Skip to main content
Select Source:

Suárez, Francisco

Suárez, Francisco

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Born in Granada in 1548, Francisco Suárez followed the tradition of the Jesuits whose theological writings constitute an important contribution to the Iberian “golden age.” After completing his secondary studies with distinction, he attended the University of Salamanca, then at the peak of its development with an enrollment of six thousand students. There he seems to have studied canon law from about 1561 to 1564. He then entered the Society of Jesus and pursued his philosophical and theological studies for another six years. Having been “proctor of repetitions” and professor of philosophy in various colleges and novitiates, he became a theologian and remained such for more than forty years. He taught brilliantly in the houses of the order at Valladolid, Segovia, and Ávila, at the Jesuit college of Rome, 1580-1585, and finally at the universities of Alcalá, 1585-1597, and Coim-bra, 1597-1617. He died at Coimbra in 1617.

Suárez‘ voluminous works constitute an entire “summa” of theoretical and practical theology. The most important of his writings is probably the De legibus (see Suárez 1612-1621). In this work he related the metaphysical order to the political or juridical order. In Part in, he set forth the basis of his doctrine in the form of a dialectic of liberty. Since man is naturally free and obligated only to his Creator, it might appear that any authority of man over man is mere usurpation and tyranny. However, it must not be forgotten that the nature of man transcends the individual: “Firstly, man is a social animal whose true nature tends toward life in common” ([1612-1621] 1944, De legibus, Part in, chapters 1, 3). All social arrangements required for that development, such as the family and the state, are therefore not only legitimate but necessary.

The creation of the state, then, proceeds from natural law. But inasmuch as it is a moral organism, it requires for its actual realization the active intervention of united human wills. Political society needs an efficient cause based on the free decision of its citizens: it demands, as the foundation of community life, a moral act which expresses the will to live together and the readiness to accept a constitutional modus vivendi. Thus, the organization of political union calls for an explicit declaration of the desire to live in common and a mutual recognition of an authority which thereafter acts in the name of all. In 1620 he wrote in De opere sex dierum: “such a political union [communitas] does not occur without a certain agreement, whether explicit or assumed, on mutual aid, nor without a certain subordination of individual families and persons to a superior or ruler of that union. Without such subordination, no political union can endure” (1856-1878, vol. 3, book V, chapter 7, section 3).

Hence, there lies at the base of political society a consensus of citizens, a union (”some special moral agreement among themselves”) that is made manifest in a desire to render service to itself and to recognize the brotherhood of its members. These psychological conditions constitute, so to speak, the materials necessary for the creation of any given state, but the preordained structure of political society requires further the presence of a very strong “power of jurisdiction” for the realization and preservation of that unity.

With respect to this question of political authority, Suárez was heir to the rather pessimistic Biblical and Augustinian tradition which considered the authority of kings to be the consequence of original sin. He restated this position with the qualification that authority derives from natural law. It is only the constraining aspect of authority which has been magnified by sin. Suárez was influenced in this matter by Luther and received, in addition, a well-developed theory of sovereignty from Bodin. He asserted that the surrender of authority to the prince meant that the populace lost all rights to participate in government—this despite his doctrine that the sovereign‘s power derives from the consensus of the citizens. He should therefore be classed among the defenders of a certain type of absolutism—that of the Roman Catholic monarchies of his time.

Nonetheless, both Suárez and Bodin believed that sovereignty is subject to limitations, whether internal or external. Created for the general wellbeing of the citizenry, it cannot derogate justice without creating a detestable tyranny. Moreover, the ruler must respect the conditions under which he was invested with sovereignty (such as constitutional rights and customs). Finally, the sovereign ruler must respect those other values necessary for the development of human kind: the rights of individual conscience, the rights of peoples. The subtlety of Suarez’ views in this regard allowed him to define the indirect authority of the church over the citizens of diverse countries—as, for example, the authority granted the Church of England by the Thirty-nine Articles—with such acumen that his analysis remains even today the authoritative statement on the subject.

Suárez, by his lofty conception of the human will and of its natural and supernatural authority, found the means of rescuing political philosophy from sordid realism by denning the conditions under which a state might prosper without sacrificing either the aspirations of its subjects or the primacy of the international order.

Pierre Mesnard

[For the historical context of Suárez‘ work, see International law; Natural law; Sovereignty; and the biographies of Augustine; Bodin; Luther

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Battaglia, Felice 1946 [A Book Review of] Le dottrine politiche da Lutero a Suarez, by Giuseppe Santonastaso. Giornale di metafisica 2:553-555.

Brouillard, R. 1941 La théologie pratique. Volume 14, part 2, cols. 2691-2728 in Dictionnaire de théologie catholique contenant l‘exposé des doctrines de la théologie catholique, leurs preuves et leur histoire. Paris: Letouzey & Ané.

Dumont, P. 1941 Théologie dogmatique. Volume 14, part 2, cols. 2649-2691 in Dictionnaire de théologie catholique contenant ¡‘expose des doctrines de la théologie catholique, leurs preuves et leur histoire. Paris: Letouzey & Ané.

Giacon, Carlo 1945 Suarez. Brescia (Italy): “La Scuola.”

Hamilton, Bernice 1963 Political Thought in Sixteenth-century Spain: A Study of the Political Ideas of Vitoria, De Soto, Suárez and Molina. Oxford: Clarendon.

Mesnard, Pierre (1936)1951 L‘essor de la philosophie politique au XVIe siécle. 2d ed. Paris: Vrin.

Monnot, P. 1941 Suarez: I. Vie et oeuvrés. Volume 14, part 2, cols. 2638-2649 in Dictionnaire de théologie catholique contenant l‘exposé des doctrines de la théologie catholique, leurs preuves et leur histoire. Paris: Letouzey & Ané.

MÚgica, PlÁCIDO 1948 Bibliografia suareciana. Universidad de Granada, Cátedra Suárez.

RazÓn Y Fe 1948 Centenario de Suarez: 1548-1948. Madrid: Razón y Fe.

Scott, James Brown 1933 Suárez and the International Community. Pages 44-50 in Catholic University of America, Francisco Suárez: Addresses in Commemoration of His Contribution to International Law and Politics. Washington: Catholic Univ. of America.

SolÁ, Francisco De P. 1948 Suárez y las ediciones de sus obras: Monografia bibliográfica con ocasión del IV centenario de nacimento, 1548—1948. Barcelona: Editorial Atlántida.

SuÁez, Francisco (1612-1621) 1944 Selections From Three Works of Francisco Suárez. De legibus, ac Deo legislatore, 1612. Defensio fidei catholicae, et apostolicae adversus anglicanae sectae errores, 1613. De triplici virtute theologica, fide, spe, et chántate, 1621. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon. → Volume 1 contains selections from the Latin editions; Volume 2 contains the translations.

SuÁez, FranciscoR.p. Francisci Suárez . . . Opera om-nia. 28 vols. Paris: Vives, 1856-1878. Translations in the text were provided by the editors.

Suárez: Modernité traditionelle de sa philosophie. 1949 Archives de philosophie 18, no. 1:3-128.

Wilenius, Reijo 1963 The Social and Political Theory of Francisco Suárez. Acta philosophica Fennica, No. 15. Helsinki: No publisher given.

ZaragÜta Bengoechea, Juan 1941 El problema del ser en la metafisica de Suárez. Granada, Universidad de, Boletin de la Universidad de Granada 13, no. 62:59-81.

ZaragÜta Bengoechea, Juan 1941 La teoria suareciana de la causalidad: Los valores ético-juridicos en el pensamiento de Suárez. Granada, Universidad de, Boletin de la Universidad de Granada 13, no. 63:173-219.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Suárez, Francisco." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Suárez, Francisco." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/suarez-francisco

"Suárez, Francisco." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Retrieved June 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/suarez-francisco

Francisco Suárez

Francisco Suárez

The Spanish philosopher and theologian Francisco Suárez (1548-1617) taught an eclectic form of scholasticism and laid the first foundations for a theory of international law.

Francisco Suárez was born in Granada on Jan. 5, 1548, and studied canon law at the University of Salamanca. In 1564 he entered the Society of Jesus; he later taught philosophy and theology in Segovia, Ávila, Valladolid, Rome, Alcalá, Salamanca, and Coimbra. He died in Lisbon on Sept. 25, 1617, after a prolific writing career.

Suárez's two main works are Disputationes metaphysicae (1597) and De legibus (1612). The former is the first scholastic treatise on metaphysics that followed an order of its own rather than Aristotle's exposition. In philosophy Suárez remains primarily loyal to St. Thomas Aquinas, but at the same time he attempts to combine Thomas's ideas with doctrines found in John Duns Scotus and William of Ockham. The distinction between essence and existence, so important in Thomas's metaphysics, is all but abrogated. Suárez's metaphysical theory had an enormous influence during the 17th and 18th centuries, especially in the German Protestant universities, which largely adopted his Disputationes as a textbook.

Equally important and more deserved was Suárez's impact on philosophy of law and on the theory of international relations. In De legibus he proved to be a true and bold innovator who did not always receive the credit to which he was entitled. With his scholastic predecessors, the Spanish philosopher held that all human law participates in the eternal law which governs the entire creation. Yet what constitutes the binding force of civil law is, according to him, not its divine foundation but its human promulgation. Thus all the emphasis comes to be placed upon the positive element of law rather than upon its universal aspect. Although Suárez's philosophy of law is still founded on an ethical basis, it nevertheless provides the distinction needed to give legal theory an independence of its own. The power to legislate resides in the community as a whole, and no individual can claim to have received it directly from God (as King James I had done in his theory of divine right). Nor does the need for legality bind man to any particular form of government, even though Suárez personally considered monarchy the most expedient form.

Suárez had his greatest impact as author of those principles upon which international law came to be based. The notion of a jus gentium, "a law of nations, " was not his invention; it had existed for centuries. But his interpretation is entirely new. Such a law, he claims, is based upon, but is not deducible from, natural law. He considers it to be a law consisting "not in something written, but in customs, not of one or two cities or provinces, but of all or almost all nations."

Further Reading

Studies of Suárez in English are Joseph H. Fichter, Man of Spain: Francis Suárez (1940), and Bernice Hamilton, Political Thought in 16th Century Spain: A Study of the Political Ideas of Vitoria, De Soto, Suárez and Molina (1963). For Suárez's social theories see A. L. Lilley's article, "Francisco Suárez, " in F. J. C. Hearnshaw, ed., Social and Political Ideas of Some Great Thinkers of the XVI and XVII Centuries (1926). Considerable attention is given to Suárez in Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy, vol. 3 (1953). Also useful is James Brown Scott, The Catholic Conception of International Law (1934). □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Francisco Suárez." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Francisco Suárez." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/francisco-suarez

"Francisco Suárez." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved June 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/francisco-suarez

Suárez, Francisco

Francisco Suárez (fränthēs´kō swä´rāth), 1548–1617, Spanish Jesuit philosopher, b. Granada. He studied at Salamanca and was ordained in 1572. He taught successively at Ávila, Segovia, Valladolid, Rome, Alcalá, and Salamanca and in 1597 was appointed to the Univ. of Coimbra, Portugal (then under Spanish dominion). He may be called the last of the scholastic philosophers (see scholasticism). His system is mild and characteristic of the Jesuit theologians. His "congruism" is a middle course between the teachings of Luis Molina and the Dominican predestinarian teachings. Suárez taught that one may hold the same doctrine by science and faith. His teaching on the divine right of kings that earthly power is properly held by the body of men and that kingly power is derived from them so enraged James I of England that the king had Suárez's De defensione fidei burned by the hangman. This political doctrine, based on the Roman Catholic doctrine of the equality before God of all men, is a basis of subsequent Catholic teachings on democracy. Suárez was highly esteemed by Grotius and his followers. In his Tractatus de legibus he made an important distinction between natural law and international law, which he saw as based on custom.

See J. H. Fichter, Man of Spain (1940); H. Lacarte, The Nature of Canon Law according to Suarez (1964).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Suárez, Francisco." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Suárez, Francisco." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/suarez-francisco

"Suárez, Francisco." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved June 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/suarez-francisco