Introduction: Luis De Molina, S.J.: Life, Studies, and Teaching

By Camacho, Francisco Gomez | Journal of Markets & Morality, Spring 2005 | Go to article overview

Introduction: Luis De Molina, S.J.: Life, Studies, and Teaching


Camacho, Francisco Gomez, Journal of Markets & Morality


Luis de Molina was born in Cuenca (Spain) in 1535 and died in Madrid on October 12, 1600. He entered the Society of Jesus at Alcala at the age of eighteen and was sent to Coimbra (Portugal) to finish his novitiate. He studied his philosophical and theological courses at Coimbra and was so successful in his studies that he was named professor of philosophy at this University in 1563, where he remained until 1567. By August of 1568, Molina had been transferred to Evora (Portugal) to teach theology. He expounded with great success Saint Thomas's Summa Theologica for twenty years, and in 1591 he retired to his native city of Cuenca to devote himself exclusively to writing and preparing for print the results of his long studies. Two years later, however, the Society of Jesus opened the Imperial College at Madrid and Molina was called to teach moral philosophy in the newly established institution. He died while still in Cuenca, before he had held his new chair in Madrid. Luis de Molina was no less eminent as a jurist than as a speculative philosopher and theologian. A proof is his work De iustitia et iure, which appeared complete only after his death.

In the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, a fairly small group of theologians and jurists centered in Spain attempted to synthesize the Roman legal texts with Aristotelian and Thomist moral philosophy. Molina and Lugo reorganized Roman law in its vast detail and presented it as a commentary on the Aristotelian and Thomistic virtue of justice in their treatise On Justice and Law (De iustitia et iure). The traditions of Roman law and Greek philosophy became intertwined more closely than they ever had been before or were to be again. (1)

Molina's chief contribution to the science of theology was his Concordia, on which he spent thirty years of the most assiduous labor. The full title of the now famous work is Concordia liberi arbitrii cum gratiae donis, divina praescientia, providentia, praedestinatione et reprobatione (Lisbon, 1588). As the title indicates, the work is primarily concerned with the difficult problem of reconciling God's praescientia and human free will. In view of its purpose and principal content, the work may also be regarded by the economist as a scientific vindication of the doctrine of the permanence of human free will under perfect information, and so could be interpreted, for instance, by authors such as Oskard Morgenstern, (2) J. Robinson, (3) and J. Hicks. (4) These references to the problem of predestination by such economists may be sufficient reason to think that Molina would have felt at home trying to solve problems posed in our day by the economist with the theoretical hypothesis of perfect information and human freedom.

Molina's varied interests amaze the modern reader, and Vansteenberge (5) remarks that the multitude of applications Molina makes of his principles is such that with the sole aid of his books a broad but accurate picture of the social and economic conditions of his time could be drawn. So, for example, in the Treatise on Money, Argument 408, (6) we find the following description of different kinds of businessmen.

Economic Context

Three main classes of businessmen developed in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: merchants, money changers, and bankers. The merchant kept in close touch with his counterpart and had his "factors" in every corner of the world. In Seville, the merchant was an imposing figure, having in his hands "the greatest trade of Christendom," and even in Barbary. To Flanders he sent wool, olive oil, and wines in exchange for cloth, carpets, and books, and to Florence cochineal and leather against gold brocade and silks. He imported linen from Flanders and Italy and had a hand in the lucrative salve trade of Cape Verde. So great were the mixed cargoes he sent to all parts of the Indies in exchange for gold, silver, pearls, cochineal, and leather that "not Seville nor twenty Sevilles" would suffice to insure them, and he had to call upon the resources of Lyons, Burgos, Lisbon, and Flanders for the purpose. …

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