Fonseca, Peter da

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Philosopher; b. Proença-a-Nova, Portugal, 1528; d. Lisbon, Nov. 4, 1599. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1548, studied at the University of Evora, and spent a number of years as teacher of philosophy and theology in the University of Coimbra. A man of great tact and finesse, he was appointed to important committees by his religious superiors and was sent on several delicate missions. He was one of six Jesuits appointed to work out the Jesuits code of education, the Ratio Studiorum. From 1567 to 1592 he held such offices in the society as rector, general's assistant, superior of a professed house, and visitor; contrary to what one sometimes reads, he was never provincial. After Portugal was incorporated under the crown of Spain (1582), Philip II used Fonseca's influence and ability to remedy the moral and social evils of Lisbon. Fonseca reminded his contemporaries of St. Ignatius Loyola by reason of his prudence, his choice of apostolic works, and his manner of accomplishing his goals.

Fonseca is best known, however, for his contribution to the renaissance of scholasticism in the 16th century. He wrote a popular text in dialectics and an introduction to philosophy; but his most important work was his four-volume Commentarii in libros Metaphysicorum Aristotelis (Lisbon 157789). With a humanist's taste and philological background, Fonseca attended to textual criticism and always tried to get as accurate a Greek reading as possible. The Greek is accompanied by Fonseca's own translation. The commentary tries to interpret Aristotle strictly according to Aristotle himself; but after the commentary Fonseca adds a number of special questions in which he treats, in a personal fashion and sometimes at great length, almost all philosophical questions.

Though Thomistic in a broad sense, Fonseca nevertheless taught that the human intellect has a direct knowledge of singulars; that created existence is only an intrinsic mode of a finite essence; that primary matter is not altogether potency; and that the principle of individuation adds something positive to a thing's essence. Fonseca was one of the first to utilize scientia media (God's knowledge of hypothetical future free actions) as a means of reconciling human freedom with divine foreknowledge, predestination, and efficacious grace. Luis de molina probably arrived at the doctrine of scientia media independently of and before Fonseca, but this point is still debated.

Bibliography: l. morati, Enciclopedia filosofica (Venice-Rome 1957) 2:474475. m. solana, Historia de la filosofía Española: Época del Renacimiento, 3 v. (Madrid 1941) 3:339366, j. rabeneck, "Antiqua Legenda de Molina Narrata Examinatur," Archivum historicum Societatis Jesu 24 (1955) 295326. p. da fonseca, Commentarii in libros metaphysicorum Aristotelis, ed. g. olms (Hildesheim 1964).

[a. benedetto]

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Fonseca, Peter da

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