Recensione Finito Infinito

Doyle, John P., Collected Studies on Francisco Suárez, s.j. (1548-1617), edited by
Victor M. Salas . Ancient and Medieval Philosophy Series, vol. 37. Leuven: Leuven
University Press , 2011. xvi + 416 pp. Cloth, € 69,50—The present volume is a
collection of fourteen essays that represents the culmination of over forty years of
scholarly research by one of the greatest experts on Francisco Suárez’s thought, John P.
Doyle. During his career Doyle published more than one hundred papers on Scholastic
philosophy and translated five of the fifty-four Disputationes metaphysicae, Suárez’s
The book collects two different kinds of essay on Suárez. The first group
concerns the Suárezian conception of metaphysics and its basic ideas such the notions
of reality, beings of reason, mental concepts, possibles, the analogy of being and of
truth, and the proof for God’s existence. The second deals with Suárez’s ethical and
political philosophy with a particular emphasis on the law of nations and human rights.
Doyle makes explicit that his reconstruction of Suárez’s philosophy follows
Étienne Gilson’s interpretation in Being and Some Philosophers, according to which the
Suárezian conception of metaphysics has its origin in Avicenna’s understanding of
Aristotelian thought. As his thinking on Suárez matured, however, Doyle modified
Gilson’s original appraisal to follow Rolf Darge’s exegesis as presented in his Suárez’
transzendentale Seinsauslegung with a particular focus on the difference between the
Suárezian confused concept of being and the Scotistic conceptus simpliciter simplex.
The introductory chapter is a general overview of Suárez’s life, works, and
doctrines, sketching also his impact on the history of thought. The second chapter deals
with Suárez’s conception of the possible as not-impossible or non-repugnant essence.
Against the interpretation maintaining that Suárez conceived the esse essentiae doctrine
of Avicenna and Duns Scotus as giving a created essence objective being in God prior
to creation, Doyle interprets the Suárezian notion of being in opposition to not nonbeing
and therefore something more than a being of reason. The esse essentiae is eternally
true and apt to be known, even if, per impossibile, there were no God, in fact, reality is
such independently from the actual existence of the creatures which depend on Him.
The third chapter concerns the issue of the analogy of being, for which Suárez’s concept
of real being is one, but not as a by genus or simpliciter simplex like for Scotus, but for
is aptitude to existence, which is expressed by his notion of being as an essential
intrinsic non-repugnance. The fourth chapter deals with the conception of Suárezian and
Thomistic metaphysics before Heidegger’s assessment. Doyle contends that Heidegger
holds Suárez’s metaphysics to be a form of nihilism because it leaves out the very core
of being, trivializing the Greek ontology and pursuing a knowledge of beings in
forgetfulness of being itself. Doyle agrees with Heidegger’s assessment of Suárez
inasmuch the Jesuit pursues knowledge of beings under the common concept of (notnot-)being in the forgetfulness of being itself. But Doyle disagrees with Heidegger in
sustaining that Suárezian philosophy is the faithful result of the Scholastic metaphysics
represented by Aquinas, showing the differences between the Dominican thinker and
the Jesuit. The fifth chapter shows that the Suárezian proof for God’s existence follows
Avicenna’s ontological argument and falls under Kant’s criticism. The sixth chapter ––
the best in the collection–– deals with the Suárez’s conception of extrinsic
denomination, that is, the naming of things from outside themselves, showing that they
are features of things themselves, prior to any operation of the mind’s knowing things.
The seventh chapter addresses the relation between beings of reason and truth. In fact, if
truth consists in a conformity between the mind and reality, it is hard to understand how
there could be truth where there is no independent reality, such as in the case beings of
reason. Doyle shows that Suárez supports a logical and mental conception of truth
because, since the words of beings of reason, such as “goat-stag” and “chimera”, have a
signification, there is a possibility to make true or false statements regarding them. The
eighth chapter examines the possibility of the unity of a scientific habit in a general
system of science. The ninth chapter discusses Suárez’s perspective on the truth of the
proposition “this is my body” focusing on the treatise De Eucharistia. Suárez’s
treatment does not mean according to Doyle that the Jesuit thinker is attempting the
impossible task of proving the truth of the Eucharistic formula, but he aims to explain in
what manner it could be rationally considered as true and thus sufficient to answer to
philosophical objections. The tenth chapter deals with Suárez’s doctrine of
evangelization, which manifests his view on the equality of human beings on the basis
of their natural rights, on morality, on the nature of the societies and on the law of
nations (jus gentium), which are the topics of the last three chapters.
Doyle’s collection is a true compendium of Suárez’s entire philosophy, examined in
a careful and comprehensive way. Even if the papers included in the volume were
written years, sometimes decades, ago, they are still seminal in focusing on the crucial
problems and questions of the Suárez’s thought; they are a reference for present and
future investigations.
Marco Sgarbi