Suárez, Francisco

Suárez, Francisco

Suárez, Francisco (fränthēsˈkō swäˈrāth), 1548–1617, Spanish Jesuit philosopher, b. Granada. He studied at Salamanca and was ordained in 1572. He taught successively at Ávila, Segovia, Valladolid, Rome, Alcalá, and Salamanca and in 1597 was appointed to the Univ. of Coimbra, Portugal (then under Spanish dominion). He may be called the last of the scholastic philosophers (see scholasticism). His system is mild and characteristic of the Jesuit theologians. His “congruism” is a middle course between the teachings of Luis Molina and the Dominican predestinarian teachings. Suárez taught that one may hold the same doctrine by science and faith. His teaching on the divine right of kings that earthly power is properly held by the body of men and that kingly power is derived from them so enraged James I of England that the king had Suárez's De defensione fidei burned by the hangman. This political doctrine, based on the Roman Catholic doctrine of the equality before God of all men, is a basis of subsequent Catholic teachings on democracy. Suárez was highly esteemed by Grotius and his followers. In his Tractatus de legibus he made an important distinction between natural law and international law, which he saw as based on custom.


See J. H. Fichter, Man of Spain (1940); H. Lacarte, The Nature of Canon Law according to Suarez (1964).

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Suárez, Francisco


Born Jan. 5, 1548, in Granada; died Sept. 25, 1617, in Lisbon. Spanish theologian and philosopher; representative of “second Scholasticism.” Jesuit.

Suárez graduated from the University of Salamanca in 1570. During the period 1570–80, he taught in Salamanca, Segovia, Valladolid, and Avila, from 1580 to 1585 at the Roman College, from 1585 to 1593 in Alcalá and then again in Salamanca. Beginning in 1597 he taught at the University of Coimbra in Portugal.

Suárez greatly modified the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas and proposed some ideas similar to John Duns Scotus. Denying that essence was really distinct from existence, he held that the singular has primacy over the general: a thing is neither form nor matter but has primacy over both and is identical with the fact of being. In the disputes on the relationship between free will and divine predestination, which gained in intensity in the polemics with the proponents of Protestantism, Suárez shifted the emphasis from predestination to god’s foreknowledge: god does not determine man’s free choice but has foreknowledge of it and, in accordance with this foreknowledge of man’s path to god, confers grace.

Suárez’s doctrine was opposed by the official circles of the church but later gained wide currency among Catholic theologians. His main philosophical work, Metaphysical Disputations (1597), was very influential, in particular in the universities of the 17th century, and left a marked imprint on the work of even such anti-Scholastic philosophers as Descartes and Leibniz. Politically, Suárez justified tyrannicide: a ruler who has become a tyrant and thereby violates the divine principle of rule, which is understood as a just contract between the people and the ruler, deserves to be killed. Suárez’s treatises on natural law had a considerable influence on H. Grotius.


Opera omnia, vols. 1–28. Paris, 1856–78.


Scoraille, R. de. F. Suárez, vols. 1–2. Paris, 1912–13.
Rommen, H. Die Staatslehre des F. Suárez. Munich, 1926.
Mullaney, T. Suárez on Human Freedom. Baltimore, 1950.
Perena Vicente, L. Teoría de la guerra en F. Suárez, vols. 1–2. Madrid, 1954.
Dumont, P. Liberté humaine et concours divin d’après Suárez. Paris, 1960.
Wilenius, R. The Social and Political Theory of Francisco Suárez. Helsinki, 1963.
McCormick, J. J. A Suárezian Bibliography. Chicago, 1937.
Múgica, P. Bibliográfica suáreciana. Granada, 1948.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.