Tuesday, September 22, 2009

In Our Time begins season with St Thomas Aquinas

The BBC Radio series In Our Time has kicked off a new season with an episode to the famous medieval philosopher St Thomas Aquinas. The program was first broadcast on September 18th, and can now be listened to as a podcast from the BBC Radio website.

Hosted by Melvyn Bragg, In Our Time is a discussion programme that examines the "history of ideas". The series covers many different subjects from history, religion, philosophy, the arts or science, one of which is explored in each programme with the help of three experts on the subject.

For the episode on Aquinas, Bragg has brought in Martin Palmer, Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education and Culture; John Haldane, Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews; and Annabel Brett, Lecturer in History at Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge, to be the three experts.

In his newsletter promoting the show, Bragg noted, "I surprised myself by challenging Martin Palmer so early on in the programme about one of his biographical “facts” on the young Thomas Aquinas. But the idea that for two years his parents brought him a beautiful woman a day, in order to break his spirit and keep him a celibate Benedictine instead of allowing him to go off and become a celibate Dominican, seemed to me to be at the wrong, ie: barmy, unbelievable end of the Myths of Great Figures spectrum."

Besides talking about Aquinas' quirky personality and his obesity, the episode focuses on his importance to medieval philosophy and how his ideas continue to have influence over the Roman Catholic Church as well as on the western world's views of human rights and modern law.

You can access the programme from the In Our Time website.

On Medievalists.net, we have posted a complete list of In Our Time programmes that focus on the Middle Ages, which includes episodes on Genghis Khan, the Black Death and Geoffrey Chaucer.