Suárez, Francisco

views updated Jun 27 2018


Philosopher and theologian; b. Granada, Spain, Jan. 5, 1548; d. Lisbon, Portugal, Sept. 25, 1617. At the age of 14, he was sent to Salamanca to study Canon Law; there he joined the Society of Jesus in 1564. He continued his philosophical and theological studies until 1571 and was ordained in 1572. From 1571 to 1574 he taught philosophy at Ávila and Segovia; and from 1574 to 1580, theology at Ávila, Segovia, and Valladolid. He then taught for five years in the Roman College. After returning to Spain because of bad health, he continued teaching at Alcalá (158593) and Salamanca (159397). In 1597, he received the doctorate at Evora and, at the invitation of Philip II, accepted the chair of theology at the University of Coimbra, where he remained until 1615, adding to his teaching career the activities of a writer and consultant, especially in moral and canonical matters. At the request of Paul V, he wrote a tract, De defensione fidei (1613), against James I of England, and De immunitate ecclesiastica contra Venetos (1615). His piety, which was intense yet tranquil, is manifest in his writings. St. John Eudes called him a very pious theologian. On his deathbed he exclaimed, "I would never have thought it was so sweet to die."

Works. Suárez was the most prolific of modern theologians. The Venetian edition (1747) of his works filled 23 volumes, while the Parisian edition (1856) numbered 28. From the beginning the publication of his treatises (continued after his death by Balthasar Alvarez) was recognized to be an important event. There were also editions printed in Lyons, Mainz, Cologne, and Geneva. In less than a century, 18 editions of his Disputationes metaphysicae appeared.

Suárez's works, while they were the fruit of his teaching, were not simply his university classroom lectures in Coimbra. He undertook ample commentaries on the Summa of St. Thomas (159095, 160203). Later he wrote other treatises, more ample and not limited to mere commentary: Varia opuscula theologica (1599), De religione (v.1, 2 in 1608; v.3 in 1624; v.4 in 1625), De legibus (1612), De gratia (v.1, 3 in 1619; v.2 in 1651), and De angelis (1620). Realizing that he could not explain all theology in the same extensive manner, he began to prepare the rest in more succinct form: De Deo uno et trino (1606), De fide, spe et caritate (1621), and De ultimo fine (1628).

In 1859 Malou published six of his theological opuscula, and in 1948 the University of Coimbra published a two-volume work, Conselhos y pareceres. A few other unedited works have not been published, but considerable work was done in the 1950s and 1960s toward publication of his letters. His commentaries on Aristotle have never been found.

Doctrine. Suárez was the principal exponent of the doctrinal thought of the Jesuits, and was called Doctor Eximius by Paul V, Alexander VII, and Benedict XIV, and Pius XII. He followed the methodical tradition begun by Francisco de Vitoria in Salamanca. His knowledge of the Fathers was thorough; no contemporary writer had so firm a control of former philosophical and theological thought. Suárez's work was distinguished by the range of the subject matter, its scientific depth, and the clarity of exposition. His procedure was analytic, but it is not lacking in synthetic comprehension. He was an effectual organizer of tracts, such as those on Mariology, grace, religion, law, and metaphysics. The internal unity of his theology and philosophy resulted in an impression of novelty in his day, but a good part of Suárez's contribution has since become part of the common fund of theology. Although he deviated in no small degree from the current of Thomistic thought, the fact that he was fundamentally Thomistic was recognized by Cardinal Z. González and M. Grabmann.

The doctrines characteristic of Suárez are not only those of his own originating, but also that he accepted in substance from earlier scholastic tradition and enriched with his own insights. His essential originality appears in his method. Somewhat unreasonably, it has been branded as eclecticism because he did not adhere unconditionally to any of the existing systems. Instead, he examined them critically before proposing his own.

Theology. Suárez's doctrine on the Trinity is based on analogy, the application of human concepts to the study of the divinity with the help of a nonreciprocal virtual distinction between the absolute and relative. For this reason he does not admit the universal validity (embracing all being) of the principle of triple identity (viz., A is B; B is C; therefore A is C ) in the sense of real identity. He thus resolves (though in a negative way) the fundamental difficulty in the mystery of the Trinity.

Analogy helps him to penetrate the notions of procession, relation, and person, which are the principles of distinction in the Godhead. Notice should be taken of his elaboration on the question of the formal principle (principium quo ) of the processions, God's knowledge and will; and of his insights regarding the intellectual generation of the Word. With regard to the procession of the Holy Spirit he does not admit that active spiration forms part of the unique spirating principle (principium quod ). Divine relation as subsistent, and, as such, constitutive of the Divine Persons, denotes infinite perfectionnot absolute, but relative (because the relation is esse ad ), not simpliciter simplex but simplex non simpliciter. With this Suárez distinguishes in the Trinity relative perfections, existences, and subsistences formally distinct from the absolute existence and subsistence that belong to the divinity as such. He presents the Holy Spirit's indwelling as demanded by the friendship implied by sanctifying grace.

In the celebrated discussion concerning the motive of the Incarnation, the involved position of Suárez, thanks to the distinction between the order of intention and the order of execution, maintains everything positive in the opposing Thomistic and Scotist tendencies. He explains the hypostatic union by the lack in the humanity of Christ of the mode of subsistence constitutive of the created person, which is replaced by the substantial union with the divine Word.

The teaching on the supernatural order and grace is, without doubt, the most fully elaborated part of Suárez's speculative theology. He vigorously defended the absolute transcendence of the order of grace as supernatural and brought greater precision to the question. To explain the existence of the supernatural, he admitted an obediential potency that is not only passive but active. For him original justice is essentially constituted by sanctifying grace, which forms the radical basis for the preternatural gifts; in his last explanation of these gifts, however, he postulates a special providence. Suárez greatly limited the effects of original sin in the transcendent order without admitting that the peccatum naturae in no way affected human nature considered in its essential constituents and in the providence that connaturally corresponds to it. The true nature and extent of fallen man's weakness in observing the moral law received a treatment at Suárez's hands that is yet to be surpassed; in general he initiated an increased appreciation of the moral cause.

Suárez used the criterion of pre-Tridentine theologians for establishing the entitative supernatural quality of all salutary acts, and also affirmed the supernaturalness of the formal object of every act in this order. Contrition, as the immediate disposition for justification, is produced, according to Suárez, not by the same sanctifying grace, but by a previous actual grace. The opposition between sanctifying grace and sin is one of contrariety, not contradiction, and although the expulsion of sin is demanded by grace as a secondary formal effect, their coexistence is not absolutely repugnant. Suárez defended the increase of supernatural virtues by reason of any act however remiss, as in general he accentuated the difference between supernatural and natural habits.

Suárez also developed the theology of merit. In particular, he insisted on positing commutative justice in God, analogous, of course, to the same virtue in man and based on a free divine institution. Merit for good acts essentially requires no other orientation to man's last end or other imperative of charity than that which the super-natural work brings with it.

The supernaturalness of the intuitive vision of God was expressly underscored by Suárez; he denied it to be connatural in any created nature. His thought on this vision was conditioned by his philosophical doctrine about knowledge in general. As a vital act of the creature, this vision is a formal assimilation of the divine essence, intentional but real, the terminus of an action shared by the created intellect and by God present in Himself with the light of glory as His instrument.

Although Suárez did not personally intervene in the public disputations de Auxiliis, throughout the controversy he was the adviser of the Jesuit theologians (see con gregatio de auxiliis). His writings are the choicest pieces of the dossier composed for the Jesuit side. The best and most definitive foundation for the basic principles of molinism is due to him: liberty as active indifference, simultaneous concurrence and knowledge of future conditionals (scientia media ), and the accentuation of the voluntary element in the grace efficacious for the predefinition of a salutary act. It has been recently made clear that Suárez did not at first accept scientia media nor efficacious grace explained in this manner; later he became its most ardent defender and systematized Molina's ideas in the formula gratia congrua, which in a general sense is the common opinion of Molinist theologians. With Robert Bellarmine he taught formal predefinition in the strictest sense together with its corollary, formal predestination to glory ante praevisa merita, a position that is usually called congruism.

Suárez's influence in moral theology has been considerable; Alphonsus Liguori cites him as one of his principal authors. Suárez was one of the theologians who developed the probabilist system begun by Medina. For Suárez, mortal sin consisted essentially in man's loving a creature virtually more than God. Venial sin, on the other hand, is a sort of delay on the road to our ultimate end; thus does he interpret St. Thomas's praeter legem. Suárez's thick volumes on the virtue of religion presented a novelty in scholastic theology, for they embraced questions pertaining to the spiritual life in all its manifestations, both interior and exterior; the religious life and states of perfection; the Society of Jesus and the Exercises of St. Ignatius. In these volumes one should note his profound analysis of contemplation and sinless moral imperfection.

Philosophy. His Disputationes metaphysicae, used in Protestant universities of the 17th century and recently the object of renewed interest, was the first systematic treatment of this science not based exclusively on the texts of Aristotle. This and the De anima are his main philosophical treatises, although other works, such as De angelis, contain material of interest to philosophers. Suárez's philosophy was a personal interpretation of perennial philosophy; he drew on the common heritage of epistemological, cosmological, anthropological, and metaphysical doctrines, and at the same time developed a new concept of being as the object of metaphysics. Negatively, his system may be characterized by his rejection of the realist application of the teaching on potency and act to being, of Scotist formalism, and of nominalist conceptualism. Positively, it is based on an idea of being that sees it as having a confused unity and as enjoying nonmutual distinction from its different manifestations; it is transcendent and implied in all instances of determinate being. His teaching is based also on the analogy of intrinsic attribution, an analogy founded on the necessity of being's plenitude in Being per essentiam, and its derivation to all other beings by casual participation, with full dependence on Being itself. Thus the first division of being is that of Being by essence and being by total participation; from these notions are deduced their differentiating properties. Other conclusions also follow; e.g., existence is identified with essence as the latter's actuality or realization; individuation and multiplication of an essence are effected by its limitation, making recourse to matter for this individuation unnecessary. As a result, Suárez attributes proper existence to primary matter and to accidents.

Suárez's theory of physical mode is characteristic of his metaphysics; it is a purely modal entity, a simple, ultimate, and formal determination of a subjective indifference. This provides his philosophical explanation of subsistence, of union, of action as identified with passion, and of ubication. Efficient causality also holds a special place in his metaphysics; its actuation is extrinsic to the agent and as such is that of active potency, not passive. This permits him to say that liberty is the active indifference of the will without the need of determination by the practical judgment or of physical premotion.

Suárez devoted special attention to the category of relation. Real relation denotes a realitynot only in the sense of esse in but also in the sense of esse ad. It is not truly distinct from its foundation. Suárez holds the socalled transcendental relation to be a true real relation, and characterizes as relations secundum dici those predicates that are absolute in themselves but that cannot be expressed by man except as relations.

According to Suárez, knowledge is based on immediate intellectual apprehension of the material singular. The impressed species (not a formal, but a virtual image of the object) is not required for the knowledge of universals, but rather for the spirituality and perfect immanence of knowledge. Intellectual knowledge is a reproduction or formal likeness of the object, and knowing is itself a vital assimilation of the object. Thus the mental word is not really distinct from the act of knowing; nor is it the medium in quo, but rather the medium quo. Nevertheless, Suárez introduces a modal distinction between the producing of the word and the word itself, on the basis that every action is so distinct from its term. Universal concepts have objective reality by reason of their foundation, but their universal form consists alone in precisive and abstract knowledge.

Disputations 29 and 30 of Suárez's metaphysics, together with the tracts de Auxiliis, form his natural theology. God's existence is effectively proved by contingency and the principle of causality, the argument from physical motion being rejected. The divine attributes are proved by means of the notion of necessary being or of being by essence. Among the attributes one should note that divine ubiquity results from God's immensity, and is therefore not formally an action, though this is presupposed as its foundation. Suárez's attempt to reconcile God's freedom with His simplicity and immutability is interesting. Divine freedom does not imply a distinct intrinsic determination or contingency in the entity of an infinite being, but only in its termination in this or that object. Immediate divine concurrence in every creatural act is not previous to, but simultaneous with, the act itself; this is necessitated by the contingency of created being and its full and immediate domination by the first cause. The concurrence with the free action of the creature is indifferent in actu primo, but is identified with the action of the creature in actu secundo.

Law. Suárez's influence in the field of law, in general, and in international law, in particular, has recently been evaluated by the studies of J. Brown Scott, H. Rommen, and C. Barcia Trelles, and is now generally recognized. He was esteemed as a canonist, and even today, despite the changes in ecclesiastical legislation, is still consulted by canonists.

In his systematic exposition of juridical doctrine, especially the concept of law and its consequences, Suárez stresses the voluntary element, without disassociating it from the intellectual. This voluntarism has nothing to do with the irrational arbitrariness in legal matters that sometimes goes by the same name. Although he was not the originator of the theory of penal law, he explained it as imposing a true obligation according to the rational will of the legislator. He also made a profound study of the juridical value of custom.

His political theory is without doubt the most personal part of his juridical doctrine, judging from the depth with which he explained and enlarged the Christian principles concerning civil society. The end of civil society, required by its very nature, is the common good in some way disassociated from the good of the individual. The virtue proper to civil authority is general or legal justice. Tyranny is unjust because it is contrary to the common good. A perfect civil society admits connaturally lesser corporations for particular ends and must grant them those prerogatives required for their proper function. When the state intervenes it must keep in mind the principle of subsidiarity. With Robert Bellarmine, Suárez has been regarded as the representative of the traditional doctrine on the immediate origin of civil society and its authority (essentially different from the family society with its dominative authority) in the free consent of the families or members of society. This presupposes its natural necessity and its ultimate foundation in God. Civil society as a perfect society is supreme in its own order, but by reason of the supernatural end of the Church civil society is subordinate to her through her so-called indirect power, which Suárez elaborated in his polemic against James I of England.

Finally, international law claims Suárez as its founder along with De Vitoria. This is based on Suárez's doctrine on the law of peoples and his grandiose idea of the natural community of nations. The human race, though naturally divided into different nations or states, maintains a certain quasi-political and moral unity; the signs of this are the precept of love for all and the mutual needs of all the classes. Therefore, though perfectly independent, they do not cease being members of a certain community of nations. The mutual relations of these nations are governed by the ius gentium or law of peoples, developed by Suárez, as a law between natural law properly so-called and fully positive law. The law of peoples, intimately based on nature, is constituted by an aggregate of practices established more by tradition and custom than by exact treaties. Today it is called international law.

Bibliography: See the bibliographical indices published in 1948, the 4th centenary of Suárez birth, in the special volumes of Razón y Fe, Estudios eclesiásticos, and Pensamiento. Miscelánea Comillas 9 (1948). r. de scorraille, François Suárez de la Compagnie de Jésus, 2 v. (Paris 191213). p. monnot et al., Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 190350; Tables Générales 1951) 14.2:26382728. k. werner, Franz Suárez und die Scholastik der letzten Jahrhunderte, 2 v. (Regensburg 1889). k. six et al., P. Franz Suárez: Gedankenblätter zu seinem 300 jährigen Todestag (Innsbruck 1917). m. grabmann, Mittelalterliches Geistesleben (Munich 1926). p. descoqs, "Quéstions de métaphysique: Le Suarézisme," Archives de philosophie 2 (1924) 187218; "Thomisme et Suarézisme," ibid. 4 (1926) 434544. h. rommen, Die Staatslehre des Franz Suárez (München-Gladbach 1927). k. eschweiler, "Die Philosophie der spanischen Spätscholastik auf den deutschen Universitäten des XVIII. Jahrhunderts," Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kulturgeschichte Spaniens 1 (1928) 251325. j. b. scott, "Suárez and the International Community," Francisco Suárez: Addresses in Commemoration of His Contribution to International Law and Politics, ed. h. wright (Washington 1933). f. stegmÜller, Zur Gnadenlehre des jungen Suárez (Freiburg 1933). c. barcia trelles, Internacionalistas españoles del siglo XVI: Francisco Suárez (15461617 ) (Valladolid 1934). c. c. riedl, "Suárez and the Organization of Learning," Jesuit Thinkers of the Renaissance, ed. g. smith (Milwaukee 1939). h. guthrie, "The Metaphysics of Francis Suárez," Thought 16 (1941) 297311. j. hellin, La analogía del ser y el conocimiento de Dios en Suárez (Madrid 1947). j. m. alejandro, La gnoseología del Doctor Eximio (Suárez ) y la acusación nominalista (Comillas 1948).

[j. dalmau]

Suárez, Francisco

views updated May 23 2018

Suárez, Francisco


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


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.

Suárez, Francisco

views updated Jun 08 2018


SUÁREZ, FRANCISCO (15481617), was a Spanish Jesuit philosopher, theologian, and jurist. Francisco de Suárez was born on January 5, 1548, at Granada, where his father was a wealthy barrister. Destined by his family to an ecclesiastical career, he prepared for it by studying canon law at the University of Salamanca. In 1564 he joined the Society of Jesus. From 1566 to 1570 he was a student of theology at the same university at a time when it was undergoing a lively Thomist revival.

In 1571, the year before he was ordained priest, Suárez was assigned to teach philosophy at Segovia, and over the next decade he taught both philosophy and theology at various Jesuit colleges in Castile, including Valladolid, where he delivered a set of celebrated lectures on the first part of Thomas Aquinas's Summa theologiae. Called to Rome in 1580, he continued the series at the Roman College, where his subject was the second part and where, it is said, Pope Gregory XIII was occasionally in attendance. Uncertain health brought Suárez back to Spain in 1585, to Alcalá, and here his lectures on the Summa, specifically on the third part, were concluded. He transferred to Salamanca in 1592, and in 1597, at the instance of Philip II of Spain (now also king of Portugal), he went to Coimbra, where he taught until 1616. He died a year later in Lisbon.

Suárez's first published work, De deo incarnato, which grew out of his lectures on the third part of the Summa, appeared in 1590, and his last, De defensione fidei, a tract directed against the views on the divine right of kings held by James I of England, in 1613. In between he published eleven other works, of which the most popular and influential, Disputationes metaphysicae (1597), went through eighteen editions in the course of the seventeenth century. Ten more works were published posthumously before 1655, under the direction of the Portuguese Jesuits. The passage of time did not lessen interest in Suárez's writings; editions of his Omnia opera were published in Venice in 1747 and in Paris in 1856.

Suárez's thought was expressed always within a scholastic context, and he professed to be a Thomist. Certainly the work of Thomas Aquinas was basic to his own, but he often deviated from classical Thomism, a fact stressed particularly during the Thomist revival of the early twentieth century. Suárez, for example, did not admit the real distinction between essence and existence, and his metaphysics was more a self-contained whole than a mere elaboration of Aristotle. He viewed philosophy in any case as a basis for theological research.

In the quarrel between the Jesuits and the Dominicans over the problem of the relationship between grace and free will he took no formal part, though during the crisis of the first decade of the seventeenth century he was active behind the scenes promoting the more liberal Jesuit position. Similarly, he did much to establish the moral school of probabilism, which was later associated with Jesuit confessional practice. As a jurist Suárez did much to elaborate the notion of penal law and the juridical force of custom. He was a powerful advocate of the principle of subsidiarity in civil society, and he insisted that the powers of the state were rooted in the free consent of the governed. His doctrine of ius gentium, based upon the precept of universal love that transcends national or racial divisions, contributed to the development of international law.

Suárez was probably the greatest of all the Jesuit theologians, and as such he has had continuing importance within the intellectual life of the Catholic church. But he was influential far beyond his own order or his own communion. Spinoza, Leibniz, Berkeley, and Vico have all acknowledged their debt to Suárez. The title given him by Pope Paul VDoctor Eximius ("distinguished scholar")seems even now appropriate.


For a good synopsis of Suárez's teaching, see René Brouillard's article "Suarez, François," in Dictionnaire de théologie catholique (Paris, 1941). A longer study, with biographical details, is Raoul de Scorraille's François Suarez de la compagnie de Jésus, 2 vols. (Paris, 19121913). Two useful special studies are Francisco Suárez: Addresses in Commemoration of His Contribution to International Law and Politics, edited by Herbert Wright (Washington, D.C., 1933), and José Hellín's La analogía del ser y el conocimento de Dios en Suárez (Madrid, 1947).

Marvin R. O'connell (1987)

Francisco Suárez

views updated May 29 2018

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). □

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Francisco Suarez

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