Conference in Salamanca: The Foundations of Liberalism and Human Rights

Who makes law? Where does law come from?


The Continual Relevance of the School of Salamanca

10 – 14 July 2014

In Partnership with the Faculty of Theology of Saint Stephen of Salamanca

Coordination: Cl. Marie Monnet op & Manuel Angel Martinez Juan op

Languages: English, French, Spanish – simultaneous translation

The Conference, set between old and new globalization, is part of the celebration of the Jubilee of the Order of Preachers (eighth centenary). It will bring together twenty experts in philosophy, theology, history, political science and law from a variety of nationalities, places and continents.


Open to a wide public, it will relate university research to contemporary questions: How to think about world issues today in the light of philosophy and theology? How to take account of the fruitfulness and relevance of the path traced by the School of theologian-jurists of Salamanca?

The School "of Salamanca", started by the teaching of the Dominican Francisco de Vitoria (1483-1546) and spread by his followers, was involved in the revival of Thomism in the sixteenth century. It was rooted in how the legacy of Thomas Aquinas’ political thought helped the understanding of the immense anthropological and political issues surrounding the discovery of the New World.

In the twenty-first century, on the initiative of the Order of Preachers, the “Salamanca Process” (Acts of the General Chapter of Trogir¸ July 2013) aims to refresh the problematic, keeping alive the memory of the method of analysis andresults of the research of the theologian-jurists of the sixteenth century.

The field of natural law in particular is re-examined: natural law exercises a critical function in the history of political ideas and has many meanings. In the Western legal tradition, the idea of a body of law existing beyond the highest political authorities is decisive. Whether it is connected theoretically to a divine source (as in antiquity) or devoid of reference to the religious (as is the case since the Enlightenment), natural law has a function: it separates or, in other words, introduces transcendence.

This function is neither systematic nor even explicit. It is part of a fundamental tension between the universal and the relative. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights was based on this recognition of the rights inherent in the person, valid for all, theoretically obligating everyone. From philosophical principles, human rights have become rights capable of being claimed over against States.


The objectives of the conference will be:

  • To (re)discover the biblical, theological and anthropological sources of modern political thought, specifically in studying the place of the School of Salamanca in the emergence of the political and legal corpus, afterwards called "liberalism". What freedom are we talking about?
  • To question the universality of fundamental rights and of the authorities expected to promote and protect them;
  • To analyse in this light the contemporary ideas of governance, democracy, economic liberalism, free trade, international trade, and international institutions;
  • To review the reception of the School of Salamanca in various cultural and intellectual fields. What is the perception of human rights (called universal) worldwide? What are the political forces and competing ideas? Are human rights and democracy synonymous?


A detailed programme of this conference (speakers, location) will be available from 15 March 2014. This will include all relevant practical details (registration, accommodation).

Information : salamanca (at)