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Religious dogma versus protestant ethic

The name of the rose by Umberto Eco


Motivation of the title: "because the rose is a symbolic figure so rich in meanings that by now it hardly has any meaning left." In The name of the Rose, the monks who run the Benedictine rder !bbey recogni"e that knowledge can be a very dangerous thing. #nowledge can be dangerous if it says that the truth is different from what the ruling authority says is the truth. Then such knowledge can become $art of a revolution in thinking that destroys what $eo$le, as the truth and a revolution that destroys the $ower of the ruling authority , had acce$ted. It is this conflict between two different ty$es of knowledge and two different ways of thinking that is at the center of the book mystery. It is the conflict between the knowledge, the truth, and the ideas that are contained in an ancient book written by the old %reek $hiloso$her !ristotle that has &ust been found by the Benedictine monks and the knowledge, the truth, and the ideas of the 'hristian 'hurch that the Benedictine monks su$$ort. !s Brother (illiam says that such book are seen as dangerous by the ruling 'hurch authorities, because they contain a wisdom that is different from ours . The medieval 'hristian 'hurch recogni"ed how much $ower a book could have because )uro$e was defined by 'hristianity, a religion based on a book, the Bible . It was thanks to the 'hurch that the $ractice of reading and writing survived in medieval )uro$e. *rom its beginnings, monasticism em$hasi"ed the im$ortance of the collection, transcri$tion and study of books, including trying to combine the %reek and +atin 'lassical tradition with 'hristian teachings. This is why in The ,ame of the rose, the scri$torium, the $lace in which old %reeks books are hand co$ied, has such an im$ortant $lace in the monastery. The scri$torium is huge, monks workday and night co$ying the old books, and the library in which the books are held contain many floors. (hen Brother (illiam discovers the library containing the books, he is over&oyed and he shouts with great ha$$iness, (e are in one of the greatest libraries in all of 'hristendom . ne of the most im$ortant goals of the monastery was to kee$ the knowledge of the $ast from being lost. -owever, at the same time, the 'hurch recogni"es that such books can be dangerous if the knowledge that they contain is different from the knowledge that the 'hurch has taught is the truth. The old blind monk, the one who is res$onsible for the deaths in the !bbey to try to kee$ secret what he calls the forbidden knowledge in !ristotle s book on comedy, says that The $ur$ose of this !bbey is the $reservation of knowledge. .reservation, I say, not search for, because there is no $rogress in the history of knowledge . (hat he means by this is that the truth in knowledge cannot be changed by the discovery of new knowledge or by the discovery of old knowledge such as !ristotle s books. -e believes that the truth is to be found in the Bible and in what the 'hurch says is the truth, and no other knowledge should be allowed to challenge such truth. The ,ame of the Rose demonstrates how im$ortant the discovery of !ristotle s books was to the develo$ment of 'hristian )uro$e in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Before the old %reek $hiloso$her s writings were found, the Bible was recogni"ed in )uro$e as the only im$ortant book whose knowledge would be used as the truth for what $eo$le should believe and how they should live their lives. (ith the rediscovery of !ristotle s writing, it was recogni"ed that another im$ortant source of truth and knowledge had been found. -owever, such knowledge was not seen as

dangerous by the 'hurch so long as its truths could be shown to be the same truths taught by the 'hristian 'hurch: !ristotle s .rime Mover /an unmoved force that moves the universe0 could be identified with %od and the whole of his meta$hysical and $hysical model could be em$loyed to e1$lain a %od2driven universe. In the o$ening $aragra$h !dso begins by 3uoting the first verse of the %os$el of 4ohn: "In the beginning was the (ord, and the (ord was with %od, and the (ord was %od." In this world one sees %od, and hence the (ord, whether in the form of language or other signs, as through a glass darkly. The scholastic thinker 5aint Thomas !3uinas taught that the $ower of reason used by !ristotle would $roduce the same truths as the truths $roduced by 'hristian faith, although the truth of the 'hristian faith sur$asses the ca$acity of the reason, nevertheless that truth that human reason is naturally endowed to know cannot be o$$osed to the truth of the 'hristian faith . -owever, what was dangerous, from the 'hurch s view$oint, was if !ristotle s writings contained knowledge and truths that were not su$$orted by the 'hurch and which could challenge or threaten the 'hurch s knowledge and truths. This is what is at the center of the book mystery in The name of the Rose, when the old blind monk, the librarian, and the other leaders of the monastery believe that !ristotle s book on comedy is dangerous to the 'hristian world and to 'hristian society. The old blind monk says: 6+aughter kills fear and without fear there can be no faith. (ithout fear of the devil, there is no more need of %od. +aughter will remain common man s recreation, but what will ha$$en if because of this book learned men were to $ronounce it $ermissible to laugh at everything7 'an we laugh at %od7 The world would rela$se into chaos.8 -e believes that such a book must be ke$t secret and men are forbidden from reading it because it would destroy the entire system of 'hristian belief on which )uro$ean medieval society was built. -e considers the book so dangerous, that he is willing to murder to kee$ the book secret. $$osed to this view is Brother (illiam, a man who believes in the $ower of human reason, instead of fearing the $ower of the devil, and that no knowledge and no book should be forbidden. 9nlike the Benedictine monks who run the !bbey, he is a member of the *rancis. But he recogni"es why the Benedictine monks see !ristotle s book on comedy as a forbidden book, because as he says, they see it as a s$iritually dangerous book . Is learning for all? Umberto Eco's novel- The ame of the Rose! thro"s off various religious and theological #uestions to the reader$ %f the many such debates! one ma&or #uestion raised by the boo' is- should learning be freely accessible by the masses or should it be reserved for the scholars only? The mysterious library of the $restigious medieval abbey is a $hysical symbol of this religious debate. The !bbot re3uests (illiam to investigate the murder of si1 monks in the abbey but restrains him from investigating the library, even though many clues lead directly to the library. The library has been built in a way that is inaccessible to most monks. (andering inside the library $remises is also discouraged through various devious architectural means. 6The library is a great labyrinth, sign of the labyrinth of the world. :ou enter and you do not know whether you will come out.8 !dso $oints this out during his observations of the library; concerning the monks who worked there he says, 6They were dominated by the library, by its $romises and by its $rohibitions. They lived with it, for it, and $erha$s against it, sinfully ho$ing one day to violate all of its secrets.8 The library is su$$osed to $reserve various scholarly treasures from across the world but access to these books is forbidden. Monks are re3uired to $erform only transcri$tion &obs and not delve into religious debates.

!s a result of this high level of secrecy the !bbey meets its doom at the end of the novel. The !bbot dies in an attem$t to $reserve the secrecy of the murderer. The library is consumed by a devastating fire due to its architectural inaccessibility. 5o by the ending of his novel, 9mberto )co seems to suggest that learning should be made freely accessible to the masses. !ny attem$t to reserve it for a select few is a self consuming endeavor. (e find e1am$les of this debate not &ust in 'hristianity but in -induism too. The Brahmins / higher caste religious scholars0 sought to $reserve the knowledge of the scri$tures for their self consum$tion only. They maintained these scri$tures in 5anskrit, a language that the masses did not understand. But with time, this attem$t to restrict learning resulted in a general disinterest among the masses to understand the scri$tures. The religion was reduced to a body of mere symbolisms and idolatry with the main message of the scri$tures being lost in time. 5imilarly, in today<s world, the $ower of the Roman 'hurch to $reserve controversial religious documents under its own wing has been greatly reduced. The world seems to be moving in a democratic direction in general with theological 3uestions being o$en to anyone who cares to answer them. ! downside to this trend is that the layman may be confused with no clear source of didactic religious instructions. 'ontroversies on religious 3uestions may leave him bewildered2 he may choose an erroneous $ath for himself. -owever, the general consensus today seems to be that <to err and to learn< is more desirable than to follow instructions blindly.

2The ,ame of the Rose does a good &ob of showing how religious,social, $olitical and educational change $roduced conflict in the -igh Middle !ges. There was the conflict between the traditional teachings of the 'hurch during the age of faith and the new age of reason that was starting to develo$. There was the conflict between the Benedictine rder and the 'hurch which no longer acce$ted that they should be $oor as they grew in wealth and riches, and new orders such as the *ranciscans who believed that there should be a return to living a life of $overty without money and without owning $ro$erty. There was the rise of the In3uisition as the $olitical $ower of the 'hurch grew and as it tried to destroy all those who had views that were different from the 'hurch by calling them heretics and torturing and killing them. )ach $eriod has its orthodo1y and its heresies, which may well change $laces in the succeeding age. Indeed, at any moment it may not be clear which is which. (hen icholas of )orimondo says he "ould be "illing to destroy those "ho are *enemies of the people of +od!* (illiam as's! *,ut "ho today is the enemy of the people of +od? -ouis the Emperor or .ohn the /ope?*$ The novel stands outside time because it spea's to all ages$ (hen a friar is condemned as a heretic, various s$ectators comment on his behavior. "-e is a madman, he is $ossessed by the =evil, swollen with $ride," some say. thers maintain that "he is not a saint, he was sent by +ouis to stir u$ discord among the citi"ens." ! third grou$ disagrees: "!ll 'hristians should be like him." %iven such confusion, the $ro$er course is good2 natured tolerance. !s (illiam tells !dso, "The only truth lies in learning to free ourselves from insane $assion for the truth." The ,ame of the rose also demonstrates other ty$es of religious and $olitical change, es$ecially in terms of the rise of new religious orders, the rise of different ty$es of beliefs, and the $olitical efforts of the 'hurch to destroy such different beliefs through the In3uisition. riginally, the Benedictine rder of monks had believed that, The sin of owning $ro$erty should be entirely eradicated from the monastery . :et, the !bbot in charge of the Benedictine monastery is wearing a

large and very e1$ensive gold cross. The monastery forces the $oor $easants to contribute money in order to save their souls, and when the monastery throws out garbage and the starving $easants eat it, Brother (illiam says as a &oke showing how the 'hurch is now corru$ted, !nother generous donation by the 'hurch to the $oor . The book demonstrated how in the thirteenth century a conflict develo$ed between 'hristian grou$s who believed in $overty and the 'hurch whish was growing rich. ! *ranciscan monk asks the re$resentative of the .o$e if 'hrist did not own the clothes that he wore, and the answer given is, The 3uestion is not whether 'hrist was $oor, but whether the 'hurch should be $oor. :ou *ranciscans wish to see the clergy renouncing at its $ossessions and surrendering its riches de$riving the 'hurch of resources needed to combat evil and wage war on infidels .8 ne of the ways in which the 'hurch demonstrated such $olitical $ower was with the In3uisition: The launching of the In3uisition in the thirteenth century marks the culmination of a $eriod of change in the medieval church. ne of the ways in which the 'hurch e1ercised its $ower through the In3uisition was to call all those with beliefs that were different from the 'hurch, heretics, deviants from orthodo1 beliefs and torture and e1ecute such $eo$le if they did not change their beliefs. In The ,ame of the Rose, there are those monks who believe that the 'hurch should give u$ its fortune and return it to the $oor, from who they stole it , who the In3uisitor orders be tortured and e1ecuted for being heretics and for working with the devil against the 'hurch. *rom the growing conflict between the age of faith and the age of reason to the conflict between a 'hurch that was growing rich and $olitically $owerful and religious orders that wanted the 'hurch to return to its original $ur$ose in hel$ing the $oor to the develo$ment of the In3uisition which re$resented the 'hurch effort to destroy any o$$osition, The ,ame of the Rose shows how conflict and religious and social change was taking $lace in the -igh middle !ges. !s the church gained $ower from the authority and strengthened than any authority in the call of s$iritual comfort from the %od, $eo$le who serviced for religion became addictive to $ower, and they also made faith an e1cuse to ac3uire $ro$erty. 6>, and the monks had no connection with those secular she$herds/ the clerics0, the $riests and bisho$s, ignorant and corru$t, now su$ine before the interests of cities, where the shee$/namely, the $o$ulace0 were no longer the good and faithful $easants but, rather, the merchants and artisans. /$.?@A08 (e can see from the book that even in ?Bth century, $reaching the word of %od and other religious affairs had not been the only things what clerics cared, they asked for territory, &urisdiction or estate for kee$ing the church or denomination strong and $ros$erous. The faith in +od disappears! and only e0cessive po"er of the church left$ 1lerics and populace turned their attention to personal benefit$ o one "ould li'e to be a church mouse$ 1harity and plainness "ere not virtues! but "ealth "as the truth$

%ur opinion about some elements related "ith religious dogma presented in The name of the rose or! in other "ords! the easy "ay of brea'ing 1hristian concepts
5ome ty$es of knowledge are forbidden, because the one who knows too much starts to ask 3uestion and then heCll disobey the church or its leaders. This is the reason why the monks are not allowed to enter in the library. They are always talking about heretics but they donDt really know whose belives are wrong.

(illiam believes that signs "are the only things man has, with which to orient himself in the world," but he knows that one can never be certain about the relation among signs. 5ensory $erce$tion and even logic are therefore untrustworthy. *rom a distance, the octagonal monastery a$$ears to be a tetragon, and the he$tagonal towers look like $entagons. n the mountainto$, !dso cannot tell whether the fog descends from the sky or ascends from the valley, nor can he decide whether the monastery contains holy or damned men. 5igns can deceive: The lion and the ser$ent re$resent both 'hrist and 5atan. The faith in +od disappears! and only e0cessive po"er of the church left$ 1lerics and populace turned their attention to personal benefit$ o one "ould li'e to be a church mouse$ 1harity and plainness "ere not virtues! but "ealth "as the truth$

5ome of the monks belive that !ristotleDs book must be considered lost because he is a $erson who has a great $ower in influencing $eo$le thoughts and because he thinks that laughing is a good thing. They think that $eo$le arenDt allowed to laugh. The laugh is the instrument of the devil and the one who en&oys the laughing, soon heDll start to laugh of %od. The monks are ca$able of doing horrible things only for obtaining things that arenDt correlated at all with the s$iritual as$ect, for which they are su$$osed to live in monastery and to follow a $ure $ath. The ones who are su$$osed to be %odDs servants and who should live without any sin are committing the worst sins. There is a continous fight between the em$eror and $o$e, because they have different o$inions about living as a good 'hristian. The main $roblem with the church is the richness in which it e1ists and the fact that the $o$e is selling indulgences and he $romises the immediate forgiveness of any kind of sin. The church, es$ecially the in3uisitors donDt have any $roblem with killing $eo$le in the name of %od. They can call easly a man heretic or witch and donDt need to many $roves for torturing him / creating awful scenarios0 until he dies. !nother as$ect which can be found very often ,in the book, is the fear in which those $eo$le live when it comes about the moment of !$ocaly$se and the coming of the !ntichrist. They know the signs that $redict those moments, by heart, and they donDt miss any o$$ortunity for listing them and also they always think that the moment is close, because of the horrible things which ha$$en. This is a $roof of the chaos and unfaith that lead their lives.

5ome of those reasons es$ecially determined Martin +uther to rise against the church. In ?E?F, he $osted a sheet of theses for discussion on the 9niversity<s cha$el door. These ,inety2*ive Theses set out a devastating criti3ue of the church<s sale of indulgences and e1$lained the fundamentals of &ustification by grace alone. In Rome, cardinals saw +uther<s theses as an attack on $a$al authority. In ?E?G at a meeting of the !ugustinian rder in -eidelberg, +uther set out his $ositions with even more $recision. !fter the -eidelberg meeting in ctober ?E?G, +uther was told to recant his $ositions by the .a$al +egate, Thomas 'ardinal 'a&etan. +uther stated that he could not recant unless his mistakes were $ointed out to him by a$$eals to 6scri$ture and right reason8 he would not, in fact, could not recant. +uther<s refusal to recant set in motion his ultimate e1communication.

The /rotestant Ethic and the 2pirit of 1apitalism


(eber hypothesi3ed that capitalism "as a product of the "estern mind for a number of reasons! not the least of "hich "as the /rotestant Ethic$ The /rotestant Ethic spa"ned and encouraged "hat (eber called the *spirit of capitalism$* ,y (eber's definition! this is more than simply capitalist activity$ It is! in fact! the essence "hich underlies the economic system$ 4uring the long 56th century! this spirit became embodied in European society and provided the impetus for capitalism to emerge as the dominant economic system in the "orld$ 7or (eber! capitalism "as more than simply an accumulation of "ealth$ It had in roots in rationality$ In fact! (eber insisted that capitalism "as the triumph of rationality over tradition$ E0plicit in his vie" of capitalism "ere a disciplined labor force and the regulari3ed investment of capital$ (eber asserted that this combination too' place only in Europe and most strongly in /rotestant nations! such as England! 8olland! and +ermany! "here there "ere influential groups of ascetic /rotestant sects$

(eber observes that according to the occu$ational statistics of countries of mi1ed religious com$osition, business leaders and owners, as well as the higher skilled laborers and $ersonnel, are overwhelmingly .rotestant. This fact crosses lines of nationality. (eber observes that this could be $artly e1$lained by historical circumstances, such as the fact that richer districts tended to convert to .rotestantism. This, however, leads to the 3uestion of why, during the .rotestant Reformation, the districts that were most economically develo$ed were also most favorable to a revolution. It is true that freedom from economic traditions might make one more likely to also doubt religious traditions. -owever, the Reformation did not eliminate the influence of the 'hurch, but rather substituted one influence for another that was more $enetrating in $ractice. (eber also says that though it might be thought that the greater $artici$ation of .rotestants in ca$italism is due to their greater inherited wealth, this does not e1$lain all the $henomena. *or e1am$le, 'atholic and .rotestant $arents tend to give their children different kinds of education, and 'atholics have more of a tendency than .rotestants to stay in handicrafts rather than to go into industry. This suggests that their environment has determined the choice of occu$ation. This seems all the more likely because one would normally e1$ect 'atholics to get involved in economic activity in $laces like %ermany, because they are e1cluded from $olitical influence. -owever, in reality .rotestants have shown a much stronger tendency to develo$ economic rationalism than 'atholics have. ur task is to investigate the religions and see what might have caused this behavior. (eber<s study has im$ortant im$lications for how we look at religion. (eber does not sim$ly take religion on its own terms, seeing what it means to its founders and followers. *or (eber, religion also has another function. It can create broader social values and be instrumental in the creation of social institutions com$letely unrelated to its own goals and ends. Religion has a generative $ower, and the influence of its ideas should be studied in areas seemingly unrelated to its theological $rinci$les, such as the creation of economic institutions.

!ccording to (eber, when ca$italism does $ros$er, it does so because $eo$le have embraced and internali"ed certain values. These values, and not &ust human nature, make ca$italism $ossible. 'a$italism cannot then sim$ly be a necessary ste$ in the world<s develo$ment, because in order for it to emerge, $articular values must be $resent.

Both the German word "Beruf" and the English word "calling" have a religious connotation of a task set by God. This type of word has existed for all Protestant peoples but not for !atholics or in anti"uity. #ike the word itself the idea of a calling is new$ it is a product of the %eformation. &ts newness comes in giving worldly activity a religious significance. People have a duty to fulfill the obligations imposed upon them by their position in the world. 'artin #uther developed this idea$ each legitimate calling has the same worth to God. This "moral (ustification of worldly activity" was one of the most important contributions of the %eformation and particularly of #uther)s role in it. *owever it cannot be said that #uther actually had the spirit of capitalism. The way in which the idea of worldly labor in a calling would evolve depended on the evolution of different Protestant churches. The Bible itself suggested a traditionalistic interpretation and #uther himself was a traditionalist. *e came to believe in absolute obedience to God)s will and acceptance of the way things are. Thus +eber concludes that the simple idea of the calling in #utheranism is at best of limited importance to his study. This does not mean that #utheranism had no practical significance for the development of the capitalistic spirit. %ather it means that this development cannot be directly derived from #uther)s attitude toward worldly activity 9ccording to (eber! before the Reformation! people did not see their *"orldly* activities :such as their occupations and businesses; as being in service to +od$ Rather! "orldly activities "ere perceived more li'e necessary evils$ The monastic lifestyle! "here people removed themselves from the "orld in order to contemplate +od! "as glorified$ The Reformation re&ected this attitude$ It "as seen as "rong to remove yourself from the "orld< serving +od meant participating in "orldly activities! because this "as part of +od's purpose for each individual$ Thus! labor and business became part of one's duty to +od$ 9ccording to (eber! "ith the right theological developments! this "orldliness could be transformed into a belief in the duty to prosper$ The 'alvinist, $rotestants who base their faith on the ideas of 4ohn 'alvin belive in $redestination. They believe that %od $redestinates some souls to be doomed and others saved and none of a human being acts which are done in this $erishing world canDt influence %odDs decision. The 'alvinists mission in this world is to stay away of $leasures and to work only for %odDs . *rom their $oint of view, gathering a fortune is not a sin, and more then that they see this like a talent given by %od. %od doesnDt love only those who left their fortunes and isolate themselves com$letely from the community, by going in dessert, but he also loves the ones who stay in the community and $roduce wealth.