Life in God and Life in Nature. Série de conférences de Stefan Heßbrüggen (National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscou)

04/04, 12h30-14h30,  dans le cadre du séminaire Mathesis : « Life in God and Life in Nature: Scholastic Perspectives »

ENS, salle Pasteur, 45 rue d’Ulm, Pavillon Pasteur, 1er étage


In the early modern period, the concept of life can be applied to both
immaterial substances and material ones. Life is both a natural and a
‘supernatural’ phenomenon. God is alive, but so are plants. In this
presentation I will explore the consequences drawn from this insight in
Spanish scholasticism at the turn from the 16th to the 17th century. I
will argue that we need to broaden the scope of sources we deem to be
relevant for an understanding of the concept of life. Looking at Thomist
commentaries to Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae we will find that they
contain substantial discussions of the concept of life that are relevant
also for a philosophical perspective on the topic. The same applies to
Suárez’s Disputationes Metaphysicae: it was Suárez who first pondered
the possibility that a unified concept of life may be out of reach for
us, if we want to apply it to God as well as to his creatures.

10/04, 13h30-15h30 : « Life in God: Zuñiga and Arriaga »

Bibliothèque de l’UFR de philosophie, Université Paris-Sorbonne, 1 rue Victor Cousin, escalier E, 2e étage, salle F042


In this presentation I will discuss the only publication of the Jesuit
theologian Francisco de Zuñiga (1570-1614), a commentary on the
trinitarian questions of Aquinas’s Summa. It is certainly true that the
connection between problems of the Trinity and the concept of life in
the early modern period is far from obvious. But I will nevertheless
claim that it exists. In fact, it seems that Zuñiga’s text may have
prompted his younger colleague Arriaga to come to the conclusion that we
must take the concept of life to be equivocal, because the life of God
and processes of life in nature are simply too heterogeneous to be
subsumed under a unified conception of life. It will become clear that a
crucial obstacle to developing such a unified conception is the
existence of the Holy Spirit. The life of this person of the trinity is
completely incommensurable with the life of plants, as it was conceived
by early modern scholastics.

11/04, 12h30-14h30, dans le cadre du séminaire Mathesis : « Life in Nature: Suárez, Iuxtaposition and Intussumption»

ENS, salle Pasteur, 45 rue d’Ulm, Pavillon Pasteur, 1er étage


The status of plants as living beings is precarious in the early 17th
century. My presentation will discuss arguments of the Protestant
physician and philosopher Nicolaus Taurellus for the thesis that plants
are not alive, because they are not distinguishable from certain
inanimate bodies like fire. These arguments are refuted in Suárez’s
Commentary on De Anima, published posthumously in 1621. But Suárez’s own
position is ultimately unconvincing. This prompted a search for a new
mark of life distinguishing living substances from those which are not
alive. The Jesuit Rodrigo de Arriaga developed a proposal to distinguish
living bodies from others through their mode of assimilating new matter.
The resulting dichotomy of iuxtaposition and intussumption proved to be
very influential up to the 19th century, although its exact meaning
remains somewhat obscure. The presentation will uncover the prehistory
of the dichotomy and show that Arriaga’s Jesuit precursors were markedly
more sceptical whether it provides a clear criterion for the distinction
of animate and inanimate substances.

12/04, 14h-16h : « Life in God and Life in Nature: Clauberg and Spinoza »  

Université Paris-Diderot, salle Mondrian, 646A bâtiment Condorcet, 4 rue Elsa Morante


The presentation will first analyse the reception of Spanish Jesuit thought
in the textbooks of Burgersdijk and Heereboord. This will allow us to
understand better the anti-Aristotelian turn in understanding life that
we find in Clauberg and Spinoza. After reconstructing their critique, I
will argue that Spinoza’s conception of life in his Cogitata Metaphysica
can be best understood as a creative adaptation of ideas that Clauberg
developed seven years earlier in his De cognitione dei et nostri
exercitationes. Spinoza’s definition of life as ‘the force through which
things persevere in their being’ can be read as an attempt to resolve
fundamental inconsistencies in Clauberg’s account. This insight may lead
to a fresh understanding of Spinoza’s views of life in general and with
regard to the life of God in particular.