Werk in Arbeit!

The Approach of Some Major Commentators on STh II-II, q. 10: De Infidelitate

In discussions of infidelity, very different ideas about what the point of theorizing over this subject is in the first place, find their expressions: there are discussions about how infidelity relates to other vices and to the definition of vice in general, where the stakes seem to be mostly theoretical ones; there are discussions of how infidelity affects the moral capacity of an agent which are geared to practically regulate the behaviour of other agents towards this agent in their capacity as moral persons; and there are various discussions that relate infidelity to different pressing social and political issues which are concerned with missionary policies, the civil status of infidels and the like. In this article, I shall review the reception of this article of the STh in a number of commentaries, with especially the later authors being related to the School of Salamanca. A short conclusion will sum up main developments and turning points.

Thomas Aquinas

In Thomas Aquinas ’s STh II-II, q. 10De infidelitate — there are 12 articles that touch briefly on all these issues. Articles one to six deal with understanding the sin of infidelity (whether it really is a sin, in which faculty it resides, whether it is the greatest of sins, how it affects the capacity to act morally, how many species of it there are, and how these can be ranked). Articles seven to twelve deal with how pious people should behave towards infidels (whether you should debate matters of religion with them, whether they should be forced to assume Christianity, whether you can cooperate with them, whether they can be tolerated in positions of authority over Christians, whether their religious rites can or should be tolerated, and whether their children should be baptized regardless of the infidel parents’ will). This latter aspect of the question takes a larger part, and while all of the articles have roughly the same length, the questions nine, ten and twelve are the longest ones.

A couple of points seem especially noteworthy. In the first article, Thomas  distinguishes a purely negative infidelity (infidelitas secundum puram negationem) — the mere fact that a person does not believe in the true God, without any actual judgment by the person, which seems possible only when that person has never even heard of Him — from an infidelity which includes the actual refusal of the truth professed to the subject (infidelitas secundum contrarietatem ad fidem). And while non-believers in the first sense may fall prey to other sins which they cannot be absolved from without the Christian faith, their infidelity in itself is not sinful, since they could not possibly have done otherwise, i.e. they could not have assumed the Christian faith at any point. Of course, the original sin also affects these non-believers, but for Thomas it does not totally corrupt their human nature with its capacity for reason and for the moral good. It merely means that it makes it very hard for them to always follow natural reason which still they do possess and to stay on the moral ways that this reason indicates (cf. article 4).

The fact that the sinfulness of infidelity would be constituted by an active refusal leads Thomas also to the further distinction of several species of infidelity based on the possible subjective conditions of that refusal in article 5: Since there is an overwhelming number of acts, sentences and concrete objects which are susceptible to being refused, one should better differentiate the various species of infidelity according to the different ways in which the truth about the triune God has been professed to the subject beforehand and rejected, of which there are but three: either it has not been confessed at all yet (pagans), or only in figura (i.e. in the prophecies of the Old Testament; this holds for the Jews), or in its actual and manifest truth (i.e. in the New Testament; this is the case for heretics).

One of the more extensive articles (article 9) deals with everyday interactions between Christians and infidels and with the question which of those Christians should refrain from. And whereas the Church uses excommunication as a sanction, forbidding interaction as a kind of punishment for heretics, this cannot be applied to pagans and Jews. Where this proscription as punishment is not relevant, the permissibility of an interaction depends on the various aspects and conditions of a concrete case. And where neither scandalum nor periculum fidei is to be expected, interaction seems licit. This also applies to the permissibility of public debate about religious matters with infidels (art. 7): where the negative outcome would be the defection of a Christian interlocutor or audience, and the positive outcome would be the persuasion and conversion of a former infidel, the permissibility depends on the actual balance of these eventualities.

Then there are also points which concern not so much everyday interactions but the exercise of force and public authority, both on the side of Christians over infidels and vice versa. With regard to the question of whether or not one should force infidels to accept the Christian faith, Aquinas  unambiguously explains that those infidels who had not already assumed the Christian faith before, such as pagans and Jews, must not be compelled to faith by any means, since to believe depends on the will (cf. art. 8, resp.). Force may be used only in order to prevent them from persecuting Christians or from impeding the Christian faith by blasphemy and evil persuasion. But on the other hand, he also unambiguously allows and even commends the physical coercion of Christian heretics and apostates, because these can be held to what they have once promised (cf. ibid.). The longest article of the question asks whether or not the children of infidels are to be baptized even when their parents do not want this (article 12). Without taking recourse to the fine distinctions between different species of infidelity, Thomas here outrightly rejects any baptism that does not come with the consent of the parents. According to him, the ecclesiastical custom (consuetudo Ecclesiae) attests to this; and with parental authority natural justice also provides a reason for this, which is not overridden by divine law and cannot be overridden by human law.

Vice versa, while Christians shall not allow that an infidel becomes ruler over Christians (for danger of scandalum or periculum fidei), this does not invalidate the preexisting authority of an infidel ruler. This authority, being an expression of human law, hence presumably of natural reason, is not invalidated by divine law and its distinction of fidels and infidels (cf. article 10, resp.).

From Antoninus of Florence to Cajetan

A couple of 15th and early 16th century authors exhibit the tension between the two aspects of moral theory and social or political issues: Antoninus of Florence ’s Summa Theologica (1477) contains eleven chapters under the heading Titulus XII, De infidelitate. Its main focus is on heresy and on different kinds of superstitious beliefs (astrology, idolatry, necromancy etc.). The more complex apostasies are discussed with a view to defending the Christian view; errors of ancient philosophers are systematized and confronted with the Christian conceptions of divine essence, of the effects that God operates in the world, of His knowledge and guidance of the world and of the human soul. The topics that Thomas  had discussed are dealt with mainly in the four paragraphs of chapter two De triplici infidelitate. The preliminary remarks there resume the Thomist distinction between infidelitas secundum puram negationem and infidelitas secundum contrarietatem ad fidem, and also that between the three species of infidelity (pagans, Jews, heretics). This chapter also contains an affirmation of the human capacity for moral judgment and behaviour even in infidels.** Antoninus Florentinus  1740, Summa Theologica. Pars Secunda, tit. XII, cap.…
Antoninus Florentinus  1740, Summa Theologica. Pars Secunda, tit. XII, cap. 2, col. 1147: Peccatum non corrumpit totum bonum naturae, sed remanet in eis lumen naturale; ideo non omnis actus eorum est mortale peccatum, sed actus procedens ex ipsa infidelitate vel relatus ad ipsam, etiamsi sit de genere bonorum, puta Saracenus iejunat […] Sed jejunando ob castitatem servandam et alia faciendo ex dictamine rationis naturalis non peccat. Dicendo verbum otiosum ex se, non nisi venialiter peccat . Another point that subsequent authors shall take up is the contention that “purely negative” infidelity should be seen less as a sin than as a punishment (for the original sin): the damnation in which infidels incur because of other sins which they are likely to commit cannot be remedied without the Christian faith (cf. ibid., col. 1146).
The four paragraphs of this chapter resume the social-practical issues mentioned by Thomas : whether infidels can be forced to assume the Christian faith, whether Christians may debate with them over matters of religion, whether a Christian is allowed to converse with them, and whether their children should be baptized even if the parents do not consent. Significant differences from Thomas  can hardly be found, but it should be noted that with regard to the first question — about forced conversion —, a couple of permissible incentives for conversion are discussed, taking up arguments by preceding authors.** Ibid., col. 1148: Debent vero Judaei et alii infideles adduci ad fidem rati…
Ibid., col. 1148: Debent vero Judaei et alii infideles adduci ad fidem rationibus, persuasionibus et auctoritatibus, ostendendo ex eorum libris eorum errorem et dulcibus modis. [...] Possunt etiam ad fidem adduci secundum Guillelmum promissis et muneribus; non quidem factis pro fide suscipienda, quia hoc esset simonia, sed ad captandum benivolentiam et excludendum ab eis timorem inopiae et hujusmodi [...] Possunt etiam adduci ad fidem secundum Raymundum  per graviorem exactionem pensionum ab eis .

With regard to the question of baptism of infidels’ children, Antoninus  clearly adheres to Thomas ’s opinion, adducing the established arguments propter periculum fidei, propter ius naturale and propter consuetudinem Ecclesiae; and he dismisses arguments according to which an ensuing good might override or justify an imminent wrong (without associating these arguments with any particular author). The wrong in this case is obviously the interference with the natural right of the parents over their children. Also Antoninus  seems to consider the most important and most difficult issue touched upon in the question of permissible social intercourse to be common meals. (The toleration of infidel rites is discussed in a chapter of its own, with a focus on Jewish rites;** Cf. cap. 3: De infidelitate Iudaeorum et ritibus et aliorum infidelium . the eventual legitimacy of infidel rule is not addressed extensively at all).

Sylvester Mazzolini of Prierio’s Summa Summarum (usually called the Summa Sylvestrina, published in 1514 or in 1515) is an alphabetical compendium of issues of relevance to confession and priestly practice. In its second part, in contains an article on Infidelitas of roughly one page.** Mazzolini Prierias 1594, Summa Sylvestrina, Pars secunda, tit. Infidelitas,…
Mazzolini Prierias 1594, Summa Sylvestrina, Pars secunda, tit. Infidelitas, pp. 36-7.

This article contains nine dense sections with many references to further literature, often also to Canon law, and to other entries like haeresis, disputare or baptismus. He almost literally resumes Antoninus ’s description of purely negative infidelity as a punishment rather than a sin, insofar as it prevents the forgiveness of other sins; and he also repeats the distinction between the three species of infidelity. With regard to the moral quality of the actions of infidels, he affirms that some of them can be actus boni ex objecto, but he does not link this possibility to the capacity for natural reason in infidels, and he allows for the possibility that even those good actions do not constitute any true merit on the part of the infidel agents. In the questions of authority of infidels over Christians and of religious debate, Sylvester reaffirms Thomas ’s points. But he adds a discussion of another, obviously rather important practice in which interaction might be seen as cooperation and as support of infidel rites and which hence perhaps should be avoided: the sale to infidels of goods that can be used in such rites. And importantly Sylvester states that unless the Christian seller does not sell the good for the very purpose of such rites, nor does he know for sure that it will be (ab)used in this way, there is no sin in selling. He spends some effort in discussing whether or not Christians can expropriate infidels of their possessions, concluding that this has to be done by public, not private authority, and justified by linking this sanction to specific crimes. In other, very brief passages, Sylvester denies infidels the capacity to serve as witness in legal trials (following Panormitanus ) and he explains that Christians may not assume or simulate infidel rites and behaviour without good reason. The question of coercion is treated in the article on baptism, but without any surprises insofar as the themes of STh II-II q. 10are concerned.

At almost the same time, between 1508 and 1523 , Tommaso de Vio (Cajetan) publishes his commentary on the whole STh, the volume on the II-II being issued in 1518 . Commenting on the first article, Cajetan underlines the participation of humans in divine nature, mediated by their natural reason. Hence, according to their (to a certain degree variable) capacity for reason they have full access to moral qualities, to moral judgment and behaviour.** Cajetan 1894, p. 79 . This is also reflected in his commentary on the fourth article, whether every action of infidels is sinful, where he argues, against Gregory of Rimini , that while pagans may not possess true virtues, their actions may well be virtuous. He defends this on the grounds that the pursuit of lesser goods is legitimate even if it is not for the sake of the highest good. He deems the same article an appropriate place to discuss the sale of goods that might be used in infidel rites.** Ibid., pp. 82-4. In the next article he extensively discusses the various ways to categorize and differentiate between different species of infidelity, without coming to results much different from those of Aquinas .** Ibid., pp. 85-6.

In his commentary on article eight, Cajetan associates the question of coercion to the issue of just war. And responding to both aspects, he explicitly confronts Scotus , insisting that faith and conversion must be a matter of voluntary adherence and that fear of injury or other sanctions fundamentally prevent this necessary voluntariness and must not be used as means of persuasion.** Ibid., pp. 89-90. Another very extensive discussion comes with article twelve: Cajetan tackles arguments of Scotus  and Durand , and he points out that it is not a matter of valuing the parents’ claims higher than God’s claims (where the latter would obviously outweigh the former), but that it is a question of relating God’s instituting natural law to His ordaining the Christian faith and its orders. According to Cajetan, positive divine law does not invalidate natural law, but rather should best be observed by following natural law.** Ibid., p. 95. In this article, a recurring feature of Cajetan’s arguments shows as well: moral theory should be developed not according to that which is logically possible or necessary, but according to that which usually happens. ** Ibid., p. 96. And usually there are again at least the two dangers of periculum fidei and infamia fidei.** Ibid. Similar arguments about the focus on that which ‘usually’ happens also appear in articles seven and eight. While this Aristotelian idea has been a well-established topic in medieval conceptions of moral theory from the 13th century onwards,** Cf. Lines 2002, esp. chap. 3, pp. 111-157. neither Thomas Aquinas  nor Antoninus  or Sylvester see a need to raise it in the context of this specific topic of infidelity (and in fact, Cajetan does not refer to earlier authors when he presents these arguments).

Vitoria and Soto

The sheer extent of their discussions of infidelitas, no less than their importance for subsequent thinkers, present Francisco de Vitoria and Domingo de Soto as thinkers of extraordinary relevance. True, the commentaries on the Summa of either author have not been published until Francisco de Vitoria’s second commentary on the II-II began to be published in 1932, and the texts on which the authors’ respective ‘claim to fame’ rests, are neither commentaries on the Summa nor do they focus on the question of infidelity. On a superficial glance, that is. However, when one reads in his — at the time unprinted — commentary what Francisco de Vitoria said about infidelity in class in the academic year 1534 - 35 , one finds that, beyond the already extensive discussion in this lecture, he intended to dedicate a whole upcoming relectio to the subject.** In the very first article of his commentary on the question of infidelity, …
In the very first article of his commentary on the question of infidelity, he presents three conclusions concerning the two ‘traditional’ modes of infidelity, one being sinful and the other not; then he introduces eight doubts about the state of infidels, and finally he explains: Ad omnia ista dubia est unica responsio pro nunc: quod ego in istis natalibus Domini faciam unam relectionem integram, quid homo teneatur facere cum venit ad usum rationis, et quid illi sufficiat ad salutem ( Francisco de Vitoria, In II-II, q. 10, art. 1, § 10, ed. Beltrán de Heredía (1932), p. 162). On the different types of works that lectures and relectiones constitute, cf. Beltrán de Heredia 1928, pp. 123-5.
And even one of Vitoria’s most famous texts, the Relectio on the American Indians later takes up and reiterates the arguments he had presented in 1534 / 35 .** The locus relegendus of De Indis , its main question and many of its argume…
The locus relegendus of De Indis , its main question and many of its arguments clearly mirror and further develop the relectio and the commentary on II-II, q.10 from 1534/5.
One can thus conclude that, with a rather solid continuity of the arguments, the issues raised with the question of infidelity were of great and lasting importance for Francisco de Vitoria, and took a central place in his public discourse. And while his texts had already circulated widely in manuscript, the University of Salamanca    invested quite some effort to have Vitoria’s relectiones printed, an effort that is documented as early as 1548 , shortly after Francisco de Vitoria’s death, and that was accomplished in 1557 , so that they may be both more accessible and a consolidated testament to the origins of what was then already a recognizable tradition of thought.** Cf. Hernandez Martín 1997, pp. 106f.

Something similar can be said with regard to Domingo de Soto, where there is no printed commentary on the Summa, but where we can find at times detailed discussions of these very issues throughout his De natura et gratia (1547), his famous De iustitia et iure (first published in 1553 and revised by Soto himself in 1556; this second edition became the standard edition) and finally in his commentary on the fourth book of the Sentences(1558-60).** I have not been able to consult the manuscripts of Soto’s lecture courses c…
I have not been able to consult the manuscripts of Soto’s lecture courses commenting on the Summa directly. However, cf. Becker 1967, part A, esp. pp. 42-52.

Finally, it is important to note that, as the very title of Francisco de Vitoria’s Relectio de Indis suggests,** Of course, already much earlier texts such as Francisco de Vitoria’s commen…
Of course, already much earlier texts such as Francisco de Vitoria’s commentary on II-II from 1534 or Domingo de Soto’s Relectio de dominio from 1535 also show that the duda Indiana was a prime concern of those authors. It is difficult to assess whether or not even Cajetan regarded this as a crucial issue, but for the Salamancan authors, this is beyond any doubt. Cf. Pereña 1984 and 1998.
the central phenomenon which the question of infidelity now was seen to address, was the presence of whole societies which had not been in contact with the Christian faith and which had — in whatever way and by whatever right — come under the power of Christian princes.

Let us then turn to Francisco de Vitoria first. As will become obvious, he has meant both his Relectio on that to which man is obligated … (from 1535) and his Relectio on the American Indians (from 1539) as direct responses to issues raised in Thomas ’s question on infidelity. The earlier commentary on the Summa begins with the mentioned reference to the upcoming Relectio de eo ad quod tenetur veniens ad usum rationis . To this reference and some very brief summaries, he adds a few original hints, explaining e.g. that someone who tries to live a good life according to his innate insight into natural law, while being guiltlessly ignorant of Christ, may hardly be free from sin, but eventually will have what amounts to perfect contrition for his sins — hence his sins might be forgiven and he need not necessarily be damned.** Francisco de Vitoria, In II-II, q. 10, art. 1, §10, ed. Beltrán de Heredía …
Francisco de Vitoria, In II-II, q. 10, art. 1, §10, ed. Beltrán de Heredía (1932), p. 163.
Although this is explained in hypothetical and probabilist terms, it signals a departure from the infidelity-as-a-punishment paradigm. While many of Thomas ’s articles are dealt with very briefly then, three topics attract Francisco de Vitoria’s attention particularly. The first one is a question of moral theology: how goodness of actions is possible without faith at all and how an agent’s lack of faith may be balanced with the eventual goodness of his actions (art. 4); the second one is the ‘political’ question of whether infidels may be compelled into accepting the Christian faith (art. 8); and the third one being the question of the license to baptize children of infidels against the will of their parents, also a question of a ‘political’ character as it were (art. 9). Article 4, concerning the question whether all actions of an infidel are necessarily sins, gets the most extensive treatment, and this is also one of the main themes of his Relectio from 1534. As did Cajetan, Francisco de Vitoria considers Gregory of Rimini  to have made one of the strongest arguments for denouncing all actions of an infidel as sins, and he relies on the counter-arguments offered by John Capreolus  and Cajetan himself. Gregory ’s argument was that without faith, any action would not be for the ultimate end, and hence both morally bad and against Paul ’s call to do all things for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). Moreover, since it would aspire to some subordinate, created and inferior good, it would imply a positively misguided, sinful ambition. However, whereas Capreolus  argued against Gregory  for the possibility that an act might “virtually” refer to God if the agent had firmly resolved that he wanted to do all for the glory of God and would thus ‘habitually’ refer any action to God, Francisco de Vitoria sides with Cajetan who held that “virtual” reference of an act to God should mean rather an ‘implicit’ reference constituted by natural reason alone: an action that corresponds to the natural recta ratio uses things just as God had meant them to be used and thus responds to God’s intentions. So it is the concrete objects and circumstances of an action, the rational correspondence to which refers an action implicitly or indirectly to God, whether or not the agent is aware of that. Such actions are done just as God had wanted them to be done, hence they are virtuous, and so may be the agents, even if they are infidels. In his Relectio de eo ad quod tenetur veniens ad usum rationis ,** Francisco de Vitoria, De eo, quod tenetur homo, cum primo venit ad usum rat…
Francisco de Vitoria, De eo, quod tenetur homo, cum primo venit ad usum rationis, secunda pars, §1, ed. HorstJustenhovenStüben (1997).
Francisco de Vitoria expands on this and develops a complex understanding of what it means to act reasonably and he feeds this into his concept of morality that is then based on the human capacity to deliberate rather than on a sort of natural theology: The border case discussed by Francisco de Vitoria is someone who is not only ignorant of Christian doctrine, but completely stripped of any religion, religious institution and tradition, armed with only his capacity for reasonable deliberation, liberum arbitrium and dominium sui actus.** Et ut omissis certis et facilioribus veniamus ad nodum difficultatis, loqua…
Et ut omissis certis et facilioribus veniamus ad nodum difficultatis, loquamur de homine educato in barbaria sine institutione et mentione deitatis et religionis … (Ibid.) . Since Francisco de Vitoria considers the indigenous people of the Americas to possess not only usus rationis, but even a kind of religion, this border case is more of a construction for theoretical purposes than a real-life case; cf. Francisco de Vitoria, De Indis, prima pars, prima sectio, §§4, ed. HorstJustenhoven - Stüben (1997), p. 392.
This capacity necessarily and sufficiently constitutes the person as a moral agent, it makes him or her capable of deadly sin as well as of virtue and of leading a life that is pleasing to God.** Si autem [Deum] non cognoscat, satis est, ut proponat bene vivere conformit…
Si autem [Deum] non cognoscat, satis est, ut proponat bene vivere conformiter ad dictamen, ut: Propono vivere secundum rationem, volo honeste agere, nolo male agere. (Ibid., tertia pars, §14, p. 182) For a full exposition of Francisco de Vitoria’s necessarily ‘a-theological’ system of morality based on natural reason, see Spindler 2015.
Likewise, Francisco de Vitoria submits in his political theory that civil law and its institutions, such as property and political rule, can and should be justified independently of religious conviction, or, in other words, that they are not nullified by the fact that the proprietor or ruler is an infidel ( Thomas ’s art. 10). This is discussed at length in Francisco de Vitoria’s famous Relectio de Indis , where Francisco de Vitoria maintains that such dominium can well be constituted by, and for, infidels** Cf. Francisco de Vitoria, De Indis, prima pars, prima sectio, §§15, ed. Hor…
Cf. Francisco de Vitoria, De Indis, prima pars, prima sectio, §§15, ed. HorstJustenhovenStüben (1997), p. 402.
and where he denies that infidelity in itself may serve as a legitimate ground for war, conquest and occupation or interference in civil matters.** Francisco de Vitoria, De Indis, prima pars, secunda sectio, quartus titulus…
Francisco de Vitoria, De Indis, prima pars, secunda sectio, quartus titulus, §§11-20, ed. HorstJustenhovenStüben (1997), p. 432-447.

But once the robustness of political rule is established, the question of its possible grasp on the religion of its political subjects arises all the more urgently: can a (Christian) ruler coerce unwilling subjects to accept baptism and the Christian faith, or can he at least enforce the baptism of their children? Francisco de Vitoria’s argument proceeds by first distinguishing between the enforcement of baptism of such persons (or of their children) who are subjects to Christian rulers and that of those who are not; in other words: the powers of Christian rulers over their own infidel subjects and those over the subjects of other rulers. Francisco de Vitoria then seems to refuse the ‘liberal’ view of Aquinas  and Capreolus  who held that in matters of baptism and conversion, no coercion at all must be exerted, and apparently he does not even follow the moderate views of Durand of Saint-Pourçain , Marsilius of Padua , Peter of Palude , or Cajetan who held that those infidels who are slaves to Christian masters may be forced, whereas others may not. Instead, Vitoria sides with Scotus  and Gabriel Biel , explaining that, strictly speaking, there is no reason at all in divine or natural law why forcing one’s subjects to accept the Christian faith should be beyond a ruler’s powers.** Cf. Francisco de Vitoria, In II-II, q. 10, art. 8, §4, ed. Beltrán de Hered…
Cf. Francisco de Vitoria, In II-II, q. 10, art. 8, §4, ed. Beltrán de Heredía (1932), pp. 192f.; ibid., art. 12, §8, pp. 206f.; Francisco de Vitoria, De Indis, secunda pars, §§4f., ed. Horst - Justenhoven - Stüben (1997), pp. 494-499; ibid., tertia pars, §4, pp. 518-521. For a strong contrast between Aquinas ’s and Soto’s ‘liberalism’ and Francisco de Vitoria’s ‘interventionism’, cf. Toste 2014.
But, Francisco de Vitoria continues, this holds in considerations of an ideal, isolated case where no bad consequences are to be expected. Practically, however, this never occurs — and in moral or, as we should rather say, political and social questions, what matters is not what is logically possible, but what happens most often.** Cf. Francisco de Vitoria, In II-II, q.10, art. 8, §6, p. 194 ; ibid., art. …
Cf. Francisco de Vitoria, In II-II, q.10, art. 8, §6, p. 194; ibid., art. 12, §§9f., pp. 207-209; Francisco de Vitoria, De Indis, tertia pars, §6, pp. 522f. I shall not discuss the different types of bad consequences that are to be expected here — they range from dishonesty of the converts to a bad reputation of Christian persuasiveness.
Francisco de Vitoria returns to the ‘liberal’ prudency-based restraint several times, explaining its obligatory character in different ways: not everything that is licit is expedient (cf. 1 Cor. 6:12);** And whether it is expedient or not depends on the concrete circumstances, s…
And whether it is expedient or not depends on the concrete circumstances, so that, according to Francisco de Vitoria, it seems more likely that bad consequences of coercion can be avoided if it is just a small fraction of a commonwealth’s population that does not convert to Christianity of its own accord. Francisco de Vitoria explicitly states that he does not know whether the forced conversion of Iberian Muslims was such a good idea ( Francisco de Vitoria, In II-II, q. 10, art. 8, §5, p. 193).
and, more fundamentally, when pressed to voice an unequivocal sentence, absolute et simpliciter loquendo, Francisco de Vitoria blinds out what permissibility forced baptism “as such” might have, but relies instead exclusively on the consequences that must be expected under the conditions that obtain in most cases (ut in pluribus).** Cf. ibid., §6, p. 194: [A]d primam conclusionem sancti Thomae  […] dicendum…
Cf. ibid., §6, p. 194: [A]d primam conclusionem sancti Thomae  […] dicendum est quod illa est vera simpliciter loquendo. Unde in materia morali, qualis ista est, id cujus oppositum non contingit, dicitur simpliciter tale, quia regulae morales non debent esse de possibilibus, sed de his quae contingunt. Et quia ut in pluribus loquendo non possunt cogi infideles sine scandalo aut gravi jactura, ideo simpliciter respondet sanctus Thomas  quod non sunt cogendi […]. Absolute ergo et simpliciter loquendo respondendum est quod non possunt compelli ad fidem tales infideles, quia humanitatus et ut in plurimum non potest coerceri scandalum quod posset sequi quin vergat in deteriorem exitum.
Finally, the exact powers of a ruler are not defined a priori and invariably, but they may be the object of a covenant themselves, so that, when a community of infidels submits to a Christian ruler on the condition that he does not force them into accepting the Christian faith, then the scope of the ruler’s general authority to make his subjects good is limited by this constitutional act. For infidels who are not subject to Christian rulers on the other hand, Francisco de Vitoria’s answer is crisp and clear: they may not be forced to accept the Christian faith, nor may they be forced to abandon their rites, except for when these rites involve the killing of innocent persons; (only) then Christian rulers, or indeed anyone, may interfere on grounds of defense of others. Of course, most of the Relectio de Indis deals with other legitimate and illegitimate titles for conquering the commonwealths of infidels and for stripping them of their political authority, but that is not relevant here.** For different takes on the critical or apologetic character of this text, s…
For different takes on the critical or apologetic character of this text, see e.g. Anghie 1996, Hernandez Martín 1997, Pagden 2015, chap. 1.

With the Salamancan authors, we can also observe how the discussion of these recurring issues begins to move out of the context of theological commentaries. The beginning of Francisco de Vitoria’s De Indis features an extensive discussion of why he — as a theologian — is qualified to comment on the matter: he describes it primarily as a juridical one, the universal character of which puts it beyond the reach of scholars or practitioners of canon and civil law.** Cf. Francisco de Vitoria, De Indis, praeludium, §8, ed. Horst - Justenhoven…
Cf. Francisco de Vitoria, De Indis, praeludium, §8, ed. Horst - Justenhoven - Stüben (1997), p. 380-382.
And while indeed the arguments raised in the debates about STh II-II q. 10are discussed, the form of the relectio itself is of course not that of a commentary on a scholarly theological work. Francisco de Vitoria’s colleague Domingo de Soto later famously broke up the sequential and coherent system of Thomas ’s Summa for his De iustitia et iure libri decem in a much more thorough and momentous way.** Cf. Scattola 2001; 2009; 2010.

One of Soto’s earlier printed treatments of infidelity can be found in his De natura et gratia , then there are several sections in his most famous work De iustitia et iure concerned with the mentioned topics, and finally there is an extensive treatment in his commentaries on the fourth book of the Sentences . In 1545 - 1547 , Soto participated in the debates about original sin, grace and justification at the Council of Trent, where he greatly refined his ideas about the matter and wrote his work De natura et gratia . The focus of this work is on the role of divine grace for virtuous behaviour and for access into God’s grace; and hence the impossibilities implied in being without faith are of great concern as well. On the other hand, the council’s context of controversial theology pushed Soto to argue less on the level of ethical or political issues associated to infidelity and more on that of the relation of natural/human and supernatural/divine motives in the process of justification and in the access into God’s grace. For this reason, the De natura et gratia shall not be discussed extensively here.** On this work and the implicit connection to questions of infidelity, cf. Be…
On this work and the implicit connection to questions of infidelity, cf. Becker 1967.
In his influential De iustitia et iure , and as its title indicates, Soto departs from the Thomist  ordering of the discussions insofar as he takes the considerations about law and justice, that had been presented by Aquinas  in independent locations,** Cf. I-II, qq. 90-108 (On law) and II-II, qq, 57-122 (On justice) , respecti…
Cf. I-II, qq. 90-108 (On law)and II-II, qq, 57-122 (On justice), respectively.
out of their original context, brings them immediately together and explains the order of his own work by an analysis of the two main concepts. Accordingly, the placement of the issues connected to infidelity is dependent on their relation to the work’s organizing principles: As the basic element of commutative justice, dominium is the main topic in Book IV, and here Soto briefly states that infidelitas does not preclude dominium, since divine positive law and its distinction between believers and unbelievers generally does not invalidate human law that conforms to natural reason, but does perfect it.** Cf. Soto 1553 De iustitia et iure, lib. IV, q. 4, art. 1, p. 302 . Cf. also…
Cf. Soto 1553 De iustitia et iure, lib. IV, q. 4, art. 1, p. 302. Cf. also his earlier (1995) Relectio de dominio, §32, pp. 170-173.
Soto repeats this later, where he discusses theft and robbery.** In Soto 1553 De iustitia et iure, lib. V, q. 3, art. 5, ad tertium, pp. 430…
In Soto 1553 De iustitia et iure, lib. V, q. 3, art. 5, ad tertium, pp. 430f.
Here he adds that the decisive point, as far as ‘foreign’ infidels are concerned, is the fact that it is incumbent either upon God or upon their own princes to judge them. Seen in this light, the point of whether their infidelity can be excused or not, and in fact even questions like whether or not their idolatry constitutes a mortal sin, are practically moot – a striking manifestation of the supremacy of the work’s practical motivation.

Other aspects of infidelity are treated most extensively in Soto’s commentary on the fourth book of the Sentences , more specifically in the fifth distinction, which is concerned with who is to receive baptism. Here, Soto takes up the question of what kind of sin infidelity is, whether sinners are to be baptized and if they can reach salvation without baptism. Soto distinguishes between the acceptance of the Christian faith being necessary in order to reach salvation, and it being obligatory by a special precept. With regard to the first point, Soto holds that implicit faith, i.e. obedience to natural law and deliberation according to natural reason is inviting the divine support (ops) that is necessary in order for a human being to facere quod in se est, which in turn is sufficient for salvation.** Cf. Soto 1581 , In Sent, dist. 5, q. 1, art. 2, p. 247. With regards to the second point, he insists that after the coming of Christ, all humankind is indeed obliged to accept the Christian faith, but that some of those who fail to comply with it are excused by invincible ignorance, and hence the lives that they may be able to live virtuously, relying on implicit faith and natural law need not really be tainted by their failure to comply.** Ibid. (This does not excuse them in cases where they act against natural law, however.)

In article 10, he takes up the issue of baptism of infidels’ children and soon explains that, together with that of forced baptism, it involves again the question of who possesses the authority to coerce and punish those infidels who are not subject of Christian rulers.** Cf. ibid. art. 10, p. 266. In his conclusions, Soto asserts the church’s right to preach and to teach everyone everywhere what their moral and religious duties are, a right that Francisco de Vitoria famously described as ius praedicandi.** Cf. Francisco de Vitoria, De Indis, sectio tertia, secundus titulus, ed. Ho…
Cf. Francisco de Vitoria, De Indis, sectio tertia, secundus titulus, ed. HorstJustenhovenStüben (1997), p. 472. Besides formulations like facultas/potestas/libertas docendi/persuadendi/promulgandi evangelium, Soto expressly says ius nobis […] inest praedicandi; he does not mention Francisco de Vitoria here at all, however. Cf. Soto 1581 , In Sent, dist. 5, q. 1, art. 10, p. 266.
But he quickly adds that while this right comprises teaching and explaining, it does not comprise coercion. In fact, it is not even permissible to force those who do not want to hear the message to listen to it. In sum, neutiquam licet quemquam vel fide vel ad baptismum cogere. ** Cf. Soto 1581 , In Sent, dist. 5, q. 1, art. 10, p. 267. Consequently, he refutes Francisco de Vitoria’s idea, that, in the case of a commonwealth which would almost unanimously accept the Christian faith, the ruler or magistrate may compel the remaining citizens to accept it. Soto’s arguments are the following: (a) The acceptance of faith is an act of the heart and civil laws and authorities cannot constrain but external acts and (b) it is a necessarily individual affair and not something that can be ordained for a whole commonwealth. In addition to these considerations about why it is impossible to force insight in supernatural matters, such force would (c) shed a bad light on the Christian faith and hence would also be prohibited. In response to the Scotist  argument that a forced conversion of some unbelievers would be a minor wrong when compared to letting generations of infidels remain in their idolatry and that the scandal of coercion would be forgotten after a few generations, Soto explains that factual historical experience has proven this to be a wrong assumption. But he also offers a very principled argument: If the very preaching of the gospel comes along together with an injury such as forced baptism, this puts the burden of a sacrilege on the Christian faith that can and must not be assumed, be it for the sake of the whole world.** Sed ad hoc respondetur, quod errare in consiliorum fine, est in foribus imp…
Sed ad hoc respondetur, quod errare in consiliorum fine, est in foribus impingere. Praedicatio enim, ut dictum est, evangelica illum debet habere scopum, ut fidei non fiat iniuria, quicquid in hominibus contingat. Vi autem baptizare infideles, qui in sua infidelitate permansuri creduntur, est sacrilegam iniuriam irrogare fidei; quod cum sit per se malum, pro tota salute mundi non est faciendum (Ibid., p. 270) .

Discussing the case of apostates, schismatics and heretics who had once pledged allegiance to the Church, there is more leverage for coercion, especially if the issue is public and insulting or detrimental to the Church. Finally, Soto returns to the question of baptism of infidels’ children. He submits that natural law puts the authority over a child’s baptism with the child’s parents so that it must not be baptized if the parents or tutors do not consent — and this holds true even if the parents are apostates and the Church has some authority over them.** Cf. ibid., p. 273. Following Cajetan against Scotus , the authority of natural law is reconciled with that of the Great Commission by pointing out that there is no comparison to be made between two powers, but between God as giver of nature and God as giver of faith and sacraments. And once more, Soto emphasizes that the law of grace does not cancel natural law and natural rights.

Gregory of Valencia and Francisco Suárez

Let us finally consider how these developments are taken up by two authors who write much later: Gregory of Valencia, who composed a commentary on the II-II in 1591, and Francisco Suárez who devoted a couple of disputations (disp. 16-18, to be precise) of his Tractatus de fide theologica from 1622 to matters of infidelity.

Gregory’s text displays a vast erudition: being a commentary on Thomas ’s Summa, it attempts to cover all the issues touched upon by Thomas , but also those which had been pointed out by other authors such as Sylvester Prierias. Gregory discusses the usual canon of authors, from Chrysostom , Augustin , Aquinas  and Scotus  to Gregory of Rimini , Durand of Saint-Pourçain , Capreolus , Gabriel Biel  and Cajetan, but he also brings many more recent authors to the table who had been prominent in the school of Salamanca, such as Francisco de Vitoria, Domingo de Soto, Alfonso de Castro  (1495-1558), Andrés de Vega  (1498-1549) and Domingo Báñez (1528-1604), and, certainly due to the influences he experienced at Ingolstadt  — where he was professor — even many protestant authors, like Luther, Melanchthon , Calvin , but also Martin Bucer  (1491-1551) and Martin Chemnitz  (1522-1586). On the other hand, he is also well aware of German and Dutch opponents of the protestant reformation such as Johann Eck  (1486-1543) and Johannes Driedo van Turnhout  (1480-1535). Finally, he adduces a variety of (canon) legal sources: he cites the Councils of Toledo, Constance and Trent, the Decretum Gratianiand the Extravagantesand he discusses the views of jurists such as Alvarus Pelagius , Nicholaus de Tudeschis  ( Panormitanus  ), Diego de Covarrubias (1512-1567), and Martín de Azpilcueta ( Navarrus , 1491-1586). With this vast array of topics and sources, it is not easy to see which points were of particular importance for Gregory or in which he was original. But a few points stand out as established beyond any doubt: truths of faith are not self-evident, and neither can they be deduced modo humano from self-evident truths or induced from experience. Hence those who have not been taught the Christian faith are in invincible and blameless ignorance.** Valencia 1603 , In II-II, disp. 1, punct. 1, col. 404. Following Cajetan, morally good acts can be seen to be virtually related to God as the summum bonum and hence need not be done explicitly for Christ’s sake — since a human being’s natural reason and intelligence are not destroyed by the original sin, and since they are sufficient to recognize the moral qualities of an act, the Council of Trent has established that gratiam iustificantem non esse necessariam ad bonitatem moralem actus,** Ibid., punct. 2, col. 412. moreover even infidels may receive divine assistance and some goods which are not the highest good may nonetheless be aspired for themselves, so in any case there is no problem in assuming that infidels may act virtuously; infidels who have previously pledged allegiance to the Christian faith may be compelled if they deviate, but infidels who have not already been subjects of neither the Church or a Christian prince may not;** Ibid., punct. 8, col. 437-8. a Christian prince may also prevent his infidel subjects from blasphemy, from insulting and persecuting Christians by force; infidels who are subjects neither to the Christian Church nor to Christian princes may not be compelled (by either) to accept the Christian faith, because neither has any power over them;** [Infideles] qui neque Ecclesiae, neque Christianis principibus subjecti sun…
[Infideles] qui neque Ecclesiae, neque Christianis principibus subjecti sunt, non posse compelli ad eum finem, ut fidem suscipiant. Nam in tales nullam plane potestatem habet Ecclesia aut Christiani principes (Ibid) .
only the forceless force of the better argument may be used;** Alienissimum fuisse a voluntate Christi, ut aliqua vis ad persuadendam fide…
Alienissimum fuisse a voluntate Christi, ut aliqua vis ad persuadendam fidem adhiberetur, praeter illam, quae inest in ipsa praedicatione verbi divini et doctrina fidei (Ibid., punct. 6, col. 426-7) .
this matter has to be assessed according to what happens most frequently, yet, against Scotus , the sacrilege involved in forcing the Christian faith on a single person is not compensated by the (uncertain) expectation that after a few generations the great-grandchildren may have become true Christians;** Ibid., col. 428. being more precise and more cautious than Francisco de Vitoria in the exposition of the ius praedicandi, it is licit to foil, by force if necessary, attempts at preventing the preaching of the gospel, but it is not allowed to force infidels to listen;** Ibid., col. 428-9. those who are not subject to Christian princes may not be conquered, invaded or forced into accepting the Christian faith even for crimes against natural law, but only if they infringe the ius praedicandi or if they oppress innocent people.** Ibid., punct. 7, col. 431-6.

Another 30 years later, Francisco Suárez devotes an extensive passage of his Tractatus de fide theologica , whose arrangement still owes a great deal to the Summaand its question of infidelity.** Suárez De fide theologica, disp. 16-18, ed. Berton, pp. 405-60. In disputation 16, on infidelity in general, he discusses the moral capacities involved, the comparison to other, especially moral vices, and the traditional distinction of three kinds of infidelity. Apart from the recognition of a new kind of infidelity, probably a kind of socinian pure infidelity, that may be called philosophical , such as that of one who wants to be neither pagan, nor Jew, nor Christian, but who nonetheless worships one God whom his reason recognizes,** Ibid., disp. 16, p. 415. there is not much surprising happening here. In disputation 17, Suárez joins his tolerant predecessors in arguing that not only those who have never been informed of the Christian faith, but also those who have been told something may sometimes be excused of their infidelity. And they may be so even though they may not just be idolatrous, but act against natural reason — for while in principle natural reason grants every human being insight into certain truths, not all of them are guaranteed to be obvious to everyone anytime, immediately, without assistance or guidance. In fact, Suárez suggests an interesting analytical division of natural truths based on their degree of obviousness.** Cf. ibid., disp. 17, sect. 2, pp. 431f. A first distinction is between speculative and practical truths, where the former comprise principles like there being but one God, that He must be worshipped, or like human beings having an immortal soul and free will. These matters, says Suárez, can impossibly be ignored by all of humankind, even without a special revelation. But many particular persons can be invincibly ignorant of some of them, and some persons even of all of them. By contrast, in practical matters, the fundamental principles of morals, such as the distinction between good and evil, the principle that the good should be done, the bad avoided, and the Golden Rule are self-evident, so there cannot be any invincible ignorance of them at all. The next degree of practical truths comprises the precepts of the Decalogue, which can easily be deduced from the fundamental principles; yet already there can be some invincible ignorance of them, especially for a limited time and in less known matters. Finally there are truths the derivation of which from fundamental principles is possible, but only through a long argument and in a complicated discourse. Suárez counts the prohibitions of usury and of polygamy among these. And in these invincible ignorance can easily be admitted. In general, Suárez makes it rather clear that the discussion only pertains to the ascription of theological sin to infidels, but not to its punishment or prevention — which is the concern of the next disputation.

Disputation 18, on the means of conversion (or coercion) of unbelievers, is the most extensive one of the three disputations which I shall discuss. Starting from a distinction between persuasion and coercion and, within the latter, between direct and indirect coercion, Suárez makes it clear that jurisdiction is one of two conditions of the application of force in direct coercion (the other one being the aim of conversion). Indirect coercion happens when force is applied for some other title such as self-defense which just so happens to indirectly promote the conversion of the coerced, and which evidently does not presuppose jurisdictional powers.** Cf. ibid., disp. 18, p. 436. The first section argues that the Church has, in Hohfeldian terms, not only a liberty right ( potestas licite ), but, for reasons of apostolic succession, even a claim right ( jus ) to preach the Christian faith everywhere and to everyone.** At the end of section 2, Suárez adds reasons of ius gentium and of individu…
At the end of section 2, Suárez adds reasons of ius gentium and of individual claim rights of particular unbelievers to have access to the Christian faith.

Along with this comes the right of the Church to protect its preachers and to guarantee the exercisability of this right to preach everywhere. And, since the spiritual powers of the Church extend indirectly to temporal matters, the Church may command Christian princes, who are its spiritual (and indirectly also temporal) subjects to take care of this protection. Because the princes’ right to apply military force hence depends on the Church, and because the Church needs to coordinate these missions in order to prevent disorder and dispute, the Church may thus rightly allocate the activities in different provinces or regions to different princes. It is rather obvious that there is a political agenda involved and that it is important for Suárez to establish the pope’s superior authority in matters of mission and conquest. But after that is done, Suárez discusses the limitations of that authority and power: there must be no preemptive defense, and measures that respect the foreign people’s authorities must be tried first. The second section argues that while the Church has a claim right to preach and nobody must interfere or prevent, the infidels may have a liberty right not to listen. If they are subjects to Christian princes, these latter may use their regular temporal legislative powers to force their subjects to listen to Christian sermons, provided that the punishments are in proportion.** Suárez emphasizes that failure to listen does not disturb the civil peace n…
Suárez emphasizes that failure to listen does not disturb the civil peace nor in general seems to be a major offense. Cf. ibid., disp. 18, sect. 2, p. 443.
Infidels who are not subjects to Christian princes may however not be coerced to listen to Christian sermons, i.e. they have a liberty right to refuse to listen, because the Church has no jurisdictional power of any kind over them. The claim right to preach to them, when examined closely, is not related to coercive power over the audience, but rather to the forceless force of the better argument again.** Ibid., disp. 18, sect. 2, p. 443: Potestatem praedicandi praecise sumptam n…
Ibid., disp. 18, sect. 2, p. 443: Potestatem praedicandi praecise sumptam non esse potestatem jurisdictionis, sed esse tantum virtutem, ut sic dicam, illuminandi per doctrinam, et ideo efficaciam ejus non esse positam in virtute cogendi, sed in efficacia verbi .
The third section argues that conversion itself must not be directly enforced, regardless of whether the infidels in question are subject to Christian princes or not. Indirectly, however, it may be enforceable, at the very least by withholding gratuitous benefits from unbelievers, if this is applied prudently and without contravening justice. Returning to the question of idolatrous rites and misdemeanors, Suárez discusses whether and how they can be interfered with. Those infidels who are subjects to Christian princes may not be prevented from rites that violate supernatural precepts of faith, but since the jurisdictional power of the commonwealth extends to moral and natural virtue, and since that virtue is not possible, according to Suárez, without religion and worship of one single God, those precepts which have been described as belonging to the speculative part of natural reason can be enforced. And obviously all the more so those which belong to the practical part of natural reason. But, again, those infidels who are not subjects to Christian princes may not be coerced to abide by either supernatural or natural precepts, because neither Church nor Christian temporal princes have jurisdictional power over them and God has not constituted humans to vindicate all injuries done against Him by all persons.** Ibid., disp. 18, sect. 4, p. 449: Deus non constituit homines judices ad vi…
Ibid., disp. 18, sect. 4, p. 449: Deus non constituit homines judices ad vindicandas suas injurias in omnibus respectu omnium hominum .
With two exceptions that do not rely on a special jurisdictional authority: the defense of innocents who are about to be killed in sacrifice and populations that are so uncivilized as not to form a political commonwealth at all. These latter may be forced into some political order not for their idolatry, but for defense of human nature (titulo defensionis humanae naturae) — but, Suárez hastens to add, in fact such barbaric people have not been found yet.** Cf. ibid., p. 450. Suárez expects problems relating to power of infidels over Christians to be solved not through a direct destitution of the infidels’ authority, but through emigration of Christian subjects (on their own authority) and (prudent) immigration of Christians until they constitute the majority in the commonwealth. The matter of parental power and baptism of infidels’ children against their parents’ will is referred to another text on baptism altogether.** Ibid., disp. 18, sect. 5, p. 455: Circa quartum autem punctum occurebat qua…
Ibid., disp. 18, sect. 5, p. 455: Circa quartum autem punctum occurebat quaestio gravis, quam D. Thomas  hic, artic. 12, tractat, an isti infideles non subditi possint privari per vim filiis suis infantibus, ut baptizentur. Sed haec quaestio pertinet ad materiam de baptismo, et illam tractavi tertio tomo, disp. 25, sect. 3, et ideo haec sufficiunt de istis infidelibus non subditis .

In matters of cooperation, Suárez sides for the most part with Cajetan, Thomas  and others and, apart from concrete cooperation in infidel rites, leaves much leeway for prudent decisions. As soon as one such decision leads to a general law prohibiting some sort of cooperation, however, Suárez emphasizes more clearly than his predecessors that this prohibition stays in effect even if, in a concrete case, such as e.g. a doctor of theology who is erudite, eloquent and not running any risk of defection, the reason for the law may not be present.


I want to conclude by returning to a couple of points in which more general developments can be exemplified:

One aspect concerns a general theory of natural knowledge: whether and, if so, how it can be generated independently from faith and grace; if there are different layers accessible to natural reason in various degrees; if there are different realms of it based on supernatural/natural distinctions; and where and how practical, ethical and political knowledge features in this system. This surfaces throughout all periods, in very different authors, such as Antoninus , Francisco de Vitoria and Suárez.

Second, and probably most tangibly: the factor of political authority, potestas iurisdictionis, moves to a central place. Apart from the eventual invalidation of infidels’ dominium, which also the earlier authors have treated, beginning with Francisco de Vitoria and Soto and certainly related to new kinds of social processes, other processes of coercion seem to increasingly make for pressing problems — and in these processes, the fundamental distinction is not so much that between believers and unbelievers but that between political (temporal) subjects and non-subjects. While not leaving this common ground, later authors then also develop a sensibility for different forms of indirect coercion: they discuss what could constitute an instance of indirect coercion, why it is still coercion and how it relates to potestas iurisdictionis.

Finally, another recurring argument concerns the (well-established) distinction between considerations of universal principles and metaphysical possibilities or impossibilities on the one hand, and moral or political considerations on the other hand. In the authors I have discussed, beginning with Cajetan, this distinction comes to explicitly explain the status of the arguments presented and to thoroughly impregnate the perspective of the discussed authors. They all not only agree, but explicitly emphasize that moral considerations have to focus on that which is happening in most cases and most likely to happen next. In Francisco de Vitoria’s case, one can discern a related, rather radical shift of the understanding of what it means to put things simply: Traditionally, putting things simply (absolute vel simpliciter loquendo), one would state things as they are as such or out of their own nature (per se/ex natura sua), or according to universal principles. One would thus ignore or blind out contingent conditions, qualifications of the matter secundum quid, which are considerations relegated to special and technical discourses. And it is in this as such-mode that Francisco de Vitoria finds forced baptism to be actually quite unproblematic. But, as I have shown, since in most situations the consequences are in fact intolerable, Francisco de Vitoria in the end objects strongly to forced baptism. Now obviously both what conditions might possibly obtain and what conditions obtain in most cases are qualifications secundum quid, the second one being the decisive argument. And to top it off, this is what Vitoria calls absolute vel simpliciter loquendo. I think this is revealing for an interesting change of perspective that the authors come to share. Moral theory is capable of absolute and simple judgments, and at the same time it is an a posteriori discourse, dependent on the experience of factual conditions and regularities. Both can go together only because there is a simplification which is not theoretical but pragmatic: In order not to undermine its own guidance force, moral theorists have to short or absolutize that which is in effect just the most likely thesis. But this shorting in turn is required, in fact it is possible or legitimate only if and insofar as the theory is a social theory, if and insofar it is meant as guidance for political action, not for individual ethics. Only in such a social-theoretical perspective can the theorist average and induce from what is most likely to what is absolutely imperative.


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