Francisco Suarez’s Understanding of Natural LawJune 27, 2021
One of the most important concepts of medieval philosophy is the concept of law.
Medieval philosophy, as it is known, is a period in which religious concerns were felt very heavily. God’s place in this framework is supreme, and He is in every way the ruler of the entire universe. The universe under God’s rule and the created beings in that universe turn to Him; in other words, their understanding of Him is first and foremost about knowing God’s rules and laws. Without knowing the law, the owner of that law cannot be understood and it is not possible to turn to Him. Humans, as created beings, also reveal what they should not do and avoid through this law. Therefore, almost all philosophers have considered the concept of law. This concept, in a way, also determines the framework of morality.
Francisco Suarez criticizes the definition of law introduced by Thomas Aquinas in his work Tractatus de Legibus ac Deo Legislatore (Coimbra, 1612), in which he investigates the Natural and Divine Laws. According to Thomas Aquinas, “law is the measure and rule of man’s actions. Accordingly, man tends to perform an action or moves away from it” (Suarez, Tractatus de Legibus ac Deo Legislatore: I, I, I, vol. 5, p. i ; Aquinas, Summa Theologiae: I-II, 90, ı; cited in . Maurer, 1982: 367). Francisco Suarez finds this definition narrow. Because this definition is not only about people; can be applied to anything. Moreover, the distinction between law and advice is not made clear enough through this definition. However, the law clearly draws a path related to the will; The same cannot be said for advice.
According to Francisco Suarez, the law is a just and proper act of will, and through this, God, displaying a will higher than man, compels the lower ones to act in one way or another. Therefore, the will has an indispensable position when it comes to law. When willpower is so prominent, obligation or responsibility becomes clear as important insights. The law, then, imposes moral responsibilities on anyone and directs him to behave properly in one way or another.
According to Francisco Suarez, we can point to responsibility as the most central feature of the law. The thing to note here is that the responsibility stems from the will of the legislator. The involvement of the will and a certain extent of reason necessitates that the law, and therefore the legislator, be just and straight. As stated above, the law is a state formed by the will, according to Suarez. At this point, we see that Francisco Suarez was more influenced by Duns Scotus than Thomas Aquinas. According to Thomas Aquinas, law is the management and direction of means towards a certain end. There is a certain type of management style involved here. In the business of management, one cannot be without a command; command is also a product of the mind (Maurer, 1982: 368).
As a result of the moral bond that Francisco Suarez attributes to the law, the law enters into a command relationship not with reason, but with will. There is no moral element in the judgment of reason; whereas the primary feature of law is will. The task of the will is to regulate the act of using tools in order to enable people to move towards a certain goal. In this respect, the will, according to Francisco Suarez, is “the sole criterion and rule of all human actions” (Maurer 1982: 369). What is valid for Suarez, as it was the case for the whole of the Middle Ages, is that the highest form of the state observed in human will manifests itself in God as well. At this point, it is possible to say that the human will receives a share from the Divine Will.
It is God’s will that dominates all human will and controls all of them and the universe. This will also determines the will of all creatures in the universe; for, in Suarez’s understanding, the law is the result of God’s will. According to Francisco Suarez, who named this type of law as the eternal law, the commands of the natural law are also shaped according to this law. Commandments such as “You shall not murder, you shall not steal” are related to natural law. All laws, except the divine law, derive from it and share in it. Just as divine law emerges as a result of God’s will; Likewise, humanitarian laws are made by human legislators (Maurer, 1982: 369).
Francisco Suarez shares similar views with Thomas Aquinas on the subject of natural law. According to him, natural law emerges by taking a share in the eternal law in a created being with mental characteristics. The reason why this kind of law is called natural law; not only that this law has an institution separate from a supernatural being; but also that it does not arise independently of man. Therefore, this law is established in (human) nature, which God Himself has placed in man. That is why it is called natural law (Maurer, 1982: