Later Scholastic Philosophy of Law
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In this chapter we are concerned with the movement known, in its initial phase, as the “School of Salamanca” after the university initially at its center, and subsequently more broadly as the “second scholastic” in recognition of its spread beyond the University of Salamanca to cover the entirety of Counter-Reformation Europe and the new universities of the Spanish dominions in the New World. Chronologically, it extends from the second decade of the sixteenth century to about the third quarter of the seventeenth. The term “second” refers to the perceived re-foundation of scholastic theology in the wake of the Reformation, a “renewal” based on the works of Thomas Aquinas (ca. 1226–1274) after the prevalence, in the later medieval period, of nominalist and Scotist approaches that followed the work of William of Ockham (1280–1347) and Johannes Duns Scotus (1274–1347), respectively. These traditional historiographical characterizations are not entirely apt, though. More recent scholarship shows how much continuity there was between pre- and post-Reformation scholasticism, and questions the trope of the “decadence” of late-medieval nominalism which dominates the literature on these thinkers from the first half of the twentieth century as well as the degree of their allegiance to the teachings of Aquinas. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that, in self-understanding and literary production, sixteenth- and seventeenth-century scholastic theologians differed from their predecessors, and that the adoption of Aquinas’s works—especially, the Summa Theologiae—as the central point of reference was a key aspect of this difference. This of itself pushed the question of law into the foreground, given Aquinas’s extensive treatment of law in the Prima Secundae of the Summa, but there are also contextual factors explaining both the turn to Aquinas and the interest in the subject of law.