I am currently seeking funding for a major motion picture called Revenge of the Sophists. It is an historical epic but, taking my cue from Mel Gibson and William Shakespeare, I’m not worrying about chronology too much and I’ve taken a few other historical liberties as well, here and there…
Frank Oz = Thomas Aquinas
Liam Neeson = Bonaventure
Ewan McGregor = Duns Scotus
Hayden Christensen = William of Ockham
Samuel L. Jackson = Giles of Rome later elected John XXII
Ian McDiarmid = Louis of Bavaria
Terence Stamp = Frederick the Handsome
Christopher Lee = Michael of Cesena
The Plot… Christendom is seemingly at peace, the attack of the mysterious Cathars has been headed of by the Friars – for the last 100 years the guardians of faith and reason in the West. The emperor Henry VII has just died and it is assumed that Frederick the Handsome of the House of Habsburg will be elected to succeed him, but unexpectedly his childhood friend (but now enemy) Louis of Bavaria is elected instead. In fact, unknown to the Friars, Louis is a Dark Lord of the Sophists and a practitioner of the Via Moderna. It is believed that the Sophists were vanquished long ago by Socrates the founder of the Via Antiqua which the Friars are sworn to defend but in fact they have continued to exist operating though various shadow organisations the Cathars and then the secretive Knights Templar. The Emperor begins to incroach upon the liberties of the Papacy. Friar Giles of Rome senses something is not quite right about the new Emperor but he cannot put his finger on what. He shares his concerns with his old Master Friar Thomas Aquinas and his friend Bonaventure. Giles persudes the Pope to disolve the Templars who he suspects may be allied to Louis.
Meanwhile, on the remote island of Britain, the Masters of the University of Oxford are suspicious about the rising young Bachelor William of Ockham. Ockham was trained in the Via Antiqua by Scotus who was himself trained by Bonaventure. Scotus thought he could train Ockham just as well as Aquinas, but he was wrong. The Masters of Oxford permit him to lecture but do not grant him the rank of Master making Ockham angry and resentful. Ockham is befriended by Michael of Cesena a fellow Friar who is in fact an agent of the Emperor. Lusting after the freedom of indifference Ockham begins to turn towards the Via Moderna.
Back in Avignon, Friar Giles of Rome has been elected as John XXII. He summons Ockham to Avignon to investigate his orthodoxy. John XXII also has his suspitions about Michael of Cesena. The Pope is now engaged in a titanic struggle with the Emperor Louis of Bavaria who is seeking to corrupt the Friars in his quest to enslave the Papacy. Realising that the verdict of the Pope will go against him Michael of Cesena encourages Ockham to flee Avignon seek the protection of Louis of Bavaria. Ockham gives himself to the service of the Emperor and of the Via Moderna…
[Disclaimer: St Bonaventure never met Scotus and Scotus never met Ockham. Bonaventure and Aquinas and Scotus were all dead by the time the events described occurred. Giles of Rome was taught by St Thomas but he certainly isn’t the same person as John XXII. Giles did encourage the dissolution of the Templars. He actually died in the same year as John XXII became Pope. However, he was a strong defender of the Papacy against the temporal power and may even have written Unam Sanctam. I have no idea if Louis of Bavaria cared about the reality or otherwise of universals. Other than that the plot follows history very closely].