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Soto, Domingo De


(b. Segovia, Spain, 1494 or 1495; d. Salamanca, Spain, 15 November 1560), logic, natural philosophy.

Born to parents of modest means who gave him the baptismal name of Francisco, Soto received his Latin training at Segovia under Juan de Oteo and Sancho de Villaveses. He continued his education in arts at the newly founded University of Alcalá. where he studied logic and natural philosophy under Thomas of Villanova and earned the baccalaureate in 1516. Shortly thereafter he transferred to the College of Santa Barbara at the University of Paris; his preceptors included Juan de Celaya, under whose tutelage he became acquainted with the terminist physics then current in Paris, where he completed the master’s degree in arts. He then began the study of theology, while teaching the arts, and came under the influence of the Scottish nominalist John Major, who was then teaching at the Collège de Montaigu (along with two of Soto’s fellow Segovians, Luis and Antonio Coronel), and the Spanish Thomist Francisco de Vitoria, who was lecturing at the Dominican priory of Saint-Jacques,

In 1519, however, Soto’s longing for Spain and for his close friend Pedro Fernández de Saavedra prompted his return to Alcalá, where he completed the course in theology under Pedro Ciruelo and immediately (October 1520) occupied the chair of philosophy at the College of San IIdefonso. Here he taught logic, physics, and metaphysics until early in 1524, when internal difficulties in the college led him to resign his post. By this time he had received the licentiate in theology at San Ildefonso. He withdrew temporarily to the Benedictine abbey of Montserrat and was advised there to enter the Dominican order. In the summer of 1524 he became a Dominican novice at the priory of San Pablo in Burgos, changing his name to Domingo and being professed on 23 July 1525.

Assigned to the priory of San Esteban in Salamanca, Soto taught theology until 1532, a period of service interrupted only by a stay in Burgos during 1528–1529 while supervising the publication of his first work, the Summulae. During the academic year 1531–1532 he substituted for his former mentor. Francisco de Vitoria, who held the “prime chair” of theology at the University of Salamanca. The next year Soto was elected to the “vesper chair” of theology at the same university, a post he held for sixteen years. During this period he prepared a second edition of the Summulae (1539), a Dialectias (1543). and a commentary and questions on the Physics of Aristotle (1545). Immediately adopted at both Salamanca and Alcalá, these works went through many editions in Spain and elsewhere.

The works on the Physics are particularly important for the history of science, since in his questions on Book VII Soto was the first to apply the expression “uniformly difform” to the motion of falling bodies, thereby indicating that they accelerate uniformly when they fall and thus adumbrating Galileo’s law of falling bodies. Soto accounted for the velocity increase in terms of an accidental impetus built up in the body. He assimilated the “calculatory” techniques developed at Merton College, Oxford, in the fourteenth century and the terminist physics perfected at Paris during the early sixteenth century within a Thomistic framework, and thus dealt with most of the physical problems that interested the nominalists and realists of his day. On this account he is sometimes charged with eclecticism, although he tried to work out a position intermediate between those of Duns Scotus and Ockham and more consistent with Aquinas’ teaching. Soto had distinctive views on the nature of motion, time and space, infinity, movement through a vacuum, maxima and minima, and the ratios of velocities. He subscribed to the Ptolemaic theory of the universe and generally defended the Scholastic Aristotelian theses of natural philosophy.

Soto was called to the Council of Trent early in 1545, having just completed his questions and commentary on Book VII of the Physics; the incomplete texts were printed immediately but did not include the passages of interest to present-day historians of science. He returned from Trent in 1550 and finished both texts, which were published at Salamanca in 1551. (In all, these works went through nine editions, the penultimate appearing at Venice in 1582, when Galileo was beginning his studies at Pisa. Soto’s questions on the Physics are cited by Galileo in his Juvenilia, although not in the context of discussions of falling bodies.)while at Trent, Soto was closely associated with Spanish ambassador to Venice. Diego Hurtado Mendoza, who had studied the science of weights under Niccolò Tartaglia; Mendoza’s correspondence shows him critical of Soto’s physics, probably more because of Mendoza’s Averroist classical leanings than because of any particular attachment, on his part, to Archimedean statics.

Soto held various professorial and administrative positions at Salamanca until his death.He achieved renown in this university city for his extensive knowledge of both philosophy and theology,and is best known for his work in political philosophy De iure et iustitia (1553– 1554), in which he developed concepts of natural law and a “translation theory” of the origin of political authority. His competence is attested by a saying current in sixteenth-century Spain: “Qui scit Sotum, scit totum”( “Whoever knows Soto, knows everything”)


I. Original Works. For a complete listing of Soto’ writings, see Vicente Beltrán de Heredia, O,P.,Domingo de Soto: Estiudio biográfico documentado (Salamanca, 1960), 515–588. Brief latin and English texts from Soto’s works on the Physics are in Marshall Clagett, The Science of Mechanics in the Middle Ages(Madison,Wis.,1959),257, 555–556, 658, Pierre Duhem, Études sur Léonard de Vinci, III (Paris,1913)gives excerpts from the same in French translation.

II. Secondary Literature. See William A.Wallace.O.P., “The Concept of Motion in the Sixteenth in Century,”inProceedings of the American Catholic philosophical Association, 41 (1967), 184–195; “The Enigma of Domingo de Soto: Uniformiter difformis and falling bodies in Late Medieval Physics,” in Isis,59 (1968),384–401; and “The ‘Calculatores’ in Early Sixteenth-Century Physics,” in British Journal for the history of Science, 4 (1968–1969), 221– 232. See also Erika Spivakovsky, “Diego Hurtado de Mendoza and Averroism,” in Journal of the History of Ideas. 26 (307–326: vicente Muñoz Delgado, La logica nominated lista en la Universidad de Salamanca (1510–1530), Publicaciones del Monasterio de Poyo, XI (Madrid,1964); Logica formal y filosofia en Domingo de soto, Publicaciones del Monasterio de Poyo, XVI (Madrid,1964); and W. A. Wallace, “Galileo and the Thomists,” in Armand Maurer et al., eds., St.Thomas Aquinas Commemorative Studies 1274–1974, II (Toronto,1974),293–330.

William A. Wallace, O.

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