445. Band of Brothers: the Jesuits

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Ignatius of Loyola’s movement begins modestly, but winds up having a global impact on education and philosophy. We also discuss casuistry and the Jesuit concept of "mental reservation."



Further Reading

• J.W. Padberg et al. (eds), Ignatius of Loyola: Letters and Instructions (St. Louis: 1996).


• M. Feingold (ed.), Jesuit Science and the Republic of Letters (Cambridge MA: 2003). 

• M. Friedrich, The Jesuits: a History (Princeton: 2022).

• F.C. Hsia, Sojourners in a Strange Land: Jesuits and their Scientific Missions in Late Imperial China (Chicago: 2009). 

• A. Jonsen and S. Toulmin, The Abuse of Casuistry: A History of Moral Reasoning (Berkeley: 1988).

• J.M. Lattis, Between Copernicus and Galileo: Christoph Clavius and the Collapse of Ptolemaic Cosmology (Chicago: 1994).

• J.W. O’Malley, The First Jesuits (Cambridge MA: 1993).

• J.W. O’Malley et al. (eds), The Jesuits: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts, 1540-1773 (Toronto: 1999).

• J.W. O’Malley, Saints or Devils Incarnate? Studies in Jesuit History (Leiden: 2013).

• A.I. Prieto, Missionary Scientists: Jesuit Science in Spanish South America, 1570-1810 (Nashville: 2011). 

• J.P. Sommerville, “The ‘New Art of Lying’: Equivocation, Mental Reservation, and Casuistry,” in E. Leites (ed.), Conscience and Casuistry in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: 1988), 159-84

• T. Worcester (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Jesuits (Cambridge: 2008).

• I.G. Županov (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Jesuits (Oxford: 2019).


Paschal Scotti on 12 May 2024

Jesuits and Galileo

Your episodes are always fascinating and remarkably good--and I always enjoy them, but while Galileo most likely learned from Jesuit books (as his notebooks seem to indicate) he never studied under them in. He certainly depended on their support for his initial success (the scholars at the Collegio Romano gave him recognition early on and he was feted there) and leaned on them to a certain extent later but Galileo could never understand that scholars in an organization did not have the freedom to promote their personal scientific opinions too obviously. His turn against them was unfortunate considering their significance in Catholic Europe, and reveal more about his own limitations than theirs.       . 

In reply to by Paschal Scotti

Peter Adamson on 12 May 2024

Galileo and the Jesuits

Oh yes, thanks for catching that - he used lecture notes from Jesuit instructors, I guess he didn't actually attend the lectures himself. (That seems like a rather minimal difference though, just the difference between reading something and hearing it outloud - probably reading it would be more impactful, if anything.) I don't have a firm view of my own on this, of course, I was just alluding to the interpretation of W.A. Wallace e.g. in Galileo’s Jesuit Connections and Their Influence on His Science,” in Feingold, Jesuit Science. That's why I said "it has also been argued that..."

But I'll fix the sentence for the book version, thanks again!

dukeofethereal on 13 May 2024

Conimbricenses spotlight

Initially you had an episode dedicated to the Conimbricenses but in the recent revised list of topics this was removed. 


With that being the case, in which episode will you dedicate time to the Conimbricenses instead? 

In reply to by dukeofethereal

Peter Adamson on 13 May 2024


They'll be covered in the introductory episode on Spanish scholasticism, number 448. I may actually record that today in fact!

John Spalding on 17 May 2024

We're all Jesuits now!

Do you think that  when politicians tell lies, they are saying to themselves,"Mental reservation, 'I did actually do it.'"

Perhaps we should not judge them too harshly, & revise our opinions of them.

John Spalding on 19 May 2024

Valladolid Debate

At the risk of showing my ignorance, does this fit in here somewhere?

eg 'Aristotle & the American Indian' by Lewis Henke

In reply to by John Spalding

Peter Adamson on 21 May 2024


No you are right, that is very relevant and was covered in episode 441 already!

Nelson Wattie on 29 May 2024

Mental reservation

I would be interested in a comparison of Jesuit "mental reservation" with the "inner emigration" of certain Germans living under Nazi rule. Is there any moral difference?

In reply to by Nelson Wattie

Peter Adamson on 30 May 2024

Inner emigration

Well I'm not an expert on that but I guess it relates to the kind of "dissimulation" that was practiced by Jews in medieval Spain, also. I would say that they are related but mental reservation is more specifically about speech acts; dissimulation could also concern things like how one dresses or eats, etc. In other words whereas mental reservation is specifically about saying something misleading, but without lying, I hazard a guess that inner emigration would be a broader concept about all one's behavior. But both do respond to similar situations, so here the Jesuits were thinking of how Catholics living in England would be oppressed for example.

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