the cause,

that is the Creator.

The One is manifested in the complex.

Yes, but we are convened here to debate

on how the intellect works to know the world.

Let us set the problem of God aside.

Without setting it aside,

let us rather say that today we do not intend to use the divine enlightenment,

to explain how the intellect works to know the world.


Let us move on!

We have been here debating many days: let's conclude!

Let's conclude!



prime matter

is the undetermined and indeterminable underlying of all physical things.

Prime matter, since it is pure potency,

has no existence of its own.

It has being only when it is invested with substantial form.

Yes, yes, yes.

Yes, yes.


But Aristotle is not totally clear on this point.

If we consider man,

the soul is the substantial form of the body

and gives determination to its being.

I cannot accept the existence of a unique substantial form.

Aristotle maybe was not clear on this specific point,

but Averroes's interpretation seems acceptable to me.

The intellect is a unique substance,

but separated and eternal.

I dare to accuse Averroes and Siger, who follows his path,

of not having correctly interpreted Aristotle.

I'd define also,

especially for this topic we are discussing,

I'd define Averroes the corrupter of Aristotle!

Because he did not seek enough what was Aristotle's real intention,

intentio Aristotelis!






Aristotle was actually ambiguous on the problem of the soul.

The solution given by Siger, following Averroes, lead to denying the individual soul.

Thomas found a solution,

which saved the coherence of Aristotle's system,

and solved the problem of the soul, individual and immortal.

Well, one can't deny that his solution,

based on the individuation principle, wasn't a strike of genius.

What confers individuality to created beings and to man?

The body, prime matter,

or the soul, substantial form?

For Thomas, what gives individuality (i.e. differentiation) to beings,

is prime matter, i.e. the body.

For this clever solution,

they won't leave him in peace even after his death.


once dead he'll received, so to speak,

a censure from the Bishop of Paris,

who declared heretical these and other propositions.

There were bitter divisions within the Dominicans,

beside fierce opposition of the Franciscans.

Who behaved a noble intellectual,

- let me say it -

who Siger of Brabant,

in whose esteem Thomas kept growing till a giant status.

The spirit of truth breaths everywhere.

And now friends,

after this no-Lenten meal,

we have to get back into our coach

to go towards... towards our last stop,

that in Fossanova.

Thomas, who had not finished the Summa theologica,

is sent to Naples,

somewhat abruptly,

to reorganize and manage the Dominican Studium.

He goes, a little reluctantly but obediently.

With Siger of Brabant,

he says farewell in Paris as good friends who esteem one another

and they promise to exchange books and results about thinking.

In Naples Charles of Anjou expected him,

glad of having him in his kingdom,

and perhaps non only because of his doctrine and holiness.

Thomas had become one of those intellectuals

of great renown and climbing,

whom the powerful prefer to keep in sight.

Moreover, he had said that in some cases

rebellion against an evil tyrant may be lawful for the subject.

In Naples Thomas teaches, manages, works till exhaustion.

After two years the Pope recalls him.

He needs Thomas's doctrine and authority at the Council of Lyon.

On the day before leaving, Thomas goes to the court of Capua

to bid farewell to the King,

to whom he had sent his treatise

on the government of princes.

Thank you for your gift.

I read and meditated on it.


your thoughts about good government sometimes clash with reality

and a king often wonders how to behave in practice in this

or that circumstance.

It is about the organization of power within a city or nation.

There are two important things:

first is that all should share in the government,

so that many, feeling responsible,

not only would seek peace,

but would be ready to love and defend their country.

Then I ask to you:

to reach this goal more easily,

what kind of government

and what constitution is better for the people?

I think that government should be founded on a single chief,

a monarch,

who must be supported by ministers and subordinates chosen

according to their merits and skills.

But to do this,

it is necessary that all may be raised to a government post

and that all likewise

may have the right to elect them.

A government that is formed this way,

through these procedures,

has the advantages of monarchy, because

it will bring recognition of a supreme chief.

It has likewise the advantages of aristocracy,

because the best will be able to be raised to command posts.

But it has also the advantages

of democracy,

because the rulers can be elected,

and hence chosen,

even among the lower class.

All the people participate to the election

Do you think reaching such harmony easy?

I consider it difficult, on the contrary.

But this must be the constant aspiration

of the leader of a people and a nation.

And if the ruler erred?

If he were lead against his will

to commit injustice, to become a tyrant?

Is it true, Thomas, that you absolved the people

that have rebelled against an unjust tyrant?


but only if the tyrant is unjust.

And who will judge the tyrant's injustice?

Have you foreseen it?

The very acts of the tyrant

will judge themselves unjust for their evident injustice.

What will you say about me to the Pope?

The truth pure and simple.

I wish you a good trip to Lyon.

"The truth pure and simple."

This answer must not have pleased the King.

So they say.

Hence actually the legend is born,

accepted also by Dante,

of Thomas's death by poisoning.

Fallen ill just at the start of his trip to Lyon,

Thomas finds first shelter in the castle of a cousin,

and the King, made aware, worries sincerely - it seems -

and hastens to send his trusty physicians.

They - the legend further tells us -

cured him (as they used in that time)

with poison, drops of poison.

It is a fact that Thomas arrived exhausted at Fossanova.

When Thomas crossed this threshold

he was already very ill,

worn out.

He wanted first to go to church.

Then he went to the cloister from the parlor side.

As he felt sick and weak,

he leaned with his hand on the wall,

and whispered, turning to Reginald of Piperno:

This is my rest forever and ever:

Here will I dwell for I have chosen it.

A month passed.

His illness made him weaker and weaker.

At the beginning of March, his strength was really failing him.

He shuts himself in,

in a sort of slumber,

in which, however, he seemed to contemplate something arcane.

It seems to have died on March 7,

not having yet turned 50 years old.

A little before dying, he turned to Reginald and said to him,

thinking perhaps he was beside him

to collect some latest specimen of his thinking,

(the Summa was left unfinished)

he said:

I can write no more.

After what I have seen,

it seems that all that I dictated

and taught

is all like straw.

Well, not all straw.

No, for sure.

The letter sent from the faculty of letters, where Siger was dominant,

is very significant, isn't it?

It is more than a panegyric.

It asked for Thomas's body

as a relic of a great teacher.

Grant me, o merciful God,

to desire eagerly,

to investigate prudently,

to acknowledge sincerely,

and to fulfill perfectly those things that are pleasing to Thee,

for the praise and glory of Thy holy Name.

O Lord my God, make me

obedient without complaining,

poor without despondency,

chaste without stain,

patient without grumbling,

humble without pretense,

cheerful without dissipation,

mature without undue heaviness,

quick-minded without levity,

fearful of Thee without abjectness,

O Lord my God, make me

devoted to good works without presumption,

ready to correct my neighbor without arrogance,

and to edify him by word and example without hypocrisy.

Grant me, Lord God,

a watchful heart

which shall be distracted from Thee by no vain thoughts;

give me a generous heart

which shall not be drawn downward by any unworthy affection;

give me an upright heart

which shall not be led astray by any perverse intention;

give me a stout heart

which shall not be crushed by any hardship;

give me a free heart

which shall not be enslaved by passion.

Bestow upon me, O Lord my God,

an understanding that knows Thee,

diligence in seeking Thee,

wisdom in finding Thee,

conversation pleasing to Thee,

perseverance in faithfully waiting for Thee,

and confidence in embracing Thee in the end.