Does Suárez's view that political authority rests on consent or agreement make him a herald of modern contractarian theories of the state, as Quentin Skinner has argued? Or does Suárez have a fundamentally different conception of political authority? The paper will argue the latter. Modern theories of coercive authority view it as a product of human artifice, with the functions both of facilitating cooperation through coordination and of threatening sanction to contain ill will. For Suárez, by contrast, coercive authority is divinely instituted, in various ways, and has the further function of enabling the proper human exercise of or response to forms of power that are not ordinary causation. In particular coercive authority acts as a channel and teacher for forms of power that are normative – that constitute various forms of the power of truth or of goodness. Coercive authority exists at the natural level as the authority of the state, channeling the power of natural reason in relation to the good of a community, and at the supernatural level as the authority of the Church channeling the power of grace. Central to the functioning of authority at both the natural and supernatural levels is the coercive direction of belief. This is a conception of authority that is very alien to modern political theory – thanks, in large part, to the influence of Hobbes.

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Journal of the History of Metaphysics

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Print ISSN: 1379-2547 Online ISSN: 2295-9033

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