Francisco Sanches

Francisco Sanches (c. 1550 – 1623) was a Portuguese philosopher and physician of Sephardi Jewish origin.

Early life and academic career

He was probably born in Braga [ [ Ciência em Portugal: Francisco Sanches (1550 ou 1551-1623)] - Instituto Camões (in Portuguese).] [Although somewho? considered him to have been born in nearby Tui, in Spanish Galicia.] , in Portugal, where he was baptized into the Catholic faith in 1550 or 1551, to António Sanches, also a physician, and Filipa de Sousa [ [ Francisco Sanches (ca 1551-1623) Filósofo, matemático e médico] - Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal (in Portuguese)] . Being of Jewish origin, even if converted, he was legally considered a New Christian.

He studied in Braga until he was 12 years old, time when he moved to Bordeaux (France) with his parents, escaping the surveillance of the Portuguese Inquisition, where he continued his studies at the College de Guyenne. He went on to study medicine in Rome (Italy) in 1569, and, back in France, in Montpellier and Toulouse. He ended up, after 1575, as a professor of philosophy and medicine at the University of Toulouse.

Main work and though

In his "Quod Nihil Scitur" ("That Nothing Is Known"), written in 1576 and published in 1581, he used the classical skeptical arguments to show that science, in the Aristotelian sense of giving necessary reasons or causes for the behavior of nature, cannot be attained. He then argued that even his own notion of science - perfect knowledge of an individual thing - is beyond human capabilities because of the nature of objects ant the nature of man. The interrelation of objects, their unlimited number, and their ever-changing character prevent their being known. The limitations and variability of man's senses restrict him to knowledge of appearances, never of real substances.

Sanches' first conclusion was the usual fideistic one of the time, that truth can be gained by faith. His second conclusion was to play an important role in later thought: just because nothing can be known in an ultimate sense, we should not abandon all attempts at knowledge but should try to gain what knowledge we can, namely, limited, imperfect knowledge of some of those things which we become acquainted with through observation, experience, and judgment. The realization that "nihil scitur" ("nothing is known") thus can yield some constructive results. This early formulation of "constructive" or "mitigated" skepticism was to be developed into an important explication of the new science by Marin Mersenne, Pierre Gassendi, and the leaders of the Royal Society.


*"Carmen de Cometa", 1577.
*"Quod nihil scitur", 1581.
*"De divinatione per somnum, ad Aristotelem", 1585.
*"Opera Medica", 1636, which includes:
**"De Longitudine et Brevitate vitae, liber"
**"In lib. Aristotelis Physiognomicon, Commentarius"
**"De Divinatione per Somnum"
**"Quod Nihil Scitur, liber"
*"Tractatus Philosophici", 1649.



*BRITO, Alberto Moreira da Rocha, "Francisco Sanches, médico, professor e pedagogo". Braga: Bracara Augusta, 1952.
*CARVALHO, Joaquim de, "Introdução a Francisco Sanches", in Francisco Sanches, "Opera Philosophica", Coimbra, 1955.
*Fond. Calouste Gulbenkian, "Sanches au tournant de la pensée de la renaissance", Sep. Colloque-L'humanisme portugais et l'Europe, Paris: Fond. Calouste Gulbenkian, Centre Culturel Portugais, 1984.
*LIMBRICK, Elaine, "Introduction, notes, and bibliography", in Francisco Sanches, "That Nothing Is Known" (QVOD NIHIL SCITVR), Latin text established, annotated, and transl. by Douglas F. S. Thompson. Cambridge University Press, 1988. ISBN 0 521 35077 8
*PINTO, Sérgio da Silva, "Braga et Francisco Sanches: discours prononcé à l'Université de Toulouse, à la séance solennele des commemorations du IVème centenaire de Francisco Sanches, le 12 Juin 1951", Braga: Cruz, 1951.
*PINTO, Sérgio da Silva, "Francisco Sanches, português", Braga: Bracara Augusta, 1952.
*PINTO, Sérgio da Silva, "Francisco Sanches, vida e obra", Braga 1952.
*SÁ, Artur Moreira de, "Raízes e projecção do pensamento de Francisco Sanches", Braga: University of Braga, 1955.
*SÁ, Artur Moreira de, "Francisco Sanches, Filósofo e Matemático", Lisboa, 1947.
*SILVA, Lúcio Craveiro da, "Actualidade de Francisco Sanches", "Francisco Sanches Filósofo", and "Francisco Sanches nas correntes do pensamento renascentino", in "Ensaios de Filosofia e Cultura Portuguesa", Braga, 1994.
*TAVARES, Severino, Lúcio Craveiro da SILVA, Diamantino MARTINS and Luís de PINA, "Francisco Sanches, no IV centenário do seu nascimento, Braga: University of Braga, 1951.

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