Quid est causa? The Debate on the Definition of ‘Cause’ in Early Jesuit Scholasticism

In: Vivarium

Abstract

Francisco Suárez’s thought has often been interpreted as paving the way for early modern philosophy, and causation is one of the themes in which his name is regularly associated with modern ideas. This is, however, an extrinsic relation – despite our lamentably poor knowledge of early modern scholasticism, Suárez’s doctrines can only be properly understood in relation to their proximate scholastic context. This article attempts a reevaluation of the importance of this context through an analysis of the definition of ‘cause’ in early modern scholasticism, focusing on the influence of Jesuit authors such as Toledo, Perera, and Fonseca on Suárez’s famous definition of ‘cause’, often considered as an anticipation of Descartes’ reduction of causality to efficiency. As it turns out, the proximate context of this definition provides not only the debate to which Suárez responds, but also the common conception of causality that Suárez tries to define more properly than his predecessors.