From Theocracy to Natural Law: Consideration on Las Casas's Intellectual Evolution

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IN THE CONTEXT of the Spanish conquest and subsequent domination of the Americas, Bartolomé de las Casas based his defense of the American Indians on the Aristotelian and Thomist view of humans as naturally social beings. This view implied that institutions such as marriage, law, and political authority, necessary for the proper sustainment of a society, are rooted in human nature and thus remain fully valid even without the concurrence of supernatural grace. This is the theoretical foundation for Las Casas's anthropological work. However, Las Casas did not confront all the theoretical and practical consequences of his natural-law perspective until his final years. After addressing the anthropology of Las Casas, I comment on his key political writings in order to shed light on how Las Casas's anthropological views affected the evolution of his political thought toward the end of his life.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8
Pages (from-to)205-224
Number of pages19
JournalStudies in Medieval and Renaissance History
Volume13 (Third Series)
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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