08 May 2007

suarez and reformed metaphysics

In an earlier post, I noted the relationship between the Jesuit theologian and metaphysician, Francisco Suarez (1548-1617), and the thought of the Reformed thinker Bartolomaeus Keckermann (1571-1609).

From Keckermann, we can turn to the German Calvinist and academic philosopher Clemens Timpler (1563-1624) whose Metaphysicae systema methodicum was published in 1604, nearly contemporary with a number of Keckermann’s major works. The influence of Suarez upon Timpler is evident, first of all, in the nine arguments he gives for the existence of God, the first six of which are taken over almost directly from Suarez, in summary form. Moreover, Timpler appears to be following Suarez in his suggestion that “anything intelligible” (omne intelligibile) divides into the categories of either “nothing” (nihil) or “something” (aliquid), and that “something” divides into the real (aliquid positivum) and the unreal (aliquid negativum) and so on.

In this connection, we can also note the work of Gilbertus Jacchaeus (1578-1628), a Scottish theologian who taught at Leiden. It is arguably his 1616 work, Institutiones Metaphysicae, that most decisively introduced Suarez’s metaphysics into the scholasticism of the Dutch Reformed theologians, at least if by “introduced” we mean within the published work of a Reformed theologian. Manuscript evidence of unpublished works indicates an already present and independent interest in Suarez on the part of the Dutch.

As I noted in an earlier post, Jacchaeus concurs with Suarez on the univocity of Being, but his dependence upon Suarez does not end there. Elsewhere, for instance, Jacchaeus more or less repeats Suarez’s argument for the existence of God from his 29th Disputation. In particular, Jacchaeus draws attention to Suarez’s criticism, following Scotus, of Aquinas’s theistic argument from motion, particularly the assertion that “everything that is moved is moved by something else.”

Likewise, the Dutch theologian Antonius Walaeus (1573-1639) is largely dependent upon Suarez when he presents his own summation of arguments for the existence of God in his Common Places (Loci Communes). His summary is clearly a brief resume of Suarez’s argumentation, even with regard to what objections are raised and how they are dealt with.

Other lines of dependence upon Suarez might be traced, though they become increasingly indirect. So, for instance, on the doctrine of divine simplicity and the distinction between divine attributes, Reformed theologians were not eager to follow Suarez in his positing of a “formal” distinction (though that language occasionally creeps into Reformed discussion in a positive way). Nonetheless, given the shape of the discussion in Protestant scholastic texts, it seems to me that much of the medieval conversation on the topic is mediated to Reformed authors through Suarez’s treatment. Such forms of dependence, however, are more difficult to verify than more direct forms of dependence that are made evident by citation, literary structure, logic, vocabulary, and the like.

It is clear, nevertheless, even from the limited evidence I’ve presented, that in the areas of metaphysics, natural theology, and theological prolegomena, Suarez did significantly mold the course of discussion within emerging Protestant scholasticism.