Thursday, October 05, 2006

From Clever Priest to Smug Pundit

Aquinas' victory over Averroes by Benozzo Gozzoli

On today’s In Our Time on Radio 4 philosopher and former priest Sir Anthony Kenny was giving his opinion on the contribution to medieval philosophy of Islam, especially the philosophers, Averroes and Avicenna. You can imagine the sort of discussion – Islam the wonderful, tolerant religion; Islamic society responsible for the invention of everything from toilet paper to sherbet lemons.

In the context of the fact that Averroes was expelled by the Caliph for alleged polytheism for quoting Aristotle (such a tolerant religion Islam) Sir Anthony says (as I remember it)

“Of course, a public figure must be sure to mention the context and dissociate himself from the sentiments when quoting ancient sources”
Much knowing laughter from the assembled Islamophiles.

One point, that left a very nasty taste in the mouth, was the comment by Amira Bennison: “His [Averroes’] expulsion was seen as something of a demotion as the city he was sent to was full of Jews”. None of the contributors picked her up on it.

Sir Anthony is an distinguished philosopher who has lived a pleasant academic life in Oxford on the back of the philosophical training he had paid for by the Catholic Church (STL while at the Venerable English College, DPhil at St Benet’s Hall, Oxford) However, I’m not sure the Holy Father will be taking advice from a man who having accepted 9 years of education from the Catholic Church only to leave the priesthood, break his solemn priestly vows and profess agnosticism.

If you can be bothered, you can hear the programme again HERE (click on LISTEN AGAIN)


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