Francisco Suárez: biography of this Spanish philosopher

Francisco Suárez was a Spanish philosopher, theologian and jurist considered the maximum exponent of the scholastic philosophy of century XVI. A member of the Jesuits, he had the opportunity to study at various universities traveling through Christendom and to spread his philosophy.

A strong supporter of the Catholic faith at a time when Protestantism had just emerged and threatened the religious monopoly of the Holy See in the Western world, Suárez did multiple tasks to broaden the message in defense of the ancient faith.

Below we will find out who this Spanish philosopher was and see some brushstrokes from his metaphysical, political and legal perspective, through a biography of Francisco Suárez.

    Brief biography of Francisco Suárez

    Francisco Suárez de Toledo Vázquez de Utiel and González de la Tour, Doctor Eximius or more briefly known as Francisco Suárez He was born on January 5, 1548 in Granada, Spanish Empire; he grew up in a wealthy family of Castilian origin who had recently taken possession like so many other inhabitants of the crown of Castile of the Andalusian lands. In his childhood Francisco Suárez learned Latin at home having Latin Juan as his teacher; in this language he wrote his work.

    Over the years, entering adolescence, Suárez entered as a novice in the Society of Jesus of Medina of the Field in Valladolid. Later, in 1561 a registry in the University of Salamanca was registered, in which he attended straight. In 1564, after being rejected three times by the Society of Jesus, he was admitted as one of its members. After that, between 1564 and 1566 he will study philosophy and for the next four years will focus on theology.

    In 1571 he began his career as a teacher in Segovia as a professor of philosophy. In 1575 he moved from theology to Segovia and Avila and the following year he moved to Valladolid to teach theology for four years. In 1580, he went to the center of Christianity itself, in Rome. There he was accepted as a professor of theology at the Roman College for five years but, unfortunately and due to his poor health, he was forced to return to Spain.

    In his turn, he would teach at the University of Alcala de Henares, a place in which tense and warm discussions with Father Grabriel Vázquez would be held on legal-moral and theological questions. As professor Francisco Suárez, he deviated from the norm of the time. He refused the usual methods deeming them inappropriate to arouse the interest of the students. He posed new problems for his students and encouraged the study of the sources he spoke of, inviting them to reflect on them and criticize them.

    In 1590 he published his book “De verb incarnato” and, two years later, published “De Mysteriis vitae Christi”, in which he commented on certain aspects of the “Sum” of Saint Thomas. In 1593 he returned to the University of Salamanca as a professor, when he prepared his “Disputationes metaphysicae”, which will be the culmination of his career and will see the light of day in 1597 in Salamanca.

    In 1597, he acceded to the chair of theology at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. During the year 1599 he lived in Madrid after the closure of this university and that year published “Opuscula theologica”. He exposes certain ideas that end up being controversial, in particular that of confession at a distance. This led him to have to give explanations to Pope Clement VIII. However, Pope Paul V would favor it, defending his innovative ideas.

    In 1612, he published “De legibus” which will be another of his important works. A year later, in the midst of the controversy initiated by James I of England, Francis Suarez published his “Defensio fidei catholicae Apostolicae adversus Anglicanae sectae errors” (Defense of the Catholic and apostolic faith against the errors of the Anglican sect), a work commissioned directly by the Pope. In this Suarez held the theory of the pontiff’s indirect power in temporal matters, contradicting the idea that kings received their sovereignty by divine decision.

    This work apologized that the citizens made the legitimate decision to protect themselves against a prince turned tyrant, criticizing that if a ruler changed his faith and persecuted his people because of it, it was right for the people to respond. The text did not go well in England, being burned publicly in London by order of Jacobo I and, also, in Paris in the hands of the Galicanos regalistas.

    Two years after having written his “Defense of the Catholic Faith”, he retired as a teacher in Coimbra and spent his last years in Portugal. He died on September 25, 1617 at the age of 69 in the Portuguese capital, To be buried in the church of Sant Roc. Throughout the 17th century, some of his works appeared posthumously, which speak of human freedom. The extraordinary scope of his thought remained alive for almost two centuries in most European universities.

      Francisco Suárez’s philosophy

      Francisco Suárez he is considered the last great thinker of the scholastic school of the Renaissance, Focusing primarily on metaphysics and legal and political philosophy. Knowing that scholasticism was becoming sterile, Suárez tried to broaden the philosophical horizon with new conceptions and perspectives, but without ceasing to think that philosophy must remain Christian and be at the service of theology.

      His work on “Metaphysical Disputations” is considered to draw the line between Aristotle’s commentaries and independent studies of metaphysics. It is this work which is considered as a true encyclopedia of his philosophical and religious knowledge. Because of that he tried to reconcile divine grace with free will some see in the figure of Francesc Suárez a sort of “second of Aquinas”.


      The significance of the figure of Suárez is that he was the first to erect a systematic metaphysical body at a time when the philosophers of his day seemed to want something more than a series of Aristotelian commentaries. With the work of Francisco Suárez metaphysics has epistemologically become an autonomous entity, a field of knowledge with a certain theoretical independence.

      His book “Disputaciones Metafísiques” is the work that brings together all his philosophy in an exhaustive way. Although Suárez is considered the last great systematizer of scholastic thought, he is, in turn, a precursor of orientations and themes that would assume great importance in modern philosophical thought in the seventeenth century.

      More than 200 cited authors appear in this book, making direct reference to their work. Analyzes and discusses all kinds of philosophical theories, always from a respectful perspective. He speaks of Saint Thomas Aquinas, of Plato, of Arab philosophy, of the Thomists, of the Scots, of the Renaissance philosophers, of the masters of Salamanca … hardly any man of great philosophical knowledge before his time does not. is still omitted in Suárez’s work. , of course, all belonging to western or neighboring cultures.

      Knowing all kinds of theories, and in particular those that had been defined in scholasticism (Thomism, Scotism and Oockhamist nominalism), Suarez compiles and, in part, modernizes the philosophy of his time.

      Politics and Law

      Francisco Suárez he expresses his legal-political thought in several works, mainly “Of legibus” (1612) and “Defensio fidei catholicae” (1613). It is largely based on the thought of Saint Thomas Aquinas, but the depth with which he exposes his thoughts gives it a great deal of originality.

      Suárez starts from the same definition of Santo Tomás when speaking of the law, but considers it too broad. For him, the law must be restricted to the domain of what is human, speaking on the one hand of eternal law, of divine reason, and of natural law, which would be universal and human. Suárez sees the law as an aspect that must be both a product of understanding and of willingness. It must be a common, fair and stable precept that is the subject of a consensus. The law must dictate what is right, and for a law to be just, it must meet the following three conditions:

      • May it be adopted for the common good
      • That it be promulgated among all those over whom the legislator has authority
      • What to distribute loads evenly

      Outraged, explains ideas about the society in which the law should be applied. The first social form is the family, which it considers as an imperfect grouping of which it passes to the formation of a society by means of an express, voluntary and general pact which seeks the common good. But for the law to be properly established it is necessary to establish a community of authorities and subjects, therefore it is necessary to create institutions that house authority, knowing that they will never directly receive the power of God. .

      The delegation of political power would not mean the city renounces its primary rights and, in fact, the rulers can in no way act against the people. If the prince, king or any authority turns against his subjects, the people have the right to stand as the ruler is not because God chose him, but because the people allowed it. This idea has been interpreted as a subtle critique of the absolutist monarchies in force at the time.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Ferrater Mora, J. (1953). Suárez and modern philosophy. Journal of the History of Ideas, 14 (4), pages 528-547.
      • Rábade Romeo, S. (1997). Francisco Suárez: (1548-1617) ([1a. ed.] ed.). Madrid: editions of the Orto.
      • Bergadà, MM (1950). Francisco Suárez’s contribution to modern philosophy. (Pp. 1921-1926). Buenos Aires: Universidad Nacional de Que el.

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