Considered one of the greatest humanists of Renaissance Europe, the life of Joan Lluís Vives has long been forgotten. Philosopher, philologist, educator and, in a way, psychologist Vives was a man of extensive knowledge and many preoccupations.
Trying to save himself from the yoke of the Inquisition, he fled to England and Flanders, places where he had the opportunity to seize the highest spheres. His advice and wise words have reached the ears of monarchs such as Charles V, Francis I, Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon.
Joan Lluís Vives maintained a close relationship with other great Renaissance figures such as Erasmus of Rotterdam and Thomas More and, here, we will delve a little more into his personal history, as well as his vast repertoire of works, through a biography of Joan Lluís Vives.
Brief biography of Joan Lluís Vives
Joan Lluís Vives (Valencian Joan Lluís Vives and Latin Ioannes Lodovicus Vives) was born in Valencia on March 6, 1493 in a family of converted Jews. Although the family abandoned their Hebrew beliefs, they could not save themselves from the religious persecution of their time, raging with the Vives.
First years and flight from Spain
As a young man, Joan Lluís Vives had to face bad news when he discovered that his cousin Michael was accused of acting as a rabbi in an underground synagogue. To prevent these same problems from haunting him, when he had the opportunity, Joan Lluís Vives fled abroad.
Having already studied in Valence, he went to the Sorbonne in Paris. In 1512, he settled in Flanders, Where he was a professor at the University of Louvain and established a close relationship with Erasmus Rotterdam.
In 1524, his father, Lluís Vives, was sentenced to be burnt at the stake. Her sisters claimed the dowry of her mother, Blanca March, a relative of the famous Valencian poet Ausiàs March. Her mother had passed away years ago but the Holy Inquisition managed to accuse her of heresy, exhuming her corpse and turning it into a pasture of flames. Everything was valid for the money to be confiscated.
Be abroad received an offer to return to Spain and teach at the University of Alcala de HenaresBut seeing how his country treated his family is not hard to see why he decided to turn down such offers. By then he had already settled in England, a place where the dark shadow of the Inquisition was not so strong, and he was living well off the fame he had gained. He taught at Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford.
Adviser to the Kings of England
His prestige as a man of extensive knowledge opened up many opportunities for him and he was able to alternate with the highest English aristocracy. He became a very close figure to Queen Catherine of Aragon and also approached the politician and humanist Thomas More..
His friendship with Moro just happened in difficult times. These intellectuals were united by common concerns, as they both believed that humanism had declined because of its own representatives, now preoccupied with political interests.
In 1526, after a brief stay in Bruges, Flanders, he wrote his Treatise on Aid to the Poor. It is a text in which he advocates a vision of helping the most deprived, arguing that the public administration must do everything to improve the quality of life of people living on their land. The ideas presented in this text are considered to be the precursors of social services in Europe.
Abandonment of England and final years
On his return to England, thanks to the favor he enjoyed at court, she obtained the title of Latin teacher from Maria Tudor, the future queen of the country. But despite the kings’ sympathies, their position has been truncated by the impending political changes.
Henry VIII asked the Church to be separated from Catherine of Aragon as he was not giving her a son, but this request was refused, which led the English monarch to decide to establish his own church, the Church of England, in which he was the highest representative.
Vives was not in favor of divorce or Enrique’s unilateral decisions, but instead of supporting Catalina, he asked her to keep a low profile before denouncing her husband’s decisions. The King and Queen saw Vives not positioning a position contrary to his own, which quickly caused him to lose the favoritism of the two monarchs. Therefore, he lost the pension offered by the royal house to survive, and began to worry.
Vives, already an expert in escapes from countries where he was not wanted, saw the pattern repeated in Spain. If in his native country the ferocity of the ecclesiastical authorities was to be Jewish, it would be in England not to have openly opposed the Church. Thomas More had asked Henry VIII to obey the Pope, which earned him his execution in 1535. Vives’ fears were unfounded and, after the death of his friend, he decided definitively not to return to England.
He spent his last years in Flanders. Here he devoted himself to moral philosophy and pedagogy, as well as to deepening the need for the peoples of Europe to unite in peace and harmony, while fighting the enemy in a bellicose manner. Muslim. Joan Lluís Vives died on May 6, 1540 in the Flemish city of Bruges, Having experienced the last ravages of very poor health, he is generally 47 years old.
Thinking and work
The work and thought of Joan Lluís Vives are really attractive, because they are those of a humanist, renaissance man, defender of a common European identity, Catholic-based, to deal with Islamic threats. He saw Christianity shatter again, this time into Catholics and Protestants. In a world where the scepter and the throne went hand in hand, any change in the way religion was interpreted implied a complete political change.
If he believed at first that the rupture of the Church of England from that of the rest of the Christian world would be only a theological dispute, the events experienced by Thomas More and himself quickly brought him a change of mind. . That is why, far from firmly defending the unilateralism of the rulers and the pope, Vives argued that Christian kings should unite as brothers, in peace and harmony., To advance the continent. He used the term Europe not to refer to the region, but to its civilization.
He was of the opinion that in the schism of England and the papacy, their rulers had to speak out in order to reach a common position. The problem had to be solved through speech and dialogue, without using the sword. Thus, Joan Lluís Vives shows a true democratic and conciliatory disposition, which would sow the will of the subsequent councils which will try to smooth out the “betrayal” of the English Christians.
He criticized the number of Catholics who lived the faith. In a letter to Pope Alexander VI, better known as Rodrigo de Borja (or Borgia) and to a Valencian like him as well, Vives expressed concern that Sunday Masses had become an almost parodic performance. of what Christians should and did not do. ‘t. Charity was encouraged, but it was not done; understanding and peace were promoted, but kings and monks engaged in absurd fraternal wars.
As for his way of teaching and his more academic thinking, Vives tried to recover Aristotle’s thought by abandoning medieval scholastic interpretations, In addition to being a promoter of an ethic inspired by Plato and the Stoics. He was an eclectic and universalist man who advanced with innovative ideas in multiple philosophical, theological, educational and political questions. His writings total sixty and he wrote them entirely in Latin. In each of them, he insists on the fact that the teaching must be given by problems of methods. rather than a masterful session.
They understand the mind of the student, so he was considered a great educator and psychologist. In his treatise “On Soul and Life”, although he follows Aristotle and defends the immortality of the soul, attributes to psychology the empirical study of spiritual processes. he studies the theory of affections, memory and the association of ideas, with which he is considered the forerunner of modern anthropology and psychology in the 17th century.
Another of his remarkable educational works is “The Christian Donation Institutions” (1529), a sort of ethical-religious manual edited by the good Christian, young, married or widowed. We also have “De ratione studi puerilis”, which is considered to be one of the first teaching programs in the humanities. Other books in this sense are “De ingeniorum adolescentium ac puellarum institutione” (1545) and “De officio mariti”, “De disciplinis” (1531), finally divided into three parts: “De causis corruptarum artium”, “de tradendis disciplinis “i” de artibus “.
As for his more social works, we find several treatises, including “Aid to the Poor” or “De subsidye pauperum” (1526) and “De communione rerum” (1535). In his works, Vives always writes on specific subjects and with proposed solutions., Such as “De conditione vitae de cristians sub Turca” (1526) or “Dissidiis Europae et bell Turcico” (1526), works in which he addresses the problems of Christianity in relation to the Turks and the Protestant Reformation, defending the idea exposed that Europeans should unite against Muslims, especially Ottomans.
Linked to his reputation as a good connoisseur of the Latin language, we have his “Linguae latinae Exercitatio” or “Latin Language Exercises” (1538), a book with very simple dialogues that he dictated to facilitate the learning of languages. Of Plutarch among his own. students.
- G. Bleiberg and J. Marías. (1994) Dictionary of Spanish Literature, Madrid: Review of the West
- Vives, Juan Luis; Calero, Francisco (1999). Political and pacifist works. Madrid: Ediciones Atlas – Library of Spanish authors. ISBN 84-363-1093-4.
- Fantazzi, Charles, ed. (2008). A companion of Juan Luis Vives, Leiden: Brill (Brill’s companions in the Christian tradition, 12).