Author: Mário Santiago de Carvalho
Part ofThe ‘Cursus Conimbricensis’ (coord. by Mário Santiago de Carvalho)
Peer-Reviewed: Yes
Published: July, 6th, 2019
DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.3270658

The latest version of this entry may be cited as follows: Carvalho, Mário Santiago de, “Couto, Sebastião do”, Encyclopedia, Mário Santiago de Carvalho, Simone Guidi (eds.), doi = “10.5281/zenodo.3270658”, URL = “”, latest revision: July, 6th, 2019.


Born in Olivença (a city now under Spanish administration) before September, 13, 1567 (the day in which he received his Christian baptism in the “freguesia da Madalena”), Sebastião do Couto died near the Portuguese southern city of Borba (Montes Claros) on November 21st, 1639. His parents were João Lobo and Catarina Vaz. He reportedly lived his childhood in Olivença’s “Rua da Pedra” (“Stone Street,” known from 1936 on as “Calle Cervantes.”) Together with his brother Estêvão do Couto (1554-1638), Sebastião do Couto took part in the riots of Montes Claros (1637), a part of the political uprising against the monarchy of the Philips celebrated as “revolta do Manuelinho” (see Melo 1660: 36, and Mendeiros 1969). Historian of the Society Gomes (1960: 180-81) is not so sure concerning Couto’s commitement with this political movement, and it is possible to read an explicit reference to King Philip in Couto’s commentary (InIc8q1a1p133). His efforts against the Spanish Dynasty were acknowledged by the future Portuguese King John IV (Oliveira 1991: 211). Reading a particular passage from Couto’s Commentary on Dialectics (On Interpretation I c. 1, q. 3, a. 3, p. 34), one of the titles of the Coimbra Jesuit Aristotelian Course, as a subliminal mention of King Sebastian, is not impossible (Wakúlenko 2006: 349). Recall that King Sebastian’s tragic death in 1578 near Ksar-el-Kebir (Africa) put an end to the Portuguese Dynasty. Whereas his friend and writer, Francisco Manuel de Melo (1660: 34), sees Couto taking sides with the “Sebastian” movements, 20th-century historian of the Society Rodrigues interprets Couto’s intervention as a peace-keeping mission (1944: 338-41). One thing is sure, summoned to appear before the royal court in Madrid, together with three Jesuits more, Álvaro Pires, Diogo de Areda and Gaspar Correia, Sebastião do Couto did not even start his journey saying he was too old and could not cope. Being a student of the 5th course of humanities at the University of Évora, 15 years old Sebastião do Couto joined the Society of Jesus in December, 8th, 1582. He continued to study humanities there until 1587, philosophy from 1587 to 1591, and theology from 1591 until his work in Lisbon as Pedro da Fonseca’s aid interrupted his studies in 1592/1593. Notably, 1593 is the year four important titles of the Coimbra Jesuit Aristotelian Course were published in Lisbon: Meteororum, Ethica, De Caelo, and Parva Naturalia. After going back to Évora, Couto continued his theological studies. He was ordained priest in 1595 and completed the M.A. in January 16th, 1596. In March of this year he taught the course Braz Luís had begun in 1593 and António do Soveral had continued in 1595 at the Jesuit University of Évora (Gomes 1960: 179). In 1597 he was sent to Coimbra to teach Philosophy in the Jesuit College, which he did until 1601, the year in which he went back again to Évora. Several manuscripts from 1601 are extant at the Public Library of Évora and they provide evidence of the subject matters Couto presided over in examinations (Gomes 1960: 181ff.); here are some of these matters and the students who defended them: the theme of the separated soul (by António Pacheco, March, 8); the number of the mobile sphaeres (by Manuel da Cruz, March, 8); dialectis (by João Witheus), zoophites (by Simão Vaz Fragoso); metaphysics (by Manuel Ferraz da Fonseca); biology (by André Rodrigues); horoscopes and physiognomics (by Feliciano de Aguiar); the influence of planets upon humans (by João Nunes); on various Aristotelian books (by João Galvão); and on physiology (by Paulo Vieira). In Évora he was granted with the BA in Theology (July, 31, 1604) and later (January, 23, 1605) the PhD. While in Coimbra he surely begun the composition of his commentary on the Dialectica for the Coimbra Jesuit Aristotelian Course (Carvalho 1991: 653) and, sporadically, lectured in theology. According to Gomes (2012: 166 and 1960) Couto finished the Dialectica in 1604/05 but since he had begun it in 1601 that work could not be a reaction to the edition of the so-called Logica Furtiva (1604; see below § Work). However, as pointed out by Doyle (2001: 193), the above mentioned reference (On Interpretation I c. 1, q. 3, a. 3, p. 34) is nicely suited for King Philip’s death (1598) and then, we sustain, almost as soon as Couto begun to teach philosophy in Coimbra he could have started the commentary on Aristotle’s logic. The details of his time in Coimbra are unclear but Couto briefly returned to Coimbra in 1605/06 when the volume on Dialectica was on the verge of being published, coming back immediately to Évora to teach Moral Theology until 1610, and the First Chair (Prima) of Theology until 1620. He spent most of his academic life (1605/20) in Évora – a manuscript by Couto on “de Verbo divino” dates from 1606 and several manuscripts on the Summa theologiae IIa-IIae may also go back to that period of time – and later became the chancellor of Évora University. In 1606 the procurator Fernão Rebelo asks Couto to review Manuel de Góis’ commentary on the Physica and to engage in a similar work on the Metaphysica (Gomes 1960: 186). Couto’s appointment to the Vice-Rectory of the College of the Purificação in Évora (1609) provoked an uprising of some students, and civil and ecclesiastical authorities that Rodrigues (1938a: 100-05) already tried to explain (see also Rodrigues 1938a: 555-63, and Gomes 1960: 180). Understandably, most or even all of the extant theological manuscripts by Couto date from this period in Évora and allow us to follow the subject matters of his teaching career (see paragraph below). During the fifteen year period in which he read Theology in Évora, he stayed in Lisbon during a short period (1612/13), “occupied with the revision and reform of the volume on Physics” of the Coimbra Jesuit Aristotelian Course (Carvalho 1991: 653). Since Couto alludes to two more of his unknown titles, De Caelo and De Anima III, it is possible that, besides, Physica, he also had the plan of revising Góis’s entire work in order to produce a second and duly revised edition of the Coimbra Jesuit Aristotelian Course (Carvalho 2018: 142). Rodrigues (1938b: 118-9), however, says that Couto only revised Góis’s Physica; he started the task in 1602, in 1612 he was still doing it, and in 1619 the censor Bento Gouveia insisted that he should proceed to another revision. The same historian of the Society suggests that in 1625 Couto managed to finish the work of revision; in 1644 Manuel Tinoco approves Couto’s work and in 1658, being the provincial of Alentejo, Tinoco finally asks Rome permission to publish Couto’s commentary on the eight books of Physics (Rodrigues 1944: 148-9). Nothing is known about this Couto’s manuscript on the Physica. In 1606, according to Rodrigues (1938b: 118) and Gomes (1960), the provincial Fernão Rebelo had also comissioned a commentary on Metaphysics to integrate the Coimbra Jesuit Aristotelian Course. On June 19th, 1619, Couto preached in Évora an “auto-de-fé” (Abrantes 1948; 200), and again on March 14th, 1627 in Lisbon (Manso 1994). Between 1620 and 1627 he was again in Lisbon at the Jesuit Household (College of São Roque), and during this time he took a short voyage to Madrid where on 26th September, 1623 he approved the publication of Serafim de Freitas’ De Iusto Imperio Lusitanorum Asiatico (Freitas 1625: 97) on behalf the Supreme Portuguese Council. From March 1627 until 1630, he served as Rector of the Jesuit Household of Braga (the College of São Paulo), after which he spent some years in Coimbra and finally in Évora and its surroundings (notably in the farm the Jesuits owned in Montes Claros) from 1637. Seeing him as “Évora major authority”, historians mention Couto’s seditious activities or campaign to instigate the populace against the Crown, being the other Jesuits involved in the rebellion Álvaro Pires, Diogo de Areda and Gaspar Correia; ordered to go to Madrid, all but Gaspar Correia managed to never leave Évora surroundings (Franco 1726: 271). In an eulogistic narrative, Franco (1714: 514-17) reports several effects of Sebastião do Couto’s virtuous life among his contemporaries and even after his death.


Even if Sebastião do Couto “is revealed as a man of uncommon capacity for analysis” (Martins 2008: 11-12), his contribution to the Coimbra Dialectica (1606) could have been hastened by the publication abroad of an unauthorized version of a Jesuit Logic, two years earlier, widely referred to as Logica Furtiva or more formally as Commentarii Colegii Conimbricensis Societatis Iesu in Aristotelis Logicam (Venetiis: apud Rubertum Meiettum, 1604), i.e. Very Wise Commentaries on Aristotle’s Logics by the Coimbra College of the Society of Jesus. Based on the lessons of professors of the College of Jesus (and Évora), this counterfeit text had been published with a large-scale editorial and marketing campaign. Its simultaneous publication in Italy (Venice, 1604 and 1607) and Germany (Hamburg and Cologne 1604), the principal center for philosophical publications in Europe (Martins 2008: 9; see also Dias 1964) motivated Couto to hastily finishing the authorised Coimbra volume. We have already said that this thesis is not accepted by Gomes (1960: 186ff.). This will eventually be his better known philosophical achievement (Alengabe 1643: 419), the Commentarii Collegii Conimbricensis e Societate Iesu, In universam Dialecticam Aristotelis Stagiritae (Coimbra 1606), i.e. Commentaries on the whole of Aristotle’s Dialectics by the Coimbra College of the Society of Jesus. Nevertheless, as already said, not only he did write other commentaries to a possible second edition of the Coimbra Jesuit Aristotelian Course, but he was also planning to write on Aristotle’s Metaphysics. Indeed, in various pages of Couto’s work on Logic, it is possible to pick up indications of what seems to be his metaphysical thought. For instance, he refers to a “supernatural metaphysics” (metaphysica supernaturalis), a knowledge that considers the fundamental dependency of the essence of things vis-à-vis the First creating, final and exemplary (etiologic dimension) cause. He writes that the Metaphysica would have been the place to study the Platonic rationale concerning the common nature of substances, mainly the specific ones, which exist for themselves, universal, separated from singulars and whose division and singularity would be based on true principles. Then, he continues, the examination of the metaphysical differences between imperfect and incomplete beings, and abstract substances would come, as well as an explanation of predication, such as in the case of “man” vis-à-vis “Divine Word”. Additionally, Couto would clarify the subject of analogy, namely of the accidents in relation to the substance, or of creatures in relation to God, since their common multiplicity cannot be perfectly understood, but only in an absolute manner, in one case, and relative (per respectum), in other. He also refers to the doctrine of relation, apropos the examination of Caetano’s thesis (De ente VII, q. 15) on the subdivision of the relations of being into transcendental and non-transcendental or predicaments. He says that on Metaph. VII he will report, partly, on the differences, operations and perfections of all individuals, without leaving the topic of the species aside and, apropos Metaph. IX, alludes to the correlation between the intellect and the senses, the several operations of the former (simple, complex and discursive), and the knowledge about the first principles. In case some of these conjectures have some plausibility, one may say that Couto would have widened and completed what Fonseca, unfortunately, could not (from chapter III of book IX, Fonseca has only written explanations, not questions). Leaving these conjectural hypothesis aside, and sticking to a much more consistent subject-matter, Logic, one may start by saying that Couto’s choice of the word “dialectic” for the title of his published philosophical masterpiece probably echoes Fonseca’s tome, Institutionum Dialecticarum Libri Octo, despite the fact that the terms ‘dialectic’ and ‘logic’ were both more or less accepted, though the first was more commonly used in the context of the Topics or for study of probability, and the latter in the context of the Analytics or the study of demonstration. Couto’s commentary on logic is three and a half times the length of Aristotle’s Organon (Wakúlenko 2006 and Risse 1976). The most impressive aspect of the work is the relevance and novelty of subjects such as the theory of universals (in the Preface to Isagoge), the doctrine of the signs (in chapter 1 of On Interpretation), and the question of “pre-cognition” (in the initial chapter of the Prior Analytics). The Logica Furtiva editorial counterfeit is not yet explained, and an exhaustive comparison of the two logical texts coming from Coimbra/Évora milieu in order to uncover divergences and similarities (whether in content, form, or both) is needed. Several theses regarding the Logica Furtiva have been discussed but there is no general consensus on this issue. The Logica Furtiva may be a reproduction of Gaspar Coelho’s lessons from Évora in 1584 (on Gaspar Coelho see Rodrigues 1938a: 374-83), and as such a reproduction of Francisco Cardoso’s lessons given in Coimbra in 1571 (Stegmüller 1959: 98); however, Gomes (1960: 192-97) does not accuse Coelho of selling the Jesuit text to the Froeben Editors. German or Italian students, who were then taking courses in the University of Évora, might have sold their professor’s lessons to the Editors. Couto’s authorized volume was influential, both in Europe or East Asia, but it is still impossible to weight its real influence and geographical expansion. According to Ashworth (1981: 305), John Locke, in his early days, used to teach dialectics by Couto’s manual. Ashworth (2019: 97) and Casalini (2012: 132) acknowledge Johannes Bellamy’s publication in London (1627) of the work of Jerónimo de Paiva, the Portuguese former Jesuit, Brevissimum totius conimbricensis logicae compendium, which gives some support to Doyle’s (2001: 20) assertion regarding knowledge of Couto’s philosophical oeuvre in Oxford and Cambridge. By the time of that publication, Paiva was already a member of the Reformed Church. Beauchot (2006) acknowledges the presence of the Cursus Philosophicus Conimbricensis “in several periods and works (1867-1871 and 1883)” of Charles S. Peirce, writing: “Not only he [sc. Peirce] knows the section on logic of the Coimbra Course, but appreciates it a lot. On the one hand, Peirce states: ‘In all reasoning there is, therefore, a more or less conscious reference to a general method in which there is implicit a rudiment of classification of arguments as the one that logic pursues. To any systematic study of the subject, it is called the logic of the subject, as opposed to the result of the scientific study, which is often called logica docens’.” Indeed, Coxito (2005: 172) has also called our attention to Couto’s division of logic into its theoretical (docens) and practical (utens) components or dimensions. Wardy (2000) was the first interpreter to pay systematic attention to Francisco Furtado and Li Chih-tsao’s (or Zhizao) effort in China to adapt Couto’s comment on the Categories into Chinese language, an effort that belongs to a larger enterprise of translating the Aristotelian corpus into Chinese (see Meynard 2017). Arguably, Couto’s unusually wide geographical influence was not restricted to East Asia. While El-Rouayheb (2019) has tracked Couto’s influence on Levantine logic, Nikolaos Chrissidis (2016) suggests that the two Leichoudes brothers, Ioannikios and Sophronios, who established the Slavic Greek Latin Academy in Moscow between 1685 and 1694, may have used parts of the Coimbra Jesuit Aristotelian Course (including Couto’s) in their books. Finally, as regards Couto’s thought, three more references: the first to Manso’s (1994) account on Couto’s Sermon in an “auto da fé” and; the second, to Franco’s (1726) allusion to an Actu Fidei; lastly, and in a different key, to mathematics precisely, and the second to a dispute by Couto with some of his Lisbon and Coimbra colleagues, in which he tried to undermine the publication of Christoph Borri’s lessons (see Mota 2008a, and Carolino 2007). According to Randles (1999: 175), Sebastião do Couto’s “retaliatory animosity had been aroused through having been contradicted by Borri for asserting that mathematics was not a science.” One needs, nevertheless, to approach this issue carefully since mathematics were considered to be a theoretical science by the authors of the Coimbra Jesuit Aristotelian Course (Mota 2007). Unfortunately, Sebastião do Couto’s theological work is still unedited. To the Tractatus de Verbi Divini Incarnatione [Évora 1606] several other manuals must be added, whose accademic lenght is more or less known to us, and which testify to his interest in moral theology: De matrimonio, begun on November 3rd 1610 and finished on January 1612; De proescriptione and De restitutione, both dating from 1613; De promissione et donatione, begun on October 2nd 1615 and finished on March 10th 1616; and De cambiis, written from October 3rd 1616 to 1618. Although not yet dated, but surely from the same period, one must add De testamentis, De contractibus in genere, De usura, De poenitentia. Besides the two “autos da fé”, other letters and documents (legal opinions) are still extant. Sebastião do Couto’s life and works are still waiting for a critical study.

Couto’s Commentary on Aristotle’s Logic:

Elsewhere we have already presented the main characteristics of Sebastião do Couto’s contribution to the Aristotelian logic (Carvalho 2018: 51-72 and 2019: 351-55; see also the entry on the “Cursus conimbricensis” in this Encyclopedia). In its editio princes (1606), the Coimbra Commentary on Logics, or Dialectics, is more than 984 pages long distributed in two volumes. It begins with an Introduction (Prooemium) that may be read in counterpoint to Manuel de Góis’ parallel text to Physics. After the Introduction, Couto comments on Porphyry’s Isagoge (pp. 55-225), and then on the seven titles that belong to the Organon by Aristotle: the Categories (pp. 226-416), On Interpretation (pp. 1-116), the Prior Analytics (pp. 170-284), the Posterior Analytics (pp. 285-524), the Topics (pp. 525-536), and the Sophistical Refutations (pp. 537-548). If one ascribes any meaning to the number of pages written on each work, the lesser importance given to the Topics and Sophistical Refutations is clear, with the more thoroughly treated works being (in ascending order) Prior Analytics, On Interpretation, Isagoge (see Dias 1964), Categories and the Posterior Analytics, with almost 240 pages. The uneven weight of these subject matters can be explained by the importance given to science, and the language at its service, to the detriment of the other topics. Coxito (2005: 169-85) considered the high esteem Couto gave to epistemology the product of a certain regressive dissent, quite unlike Fonseca’s supposed modernity. As a sermocinal science – i.e. a science related to external and internal language, and thus situated among grammar and rhetoric (history and poetry) – logic has a place before mathematics, physics, ethics and metaphysics. Such is its place in the so-called ordo in disciplinis, regardless of whether that order is said to be one of discovery (inventio) or teaching (doctrina). Usually, interpreters refer to Couto’s theory of universals (Carvalho 2007) as a “mitigated realism” (Abranches 1956: 298). On this particular issue, Couto fights Platonism and Nominalism and keeps Porphyry’s five predicables (genus, species, difference, proper and accident), which is notable after Fonseca’s parallel and earlier text (Fonseca 1965). Sebastião do Couto seems to be more appreciative of Fonseca’s thought than his colleague and co-author of the Coimbra Jesuit Aristotelian Course, Manuel de Góis – Ashworth (1995: 120) has shown another instance, related to the so-called analogy of attribution, in which Couto’s dependence on Fonseca (and Caietano) is evident. In Couto’s contribution to the problem of the universals, he promotes a particular type of unity, called “unity of precision,” as well as two additional points which must be taken into consideration: their ability to exist in particulars and their predicability as particulars. In fact, the unity which is proper to universality is the unity of privative precision, a type of unity not purely negative, common to a subject with the potential to see its form negated (i.e. one divisible into particulars.) In other words, the unity of privative precision is proper to a nature considered in itself, it does not become larger as the number of abstracted concepts is multiplied and it unfolds in tandem with the power to be within many. Put differently again, according to Couto, privative precision straddles a numerical unity (concerning individuals) and a formal unity (concerning common nature), leaning more towards a numerical than a formal unit, more “for itself” than “by accident.” Defined by a nature’s irreducibility to particulars, “unity of precision” cannot be really divided into itself or into its particulars, but, as similarly to formal unity, it has the capacity to be divided. This formulation, though it seems difficult, means simply that intention of giving to the universal, taken in itself, has a unity of it own, without precluding the possibility of science. Arguably, the so-called problem of universals inevitably intersects with that of knowledge and metaphysics. The connection between the Isagoge (which takes up the problem of universals) and the On the Soul (which revolves around the question of knowledge) will allow us to claim that, considered formally as a relation, universals express the ultimate definition of essential being and that, ontologically speaking, relation (not aptitude) is the last perfection of universals, the very foundation of universality. Couto has a text of his own explaining how cognition unfolds (Isagoge: Prooemium, p. 5). Without reproducing it here, let us provide a summary of that particular text: when an external sensible (i.e. an object captured by the senses) presents itself to one of the five sensing organs, it prints its respective image on it (species/imago), allowing one to see, for example, a colour; subsequently, the images that represent that colour reach human’s “common sense” through the optical nerves, albeit in a modified form, enabling the common sense to acquire cognition (notitia). As an “image” or “sensible species,” such a cognition travels to the imagination (imagination/phantasia), which expresses the corresponding form of knowledge (cognitio) and produces an “expressed image”. Henceforth, this expressed image will journey towards the potential intellect or passive intellect (these are synonymous terms) so that the intellective faculty can gather knowledge on the object; however, since the species to be produced by the intellect must be spiritual and the image in question is corporeal, the active intellect must intervene, raising the image to the plane of universality. The Isagoge bears a relation to On the Soul but such is also the case of On Interpretation (Carvalho 2019), a book that has even received the attention of Gilson (1913). However, the most striking case of an epistemological cross-relation to be further studied is the book on Categories and its relation to metaphysics. As already said, a book on metaphysics was never published in the editorial series of the Coimbra Jesuit Aristotelian Course. Being (ens/esse) and our ability to speak about it that abides by the principles of logic, and above all the problem of predicaments, placed philosophy in the vast territory of words and things. Categories or predicaments demand an analytic conversation about the ontology of reality, which leads to the noticeable interference between the Categories and the Metaphysica, mainly in Books IV and V of Metaphysica. Also, in preparation for the baccalaureate exam (which normally took place in February, during the third course) students not yet acquainted with the Metaphysics could instead prepare the Categories. As previously noted, the question of “pre-cognition” could not but be quintessential, mainly because Couto displays a keen interest in science and epistemology (Coxito 2005: 333-48). Given that all sciences of the intellect rely upon prior knowledge, the sciences’s conclusions entail the so-called “first knowledge.” Following Aristotle, among these praecognita, Couto highlights those principles that are common to all scientific demonstrations (e.g. the principle of identity) and the “first-notions” (An.Po. II 1 89b24), without weakening his insistence in denying any sort of innatism. Be it through argumentation (by which one acquires knowledge about the accidents), through division (which provides the knowledge about the parts), or through definition (which gives knowledge about the essence), logic and dialectics (i) allows to reach what is unknown by way of what is already known, (ii) teaches how the mind can avoid making mistakes, and (iii) allows to investigate unknown subjects using the help of those that are more familiar. We owe Sebastião do Couto the first systematic 17th-century treatise on what Locke will name “semiotics”. Also, it would be almost impossible, to another eminent Portuguese contributor to the same subject matter, João Poinsot O.P. (1589-1644), never having read the Couto’s treatise. Doyle (2001) has noticed the importance of Couto’s definition of “sign” as that which represents to the mind something different from itself and its relation to the knower (the subject) and the thing signified (the object). Most significantly, Couto divides signs into formal and instrumental signs (there is no need here to go further into another divison between natural and conventional signs). Formal signs, generated by the cognitive faculty, produce knowledge by recording a form interiorly, making an object present to the mind (e.g. the concept of the sun in the mind of the astronomer). Instrumental signs give knowledge about exterior reality. Moreover, material objects can function as signs as long as one knows them in advance as objects that represent other objects (e.g. how the image of smoke relates to fire, requiring us to have prior knowledge of what smoke is). To maintain, as Couto does, that “sign” is a “connotative term which formally indicates the power to signify and denote the thing signified” (On Interpretation I c. 1, q. 2, a. 3, s. 2) means repudiating traditional knowledge on the signification of concepts/phonemes/graphemes (the three so-called “doctrinal signs”) and taking up a more up-to-date perspective on the matter. The ultimate aim is to make reality, as a whole, semiotically accessible to humans. Hence, the doctrine of signs ultimately becomes enmeshed in epistemological, psychological, metaphysical and theological issues. One more remark on this particular matter: phonemes are generally seen as more important than graphemes, but since the Coimbra Jesuit Aristotelian Course is a product of the printing press, graphemes have an unusually prominent role. There is a formal difference between grapheme and phoneme, but if the signification of phonemes (like the signification of concepts) is considered simple, the signification of graphemes is considered complex (On Interpretation I c. 1, q. 3, a. 4). Finally, we also owe Sebastião do Couto a synthesis between the two major theories on the master (de magistro) in education. Casalini (2012: 137-78) and Carvalho (2015a and 2015b) have already dwelt on this issue. Couto believes that all human beings have the capacity to learn (disciplina), as long as one follows the adequate method (ordo). Since the intellect of each apprentice is a tabula rasa, it is the professor’s job to teach (doctrina) or to transmit science. This could not happen without the cooperation of both the teacher and the student, although they carry different degrees of responsibility. The teacher has to rely on examples from the sensorial realm, enabling the production of images that can help the student reach the intelligibility of things and transforming what the student’s confused and generic knowledge into an explicit and singular knowledge like that of the teacher. Eventually, “evidence” can increase or decrease, be greater or smaller (Posterior Analytics I c. 2, q. 2, a. 5), but the manner in which it occurs varies according to the science in question. In the case of theology, the science par excellence, Couto says that its possible evidence can concern the object and knowledge. In the case of the object, what matters is the clarity (claritas) and transparency (perpicuitas) with which the object is presented to the intellective faculty (the truth about things), and in the case of the knowledge, what is important is the clarity of perception with which the object is penetrated. In fact, he divides truth into the truth of things and the truth of knowledge; the truth of things is transcendental (transcendens), as it is a property of the being in question (passio entis) and concerns metaphysics; the truth of knowledge is opposed to falseness and called “complex” or “formal truth,” is characterized by the fact that it concerns logic and that the intellect knows the thing as it is (On Interpretation I c. 1, q. 5, a. 1, p. 46). Although the quantitative weight of the truth of knowledge is significant, the relevance of the truth of things must not be underestimated. Even more than Manuel de Góis, Couto fully rejected any kind of Platonic innatism. Couto reinforced the role played by experience and the teacher’s knowledge and method in education. Rather enthusiastically, the underlying conviction was that the human being’s aptitude for learning would, after all, be as certain as the mathematical rule of the triangle. At any rate, the Coimbra Jesuit Aristotelian Course’s pedagogical optimism, realism and empiricism are so striking that Couto even admits some simultaneity between the advances in first knowledge and the progress in demonstrations (Posterior Analytics I c. 1, q. 3, a. 2). It is up to the Posterior Analytics to expose the doctrine of propositional connections (connexiones propositionum), absolutely necessary even for God, pointing the reinforcement of the essentialist track in the context of which physics will be acknowledged by Couto as a single science, fundamental but multifaceted.

Other Works

As listed below, in at least four different Portuguese libraries, one can still access Sebastião do Couto’s writings on theology and moral theology as well as some sermons. They deserve our attention, but Couto’s practical and engaged philosophical and theological penchant is obvious, with the Summa theologiae II-II (restitution, buying and selling, usury) and III (penance, matrimony) most predominant. Note that dialectics, as well as moral theology (including ethics, economics and politics), is an active, practical science according to the Coimbra Jesuit Aristoteliam Course. And let us again note that in the ordo in disciplines’s point of view ethics precedes metaphysics, whether the point of departure is discovery (inventio) or teaching (doctrina). As mentioned earlier, in March, 14th 1627 Sebastião do Couto preached in Lisbon an auto de fé. This text was published in the same year, only one month later, by the prestigious Royal Publisher, Peter Craesbeeck. In his sermon, which is, unfortunately, one more entry in the long and infamous list of literature against the Jews, Couto dwells on the text on Isaiah 42:19. Couto divides his sermon in three points – the Jewish people error deserves the greater blame, its cause is the bigger one and the remedy for it the more difficult to seek – and addresses his words to three sorts of persons: the judges, the nobles, the religious people and other Catholics, and finally the defendants. In order to make his point, he mentions Plato (the Republic and the Laws), praises Aristotle and relates a brief history of philosophy and Western heresies (mentioning by name the three Reformers Luther, Calvin and Zwingli). Canon Law, particularly the authority of the Franciscan Nichole of Lyre is far more important than philosophy in Couto’s sermon, but he nevertheless crowns his speech with one particular philosophical thesis: the superiority of reason (entendimento) over will. Whether this is a rhetorical strategy or something much more substantial, the fact is that, speaking directly to the judges, Sebastião do Couto ends by inviting them to be gentle and merciful – something that constitutes (for better or worse) the spine of his sermon, the “force of reason.” Finally, Gomes (1991: 280)  highlights Coutos’s “coldness” toward the Islamic thought, as well.

List of Works

  • Commentarii Collegii Conimbricensis e Societate Iesu, In universam Dialecticam Aristotelis Stagiritae (Coimbra: S. Lopesii, 1606). Up to 2013 (a G. Olms reproduction of the 1607 edition of Cologne), there were at least 14 European editions of this volume, being the more important ones: Mainz (I. Albini, 1606), Lyon (H. Cardon, 1607), Cologne (B. Gualterium, 1607) and Venice (A. Baba, 1616).
  • Sermão que o Doutor Sebastião do Couto da Companhia de Iesu, Lente de Prima jubilado da Uniuersidade de Euora, prêgou no auto da Fè que se fez em Lisboa a 14 de Março de 1627 (Lisbon: Pedro Craesbeeck , 1627).
  • Tria epigrammata in mortem P. Francisci de Mendonça, Lugduni: Laurentium Anisson, 1649.
  • Assertiones Conflatae ex Variis Libris Aristotelis. Quaestio: Quod sit efficacius argumentum immortalitatis animi nostro, praeteriti recordatio; an investigatio futuri? (Coimbra, 1601).
  • Assertiones de Universo. Quaestio: Utrum Sphaerae mobiles sint numero undecim? (Coimbra, 1601).
  • Assertiones Dialecticae. Quaestio: Utra cognitio perfectionem afferat intellectui nostro accomodatum principiorumve, an conclusionum? (Coimbra, 1601).
  • Assertiones de Rerum Ortu et Interitu. Quaestio: Utrum Zoofitae esse queant media inter plantas et animalia? (Coimbra, 1601).
  • Assertiones Depromptae ex Libris Aristotelis de Prima Philosophia. Quaestio: An creatura iuvante Deo totius substantiae conversionem administrare queat? (Coimbra, 1601).
  • Conclusiones ex Libris Aristotelis De Anima. Quaestio: Quae aetas difficilius ieiunium toleret? (Coimbra, 1601).
  • Conclusiones Philosophicae ex Libris de Coelo. Quaestio: Unde firmius coniectemur animi affectus, ex horoscopo geniturae, an ex principiis physiognomicis? (Coimbra, 1601).
  • Conclusiones Physiologicae de Mundo. Quaestio: Utrum insit maior vis astris in humana corpora, quam rebus sublunaribus? (Coimbra, 1601).
  • Conclusiones de Rerum Ortu et Interitu. Quaestio: … fame laborent? (Coimbra 1601).
  • Conclusiones ex Variis Libris Aristotelis. Quaestio: Utrum possit esse ars omnium disciplinarum materias anguste, et dilucide comprehendens? (Coimbra 1601).
  • Conclusiones Physiologicae. Quaestio: Utrum aliqua animalium species accidentium varietate humanarum exaequet? (Coimbra, 1601).

Manuscripts at the Biblioteca Nacional (BNL) :

  • Tractatus de Verbi Divini Incarnatione [Évora 1606], Ms. BNL, FG 6683.
  • De proescriptione, Cod. 2317, I.
  • De testamentis, Cod. 2317, II.
  • Tractatus III. De restitutione (II.II, q. 62), Cods. 2317, II; 2376; 2945; 2619.
  • Tractatus V: De contractibus in genere (II.II., q. 77), Cods.1997, IV.
  • Tractatus VI : De promissione et donatione, Cods. 2987, I; 2997, I.
  • Tratactus VIII: De cambiis, Cods. 2987, II; 2997, III.
  • De usura (II. II, q. 78). Cods. 2997, II.
  • De poenitentia (III Suppl., q. 41-66), Cod. 5890, II.
  • De matrimonio (III, Suppl., q. 41-66), Cod. 3298, I [there is also a copy at the Biblioteca Pública of Évora (BPE), Cod. 118-2-3, I].
  • Sermones, Cods. 2633; 2623.
  • [Auto da fé], Res. 4293P

Manuscripts at the Arquivo Nacional Torre do Tombo (ANTT):

  • Carta de Coimbra, from March 8th, 1630. Cartas dos Jesuítas, m. 68, n.º 102.
  • Quatro pareceres. Armário dos Jesuítas 8, ff. 539 r.-539 v. [the BPE possesses another manuscript with the same texts, Cod. 119-1-24, ff. 32 r.-32 v.]

Manuscripts at the Biblioteca Pública of Évora (BPE):

  • Confirmação, em breve apontamento, de um parecer alheio, dated from Évora, in January, 10th 1639, Cod. 119-1-24, f. 31
  • Machado (1752: 687) mentions four volumes on Theology, divided as follows: Tomus I: de Sanctissima Trinitate, de Conscientia, de Vitiis et peccatis; Tomus II: de Justitia et Jure; Tomus III: Tractatus quinque in Tert. Partem D. Thomae. Primus de Verbi Divini Incarnatione. Secundus de Sacramentis in genere. Tertius de Sacramento Eucharistiae. Quartus de Sacramento Poenitentiae. Quintus de Sacramento Matrimonii. Item Praxis referendi jus canonicum et civile ut quicumque textus relatus facile reperietur. Libri duo de immaculata Virginis Conceptione. Tomus IV: De Fide, de ultimis voluntatibus et Legatis.
  • Gomes (1960 # 40) identifies the titles above as such: Assertiones conflatae ex variis libris Aristotelis, 1601, BPE S—C/6502; Assertiones de uniuerso, 1601, BPE S—C/6498; Assertiones dialecticae, 1601, BPE S—C/6508; Assertiones de rerum ortu et interitu, 1601, BPE S—C/6499; Conclusiones depromptae ex libris Arist. De prima philosophia, 1601, BPE S—C/6505; Conclusiones ex libris Aristotelis de anima,1601, BPE S—C/6500; Conclusiones philosophicae ex libris de coelo, 1601, BPE S—C/6505; Conclusiones physiologicae de mundo, 1601, BPE S—C/6507; Conclusiones de rerum ortu et interitu, 1601, BPE S—C/6503; [Conclusiones ex variis libris Aristotelis, 1601, BPE S—C/6509; [Conclusiones physiologicae], 1601, BPE S—C/6504.

Manuscripts at the Biblioteca Municipal do Porto (BMP):

  • De praedestinatione, De gratia, De spe, in Ms # 1136 (apud Monteiro 1967)


Selected Bibliography

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  • Alengabe (1643), Philippe de. Bibliotheca Scriptorum Societatis Jesu Post excusum Anno 1608 Catalogum Petri Ribadeneirae Nunc hoc novo apparatu librorum ad annum reparatae salutis 1642 editorum concinnata et illustrium virorum elogiis adornata, Antverpiae: Ioannem Meursium
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  • Ashworth (2019), E. Jennifer. “Jesuit Logic”, in C. Casalini (ed.), Jesuit Philosophy on the Eve of Modernity, Leiden-Boston, 95-114.
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  • Carvalho (2001), J. Vaz de. “Couto, Sebastião do”, in Diccionario histórico de la Compañía de Jesús. Biográfico-Temático, ed. Charles E. O’Neil, S.J., and Joaquín Mª Domínguez, S.J., Madrid/Rome: Universidad Pontificia Comillas / Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu: # 2178.
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  • Carvalho (2015a), Mário Santiago de. «Filosofia da Educação Conimbricense. Sobre o ‘De Magistro’ de Sebastião do Couto (no ‘Curso Aristotélico Jesuíta de Coimbra’, 1606)», Revista Filosófica de Coimbra 24: 149-165.
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  • Carvalho (2018), Mário Santiago de. O Curso Aristotélico Jesuíta Conimbricense, Imprensa da Universidade de Coimbra- Imprensa Nacional, Coimbra-Lisboa.
  • Carvalho (2019), Mário Santiago de. “Manuel de Góis: the Coimbra Course and the Definition of an Early Jesuit Philosophy”, in C. Casalini (ed.), Jesuit Philosophy on the Eve of Modernity, Brill: Leiden, 347-372.
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  • Catálogo dos Professores de Philosophia no Collegio da Companhia de Jesus de Coimbra desde o ano de 1555, e no d’Évora, in Rerum Scholasticorum quae a Patribus ac fratribus huius Conimbricensis Collegii scripta sunt, BGUC Ms 993 [also published by Carvalho 1927].
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