Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy

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Thomism in Renaissance Philosophy

  • Efrem JindráčekEmail author
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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_329-2


Thomism is a philosophical-theological movement or school essentially inspired by the thought of Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274), a Dominican master, traditionally called Doctor Communis or Doctor Angelicus (Berthier, Sanctus Thomas Aquinas ‘Doctor Communis’ Ecclesiae. Rome, 1914, LV–LXVIII). His doctrine is an original synthesis of Roman Catholic theology and a philosophical system based on Aristotelian, Neoplatonic, Roman, Arabic, and Jewish thought. Thomism in its original and authentic form distinguished very precisely between theological and philosophical knowledge or method. In philosophy, Thomism only used rational arguments, with the aim of providing, if possible, a universal philosophical interpretation of reality, neither relying on religious belief nor contradicting Christian Revelation or Catholic Doctrine (Bonino, Nova vetera 86:91–109, 2011, 92–97; Kristeller 1974, 843–844). With the development of a Thomist presence at the universities, especially in northern Italy, this school also received the designation of the Via Thomae, as opposed to the Via Scoti, a term reserved for those holding the teaching chair reserved for the Scotists (Tavuzzi, Doctor Communis 45:132–152, 1992, 133; Kristeller 1974, 855). Some key characteristics of Thomism’s development in the Renaissance were contact with Italian Aristotelianism, especially in its Averroist form; a highly evolved scholastic terminology; rigorous philosophical logic; polemics against the Albertist and Nominalist schools (influenced by Scotism), and later against Molinism (Luis de Molina d. 1600) and an alternative interpretation of Aquinas’ thought – especially the one proposed by Francisco Suárez (d. 1617). Typical works by Renaissance Thomists include the commentaries on Aquinas’ works and commentaries on the Corpus Aristotelicum in the form of questions, a new type of philosophical work – the Compendium and also the Cursus – and systematic expositions of all philosophical disciplines in the Aristotelian order and following Aquinas’ interpretation. After 1492, with the Spanish colonization of the New World, Thomism made an important contribution to the development of international law and human rights, on the foundation of natural law.


Heritage and Rupture with the Tradition

The term Thomismus emerged at the beginning of the fourteenth century as a derivation from Aquinas’ name “Thomas.” Originally, however, Thomas’s disciples were called Thomatistae by their adversaries (Ehrle 1920, 491–494). For the birth of Thomistic philosophy, the following works were crucial: the writings of Aquinas himself; the philosophical heritage of the first and second generation of Thomists (ca. 1274–1300), a heritage founded on polemics with Scotist and Augustinian scholars and expressed in particular kinds of treaties such as the Correctoria, Apologiae, and Concordantiae (cf. Torrell 1997, 10–24; Robiglio 2008, 18–39); debates with the Nominalists or Terminists such as Durandus of Saint-Pourçain (d. 1334), Willam of Ockham (d. 1347), John Buridan (d. 1358), and the highly original French thinker Peter Aureolus (d. 1322).

The Early Thomist School

In addition to theoretical and doctrinal polemics, the 1323 canonization of Thomas Aquinas in Avignon by Pope John XXII constituted a strong apology for Thomas orthodoxy against his critics (Robiglio 2008, 70–72). In the canonization declaration, Aquinas was, among other things, formally presented as the best teacher of evangelical poverty (!), against contemporary radical spiritualist (Franciscan) movements. The history of Thomistic Philosophy in the first half of the fourteenth century was marked by the work of Hervaeus Natalis (d. 1323), Gratiadeus Aesculanus (ca. 1341), Armandus de Bellovisu (d. after 1340), and anonymous but very influential pseudo-thomasian treatises such as the Summa totius Logicae Aristotelis, De principio individuationis, De natura generis, De natura accidentis, and the spurious opusculum De fallaciis. During this first historical period, Thomists formulated some typical philosophical doctrines which distinguished them from other philosophical schools: (1) the theory that act and potency are two different, contradictory principles which divide being, a theory which also entails the purely potential character of primary matter; (2) the analogical unity of the concept of being; (3) the unicity of substantial form as a constitutive act for every individual subject, and by consequence that the human soul is the only substantial form of the human being; (4) the individuation of physical bodies by determined matter, and by consequence the impossibility of a plurality of separated forms in any given species; (5) the real distinction between the faculties and the essence of the human soul; (6) the primacy of the intellect in human nature and its decisive role in achieving happiness; (7) the possibility of a rational demonstration of the existence of God; and (8) the noncontradictory nature of the nontemporal or eternal creation of the world. In this period, the theory of the real distinction in creatures between essence and existence was strongly defended by many Thomists, but not by all. The theory of analogy as such and the doctrine of God’s knowledge of future contingents would be developed in a more precise way in the future.

Roughly during the second half of the fourteenth century, Thomism suffered an immense decline. The causes were diverse and both internal and external, including social, religious and philosophical factors. Among the more important of these were: (1) the Western Schism or Papal Schism which tempted to internally divide the Roman Catholic Church from 1378 until 1417; (2) the Black Death (1346–1353), one of the most devastating pandemics in human history; (3) the violent Hussite movement; and (4) religious movements such as the Beguines and Beghards, Rhineland mysticism, and the Devotio Moderna, all of which had a very different doctrinal anchor and enjoyed extensive spiritual and intellectual influence. The overall atmosphere was rendered more difficult by an immense skepticism, accompanied by nominalism and (paradoxically) an extreme realism, as well as the growth of radical religious movements with strong apocalyptic tendencies. These circumstances led to a weakening and dividing of important institutions such as universities, religious studia, and priories, the very institutions in which Thomism had set down its roots.

Innovative and Original Aspects

After the exclusion of Dominican masters from the University of Paris (from 1389 to 1403), provoked by the scandal of Juan de Monzón (d. 1412) with his violent polemic against the defenders of the Immaculate Conception between 1387 and 1389, Thomism again gathered strength and expanded in impressive fashion in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. Although Thomism still retained the scholastic method, and perhaps it would be better to speak of “Thomism in the Renaissance” rather than “Renaissance Thomism” (cf. Tavuzzi 1992, 132–133), we cannot overlook certain characteristics that shaped this school, especially under the influence of the Italian philosophical setting.


Without a doubt, one of the most highly influential Thomists in this period was John Capreolus (d. 1444), a Dominican master in Paris, where he was certainly present from 1407 to 1411. From 1409 to 1432, he worked and taught in various cities (Paris, Toulouse and Rodez) and wrote a monumental work, the Defensiones theologiae divi Thomae Aquinatis. This comprehensive, detailed commentary on Peter Lombard’s Sentences includes critiques of Duns Scotus, Henry of Ghent, Peter Aureolus, John of Ripa, Durandus, Gregory of Rimini, and William of Ockham. For several centuries, this work stood as a classic source for Thomistic theology and philosophy and was particularly prized by Paolo Barbò da Soncino and Silvestro Mazzolini da Prierio, authors of the Divinum epitoma (1521–1522) and the Opus in Capreolum (1498) – both compendia of Capreolus’ Defensiones.

The Holy Roman Empire

Another Parisian scholar and colleague of Capreolus was a Dutch diocesan priest named Henry of Gorkum (Henricus de Gorrichem, d. 1431), the founder of the Bursa Montana (after 1420) an important college at the University of Cologne in Germany (cf. Hoenen 2012, 210–215). Especially notable among his works is the Quaestiones in Summam Sancti Thomae (ed. Esslingen 1473), which began the period of commentaries on Aquinas’ major works, and, in particular, the commentaries on the Summa Theologiae. This orientation of the Cologne scholars of the Bursa Montana can also be seen in the works of Gerardus de Monte (d. 1480), with his Commentum in Thomae Aquinatis tractatum De ente et essentia and Tractatus ostendens concordiam Thomae Aquinatis et Alberti Magni (ed. ca. 1485). In fact, the first commentator on the Summa Theologiae was probably Ioannes Tinctoris de Tornaco (d. 1469) from the same university, where Thomism was introduced and developed not by Dominicans but by secular masters (Goris 2002, 17–23; Bonino 2000a, 225–226). In any case, this German Thomist school was very important for its role in confronting the Albertists, toward which these Thomists had varying attitudes, sometimes polemical, sometimes conciliatory (Hoenen 2008, 127–130). In addition to this focus, the German Thomist school certainly left its mark with its commentaries on Aquinas’ works, especially on the Summa Theologiae. To complete our overview of German Thomism, we must also mention Peter Schwarz of Kadaň in Bohemia (Petrus Nigri de Cadena, d. 1484), the first rector of the University of Buda in Hungary and author of the Clypeus Thomistarum sive Quaestiones super Arte veteri Aristotelis (Venice 1481). This work represents a late, very precise, sometimes eclectic and polemical reception of Hervaeus Natalis’ and Capreolus’ interpretations of logic (Bonino 2002, 182; Jindráček 2011, 493–497). We might also note a secular master and philosopher of the University of Paris, John Versor (Jean le Tourneur, d. ca. 1482), author of scholastic commentaries on almost all the works of Aristotle, on Peter of Spain and on Aquinas’ De ente et essentia (ed. Cologne ca. 1487). Versor has often been characterized as an “albertising” Thomist, and his wide reception is well documented in Germany and in Central Europe (Bonino 2000b, 630–631, 638, 642, 652).

The Byzantine Empire

A very special chapter in the history of the school might be entitled “Byzantine Thomism,” a movement active in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. This movement represents a long-term convergence between eastern and western intellectuals, which was related to the pressure of the Ottoman Empire, the international culture at Venice and the Ecumenical Council of Basel–Ferrara–Florence (1431–1449). During this period, a number of Byzantine orthodox theologians and philosophers expressed great interest in Aquinas’ work, translated his works into Greek and commented on them. Some, for like Demetrios Kydones (d. 1398), translator of the Summa contra Gentiles, even converted to Catholicism and entered the Dominican Order. With the collaboration of his brother Prochoros (d.ca. 1369), Demetrios also translated the Summa Theologiae and the De rationibus fidei. One should also mention three Greek Dominican brothers: Maxim, Theodor, and Andreas Chrysoberges, who were active in the first half of the fifteenth century. Finally, Gennadios Scholarios (d. ca. 1473), the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, translated both Summae and the De ente et essentia into Greek, along with Armandus’ commentary on the latter work (Plested 2012, 222–228; Porro 2012, 474–475; Ganchou 2002, 446–469).


The heyday of Thomism during the Renaissance came during its development in Italy, especially in the Dominican centers of studies in Bologna and Padua. The Italian university setting of the fifteenth century witnessed an immense resurgence in the study of Aristotle and Plato. The revalorization of classical languages, the importance placed on reading texts in the original language, and the free exchange of ideas among all philosophical schools present at the time encouraged the general public in a humanistic orientation (Kristeller 1974a, 853–858). In a certain sense, this critical spirit is apparent in the work of one of Bologna’s Dominican masters, Pietro Maldura da Bergamo (d. 1482), author of the Tabula operum Thomae Aquinatis (called “Tabula Aurea,” ed. Bologna 1473), and the Ethimologiae id est Concordantiae conclusionum in quibus D. Thomas videtur sibimet contradicere (ed. Venice 1476). These are two closely related works: the Tabula is a brief explanation of key words in Thomas’ thought, while the Concordantiae compares various texts of Thomas to resolve difficulties and seeming contradictions (Guyot and Sterli 2003, 597–605; Colosio 1961, 123–129). This work had great influence for many centuries. The invention of the printing press around 1450 had generally accelerated the spread of all texts; for Thomists, this presented an opportunity for the wider dissemination of Aquinas’ own works. This development was closely linked with the first critical studies that sought to distinguish between authentic and inauthentic works as well as efforts to establish the most accurate text, using the surviving manuscripts. The first printed edition of Aquinas’ works was probably the Summa de articulis fidei (Mainz, ca. 1460 perhaps by Johannes Gutenberg himself).

Another important figure in Italian Thomism was Dominic of Flanders (born Beaudouin Lottin, d. 1479). A former disciple of John Versor and professor at University of Paris, Dominic arrived in Bologna and entered in the Dominican order in 1461. With extraordinary effort, he engrossed himself in the study of Aquinas’ logic and metaphysics (Tavuzzi 1993, 95–98). Among his philosophical works the Summa divinae philosophiae, also called the Quaestiones in XII libros Metaphysicae (ed. Venice 1499), and the Commentaria super libros De anima Aristotelis (printed in 1496) and the Commentaria super libris Posteriorum Aristotelis et in De fallaciis divi Thomae (ed. Venice 1507) are especially noteworthy. Dominic taught in Bologna, Pisa, and Florence, and many of his works have survived in manuscript form; one of its characteristics is the foundation of metaphysics and of “predicamental” common being, i.e., exclusively on created being.

Among other Bologna Thomists, one should note also Paul Barbò da Soncino (d. 1495), the author of the Elegantissima expositio in artem veterem Aristotelis (ed. Venice 1499) and in particular his Acutissimae quaestiones metaphysicales, printed posthumously in Venice in 1498 (Jindráček 2008, 120–134). Silvestro Mazzolini da Prierio (d. 1527) also belonged to this group. A master of theology in Bologna, Padua, and Rome, his philosophical production includes the Compendium dialecticae (Venice 1496), the Opus in Capreolum (Cremona 1497), the Conflatus ex Angelico Doctore S. Thoma (Perugia 1519), and a polemical work against the Scotists of Padua, the Malleus in falsas assumptiones Scoti (Bologna 1514). At this time, the practice of writing Compendia of Logic or Dialectics also became well-established. Here, one could mention Girolamo Savonarolas’ Compendium Logicae, written in 1488 (Tavuzzi 1997, 24–38). Silvestro and others Thomists of this period (like many others thinkers) were interested in the socioeconomic question of the Mount of Piety, the late mediaeval Italian institutions for charitable works and financial loans and produced short ethical and practical expositions defending them against the charge of usury.

For the systematic development of Thomistic philosophy, the work of Chrysostomus Javelli da Casale (d. 1538) is also important. His work offers a complete philosophical exposition, from logic and metaphysics to ethics, politics, and economics, mostly composed in the form of questions about and explanations of the Aristotelian texts, including the Liber De causis. We should also take note of his treatise De transcendentalibus (after the somewhat neglected De modis rerum by Remigio dei Girolami d. 1319) which was probably the first systematic Thomistic treatise on the transcendentals.

Apart from Bologna, Thomism also gained strength at another major Italian university center, namely, Padua. While the Bologna Thomists paid close attention to Aquinas’ texts, their authenticity, and concordance, the Padua Thomists engaged in extensive public debates with radical Aristotelians such as Nicoletto Vernia (d. 1499) and Pietro Pomponazzi (d. 1525) as well as with Scotists such as Antonio Trombetta (d. 1517). It was in this setting that there emerged the great figure of Thomas De Vio – the future cardinal Cajetan (d. 1534) – who even today is often thought of as being virtually the sole representative of Thomism in this period. In addition to his commentaries on Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae (1508–1523), his biblical commentaries (1520), and his debate with Martin Luther in 1518, which have given him a permanent place in the history of theology, Cajetan also left many remarkable purely philosophical writings. These latter works have been a subject of interest among researchers for several centuries. Among his books, one needs to mention at least the most important titles: In De ente et essentia D. Thomae Aquinatis (written 1493–1494), the Commentaria in Posteriorum Analyticorum (1496), In Isagogen Porphyrii (1497), In Predicamenta Aristotelis (1498), De nominum analogia (1498), and the Commentaria in De anima (1509). Cajetan also “completed” Aquinas’ unfinished commentary on the Peri hermenaias (book II, lectiones 3–14 in 1496), a common custom in scholastic literature. The author of an imposing corpus, Thomas De Vio encountered much criticism and doctrinal opposition from the outset, even within his own Dominican Order. Special should be given to his views about the (im)possibility of an apodictic demonstration of the immortality of the human soul and his particular conception of the analogy of being, namely, the analogy of proportionality (Giacon, I, 131–134; Hochschild 2010, 146). His influence and authority (he was Master General of the Dominicans from 1508 to 1518 and named cardinal in 1517) seem to have helped bring about the gradual replacement of Peter Lombard’s Sententiae by Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae as the standard book for theological formation in the sixteenth century (Jindráček 2009, 257). Here, a significant collaborator was Conrad Koellin (d. 1536), as witnessed by his correspondence with Cajetan in 1521 and 1522. Finally, it is worth mentioning an interesting seventeenth century effort by Tommaso Maria Giovi to compile Cajetan’s physics and metaphysics on the basis of his extant writings (cf. Libri octo De Physica (…) Thomae a Vio Caietani, Bologna 1683 and Metaphysica eminentissimi et reuerendissimi P. F. Thomae a Vio Caietani, Bologna 1688).

A contemporary of Thomas De Vio was Francesco Silvestri da Ferrara (d. 1528), called the Ferrariensis, who taught in Mantua, Milan, Ferrara and Bologna. In the history of Thomism, he is recalled mainly as a commentator on Aquinas’ Summa contra Gentiles (Venice 1524). Ferrariensis engaged in significant discussions on the human soul, the principle of individuation, analogy, and the theory of knowledge. His commentaries on Aristotle include the Annotationes in libros Posteriorum Aristotelis et sancti Thomae (Venice 1517), the Quaestiones luculentissimae in octo libros Physicorum Aristotelis (Venice 1601), and the Quaestiones luculentissimae in tres libros de Anima Aristotelis cum additionibus ad easdem et aliis quaestionibus philosophicis Matthiae Aquarii (Venice 1619). This last work was printed with the additions by Mattia Aquario (d. 1591), author of the Dilucidationes in XII libros primae philosophiae Aristotelis (ed. Rome 1584). Mattia Aquario taught in Milan, Rome and Naples.

The Editio Piana 1570

The importance and value of Thomas’ work in this period was undoubtedly enhanced by the influence of the Dominican Pope Pius V. In his bull Mirabilis Deus (April 11, 1567), the Pope set Thomas side by side with the Doctors of the Church (Walz 1967, 156, 169–173) and presented his work as the best defense against heretical doctrines (doubtless an allusion to the Protestant Reformation). Afterwards, he ordered the printing of a high quality edition of the first Opera Omnia of Aquinas (the so-called Editio Piana, Rome 1570), prepared at the studium housed in the Roman Priory of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Consisting of 17 volumes (with the Tabula Aurea of Pietro da Bergamo in the 18th vol.), the edition was undertaken by a commission composed of Cardinal Vincenzo Giustiniani (d. 1582), a former Master General of the Dominicans, and Tomás Manrique (or Manriquez d. 1573), Master of Sacred Palace, in collaboration with Remigio Nannini (or Nanni, d. 1581) and others (cf. Walz 1967, 159; Bataillon 1991, 142–143; Grendler 2006, 25–28). In these years, the General Chapters of the Dominican Order also determined a precise plan for the study of Aquinas and his commentators (Capreolus and Cajetan) for the centers of study and ordered the purchase of the Editio Piana. In this edition, the text of the Summa Theologiae and the De ente et essentia were accompanied by Cajetan’s commentaries and by Ferrara’s exposition on the Summa contra Gentiles.

Spain and Portugal

In Spain, the renewal and expansion of Thomism gained stimulus from the Paris Thomists. At the beginning of this process there emerged a fascinating character, the Flemish scholastic philosopher Peter Crockart of Brussels (d. 1514). Originally a disciple of the Scottish philosopher John Major (d. 1550), Peter found his way from the dominant school of Nominalism to Thomism, joined the Dominican Order and published several philosophical commentaries. Among these, note should be taken of his commentary on the whole of Aristotle’s Organon (Acutissimae quaestiones et quidem perutiles in singulos Aristotelis logicales libros with the Quaestiones super opusculum Sancti Thomae De ente et essential, Paris 1509), the commentaries on the Physics and the De anima (Argutissimae subtiles et fecundae quaestiones physicales (…) in octo libros Physicorum et in tres De anima, Paris 1510), and an exposition on Peter of Spain’s logic (Summularum artis dialecticae, Lyon 1512). Crockart formed a very important pupil, Francisco de Vitoria (d. 1546). He and another Spanish Dominican, Diego de Deza (d. 1523), the Grand Inquisitor of Spain and a crucial supporter of Christopher Columbus, would play a decisive role in the development of Thomism in Spain, particularly at the University of Salamanca. Vitoria enters the history of human thought primarily as a co-founder of international law and political philosophy. He was especially noted for his contributions to just war theory, the Law of Nations (ius gentium), and the development of the concept of distributive justice (iustitia distributiva). Among his works, one should note the Relectio de potestate civili (1528) and the Relectio de Indis et de iure belli (a part of the Relectiones Theologicae XII, ed. Lyon 1557). Another important representative of the Salamanca school was Francisco de Vitoria’s successor, Domingo de Soto (d. 1560) (Belda Plans 2000, 399–500). Besides his predominantly theological writings on grace, Domingo wrote numerous philosophical works reflecting a fairly original form of Thomism, including the Summule (Burgos, 1529), In libros posteriorum Aristotelis, sive de Demonstratione absolutissima commentaria (Venice 1574), and in particular the Super octo libros Physicorum Aristotelis commentaria (Salamanca 1555). In this last work, Soto expounded a theory of bodily motion (motus uniformiter difformis), which is in a way very close to the later theories of Galileo (Wallace 1997, 271–273). Galileo read Soto and was clearly aware of the Spanish Dominican’s physics. The best-known representative of the Salamanca and Valladolid school, however, is undoubtedly Domingo Báñez (lat. Bannes, d. 1604), a pupil of Diego de Chaves (d. 1592), Melchior Cano (d. 1560), Pedro de Soto, (d. 1563), and Diego de Chaves (d. 1592). His theological writings include the Scholastica Commentaria in Primam Partem Angelici Doctoris (Salamanca 1584, 1588), the Scholastica Commentaria in Secundam Secundae Angelici Doctoris (Salamanca 1584, 1594), and the Apologia Fratrum Predicatorum (1595), and made an important contribution of the discussion on predestination and the divine knowledge of future contingents. He also presents a number of philosophical ideas on the human soul and intellect and makes a contribution to the philosophy of nature. Among his philosophical works, one should mention the Commentaria et quaestiones in duos Aristotelis Stagyritae de Generatione et corruptione libros (Salamanca 1585) and his book on logic, the Institutiones minoris Dialecticae quas Summulas vocant (Salamanca 1599). Among Báñez’s students, several excelled in philosophy, especially Diego Mas (d. 1608) and Juan Sanchez Sedeño (d. 1615). Mas, who taught mainly at Valencia and Salamanca, became famous along with Ch. Javelli as one of the first authors of a systematic metaphysics that was not a commentary on Aristotle’s text (Metaphysica disputatio de ente et eius proprietatibus, Valencia 1587). Sanchez composed a book of logic (Aristotelis Logica Magna, Salamanca 1600). He was familiar with Hervaeus and Crockart. Sanchez still attracts the interest of logicians today (Lacca 2012, 109–124). Another very original Spanish Thomist was Francisco de Araujo (d. 1664) with his two-part commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics (Commentariorum in universam Aristotelis Metaphysicam, Salamanca 1617, 1631).

In a way, Thomism in the Renaissance period achieved a natural completion and a new direction with the so-called Baroque Thomism of the Portuguese Dominican John of St. Thomas (João Poinsot, d. 1644). After his studies at the Universities of Coimbra and Louvain, John taught at the University of Alcalà (today a part of Madrid). His Cursus Philosophicus Thomisticus contains an exposition of logic and philosophy of nature (physics and psychology). John’s work thoroughly utilizes the whole Thomistic philosophical tradition and presents a remarkable theory of signs, itself the subject of long-standing interest among many philosophers.

Impact and Legacy

Thomistic philosophy in the Renaissance period, taken in the broad sense as extending 1350–1650, was marked by six important historical developments: radical Averroist Aristotelianism in Italy, Humanism, the witch trials, the Protestant Reformation, the foundation of the Society of Jesus, and the discovery of the New World.

Medieval Thomism had already studied the Arabic commentators on Aristotle, especially Averroes, and this interest had at once enriched Thomism and helped it to recognize unacceptable doctrinal solutions. In the Renaissance, this exchange led to a confrontation between Thomists and the world of Italian lay teachers and philosophers, especially on the issue of the philosophical repudiation of the soul’s natural immortality. The result was a Thomistic polemic against such men as Nicoletto Vernia (d. 1499) and his students Pietro Pomponazzi (d. 1525) and Agostino Nifo (d. 1538). Nifo, however, would eventually become an important ally of the Thomists (cf. Nardi 1958, 383). In this controversy, perhaps the most intense debate took place between Bartolomeo Spina da Pisa (d. 1546) and Silvestro Mazzolini da Prierio (cf. Tavuzzi 1995, 47–58). In his Propugnaculum Aristotelis de immortalitate animae contra Thomam Caietanum (ed. Venice 1519), Spina was de facto arguing against Pomponazzi as much as against Cajetan.

The Thomists’ encounter with Humanism constituted a similar chapter in history. Although the Thomists never adhered to the principles of Renaissance Humanism, they never ceased having an active exchange with it and regularly engaged in public debates with its leaders. The most important debates took place between the following figures: Cajetan and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola at Ferrara (about 1494); Cajetan and Erasmus of Rotterdam (Cossio 34–35, 231–239); Girolamo Savonarola and Pico della Mirandola; Paolo Barbò da Soncino and Gianfrancesco Pico della Mirandola; Vitoria and Erasmus; as well as Juan Luis Vives. One of the positive consequences of this exchange of ideas seems to have been an increased interest in the Greek philosophical commentaries on Aristotle (e.g., Francesco Silvestri da Ferrara) and other ancient schools of thought such as Neo-Platonism (e.g., Javelli), as well as a greater interest in classical and biblical languages in general. Although the trial and execution of the former Dominican and Renaissance pantheist Giordano Bruno in 1600 is well known to the general public, this event had no practical consequence for the history of the Thomist school.

A number of important Thomists in this period (e.g., Prierias, Spina, Deza) actively participated as judges or consultors of the inquisitorial courts, whether in cases of heresy or witchcraft (cf. Abbiati et al. 1984, 218–228, 254–266). These authors also left a number of remarkable writings in the field of demonology, which are interesting from a philosophical point of view because of their conception of the influence of separate substances (demons) on the human soul and matter, and for their theories of separate substances as possible causes of physical transformation and movement; e.g., Spina, De strigibus, 1523 or Prierias, De strigimagarum daemonumque mirandis libri tres, 1521 (cf. Tavuzzi 2007, 43–46, 109; Id. 1997, 58–59, 102, 124–127).

There is no doubt that Martin Luther (d. 1546), John Calvin (d. 1564) and the subsequent Protestant Reformation and Catholic Reform affected the whole of Europe – and indeed the whole Christian world. From the first a number of Thomists were engaged in intense combat with the thought of Luther, like Prierias or Cajetan. Cajetan, for example, entered into direct discussion with Luther at Augsburg in October of 1518, but this event had no direct impact on the subsequent course of events. It is also true that many Thomists, especially Domingo de Soto, Pedro de Soto, Melchior Cano, Bartolomeo Spina, actively participated in the Council of Trent (1545–1563), but the substantial part of this conflict was played out at the theological level (the interpretation of the Bible, the question of Tradition, the authority of the Church, the question of justification and the sacraments etc.). Some indirect results of Europe’s confessional division included an ever-increasing skepticism about philosophical argumentation and the loss in many places of university teaching chairs by Catholic and thus Thomistic professors. Another indirect consequence of the Protestant Reformation was that, in the territory of the Holy Roman Empire, various religious centers of study closed entirely, interaction between different scholastic schools of thought declined, and the demand for official doctrinal unity in the Catholic camp grew, rendering open conflict between different philosophical schools undesirable – particularly in public, though confessional, universities in Catholic countries that had strong Protestant minorities.

A very difficult chapter in the history of Thomism is the role played by the most important new religious order of the era, the Society of Jesus, formed in 1539/1540 by Ignatius of Loyola (d. 1556). Although the Jesuits declared their interest in the study of Aquinas’ thought from the beginning, with the rapid expansion of their Order, they soon created their own school of thought. Already by the end of the sixteenth century, the Jesuits came into sharp conflict with the main representatives of “integral” or “strict” Thomism, a group led mainly by the Salamanca Dominicans. The main protagonists of the dispute were the Spanish Jesuit Luis de Molina (d. 1600), a pupil of Pedro da Fonseca (d. 1599) and professor at the University of Évora in Portugal (which published his famous book the Concordia liberi arbitrii cum gratiae donis, divina praescientia, providentia, praedestinatione et reprobatione Concordia, Lisbon 1588), and Domingo Bañez, who responded sharply to Molina in his Apologia Fratrum Praedicatorum (1595). Both camps had significant early followers. On the Molinist side, these included Pedro Arrubal (d. 1608) and Gregorio de Valencia (d. 1603); on the Thomist side, Tomás de Lemos (d. 1629) and Diego Álvarez (d. 1635), together with the Roman Commission (Congregationes De auxiliis 1598–1607). This doctrinal controversy did not reach a definitive conclusion. The basic issue was the question of human freedom and the influence of or human dependence on divine grace and God’s power (the praemotio physica of the Thomists), but this also entailed the question of God’s knowledge, especially the knowledge of future contingent events (the scientia simplex of Thomists and the scientia media of Molinists). Although this problem is of a theological nature, it undoubtedly has a strong metaphysical component. Later on, the issue made its way into philosophical courses as an example of the nature of causality, as in the French “baroque” Thomist Antoine Goudin (d. 1695, Philosophia iuxta inconcussa tutissimaque D. Thomae dogmata, IV pars, Metaphysica, Lyon 1670). From a philosophical perspective, the issue is all about the dependence of secondary causes on the First Cause and the metaphysical limits of human freedom. Thomist defended the primacy of the First Cause. Perhaps, the Jesuit philosophical school’s most influential Spanish thinker was Francisco Suárez (d. 1617). He not only commented on Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae but also wrote a number of original works, among which the Disputationes metaphysicae (1597) stands out. So-called Suarezinanism is an original symbiosis of Scotism, Nominalism, and Thomism. Its relation to the Thomist school is difficult to determine. In the De auxiliis controversy, Suarez took a somewhat moderate position, known to history as “congruism.” However, the Thomist critique also aimed at Suarez. In this and subsequent time periods, we see Thomism beginning to have a significant place outside of the Dominican Order. Religious Orders such as the Minims, Discalced Mercedarians, Discalced Carmelites, Trinitarians, and Benedictines all established Thomistic colleges.

The last major chapter of Thomism in the Renaissance period was its expansion into the New World, particularly in Central and South America and the Philippines. At the beginning of Spanish colonization, the Salamanca school and the Spanish Dominicans in general (Francisco de Vitoria and Bartolomé de las Casas, d. 1566) defended the ius gentium or the natural right of the Native Americans. The leaders of the Salamanca school began to establish universities in the newly discovered territory that were under the protection of the Pope and the Spanish government. The most important foundations were as follows: in 1518, the General Stadium, and future University of Santo Domingo in Santo Domingo; in 1551, the University of Lima San Marcos founded by Tomás de San Martin (d. 1555); in 1580, the University of Bogota; in 1619 the University of Santiago de Chile; in 1611, the foundation of the Colegio de Nuestra Señora del Santísimo Rosario, the future (1645) University of Santo Tomás; we should also note the academic activities of Juan Solano (d. 1580, the future founder of the College of St. Thomas in Rome at the Minerva), in Cuzco (Peru) and of his confrere Francisco de La Cruz (d. 1660). These academic centers now began to transmit Europe’s scholastic tradition (in the case of the Dominicans, the Thomistic doctrine) and to produce their own academic literature.



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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department for the Study of Ancient and Medieval ThoughtInstitute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of SciencesPragueCzech Republic

Section editors and affiliations

  • Anna Laura Puliafito
    • 1
  1. 1.Universität BaselBaselSwitzerland