Sanches, Francisco (Sánchez)
SANCHES, FRANCISCO (SÁNCHEZ)
Philosopher and physician; b. 1550 or 1552, Braga, Portugal, or Tuy, Spain; d. Toulouse, November 1623; son of a Jewish New Christian physician, who fled to Bordeaux. Like his distant cousin M. E. de montaigne, Sanches probably studied at the Collège de Guyenne then in Rome; he went from there to Montpellier. He subsequently became professor of philosophy and later of medicine at Toulouse. He wrote Quod nihil scitur (Lyons 1581); a letter to the mathematician, Clavius (1574–75); and medical works and tracts against Renaissance pseudosciences.
Sanches developed a skeptical and nominalistic attack against aristotelianism, challenging the possibility of gaining knowledge of reality through definitions, syllogisms, and causes. He argued also against mathematical knowledge. Science, Sanches claimed, is perfect and complete knowledge of individual objects. This cannot be attained because of the nature of things and man's limitations. Instead Sanches recommended careful empirical study of objects as all that man can accomplish. He is probably the first to use the term "scientific method," and to develop a constructive skepticism, i.e., a positivistic-pragmatic view of science, independent of any metaphysics. Sanches may have influenced Descartes, Gassendi, Mersenne, and Leibniz.
See Also: skepticism.
Bibliography: Opera philosophica (new ed. Coimbra 1955). j. moreau, "Doute et savoir chez Francisco Sanches," Aufsätze zur Portugiesischen Kulturgeschichte, 24–50, v.1 of Portugiesische Forschungen der Görresgesellschaft (Münster 1960–). r. h. popkin, The History of Scepticism from Erasmus to Descartes (Assen 1960).
[r. h. popkin]