Francisco Suarez’s Understanding of Metaphysics

Francisco Suarez’s Understanding of Metaphysics

June 27, 2021 Off By Felso

During the Renaissance, Spanish thought was dominated by the counter-reformation movement, which expressed a reaction against both Humanism and natural philosophy.

Suarez is regarded as the most important representative of Scholastic philosophy after Thomas Aquino, with his works that gathered the revived Scholastic thought in this period and reconstructed the philosophy of the church clearly and precisely. Disputationes Metaphysicae (“Metaphysical Discussions”), the most important of his 28-volume books, was used as a textbook for more than a century in many Protestant and Catholic universities in Europe. Although Suarez’s metaphysics remained mainly within the tradition of Aristotle and Thomas Aquino, it gained an original quality by departing from this tradition on certain issues.

The most important point where Suarez differs is that he clearly distinguishes metaphysics from theology. Contrary to Thomas, who argued that philosophy can only have a function of confirming and completing the theology, Suarez argued that theology needed an independent metaphysical foundation. Instead of interpreting Aristotle as had been done until then, he aimed to make metaphysics a systematic discipline. He dealt with existence first as a general, then as a cause, and finally with qualities or categories such as finite, infinite, substance, accident. According to Suarez, who defines metaphysics as being-at-attribute, real Being can be material, immaterial, substantial or accidental. The concept of being, on the other hand, is derived from the knowledge of various forms of real being and is analogous, not univocal. According to Suarez, the metaphysician is primarily concerned with immaterial being.

While Suarez, like his predecessors, argued that essence and existence are one in God, he opposed Thomas’s notion that in finite beings, essence and existence are actually different, arguing that there is contingency in the nature of created beings and therefore it is unnecessary to add real difference. Because of its emphasis on essence as opposed to existence, Suarez’s metaphysics has been described as essentialistic.

Suarez substitutes the metaphysical principle of “everything produced is produced by another” instead of Aristotle’s principle that “everything that moves is moved by another”, arguing that a metaphysical, not physical, proof is required for the existence of God. Based on this principle, he argues that there must be an entity that was not originally produced or created, and that such a being is unique. He follows Thomas in definitions such as the nature, perfection, wisdom and eternity of this being.

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook