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Luis Valenzuela-Vermehren

Vitoria, Humanism, and the School of Salamanca in Early Sixteenth-Century Spain

A Heuristic Overview
Much has been written in Spain that, for reasons pointing to what is ostensibly the development of divergent intellectual traditions separating Iberian and Northern European cultures, has gone wholly unnoticed. This is obviously the case when one refers to that vast array of theoretical speculation characteristic of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spanish political thought. It is true that much of the intellectual activity characteristic of that era was of theological import; but from this domain the pursuits of the Spanish theologians were translated into a signicant number of notable treatises on law, ethics, and politics, many of which cannot be found on the shelves of American or British libraries.1 While contemporary Spanish scholarship has amassed an enormous number of studies addressing this rich intellectual heritage, it is equally the case that few of these have made their way into the scholarly circles of Northern Europe or the United States, the subject matter of which has proven to be of comparatively marginal concern and inuence within the Anglo-Saxon intellectual milieu. Thus, Machiavellis The Prince (1513) and Bodins The Six Bookes of a Commonweale (1576), or Kants Project for a Perpetual Peace (1796) and Hegels Philosophy l o g o s 16 : 2 s p r i ng 2013


logos of Right (1821) are far more familiar to the English-speaking world than Francisco de Vitorias Relectiones Theologicae (1557),2 Domingo de Sotos De Iustitia et Iure (1554), or Francisco Surezs De Legibus (1612).The range and scope of their accomplishments and concerns were far reaching as theology, considered the mother of sciences by the theologians, stretched its gaze onto the entire plane of social and political life. Their keynote achievement, as Pagden has rightly noted in his introduction to a recent English-language edition of Vitorias Political Writings, lay in the elds of jurisprudence and moral philosophy; and it had been Francisco de Vitoria to whom sixteenthcentury Spain could attribute the initial authorship of that venture.3 Their intellectual output came about as a response to two fundamental changes in politics and society. The rst was the inception and development of the Renaissance state under the shadow of the fracturing unity of Latin Christendom. That political transformation of Christianity, the outward expression of the religious challenge fostered by Lutheran and Christian humanist ideas, had paved the road leading to the wars of religion and culminating in an international order governed by the new doctrine of sovereignty, cujus regio ejus religio, in the Westphalian settlement of 1648. That new, developing structure of politico-religious freedom forged a second, parallel change: the introduction of the new morality of the Machiavellian state. Reason of state soon became the new doctrine of the inter-state order and found extra-European expression in the aims and methods of the Spanish empire in its quest for wealth abroad and its bid for hegemony in Europe. Such a state of affairs served to portray, in the minds of a number of Spanish thinkers, an environment fraught with moral conundrums and theological crises. They had condemned the Lutheran and Christian humanist notions on religion and the role of the Church, but they had also rebuked the heretical and relentless voice of the Italian ragione di stato. Here, the Spanish Thomists saw a point of convergence in Lutheranism and Machiavellism both of [which] were equally concerned, for their own very different reasons, to reject

early sixteenth-century spain the law of nature as an appropriate moral basis for political life.4 The sense of crisis imbuing the theory and practice of politics called for a reconstruction of the theoretical bases of the social order. Central to that reconstruction was the revival of Thomism in the sixteenth century. Skinner has aptly described Francisco de Vitoria as a central gure in that revival that began with the Dominicans during the rst half of the sixteenth century and later taken up by the Jesuit order (e.g., Francisco Surez).5 It is, thus, in this context that the School of Salamanca (La Escuela de Salamanca) emerges in the early sixteenth century as both critic of a rising power political order, and as a school of theological thought devoted to restructuring and amending the previous system of scholastic theology in accordance with the new political and religious environment of the age. This latter question, however, is often overlooked by scholars. Carl Schmitts well-known work addresses the alleged role of Vitoria in ultimately justifying the Spanish conquest in his De Indis of 1539.6 In this essay there is neither a prior examination of the history of Spanish scholasticism nor an account of Vitorias place in that history, but merely the statement that Vitorias theses obtained within a scholastic theological-debate and appertained to late Spanish scholasticism.7 Schmitts nal conclusions are rigidly clear: we have been misled by Vitorias apparently extraordinary impartiality and easily conclude that Vitoria believed the conquest was unjust.8 The truth of the matter, he contends, is that there is no need . . . to discuss in detail all the legitimate legal titles [Vitoria] explicates, only to restate that his conclusions ultimately justied the conquista.9 This assertion is alien to contemporary Spanish scholarship, and even more so is Schmitts observation that Vitorias thinking belongs to the international law of the Christian Middle Ages rather than to the Modern international law between European states.10 Similarly, in his characterization of the School of Salamanca, Anthony Pagden refers to their thought as conventionally scholastic.11 Vitorias intellectual efforts, Pagden observes, are marked more by a hardened criticism of Lutheranism and humanist theology. But



logos this argument is indifferent to important distinctions and qualications necessary for a more complete and correct portrayal of Spanish Thomism, although it is truthful in that Thomism, as Skinners remarks in this regard have shown, was indeed critical of Christian humanism. Such assessments, which univocally categorize Vitoria and his colleagues, and which attempt to link their thought to a stringent medieval theology, also fall well within what has been a mistaken tendency in the Anglo-Saxon scholarly literature to deny any link between Spanish intellectual thought of that period and the Renaissance. It is even typically denied, one scholar has noted, that Spain experienced any sort of Renaissance at all,12 the prevailing opinion being that Spanish thought somehow remained, instead, rigidly immersed in the conceptual world of medieval philosophy and theology. Abelln has recently contested such characterizations and has rightly noted that Spanish Catholicism, far from being a wholly reactionary force, partook of the renovating impulse of the Renaissance by fusing together medieval thought and Renaissance humanism.13 In the following section I wish to highlight a number of basic intellectual traits of the School of Salamanca. Such an overview is requisite because the portrayal of its thought as conventionally scholastic and, thus, the implicit denial of any link between Spanish scholastic thought and humanism (or at least the lack of any detailed account of such a relationship), has also led to misinterpretations regarding the nature of the Spanish scholastic conception of natural law during this period. Such a conception inhibits a full understanding of the emancipatory character of its natural law doctrine. Hence, Pagden ostensibly attributes to decadent scholasticism, and thus to the School of Salamanca, the articulation of a conception of natural law that presumably served to place non-Christians in a position of inferiority and subservience.14 However, such an interpretation may be deemed incorrect on at least two counts. His essay on natural law and the School of Salamanca arrives at an understanding of Thomistic natural law that is antithetical to the very spirit and use of that doctrine. From his conviction that Thomistic natural law was but a

early sixteenth-century spain theory of knowledge conned to the Spanish, and whose purpose was the preservation of a conservative doctrine and ethnocentric status quo, it follows that he cannot identify the egalitarian implications stemming from it. Such misunderstanding seems to stem, in part, from a mistaken belief in the conservative nature of the Spanish Thomists. This article is primarily concerned, not with offering an account of their natural law doctrine here, but rather with outlining the general nature of their enterprise, which was far removed from a strict adherence to medieval scholasticism. I wish to contest the above lines of reasoning and dispel the idea of the School of Salamanca as a conservative intellectual, if not ideological, venture that gave free reign to the politics of empire and entrenched ethnocentrism. Their attack was not an adherence to medievalism but a rejection of what they perceived as unsound religious and political doctrines. Theirs was a renovation of scholastic thought receptive to many of the humanist and Renaissance cultural ideals that contributed to the Grotian conception of international relations by elaborating a critical, not conservative, doctrine of natural law and justice limiting the logic of reason of state.


I. Spanish Scholastic Theological Reform in the Sixteenth Century: the School of Salamanca
A Brief Note on the Christian Humanist Critique of Scholastic Theology This is not the place to outline the general characteristics of Renaissance humanism, broadly understood, but it may be asserted that its well-known concern for human values, its devotion to literary style, philosophy, classical culture, and aesthetics, found expression in the realm of theology.15 Humanisms general tendency to keep in abeyance the heritage of medieval culture not only implied a renewed interest in the classics but also the inception of a thoroughgoing critique of scholastic theology, which embraced not only


logos Dominican Thomism but also Scotist and Ockhamist thought. Here one may bring into focus the Christian humanist critiques directed at scholasticism in respect of a number of what were perceived to be ailing facets of its theological enterprise. The Christian humanists argued for a precise and elegant usage of Latin, so manifest in the writings of the classics (particularly Cicero), and yet so absent from medieval scholasticism whose misuse of terminology and corruption of the Latin vocabulary often made impossible a coherent exchange of ideas among theologians.16 This perceived linguistic malaise had, according to one scholar, reached unheard-of heights at the University of Paris where the inux of various European languages had led to what had been referred to as a lengua parisiense.17 Their critical assessments, for the same reason, were equally directed at medieval commentaries or glosses of the Holy Scripture and patristic writings, which they often considered adulterated. Rather than rely on obscure and complex glosses, they sought a return to original, rsthand sources, which, in consequence, led them to stress the importance of gaining knowledge and skill in the use of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew.18 They equally, and hence logically, argued for interpretive freedom in the analysis of religious texts. Their desire for theological reform, however, was especially focused on the question of methodology. Their attack was centered on scholastic methodology, the scholastic disputatio or dialectical method of disputation, with its penchant for making eternal conceptual distinctions of questions and which, for the Christian humanists, not merely inhibited religious understanding but also marked an impoverishment of the religious spirit in the individual.19 They thus also opposed the integration of philosophy, particularly speculative reason (and hence of Aristotelianism and nominalism), which they perceived as being futile and inadequate for theological learning.20 Instead, they espoused a freer methodology, especially rhetoric, and the utilization of a philological-historical approach, for the study of the Scripture and other ancient texts.21 Theology, they maintained, should return to its simple and pure form, to the authentic Word of God; its principal task was

early sixteenth-century spain seen as consisting in a straightforward explication of the Bible, in a religious and moral education exempt from the complexities of traditional scholastic methodology. The source of this new approach was found in Italian humanism. A central gure had been Lorenzo Valla (140757), among others, whose Elegantiae lingua latinae and Disputationes Dialecticae contra Aristotelicos stressed the union of logic and philology in search of a new propaedeutic logical-grammatical method. This meant a rejection of the abstract logic of scholastic dialectics in favor of a more practical and applied logic; the synthesis, in sum, of logic and rhetoric. In this manner, [Valla] was attempting to lay the foundations, Belda concludes, of a new culture by establishing the grammatical basis of logic, aided by the persuasiveness of rhetoric.22 The inception of the Christian humanist theological critique did meet with resistance among the Dominicans from the perspective of theological doctrine. However, it did not incite a wholehearted and absolute negative response on the part of the Dominican Thomists in terms of its cultural propositions.The latter had decidedly considered and effected a transformation in theological method, but this would not take place under the strict methodological and doctrinal premises set forth by the Christian humanist line of reasoning. Rather, it would come to pass by appealing to the general cultural tenets of humanism, broadly understood. Belda has recently offered a summary denition of the school. It is, he notes, a strictly theological movement of the sixteenth century, devoted principally to the task of theological renovation and modernisation, and which embraced a broad group spanning across three generations of theologians and professors belonging to the Faculty of Theology of the University of Salamanca, all of whom considered Francisco de Vitoria the main founder of that movement, and who followed the avenues of theological reform initiated by him until the beginning of the seventeenth century.23 My discussion will focus exclusively on what Belda has referred to as the First School of Salamanca,24 which is generally seen to include principally, though not exclusively, Vitoria, Domingo de Soto (14951560), Melchor Cano



logos (15091560), his successor, and their disciples, all of whom collectively represented the genuine and original spirit of the school.25 In what follows, I will describe the sources of its humanist upbringing and its eclectic approach to theology, and then demonstrate how this conceptualization of theology allowed Vitoria to elaborate a number of progressive natural law arguments that would not only shape his view of international relations as being based on principles of justice but that would also inuence later political and legal thought. Humanism and Spain Spanish humanism, which established a strong foothold in the universities of Spain, acquired its impetus from the ourishing Italian Renaissance. The establishment of St. Clements College in Bologna (1364) marked a point of departure in the ow of Spaniards to Italy and in their exposure to humanist trends. In a tract devoted to describing the inuence of a number of Italian Renaissance thinkers on Vitoria, Bertini speaks of the widespread desire in Spain, ever since the end of the thirteenth century, to emulate aspects of it cultural renaissance. One bears witness to the inuence of Italy over Spains culture and art, Bertini maintains, and notes how that inuence became mutual.26 In Spain, humanist thought rapidly allied itself with theology during the course of the fteenth century. It found its way into Salamanca through courses in grammar, rhetoric, and ancient languages27 initially taught by a number of Italian humanists (Lucio Marineo Siculo, Lucio Flaminio, Aires Barbosa, Pedro Mrtir de Anglera, among others). Perhaps it is the gure of Elio Antonio de Nebrija (14441522), however, who spent ten years studying at Bologna and who was greatly inuenced by Lorenzo Valla, that looms largest. Professor of grammar and poetics (147486), and of rhetoric (1505) at Salamanca, and of grammar and rhetoric at the University of Alcal (151322), his humanist traits are evident if one recalls his eclectic intellectual preoccupations in grammar, law, medicine, history, archaeology, natural science, and theology.28 In generally following Vallas theological position, he also held the

early sixteenth-century spain conviction that the Latin vulgate version of the Scripture required linguistic purication through a return to the Greek and Hebrew texts.29 Erasmus, too, had found a place, though often controversial, in Spanish society.30 His criticism of scholastic theology, and concomitant rejection of speculative reason in theological methodology, his adherence to philological analysis, and his vague position of the role of the Church in theology, met with ardent resistance. In many quarters, he and other humanists had been considered mere grammarians meddling in the affairs of theology.31 In Nebrijas footsteps followed a number of Spanish thinkers;32 and without this inpouring of humanism into the Spanish cultural milieu, the efux of reformist theological thought, which characterizes the works of Vitoria and Cano, inter alios, is difcult to conceive.33 While the theologians of the School of Salamanca had been indeed critical of the Christian humanist position on theological reform, they nonetheless embraced the general marks of humanist teaching broadly understood. They may be characterized as having been, not traditional or conservative but traditional and progressive in a sense that underscores their loyalty to a scholastic theology now open to embracing various traits characteristic of Renaissance humanism.34 Humanism in the School of Salamanca Any substantive characterization of the School of Salamanca in terms of its eclecticism and reformist approach in theology must rst understand it by virtue of what it was not. It is relevant to then distinguish it from the idea of conventional scholasticism by stating what the latter means from the perspective of medieval theology or the idea of a theological school. The medieval conception of a theological school incorporates the notion of a closed group of theologians who faithfully and strictly follow, as well as defend from other adversaries, the religious doctrine set forth by their master. This was traditionally the case of the various religious orders wherein the head cleric determined who the master was and the manner and direction in which theological efforts should be properly and



logos strictly oriented.35 This tenacious devotion to a single system of theological thought and resistance to external inuence, while a distinguishing feature of decadent scholasticism that became the object of criticism in many stations, was not characteristic of the School of Salamanca. As in the Christian humanist critique, the Dominicans had rebuked the closed scholastic theological method, particularly in its over-use of abstract logic, which served, in their view, to make obscure and inhibit theological learning. Melchor Cano, one of the most important exponents of the School, had accused this brand of scholasticism of playing into the hands of sophistry. He had considered that the dialectical method, though necessary, had often been taken too far. Such stubborn, vain talk was useless for a true scholastic theology. It is evident that this art of talk, argued Cano corrosively (De locis theologicis, IX, 1), which intends to mask itself as dialectics (although it is quite far from being that), must be banished from philosophy, and with greater reason, from the realm of theology.36 He further illustrated how the obsessive concern for formal logic led to speculation on metaphysical questions that were wholly obscure and of no practical value (De locis theologicis, IX, 7), a vice, he noted, that Cicero had warned against.37 Previously, such vices had also been criticized in Paris by the nominalist theologian, Jean Gerson and later, of course, by Luther who saw in scholastic theology a corruption of the Gospel because of its Aristotelian overtones. Christian humanism, as I have stated previously, had similarly criticized scholastic sophistry arguing instead for a more practical approach to theology, one that espoused a greater adherence to biblical and patristic sources.38 However, the Lutheran and Christian humanist rejection of reason as a means for deepening theological understanding was a point the Spanish scholastics did not share. In any case, it is important to stress that the call for theological reform came from all religious quarters, including Catholicism. Domingo de Soto, Vitorias pupil, and the most outspoken of the Dominicans in this matter, also argued forcefully for reform in his De natura et

early sixteenth-century spain gratia (1577). It should be puried not only of sophistic nonsense but also of vain metaphysical pretences, with whose lth (scholasticism) has been degraded in undignied fashion by certain authors. In any case, careful effort must be directed at preventing it from wholly dying; it should rather be renovated.39 As with the nominalists who sought intellectual independence, so the Dominican Order at Salamanca sought to renew their own theology. In principle, this rst had meant a return to Aquinas, especially to the replacement of Peter Lombards Sentences with Aquinass Summa theologiae as the standard university text, but this also meant (and here Vitorias eclectic intellectual experience in Paris was crucial) the introduction of various other elements proceeding from both other religious as well as humanist thinkers. The Dominicans preference for Aquinas was based on a perceived harmonious continuity between Thomistic doctrine and the theological tradition that had preceded Aquinas. For the theologians of Salamanca, Aquinas had undoubtedly acquired an enormous amount of learning and was the best purveyor of knowledge in respect of a considerable mass of theological and patristic material, which he nonetheless managed to condense and synchronize in his writings. Indeed, this had been Vitorias position, and he also felt great admiration for Aquinass keen intelligence and acute insights, and saw in his work and learning a means, as he put it, for achieving a pious and just life. More to the point, Vitoria saw a denite continuity between Aristotle and Aquinas (Vitoria noted that Aquinas had commented on every work written by the Philosopher), and in his prologue to the latters Secunda Secundae, paid tribute to Aquinass positive theology and practical approach, and extolled his theological method, which Vitoria himself assumed as his own.40 In addition, the Salamancan theologians refer to Aquinass marked clarity of thought in his works, in contrast to the acknowledged disarray characteristic of theologians who had previously followed the master of the Sentences, a fact which ultimately motivated the adoption of the Summa as a standard text for theological training.41



logos The progressive character of the school was, however, more a question of the manner in which the theologians incorporated ideas belonging to other thinkers and doctrines.42 In Vitorias Commentaruim in Secundam Secundae (1535) there is a plethora of references to either Duns Scotus or nominalist authors such as William of Ockham, Gabriel Biel, Jacques Almain, and John Mair; and he is straightforward in demonstrating how often many of the ideas set forth by these authors are actually in harmony with Thomistic doctrine, or even the extent to which he prefers these over those of Aquinas.43 Indeed, in his prologue to the 1512 edition of the Secundam Secundae Vitoria holds that while following Aquinas his intention is not one of obliging the reader to absolute adherence to his master.44 Yet another example may be found in his Comentarios a la Prima Pars, where he discusses the comparative value of authoritative sources (e.g., the master of a particular school) in theology and reason in the articulation of a theological argument. An argument taken from a human authority, Vitoria tells his students, say, St. Thomas, Scotus, or Mair, is weak (inrmissimum est); and many have erred in thinking they should accept a judgement (dictum) from St. Thomas or Scotus as though they were the Gospel.45 Here, he had stated his belief that Aquinas, or any other theologian or human source (unlike Divine Revelation), was far from infallible. Melchor Canos thoughts on this matter (De locis theologics, XII, Prologue) magnicently illustrate this eclectic and reformist spirit.
I do not often foster the opinion of those who believe that it is a crime to stray away from that which once they held with rm conviction, as though they were obligated by some oath or superstitious belief, to use Quintilians words. A theologian has not the need to swear to anyones laws. For his task is far too great and excellent to insistently follow in the footsteps of a master. . . . I remember my Master (Vitoria) saying, whilst expounding the Secundam Secundae, that one should hold St. Thomass views in high esteem, and that if we found no other better reason for not doing so, it would sufce to

early sixteenth-century spain

bow to the authority of such a saintly and learned man. But he then warned us that it was not convenient to accept the words of the Saintly Doctor without discernment or examination; what is more, if he said something more difcult to accept or more improbable, that we should then emulate his modesty and ingenuity in similar cases, something which should not lower our condence in authors approved by the votes of tradition (antiquitatis), but which equally should not oblige us to accept their views if reason summoned us to the contrary. I have diligently adhered to this precept. No opinion, neither that of St. Thomas nor of my Master, have I rejected arbitrarily, nor have I ever been willing to swear upon the words of any master. Vitoria was by nature a man of temperance, also when he occasionally disagreed with St. Thomas; and by disagreeing rather than agreeing, so much greater was, in my judgement, his [St. Thomass] glory; and such was his respect in dissenting.46


A second trait of the School of Salamanca may be described in terms of its relationship to the humanist currents characteristic of the Renaissance. One may discuss this by distinguishing between Christian humanism, with which, as I have already mentioned, these theologians were in general disagreement, and cultural humanism, the principal features of which were readily assimilated into their renewed theology. The Rejection of Christian Humanist Theological Doctrine in the Acceptance of Humanist Culture The criticisms of the Salamancan theologians were directed at a number of Christian humanist arguments by virtue of what the former perceived to be as serious shortcomings of their theology. These they viewed as fundamental misperceptions in respect of the nature of theology itself. Hence, while the Christian humanists argued for a biblical positivism, that is the mere grammatical study of Scripture, the Thomists, though accepting the worth of a literal


logos adherence to the Bible, also highlighted the authoritative value of divine tradition as expressed through the thought of the Church Fathers, to whom they attributed great authority. And while the Thomists recognized the value of having recourse to original biblical sources and to different biblical languages, they also held in high esteem the use of the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible (which the humanists considered inaccurate), thereby making it unnecessary to always draw upon Hebrew and Greek.47 A second spate of criticism was leveled at the Christian humanists philological rationalism. Here, a critical and philological methodology (the study of grammar and its historical forms), so they argued, should be utilized in approaching the Bible. This was acceptable to the Thomists but they also underscored the introduction of philosophical and speculative reason as a means of acquiring a deeper understanding of the specic contents of Divine Revelation. Such speculative reason would allow the theologian to aptly penetrate and interpret biblical texts; arrive at logical conclusions and discover practical applications. In this fashion, they managed to amend a virtually obsessive contempt for philosophy, especially Aristotelian philosophy, and for all rational speculation directed at understanding the Word of God in the Bible; at bottom the humanists had demonstrated contempt for the idea that natural human reason was able to understand and develop religious faith.48 It was not simply the case, as Pagden would otherwise maintain, that Vitoria censured, or that his attitude hardened toward the Christian humanists as the struggle against Lutheranism intensied, merely because they read the Bible without the aid of patristic and scholastic theology49 but because, both overtly and persistently, they denied the relevance of human reason as an instrument for acquiring a deeper understanding of Divine Revelation. Of course, this negative conception of human reason, as Skinner has noted, had been taken a step further into the realm of political theory in the Lutheran notion of political power as a means of compensating for that essential moral and rational deciency characteristic of man.50

early sixteenth-century spain A third, related criticism had to do with the notion of the authority of the Church in what was the transmission of the Christian Faith to its followers. The Salamancan Thomists rebuked the notion of an individualistic approach to understanding God, one that dismissed the role of the Church in its institutional and educational role in favor of a belief in the primacy of individual criteria. This absence of a notion recognising the importance of the role of the Church in the domain of theology, so characteristic of Christian humanism and attributable to its anthropocentrism and to a certain degree of theological shallowness, was particularly countered by the Salamancan theologians.51 Certainly, the Christian humanist argument had come to the fore within the general context of a moral crisis within the Church. But the individualistic solution to this problem was not acceptable to the Thomists. In such a dismissal of the Church they saw a fragmentation of the Christian faith that would prove damaging to the educational role of theology; for they indeed saw the Church itself as a fundamental source of reasoning in theological learning. It was to be Melchor Canos famous De Locis Theologicis (1551) that would set forth these arguments, a fundamental idea of his being that the whole of the Church consists not merely of its followers but includes its associated hierarchy. It is important to realise, Cano argued (De locis theologicis, IV, 4), that the Church itself embraces not only the assembly of Catholics who by way of Christ receive this name and are blessed as a peculiar and new Republic, but is also represented by its ecclesiastical princes and prefects in whose hands rests the authority of this society.52 Again, an underlying principle guiding this analysis was the idea of the capacity of speculative reason to understand and interpret positive religious sources. However, while the School of Salamanca was indeed critical of the Christian humanism fostered by Valla, Erasmus, and others, they nonetheless wholeheartedly embraced, as I argue, many of the cultural traits and attitudes of humanism, broadly understood. Briey, these included a keen interest in classical and biblical languages; a fundamental concern for the worth of original sources or texts, and,



logos in terms of writing, an appreciation for formal literary style, particularly the correct, if not elegant usage, of Latin; the rediscovery of classical culture, and the utilization of applied logic in the deployment of theological methodology; and a general concern for the Renaissance conception of man and associated human values.53 All of these distinctive humanist characteristics, which mark a turning away from many of the cultural traits of medievalism, are present in Vitorias works.54 Humanism in Vitoria Spanish scholarship on this subject has explicitly addressed this. Garca-Villoslada and Beltrn de Heredia have noted Vitorias humanist upbringing, from his early days at the San Pablo Convent in Burgos to his years at the University of Paris, where he was exposed to and demonstrated a keen interest in humanist and classical scholarship.55 A plethora of classical and humanist authorities systematically cited in his writings, attesting to both his knowledge and learning in these elds, and to a penchant on Vitorias part for an eclectic approach to theological discourse. Cicero, Lactantius, Quintillian, Seneca, Virgil, Horace, Gaius, Ulpian, Plato, and Aristotle, among others, form the pool of intellectual resources Vitoria drew upon throughout his commentaries and end-of-year university lectures.56 Unlike the style of his medieval predecessors, Vitoria demonstrates thoroughgoing concern for the practical application of theology to some of the most outstanding problems of the age: the question of war and peace among Christian princes; the legitimacy of the aims and methods of the Spanish conquest; the treatment and rights of the Indians. Belda and others have seen in these themes, and in the practical orientation of Vitorian moral philosophy, an essential appreciation for man and for human values. Vitorias theology is thus seen as being signicantly imbued with many of the humanist concerns of the Renaissance.57 This summation of the School of Salamanca has sought to dispel its characterization as conventionally scholastic and the accompa-

early sixteenth-century spain nying implication that it was at bottom medieval in orientation and a merely reactionary force marked by entrenched Catholicism, or at the very least, to offer grounds upon which such an appellation may be questioned. In transforming its own theology, it managed to divest itself of those conservative elements that would have otherwise prevented it from engaging the salient social and political problems of sixteenth-century Europe. In doing so, it managed to introduce many of what it considered to be the best characteristics of Renaissance humanism into Thomistic theology.


II.The School of Salamanca in Political and Legal Thought:Vitoria

Vitoria, Spanish Thomism, and the Natural Conception of the World The transformation of theology undertaken by the School of Salamanca signaled not only a necessary and much-needed renewing, or humanizing, of scholasticism, as Hamilton has observed,58 but also a reorientation of Spanish scholastic thought away from pure speculative metaphysics to a mode of thought that was more practical and that directly addressed the ethical and the political difculties facing Spain during the period. There is a renewed ethical interest in matters of warfare and in the affairs of colonial expansion and administration, as well as a concern for the many other politico-religious issues associated with sixteenth-century Europe. And this they performed with a sense of freedom and independence of thought, offering their judgments on a wide array of issues.
In Spain the universities were consulted on a wide range of questionslegal, moral, political, and economic: the professors reected on the questions and often used them as material for lecture courses, practising the scholastic method with varying degrees of exibility. . . . They also lectured on current problems about which they had not been consulted


usually in the course of commenting on some statement of Peter Lombard or of St. Thomas Aquinas. (Vitorias strictures on the Spanish conquest of the Indies are a well-known example). They were not unduly subservient either to church or state, speaking their minds freely about the behaviour and pretensions of recent popes and their supporters, while those who lived under Charles V were equally outspoken about the unreality of imperial power.59

This sense of intellectual independence allowed the Spanish scholastics to address the most pressing political issues of the age. In this sense, the discovery of the New World had posed a particularly difcult problem, which one scholar sums up in the following manner: How to reconcile a society founded on premises alien to European experience with that familiar world whose social and political catechism depended so narrowly upon the moral and ethical truths of Christianity.60 The Christo-centric conception of the world required an essential reconceptualization, namely, the formulation of ethical principles seen as common to both European and indigenous communities in order to guide their mutual relations. For the Dominicans, such principles could be found in natural law, which was assumed to exist among all peoples because it was considered apprehensible by the rational nature of every individual.61 That metaphysical idea of a universal rationality naturally operating in man served, in part, as an early argument buttressing the notion of a pattern of subjective rights protecting the individual against the abuses of political power.62 That they should have drawn upon such a notion is reective, in their concern for the ethical ordering of political society, of the nature of the revival of scholasticism itself, an integral part of which, as Leger has suggested, was the restoration and reassertion of the predominance of reason, of the supremacy of intellectualism in the philosophy of law.63 For Vitoria, his colleagues and disciples, this involved studying, further developing, and deploying the Thomistic conception of natural right (ius

early sixteenth-century spain naturale), especially in its role in guiding and directing human law,64 in providing a just basis for political society, and in applying such a conception to relations between different political communities. In Vitorias De Indis (1539) this meant, inter alia, refuting the titles by which the Spanish conquistadors and jurists had sought to justify the occupation and exploitation of the New World, which included the presumed universal authority of the emperor or pope, the right of discovery, the rejection on the part of the indigenous population of the Christian faith, and the right to suppress sins against the law of nature. Such refutations as exist throughout his text prove to be of great signicance, not least because they represent a great distancing from previous medieval thought by the inception of more modern juridical precepts. The idea of an orbis christianus is displaced by the assertion of a natural ordering of discreet and juridically equal political communities independent of Christian religious doctrine and spirituality: a totus orbis or communitas orbis.65 In the words of Belda, by refuting the allegedly legitimate titles of conquest, Vitoria delivered a mortal blow to the medieval, theocratic conception [of the world], and thus opposed a venerable tradition of thinkers (canonists and theologians) who had predicated their discourse upon an inappropriate merging of the natural and supernatural orders.66 Here, the whole of humanity was conceived as a natural occurrence, divided into differing cultural communities; and the concrete regulation of their relations was expressed via a positive law, founded upon natural and common principles of justice and natural right that represented the will of an international community of republics: the ius gentium or law of nations, and equally a just war doctrine (ius belli), which set forth the principles by which the aims and methods of aggressive foreign policy were to be limited.67 Such ruminations heralded the great works that later were to address more systematically the nature of the international legal order and of the modern secular state.68



logos Vitoria, International Law, and Politics The legacy of Spanish thought in the realm of law nds a new home in the work of Grotius. This point seems to have drawn the attention of a number of legal scholars during the rst half of the twentieth century.69 However, in other quarters the debt owed to Spanish legal thought in the development of a secular or modern international law has not been fully acknowledged; and it has equally been remarked that the development of international law as a discipline independent of theology or moral philosophy had been prevented by theology itself.70 Two points may be made in response to these claims. Research into the work of Grotius offers a different portrayal in respect of the inuence of Spanish thinkers on the Grotian conception of international law. Legers dissertation on the scholastic roots of Grotiuss De Iure belli ac pacis (1625) notes that Grotius cites Vitoria forty-four times, Vsquez de Menchaca twenty-six times, and Luis de Molina twenty-one times, and emphasizes the striking similarities between Surezs legal philosophy and that of Grotius. One legal scholar remarks that Leibniz had commented on Grotiuss profound knowledge and appreciation of the Spaniard.71 Menndez y Pelayo has observed that Grotius indeed held in high esteem Vitorias De Indis and De Iure Belli.72 More to the point, Hinojosa, a Spanish legal scholar, argued that the link between Grotius and Spanish thought is very much understudied; that what the latter had contributed to the former and what, in each case, is original or borrowed from someone else, has not been thoroughly researched. It is mistaken, Hinojosa continues, if not unjust, to attribute the initial authorship of modern international law to Grotius or Gentili.73 These are not comprehensible without Vitoria, among others, nor are the latter without due consideration of the work performed in prior centuries by scholastic theologians, particularly Aquinas, and by the canonists and civilists under the inuence of Roman law.74 In this light, the idea set forth by Hedley Bull, that theology was bound to inhibit the development of modern international law, seems misplaced. By grouping Grotiuss natural law with that of the Spanish

early sixteenth-century spain theorists he contradicts what is common wisdom in legal scholarship, namely, that it is with Grotius himself that natural law has become secularized thus providing a foundation from which modern international law could ourish. As Kunz has suggested, Grotius was strongly inuenced by the traditional natural law, but he secularised it by stating that natural law would be valid even if there were no God. This secularisation profoundly changed the character of natural law.75 Indeed, after the Spanish scholastics, the intellectual development of modern natural law ran along the lines of a human, rather than divine, basis for the determination of the character of positive law.Their elaboration of natural law, however, proved crucial, even if by way of a later rejection of their notion of its divine origin, for the development of modern natural law theories of the state.76 The point is that if indeed Grotiuss achievement consists in forging a secular basis for international law, it had been necessary for him to draw upon the work of the Spanish scholastics and their conception of the law of nature and the ius gentium. His debt to their legacy is already present in his early work, Mare Liberum (1609), where he develops the idea, previously set forth by Vitoria, and to whom he often refers, of the right of communication and commerce between nations, precepts that were forged from an ethical conception of justice in the Spanish scholastic tradition.77 Thus, in taking note of the contribution of the scholastics to the development of the ius gentium, Lorimer maintained that by tracing it back to its ethical basis the Spanish had provided modern international law with the support necessary for its further development.78 The history of violence that has characterized the evolution and expansion of the states-system has often fostered a return to natural law thinking and ethics79 as a means of curbing the operations of that great Leviathan once conceived by Thomas Hobbes in his depiction of the modern state. With the dismemberment of the respublica christiana, human reason would appeal to another form of morality. [The] concept of the good life based on reason and common justice . . . has been submerged by a radically different and, internationally speaking, frankly anarchic form of reasonraison dtat, which was



logos progressively substituted for the ideal of justice common to and a right of all humanity . . . all peaces would be . . . of iron, and the natural relation of states would be chronic war.80 The early twentieth century, which bore the seal of unheard-of brutality in European international politics, thus summoned an intellectual return, among a number of legal scholars, to the writings of the Spanish theologians.81 This comes as no surprise. The ethical basis of law and of the just and legitimate use of violence, a crucial theme among the theologian-jurists, became a chief concern among those who had witnessed the destruction of European civilization by totalitarian ideologies. Their distress and alarm were perhaps a modern version of the Spanish reaction to the impious doctrine of morality inspired by reason of state. Such a re-examination logically drew attention to the thinkers of Spains Golden Age. For Vitoria, among other Spanish theologians, had restored the link which was established by Aristotle and later forgotten, between ethics and politics.82 This decisive aspect of their work, however, has gone largely unnoticed, and much of what has been written of late undeservedly misapprehends the meaning of their moral philosophy by conning it to the political thought of the Middle Ages.

1. An extensive array of juristic literature is listed in Avelino Folgado, Los Tratados De Legibus y De Iustitia et Iure en los Autores Epaoles del Siglo XVI y Primera Mitad del XVII, La Ciudad de Dios CLXXII, no. 3 (1959). 2. For the sake of accuracy, it should be noted that while the publication date for the rst edition is 1557, it is published posthumously (Vitoria died in 1546). The Relectiones, or university lectures, were delivered during Vitorias tenure as Professor of Theology at the University of Salamanca (152646). There exist a total of thirteen of these. The rst of the lectures was delivered at Christmas, 1528 (De potestate civili); De homicidio (June 11, 1530); De matrimonio (January 21, 1531); De potestate Ecclesiae prior (end of academic year, 1532); De potestate Ecclesiae posterior (May June 1533); De potestate Papae et Concili (AprilJune 1534); De augmento charitatis (April 11, 1535); De eo ad quod tenetur (June 1535); De simonia (MayJune 1536); De temperantia (1537); De Indis (January 1, 1539); De iure belli (June 18, 1539); and

early sixteenth-century spain

De magia (July 10, 1540). See Vicente Beltrn de Heredia, Los manuscritos del maestro fray Francisco de Vitoria: Estudio Crtico e Introduccin a sus Lecturas y Relecciones (Madrid1928), 13253. A. R. Pagden and Jeremy Lawrence, eds., Francisco de Vitoria. Political Writings, Cambridge texts in the history of political thought (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991), xiii. Quentin Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought, vol. 2 (1978 repr., Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1980), 143. Ibid., 135. Carl Schmitt, The Land Appropriation of a New World, Telos, no. 109 (1996). Ibid., 44. Ibid., 50. Ibid., 55. Ibid., 63. Pagden and Lawrence, Political Writings, xiv. Jos Luis Abelln, Historia del Pensamiento Espaol: de Sneca a Nuestros Das (Madrid: Espasa Calpe, SA, 1996), 10308. Ibid., 105. See, A. R. Pagden, The Preservation of Order: The School of Salamanca and the Ius Naturae, in The Uncertainties of Empire: Essays in Iberian and Ibero-American Intellectual History (Aldershot: Varorium, 1994). Here I will closely follow Juan Beldas invaluable work, unavailable in English, and perhaps the most outstanding summary of the history of the School. His La Escuela de Salamanca y la Renovacin de la Teologa en el Siglo XVI (Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 2000), is an extraordinarily detailed account of the history and thought of its earliest members. I am deeply indebted to this book for many of the ideas expressed in this section. Juan Belda Plans, La Escuela de Salamanca y la Renovacin de la Teologa en el Siglo XVI (Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 2000), 76. Ricardo Garca-Villoslada, La Universidad de Pars durante los estudios de Francisco de Vitoria (150722), Analecta Gregoriana; 14 (Roma: apud aedes Universitatis Gregorianae, 1938), 81. Belda Plans, La Escuela de Salamanca, 76. Ibid., 77. Ibid., 79. Ibid., 77. Ibid., 82. See also, E. Rummel, The Humanist-Scholastic Debate in the Renaissance and Reformation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995), 15392. Belda Plans, La Escuela de Salamanca, 157. Henceforth, my use of the term School of Salamanca will refer to the thought and intellectual pursuits of the First School of Salamanca in accordance with the distinctions outlined in the previous section.



4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14.


16. 17.

18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24.


25. For a complete, and in-depth discussion and conceptualization of the School of Salamanca, see Chapter 2, La Escuela de Salamanca. Hacia una nocin crtica in Beldas work. 26. Giovanni Maria Bertini, Inuencia de Algunos Renacentistas Italianos en el Pensamiento de Francisco de Vitoria (Universidad de Salamanca: Establecimiento Tipogco de la Sociedad Editora Internacional, Turn, Italia, 1933), 11. 27. V. Muoz Delgado, Lgica, Ciencia y Humanismo en la Renovacin Teolgica de Vitoria y Cano, Revista Espaola de Teologa 38 (1978): 228. 28. Belda Plans, La Escuela de Salamanca, 99. For a more detailed account of this, see M. Andrs Martn, La Teologa Espaola del siglo XVI, vol. 2 (Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 197677). 29. His works include Introductiones latinae (1491), Gramtica Castellana (1492), Diccionario Latino-Espaol (1492), and number of historical writings. See Andrs Martn, La Teologa Espaola del siglo XVI, 2, 71. 30. Erasmianism spread throughout Spain between 1527 and 1532. Particularly from the University of Alcal de Henares in Seville. The most famous Erasmian gure was the Spanish humanist, Juan Luis Vives (14921540). 31. Pagden and Lawrence, Political Writings, xiv; Belda Plans, La Escuela de Salamanca, 97. 32. For a more complete account, see L. Gil Fernndez, Panorama Social del Humanismo Espaol (1981; repr., Madrid: Tecnos, 1997). 33. H. Jedin, Historia del Concilio de Trento, vol. 1 (Pamplona: Eunsa, 197281), 179. 34. Belda Plans, La Escuela de Salamanca, 30910. 35. Ibid., 209. 36. Cited in ibid., 8. 37. Cited in ibid., 9. 38. Ibid., 186. 39. Cited in ibid., 78. 40. Ibid., 21617. The question of Aquinass theological method, Belda suggests, exercised great inuence on the Salamancan theologians. Melchor Cano, known for his De locis theologicis (1563), had accordingly written: How much richer and vigorous is St. Thomas, who not only condes in reason or in a known authority but also sets forth his arguments in every imaginable way, and carefully disputes from every single theological angle whilst employing these authorities, and with reasons chosen with the utmost care. Cited in ibid., 218, footnote 33. 41. Ibid., 219. 42. Ibid., 22021. 43. A partial but lengthy list of such references may be found in Beldas work (see footnotes), ibid., 221. 44. Garca-Villoslada, La Universidad de Pars, 422. 45. Belda Plans, La Escuela de Salamanca, 224. 46. Cited in ibid., 22526. 47. Ibid., 248.

early sixteenth-century spain

48. 49. 50. 51. 52. 53. 54. Ibid. Pagden and Lawrence, Political Writings, xiv. Skinner, Modern Political Thought, 2, 139. Belda Plans, La Escuela de Salamanca, 249. Cited in ibid., 722. Ibid., 250. Various monographs on the humanist elements present in Vitorias works may be consulted. See, for example, Vicente Beltrn de Heredia, Orientacin Humanstica de la Teologa Vitoriana, Ciencia Tomista, no. 72 (1943); Vicente Beltrn de Heredia, La Formacin Humanstica y Escolstica de Fray Francisco de Vitoria, in Fray Francisco deVitoria, Fundador del Derecho Internacional Moderno (Madrid: 1946); J. Brufau Prats, Perspectivas Humansticas en la Concepcin Jurdica Vitoriana, Ciencia Tomista, no. 111 (1984); Ricardo Garca-Villoslada, Erasmo y Vitoria, Razn y Fe, no. 107 (1935); Ricardo Garca-Villoslada, Fray Francisco de Vitoria reformador de los mtodos de la teologa catlica, in Fray Francisco deVitoria, Fundador del Derecho Internacional Moderno (Madrid: 1946). Garca-Villoslada, La Universidad de Pars, 320; Beltrn de Heredia, La Formacin Humanstica, 58. Author lists describing the range of classical sources used by Vitoria have been created in the following editions of Vitorias De Indis and De Iure Belli: Luciano Perea, ed. Francisco de Vitoria. Relectio de Iure Belli o Paz Dinmica: Escuela Espaola de la Paz, Primera Generacin 15261560, vol. VI, Corpus Hispanorum de Pace (Madrid: Consejo Suprerior de Investigaciones Cientcas, 1981); Luciano Perea, ed. Francisco de Vitoria. Relectio de Indis o Libertad de los Indios, Corpus Hispanorum de Pace (Madrid: Consejo Suprerior de Investigaciones Cientcas, 1967). A similar list has been created in the introduction to his commentaries on Aquinass Summa theologiae; see Francisco de Vitoria, Comentarios a la Secunda Secundae de Santo Toms, ed. Vicente Beltrn de Heredia (Salamanca: Biblioteca de Autores Espaoles, 1932). Beltrn de Heredia, Orientacin Humanstica, 4652; Belda Plans, La Escuela de Salamanca, 257. Bernice Hamilton, Political Thought in Sixteenth-Century Spain: A Study of the Political Ideas of Vitoria, De Soto, Surez, and Molina (Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1963), 4. Ibid., 6. J. A. Fernndez Santamara, The State,War and Peace: Spanish Political Thought in the Renaissance, 15161559 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 59. Ibid., 61. This assertion is not uncontroversial. Nonetheless, for a recent account of early rights theories in Spanish thought, see Richard Tuck, Natural Rights Theories: Their Origin and Development (1979; repr., Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998); Brian Tierney, The Idea of Natural Rights: Studies on Natural Rights, Natural Law and Church Law 11501625 (Atlanta: Scholar Press, 1997). A forthright discussion


55. 56.

57. 58. 59. 60. 61. 62.


of this may be found in Ramn Hernndez Martn, Derechos Humanos en Francisco de Vitoria (Salamanca 1984). James St. Leger, The Etiamsi Daremus of Hugo Grotius: A Study in the Origins of International Law (Romae: Ponticium Athenaeum Internationale Angelicum, 1962), 93. See, for example, Vitorias early Commentaries on Aquinass concept of law in his De Lege-Commentarium In Primam Secundae, QQ. 90108, 15331534). For a detailed inventory of the sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Spanish treatises on law and justice, see Folgado, Tratados en los Autores Espaoles. Here, Vitoria conveys a conception of the world in terms of a totus orbis, of a world community of mankind, which, despite differences in religious and cultural beliefs, is nonetheless composed of men of equal standing. Martin C. Ortega, Vitoria and the Universalist Conception of International Relations, in Classical Theories of International Relations, ed. Ian Clark and Neumann (London, UK: Macmillan Press, Ltd., 1996), 10203. Belda Plans, La Escuela de Salamanca, 386. Fernndez Santamara, The State, War and Peace, 62; Eduardo de Hinojosa, Francisco de Vitoria: Derecho Natural y de Gentes, ed. Luis Getino (Buenos Aires: Emec Editores, S A, 1946), 33. A discussion of the occurrence of Spanish ideas in Grotius, Gentili, Bodin, and Althussius, among others, see Ramn Hernndez Martn, Francisco de Vitoria:Vida y Pensamiento Internacionalista (Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 1995). See, for example, Ernest Nys, ed. Francisci de Victoria: De Indis et De iure belli relectiones, vol. 7, The classics of international law (Washington: Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1917); James Brown Scott, The Catholic Conception of International Law (Washington,1934); J. B. Scott, The Spanish origin of international law: Francisco de Vitoria and his Law of nations (1934). See Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics, 2nd ed. (1977; repr., New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), 30. Leger, The Etiamsi Daremus of Hugo Grotius, 9899. The observation is attributed by Leger to Louise-Erasme Le Fur, La Theori du droit Naturel dispuis le XVIIe sicle et la doctrine moderne, Recueil de cours de lAcademie de droit international de la Haye XVIII (1927), 300. Marcelino Menndez y Pelayo, Algunas Consideraciones sobre Francisco de Vitoria y los Orgenes del Derecho de Gentes, in Ensayos de Crtica Filosca (Madrid: Librera General de Victoriano Surez, 1918), 239. Hinojosa, Francisco deVitoria: Derecho Natural y de Gentes, 41. Ibid. Josef L. Kunz, Natural-Law Thinking in the Modern Science of International Law, American Journal of International Law 55, no. 4 (1961): 95152. Skinner, Modern Political Thought, 2, 13637. An account of this may be found in the preliminary study by Luis Garca Arias to Grotiuss Mare Liberum. See Hugo Grocio, De la Libertad de los Mares, trans. V. Blanco


64. 65.

66. 67.



70. 71.


73. 74. 75. 76. 77.

early sixteenth-century spain

Garca and Luis Garca Arias (1956; repr., Madrid: Centro de Estudios Constitucionales, 1979), 1617. James Lorimer, The Institutes of the Law of Nations: A Treatise of the Jural Relations of Separate Political Communities, vol. 1 (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1883). Kunz, Natural-Law Thinking, 954. Robert P. Adams, The Better Part of Valor: More, Erasmus, Colet and Vives on Humanism, War and Peace (Seattle: 1962), 98. Cited in Martin Wight, Systems of States, ed. Hedley Bull (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1977), 113. See footnote 71. Ortega, Universalist Conception, 99100.


78. 79. 80.

81. 82.