Juan Luis Vives

Juan Luis Vives . Spanish humanist, pedagogue, philosopher, sociologist and psychologist. Creator of modern psychology and one of the figures of Christian humanism. His thought is one of the greatest exponents of Renaissance humanism. It is also considered as a precursor of the anthropology of the seventeenth century and modern psychology.


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  • 1 Biographical synthesis
    • 1 Childhood and youth
    • 2 Important stages of your life
    • 3 Death
  • 2 Outstanding works
    • 1 Some of his works
    • 2 His pedagogical work
  • 3 His thinking
  • 4 Merits of his work
  • 5 Famous phrases
  • 6 Sources

Biographical synthesis

He was born in Valencia in 1492 , his ideas made him one of the greatest exponents of Renaissance humanism. Born into a family of Jewish converts, Vives tried to rescue Aristotle’s thought ; sustained an ethic inspired by Plato ; but above all, it was a promoter of actions in favor of international peace, the unity of Europeans and care for the poor.

Childhood and youth

He studied at the University of Valencia and Paris , although this has a reason for being: the year of his birth coincided with the conquest of the kingdom of Granada , the last of a Muslim kingdom on the peninsula, by the Catholic Monarchs. This situation marked the beginning of a difficult period for all non-Christian families. For this reason, and to protect family members, the Vives decide to convert to Christianity, although they continued to practice Judaism in a synagogue they had in their home. Some time later, in 1482 , the Inquisition discovered the Vives family in the synagogue, which is why a process was initiated.

During the time that the process lasted, he began studying at the University of Valencia at 15 years of age. More specifically from 1507 to 1509 approximately. However, as the process continued and the situation became difficult for the Vives family, the father decided to send him to study abroad. That is when, in the autumn of 1509 , he set out for Paris to perfect and expand his knowledge at the Sorbonne University.

In 1512 he finished his studies reaching the degree of doctor and traveled to Belgium . There, specifically in Bruges, he meets the one who would later become his wife, Margarida Valldaura. Belgium was the site where Juan Luis Vives learned that his father had been convicted and burned in 1526 , and that his mother Blanca March, who died in 1508 , had been unearthed to burn her remains in 1529 . Depressed he traveled to England .

Important stages of your life

During his stay in Flanders, where he was a professor at the University of Louvain, he established a close relationship with Erasmus of Rotterdam and with Thomas More . Like the latter, he opposed the divorce of Henry VIII , which is why he was arrested and had to leave England , returning to Flanders in 1528 .

Already in 1529 his health was very delicate, suffering severe headaches and a stomach ulcer. In any case, this did not prevent him from dedicating the last years of his life to perfecting the humanistic culture of the Dukes of Mencia, to becoming a reformer of European education and a moralist philosopher of universal stature, replacing medieval texts with new ones. , with a vocabulary adapted to his time and to the way of speaking of the moment.

Its influence on Europe of the Renaissance was enormous, even the most influential architects of the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter Reformation they came seeking his advice. He was tutor and educator of many nobles who held positions in the monarchy of Carlos V .


The 6 of maypole of 1540 , with arthritis degenerate in severe pain, died at his home in Bruges because of a gallstone and was buried in the church of San Donatian.

Outstanding works

Among his many works, it is worth highlighting the treatises On the soul and life ( 1538 ) and On the true Christian faith ( 1543 ).

His writings, all in Latin , are approximately sixty. The variety of this work and its innovative value reveals the deep human quality of Luis Vives, who insists on problems of methods, which is why he is above all a pedagogue and a psychologist. In his treatise De anima et vita (On the soul and life), still following Aristotle and defending the immortality of the soul on the basis of the argument ” res omnis sic se habet ad esse, quemadmodum ad operati “, he attributes the study to psychology empirical of spiritual processes, he studies the theory of affects, memory and the association of ideas, which is why he is considered a precursor of seventeenth century anthropology and of modern psychology.

Some of his works

  • Opuscula varia(Lovanii, 1519 ): collection of pamphlets where we find what was his first philosophical work De initiis, sectis et laudibus philosophiae.
  • Adversus pseudodialecticos(Selestadii, 1520 ): presents the reading of the classics, as a humanist that it is, as a means of acquiring mental agility.
  • De subventione pauperum. Sive de humanis necessitatibus libri II(Brugis, 1525 ): treats the problem of begging by seeking solutions in public institutions, which must help the truly poor and make those who are only lazy to work; This requires a charity organization and a reform of the health system, asylum … Being an action plan against poverty in the city of Bruges.
  • De Europae dissidis et Republica(Brugis, 1526 ).
  • De concordia et discordia in humano genere(Antuerpiae, 1529 ).
  • From pacificatione(Antuerpiae, 1529).
  • Quam misera esset vita christianorum sub Turca(Antuerpiae, 1529).
  • De disciplinis libri XX(Antuerpiae, 1531): it is an encyclopedic work, in which his pedagogical work is enclosed, and which is divided into three parts: De causis corruptarum artium, De tradendis disciplinis, and De artibus. The latter contains, in turn: De prima philosophia, De explanatione cuiusque essentiae, De censura veri, De instrument probabilitatis, De disputatione.
  • De anima et vita(Basileae, 1538 ): it is his mature work and in it the author develops concepts of psychology.
  • Lingvae latina exercitatio,are Dialogues on education dedicated to the prince who would later be Felipe II, and whose intention is to instruct in the Latin language while introducing pleasant questions about moral and social behavior and evoking his childhood memories.
  • De Europeae statu ac tumultibus. He addresses the Pope to demand his mediation in favor of peace between the Christian princes, along the same lines as the Querella de la Paz of his friend Erasmus.
  • Introductio ad sapientiam(Louvain, 1524 ), is the most important of his educational works.
  • De institutione feminae christianae, translated into Spanish in Valencia in 1528 , a treatise on the education of Christian women.

His pedagogical work

Of his pedagogical work, the Institutione de feminae christianae ( 1529 , The education of the Christian woman), a kind of ethical-religious manual for the young, the married woman and the widow stand out; De ratione studii puerilis ( 1523 ), on the methods and programs of a humanistic education; De ingenuarum adolescentium ac puellarum institutione ( 1545 ) and De officio mariti , similar to the above. Finally, De disciplinis (On disciplines, 1531 ) is divided into three parts: De causis corruptarum artium, De tradendis disciplinis and De artibus .

Vives proposes a renewal and more scientific approach to teaching in the face of artificiality and scholastic and rhetorical emptiness of time; Teaching will also have to be carried out according to the nature and personality of the student, that is, psychology must be the basis of pedagogy, and in this sense he had directed his text In Leuven ( 1519 ) against the scholastics of the Sorbonne. pseudo dialectics. In fact, it already surpasses humanism and marks the transition from pedagogy to the modern age and the establishment of psychology as an experimental science, preceding Descartes and Bacon .

In another group of works that we could call social, we find the well-known treatises De subventione pauperum ( The aid of the poor , [[1526) and D e communione rerum ( 1535 ) in opposition to the extreme individualistic and communist principles; concerned in general with the problems of his time, Vives wrote a series of works, always on concrete themes and with proposals for solutions, such as De conditione vitae christianorum sub Turca ( 1526 ) or Dissidiis Europae et bello Turcico ( 1526 ), on of Christianity in relation to the Turks and the Protestant Reformation.

His Rethoricae sive de recte ratione dicendi libri III ( 1532 ) is an interesting treatise on rhetoric, with important innovations that make it a direct precedent of the modern prescriptions. Linked to his fame as a philologist and humanist we have his Linguae latinae exercitatio ( 1538 , Latin language exercises), dialogues full of charming simplicity that he dictated for school exercises.

Other works of his are De veritate fidei christianae , (On the true Christian faith, 1543 ), a Catholic apology dedicated by his disciple Craneveldt to the pontiff Paul III in 1543 ; De causis corruptarum, De tradendis disciplinis and De ratione dicendi , with themes from his university explanations on the problem of education; the commentary on De civitate Dei, by Saint Augustine; De initiis sectis et laudibus philosophia ( 1521 ); De pacificatione ( 1529 ), addressed to the Archbishop of Seville Alfonso Manrique, with an exposition of ideas about peace; and De concordia et discordia in human genere, dedicated to Emperor Charles V ( 1529 ).

Ad sapientiam introductio and Satellicia are two collections of moral sentences, with a total of 805 maxims, dedicated to Princess Maria, and of which Veritas is famous, tempora filia (truth is the daughter of time). The first collection of his works was published in Basel in 1555 ; the more complete was published in Valencia by Mayans ( 1782 -90, in eight volumes). Many of them were translated into Spanish and French.

His thought

His thought is one of the greatest exponents of Renaissance humanism: he tried to rescue Aristotle’s thought , unloading it from medieval scholastic interpretations; sustained an ethic inspired by Plato and the Stoics. But, more than raising high-flying theories, Vives was an eclectic and universalist man, who advanced innovative ideas in multiple philosophical, theological, pedagogical and political matters, and proposed actions in favor of international peace, the unity of Europeans and the care for the poor.

Merits of his work

What is important in Vives is his concern for those most immediate aspects of human reality; With a deep knowledge of man and his history, he was able to intuit the declines of his time, while his prudently optimistic conception of life prompted him to renew this reality.

Catholic, understanding and tolerant, endowed with a great sense of reality, he is applying these invariable modules of his knowledge to the problems he studies.

His life and work have become a model of universality and depth, of astonishing security; his attitude was that of the best humanism, but extolled by more universal virtues of sobriety and moderation, of a deep loneliness and understanding of the human phenomenon, through which this humanism acquired more transcendental characteristics than the brilliant and enthusiastic ones of the time.

Famous phrases

  • Do not expect your friend to come to discover his need; help him before.
  • What a great wealth it is, even among the poor, to be the son of a good father!
  • There is no mirror that better reflects the image of man than his words.
  • There is no thing, however easy it may be, that reluctantly does not make it difficult.
  • There can be no goodness where there is no knowledge of it.
  • Neither the usefulness of lying is solid, nor the evil of the truth harms long.
  • Many could have reached wisdom if they had not already believed themselves wise enough.


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