The Metaphysical Demonstration of the Existence of God Summary

Francisco Suarez


The fifty-four disputations in Francisco Suárez’s Disputationer Metaphysicae provide a metaphysical foundation for work in theology by thoroughly analyzing the concept of being—what characteristics all beings share in common and what distinguishes the different types of beings. This work highly influenced modern philosophers such as René Descartes and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Disputations 28 and 29, the two disputations translated in The Metaphysical Demonstration of the Existence of God, are generally concerned with the division of being into the infinite and finite and the question of whether it is possible to prove, without recourse to divine revelation, the existence of an infinite, uncreated being—namely, God.

Disputation 28 discusses how to divide types of beings. Suárez concludes that the most apparent division of being is between the infinite and finite because of the radical disparity between God and creatures. While this is not the division that is most easily perceived by the senses, it is the most logical division and is therefore in accordance with the order of teaching. Some other divisions of being, however, are synonymous. For instance, the division of being into that which is necessary and that which is not necessary (or is contingent). A necessary being is one that must exist and cannot cease to exist. A contingent being either cannot exist or can cease to exist. Also, being can be divided into being by essence and being by participation. Being by essence means that the being has existence because of its essence (existence is a necessary attribute of the being’s essence). Finally, being can be divided into uncreated and created.

Disputation 28 also addresses the question of whether the division of being is equivocal, univocal, or analogous. This is a reformulation of the question of whether the concept of being can be posited of both God and creatures. If the concept is used equivocally, it is simply taken from what is known of creatures and imposed on God in order to understand him. Suárez notes that this argument was refuted by Thomas Aquinas and that if it were true, nothing of God could be learned from knowledge of the creatures...

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Sources for Further Study

Copleston, Frederick. Later Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy: Ockham, Francis Bacon, and the Beginning of the Modern World. Vol. 3 in A History of Philosophy. New York: Image Books, 1993. Copleston’s nine-volume work is rightly called the best history of philosophy in the English language. His discussion of Suárez is both thorough and concise.

Doyle, John P. “Francisco Suárez: On Preaching the Gospel to People Like the American Indians.” Fordham International Law Journal 15 (1991): 879-951. A fascinating discussion of the legal theory of one of the founders of modern international human rights doctrine.

Doyle, John P. “The Suarezian Proof for God’s Existence.” In History of Philosophy in the Making: A Symposium of Essays to Honor Professor James D. Collins on His Sixty-fifth Birthday, edited by Linus J. Thro. Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1982. A thorough summary and critique of Disputation 29.

Fichter, Joseph H. Man of Spain: Francis Suarez. New York: Macmillan, 1940. An enjoyable biography of Suárez intended for an intelligent general audience. It emphasizes the historical events surrounding Suárez’s life.

Garcia, Jorge. “Francisco Suárez: The Man of History.” The American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 65 (1991): 259-266. A brief overview of Suárez’s life and the importance of his works both in his own time and in the history of philosophy.