Juan Luis Vives

Charles Fantazzi, Enrique González González and Víctor Gutiérrez Rodríguez

in Renaissance and Reformation

ISBN: 9780195399301
Published online June 2012 | | DOI:
Juan Luis Vives

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy


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Juan Luis Vives (or Joan Lluís Vives in Catalan) was born into a Jewish converso family in Valencia in 1492, according to the traditional dating as inscribed on his tombstone, and died in 1540. He attended the newly founded University of Valencia and in 1509, after his mother’s death from the plague, set out for Paris to pursue his studies, probably forced into exile to escape persecution by the Inquisition. He studied scholastic logic in Paris, gave private lectures on humanistic subjects, and published some early writings. In 1514, he moved to Flanders, where two years later he met Erasmus at the court of Brussels, a meeting that would change his life. A steady stream of writings issued from his pen during this period, including a huge commentary on Augustine’s City of God, a labor that taxed his strength severely. Through his acquaintance with Thomas More he entered into the good graces of Queen Catherine of Aragon and wrote a treatise on the education of women, dedicated to her. It is an extremely important book, the first systematic study to address, explicitly and exclusively, the universal education of women. Shortly afterward, he wrote the first modern treatise on the relief of the poor and a series of works on pacifism, in the form of letters to monarchs and high-standing prelates, culminating in a long treatise addressed to Charles V, “On Concord and Discord in the Human Race.” In the meantime, his position as the queen’s counselor became perilous as the king’s Great Matter progressed. Returning to Bruges, he produced a huge work in twenty books, De disciplinis, a comprehensive critical review of all learning and the state of the academic disciplines in his time. This was followed by a supplementary work on rhetoric and a penetrating and original treatise on human emotions, which investigated the operations and functions of the soul. His perceptive analysis later earned him the title of father of modern psychology. Vives remained a faithful disciple of Erasmus, with whom he shared views on such matters as the love of the classical languages, pacifism, and the aspiration to a learned personal piety rather than external show. Among Vives’s last works was a handbook of private prayers intended for the laity. Juan Luis Vives was a towering figure of the Renaissance, a man of immense learning, integrity, and originality, yet he still remains very little known, even to the scholarly world.

Article.  6223 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy

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