Francisco de Vitoria, Carl Schmitt, and Originary Technicity

Orlando Bentancor
Barnard College

Volume 5, 2014

Carlo Galli as Reader of Schmitt

In this paper I take as a point of departure how Schmitt’s Eurocentric conception of modernity is based on a notion of nomos that separates Europe from its external frontier and designates the latter as an “empty space,” a concept that is then introjected into Europe as the foundation of geometric global space and the ius publicum Europaeum distinguishing between “pre-modern” and “properly modern” formulations of this new space in and through the differentiation between Vitoria and modern thinkers like Hugo Grotius and Thomas Hobbes. I will begin arguing for the necessity of reading Schmitt through Carlo Galli’s interpretation of the notion of nomos understood as the cut/decision that emerges from within the irresolvable non-dialectical contradictions of the pre-modern world. I will provide a close reading of Vitoria that will challenge Schmitt’s reading while associating Galli’s notion of nomos as cut/decision with an idea of originary technicity that haunts both the pre-modern and the modern world. I will conclude by asserting that the nihilistic drive of total technological domination without supersensory or transcendent ends of the pre-modern world is already at work in the ontological frame of Vitoria’s discussions on natural law and imperial war that inaugurate the emergence of a colonial space conceived as available raw matter.

Carlo Galli is the author of the most exhaustive work on Schmitt, the Genealogia della politica: Carl Schmitt e la crisi del pensiero politico moderno, a 996-page work where he explains concepts such as “nomos’ and the “logic of exception” through concrete, genealogical, and immanent means rather than through abstract and empty generalizations. As Adam Sitze explains in the introduction to another of Galli’s works translated into English, Political Spaces and Global War, Galli is a non-Schmittian schmittologist who offers a deconstructive genealogy of Schmitt. Sitze rightly notes that: “Galli’s thought originates in a repetition of the Schmittian ocassio – the immanence of the critic in the crisis – that is so completely Schmittian – so loyal to the innermost spur of Schmittian thought – that it therefore finds itself obliged to be completely non-Schmittian” (LIII).[1] Instead of measuring Schmitt against exterior paradigms that inadvertently presuppose his divisions (i.e. treating him as an enemy), Galli offers a genealogical and deconstructive critique of a Schmitt who is himself immanent to the crisis of the ius publicum europaeum.[2] On the one hand, Galli works within Schmitt’s system, and on the other hand, he shows how Schmitt’s thought was not immune to the crisis of the ius publicum europaeum. Galli offers both a radical deconstruction that works within Schmitt’s premises and a historical reconstruction of his intellectual milieu, taking his entire corpus to a point of exhaustion, thereby revealing how Schmitt’s dualisms (land-sea, friend-enemy, law-exception, internal-external war) are inoperative for understanding the political in the context of contemporary global war. If Schmitt’s categories cannot explain the global present, then it is legitimate to question their relevance for understanding the past, particularly the colonial past. Instead of using Schmitt’s dualism to understand colonial situations, I will take Galli’s exhaustion of Schmitt’s logic as a point of departure in order to call into question the ontological presuppositions behind the constitution of these colonial spaces.[3]

Schmitt understands nomos as a fundamental relation between law and space, “a process of apportioning space that is essential to every historical epoch” (Nomos 78). He defines nomos as a structural convergence or “order and orientation in the cohabitation of peoples on this now scientifically surveyed planet” (Nomos 78). According to Galli, nomos is not an all-encompassing and totalizing concept capable of uniting geography, jurisprudence, and political philosophy (Sitze XLIII).[4] Nomos is a critical term for thinking the unthought origin of modernity, capable of awakening the disciplines of geography, jurisprudence, and political philosophy out of their dogmatic slumber. Both the logic of sovereign exception and the notion of the nomos “presuppose the absence of any political Idea – the absence, that is to say, of a measure for space rooted in a sense of enduring proportion and undivided harmony” (Sitze XLII). In short, Schmitt’s concept of nomos presupposes the absence of an ultimate ground, a common standard or unified totality that would serve as an external guarantee and an ultimate measure for political action. The theory of the nomos unearths the artificial process by means of which the absence of a pre-existing political idea becomes actual, thanks to “techniques of appropriating and dividing the Earth” (Sitze XLII). Galli’s Genealogia demonstrates that “the political” presupposes a fissure, an abyssal/contingent ungrounded decision. As Sitze explains, Galli’s Schmittian nomos is an eventual process, an antagonistic, contradictory and aporetic inception, a “cut” or “decision” that gives political form to an otherwise formless political space (Sitze XLII). For Galli, Schmitt’s nomos is also antinomian: such an ungrounded decision to cut and impose order both grounds and undermines this order itself. The concretization of the modern order is inseparable from an ungrounded ground (lack of external guarantee) that undoes and undermines this order and its technical embodiments (Galli, Genealogia 882). The link between the concept of nomos and the concept of exception is the idea of a decisive event that produces their respective dualistic divisions, inside versus outside (in the case of exception), and external versus internal war (in the case of nomos). To put it another way, such divisions depend on a “non-juridical origin of modern juridical order,” a contingent technique for ordering the chaos produced by the absence of a preexisting ground synonymous with the pre-modern crisis (Sitze XLII).

Understanding nomos and exception in terms of a cut/decision to divide and order the earth can help us understand how the techniques for the production of space undermine juridical institutions that have the vain dream of being “self-understanding, completely self-determined and self-enclosed” (Sitze XLIII). Irreducible to any pre-existing ground, this origin is the tragic kernel of a “technique for the production of political forms” (Sitze XLIII). Briefly put, at the beginning of modernity there is only crisis, lack, and failure that accompany the instrumental reason of the State, undoing its own order and orientation. In this work, I reinterpret this ungrounded cut/decision that undermines the legal order and its technical deployments in terms of a violent instrumentalism at the core of medieval theology that I will call “transposition of technique to nature.”

This idea of nomos as ungrounded cut/decision that imposes a technical ordering emerging immanently out of abyssal/contingent antagonisms is a precondition for the posterior technological division and appropriation of the earth. It is important to stress that any critical reading of Schmitt in relation to the global present or the colonial past needs to take one step back and take this precondition seriously, since it is the source of the dualisms that guides Schmitt’s reading of Francisco de Vitoria’s attempt to justify the European appropriations of American land. Any instrumental use of Schmitt in the past needs to go through the detour of asking for this non-juridical origin of modern/imperial ordering. As a result, it is necessary to read the centrality of the New World for the emergence of the ius publicum europaeum as inseparable from the decisive cut that precedes the emergence of the imperial/modern world system.

The modern nomos is a result of the series of crises plaguing the pre-modern political space. Galli’s deconstructive and genealogical concept of nomos as a decisive cut is not a mystical ineffable point beyond history, but an originary conflict inseparable from the historically situated crises and dissolutions of the “qualified space” of the medieval world. Galli makes a list of these crises that give place to the modern cut/decision in the chapter titled “Premodern Political Spaces and Their Crises.” In this chapter he explains that in the medieval world the notion of “justice” implies an “order of world” – both rational and natural – that is given. This just order results not only from the Roman right but also from the Greek legacy: “In fact, Plato’s Timaeus, which itself informed the high medieval world, furnishes Catholicism with the idea that a complex, organic, and objective Order of Being exists” (Political Spaces 15). This idea of justice contributed to the formalization of a political and juridical culture predominant in the middle and late medieval period. Justice as a corporate and objective “Order of Being” provides a “coherent and harmonious spatial picture, in which all things, actions, persons, and hierarchically superordinate and subordinate spaces of angelic, ecclesiastic, and political cosmology find a place and reveal themselves to be ‘good’” (Galli, Political Spaces 15). Galli describes the space of the res publica christiana as “ordered by Being,” where politics can “do Justice” because it is subordinated to Divine Justice (Political Spaces 15). The “good government” protects the city and countryside through an order guaranteed by a pre-existing rational and natural master (Galli, Political Spaces 15). The political space is the effect of a vertical imposition of an order from Heaven to Earth (Galli, Political Spaces 15). Qualitative and intrinsically hierarchical representation rationalizes temporal earthly goals in the civil sphere with the mediation of civil power, and salvation in the religious sphere with the mediation of the Church (Galli, Political Spaces 15). Although Galli does not mention it, Aquinas conceived such an “Order of Being” as an ontological, rational, and natural order that was the ultimate ground for natural law, and Francisco de Vitoria used this ontological frame in his revival of Thomism in the 16th century. Thus, natural law, which is grounded in a natural, rational, and vertical Order of Being plays a crucial role in Galli’s genealogy of the series of crises that make possible the decision/cut that inaugurates modernity. Such a naturally ordered space contains contradictions and conflicts that have contributed to the genesis of the modern state and subject (Galli, Political Spaces 16). My main claim is that the ultimate irreducible contradiction at the core of natural law is the transposition of technique to the realm of nature and the “Order of Being” itself.

At the origin of modern politics we find catastrophes and spatial revolutions that reveal the weakness of the pre-modern qualified space and its hierarchies grounded in the Order of Being. The modern spatiality implies “a perception of nature’s lack of spatial and ontological Order of Being” (Galli, Political Spaces 24). Thomas More, for instance, “reacts primarily to the crisis of Justice as an Order of Being, to the “topsy-turvy world” that England has become, in which every measure is lost, and no one and nothing remains in their proper place” (Galli, Political Spaces 24). In modernity, space does not contain intrinsic qualities that guarantee such an order; it becomes “dequalified,” “undifferentiated,” and “empty” (Galli, Political Spaces 16). Galli categorically states: “Put simply, modern political space is a space of crisis” (Political Spaces 16). The lack of any preexisting guarantee in modern political thought is the condition of possibility of the “political geometry” of the State that produces space predominantly as an “undifferentiated quantity,” as “an abstract and measurable plane, a blank surface that can be apportioned and used at will” (Sitze LV, LVI). The unqualified space is an empty and homogenous passive element “available to the gaze of the State and offers no resistance to the State’s projects of instrumental reason” (Sitze LVI). The modern politics of standing reserve that pre-understands everything in terms of available raw material, results from the gap left by the crisis of the pre-modern world. Furthermore, it is possible to affirm that instrumentalism results from the disavowal of this originary conflict.

Galli mentions a series of crises that precede the emergence of the modern solution in the axiomatic geometry of the State and Subject. The first crisis is a cosmological one caused by the “Copernican Revolution” in which the Earth loses its central place in the universe (Political Spaces 17). Another crisis is the breakdown of the “economic spatiality” inseparable from the passage from “open fields” to enclosures and the beginning of capitalist primitive accumulation (Galli, Political Spaces 17). An additional crisis that contributed to the emergence of modernity was the “categorical crisis” with the birth of nominalism, which contributed to the dismantling of the ground of “the idea of Justice, and the qualified space that gives measure to everything, in which everything takes root” (Galli, Political Spaces 17). But the crisis that is most relevant to this paper is the geographical crisis provoked by the discovery of America (Galli, Political Spaces 17). This crisis made possible the Mediterranean centrality with the emergence of the Atlantic economic network, causing Europe’s center of gravity to shift from south to north. Galli considers this shift to be “much more revolutionary than the barbarian invasions or the Arab, and later Turkish, advances” (Political Spaces 17). Again, for Galli, the “most radical” of these challenges was the “discovery” and “invention” or “conquest” of America and the Reformation. Both events produced a decisive “cut” or fissure in the “ordered plan of Being, forcing European humanity to reorient the spatiality implicit in its own political and moral thought” (Political Spaces 17). The disorientation brought by the “newness” of America made Europe invent the figure of the savage in order to distinguish between the “us” and “the others,” a division that structures “so much of European thought” (Galli, Political Spaces 17). The figure of the savage is the figure of the one who lives in a space that is “empty,” which is why it becomes figure of the “absence of spatiality in its qualitative and originary sense” (Galli, Political Spaces 17). Modernity and European expansion is a “reconquest” of the space made possible by the discovery of the New World, in which space acquires a sort of “perspectival value” (Galli, Political Spaces 18). The emergence of the modern geometry of space is the result of a shift in perspective in which the “in itself” senseless space of absolute alterity, devoid of qualities, becomes a space “for us,” “a space newly legible, but only from the point of view of Europe’s new artificial and scientific rationality” (Galli, Political Spaces 19). The incorporation of colonial space into modern space is an essential part of the history of instrumental rationality that divides and appropriates the earth. In the absence of a natural and objective “Order of Being,” the modern State finds that natural law is insufficient for apportioning the earth. Instrumental reason fills the gap left by this dislocation; it invents dispositifs of discipline, governmentality, and security such as the military and police forces (Sitze XXXV). The semblance of the former integrity of Roman Catholic law and natural law is produced through an instrumental reason in conjunction with sovereign decisions that fabricate a public enemy (Sitze XXXV). As one can observe, one of the aspects that make Galli and Schmitt so relevant to colonial studies is their recognition of the “colonial origins of modern political space” (Sitze LVI). Empty, passive, and undifferentiated space is not merely the product of self-sufficient geometrical abstraction but the result of the space of colonial conquest, the “empty space” of America. The conquest of America is the forgotten origin of the self-proclaimed autonomous geometric spatialization of reality, with its divisions between inside and outside. The instrumental reason behind geometrical ordering is enabled by the transposition of America as the land without peoples into the modern project. Briefly put, Galli’s account of the colonial origins of modernity is the classic retrospective account that explains how America served as an image for the pre-historical state of nature. Something left unexplored in Galli’s genealogy of the nomos is the question of which cut/decision renders America an available empty space before its appropriation by the modern State and Subject. In order to answer this question it is necessary to focus on Schmitt’s reading of Francisco de Vitoria.

The conquest and colonization of the New World plays a central role in Schmitt’s The Nomos of the Earth.[5] He devotes the second chapter to explaining the first account of the “justification of European land-appropriation as a whole” (101). According to Schmitt, Francisco de Vitoria’s lectures represent the first attempt to pose the question of the future legal title to land appropriation within an objective and scholastic frame. I do not pretend to challenge Schmitt’s reading of Vitoria by means of a more empirical (historiographical or historicist) reading. Instead, my aim is to interpret Vitoria through Galli’s cut/decision that grounds modernity in order to better understand the origin of the technical appropriation of the earth and the division between the Eurocentric juridical system and the constitution of America as an available empty space. In other words, my reading of Vitoria exceeds the dualisms in Schmitt’s reading of Vitoria by means of Galli’s notion of nomos as deed/event that emerges out of an immanent crisis or contradictory abyss in the ontological ground of natural law. On the one hand, following Galli, I contend that behind Vitoria’s attempt to ground the Spanish Empire in natural law, we find the incapacity of the Order of Being to ground the law. On the other hand, and departing from Galli, I understand that next to the series of crises mentioned by Galli, there is an ontological crisis that is inseparable from the transposition of technique to nature at the very core of the political justification of Spanish Empire, which opens the way to the subsequent triumph of modern spatialization, planetary nihilism, and global technology.

Schmitt as Reader of Vitoria

In the first part of De indis (1539) Vitoria asks: “by what right (ius) were the barbarians subjected to Spanish rule?” (Political Writings 233).[6] The second part of the lecture is dedicated to the rights of the Spanish kings over their Amerindian subjects “in temporal and civil matters” (Political Writings 233). In the third section, Vitoria attempts to define the power that both the king and the church exercise over the Amerindians in “spiritual and religious matters” (Political Writings 233). Vitoria begins by explaining that the Spanish crown is in no way compelled to “justify anew rights and titles” by which its predecessors occupied the territories of the New World in “pacific possession” (Political Writings 233). For this reason, Schmitt affirms that only superficial readings of Vitoria can interpret his lecture in terms of a defense of the Rousseauian good savage against the evils of civilization. As Schmitt observes, his view of the conquest is positive, and although he considers the Indians morally inferior, “ultimately Vitoria’s view of the conquista is altogether positive. Most significant for him was the fait accompli of Christianization” (Nomos 109; emphasis in the original).

Vitoria argues that it would be possible to deny that the natives were “true masters” (had dominion, or ownership) before the arrival of the Spaniards only “on four possible grounds,” that is, if they are “sinners (peccatores), unbelievers (infideles), madmen (amentes), or insensate (insensati)” (Political Writings 240). He discusses whether sinners can be masters in Question 1, Article 2 and concludes that sinners can indeed have dominion. In Article 3 he arrives at the conclusion that unbelievers can also be true masters. In Article 4 he states that irrational creatures cannot have dominion, “for dominion is a legal right (dominium est ius)” (Political Writings 247). In Article 6 he discusses whether madmen can be true masters or not, and he concludes that they can because they can suffer injury. Vitoria categorically affirms that none of these categories apply to the inhabitants of the New World. He states that barbarians cannot be dispossessed of their dominion based on the claim that they were not true masters (ueri domini). Even the enemies of Christian religion – Jews and Saracens – enjoy the right to ownership (dominium rerum), unless they are occupying unjustly conquered Christian lands (Political Writings 251). Despite considering the natives true masters, Vitoria opens the door to what Schmitt calls an “indirect” justification of their lands in his just titles for invading and subjecting the indigenous peoples (Nomos 112). One can hardly admit that Vitoria thought that American space was completely empty or non-qualified because the “barbarians” were true masters with true dominion of their lands and subjects. America is not an empty space but a political and qualified space, and in order to justify the appropriation of the land, it is necessary to discriminate between “just” and “unjust titles.” Prior to being conceived as an empty Hobbesian state of nature America was inhabited by “barbarians” who had political institutions. Yet it should still be subordinated to the Spanish crown. The emptying of America was an incomplete and ongoing process.

Vitoria provides seven “unjust titles” by means of which the New World passed into the rule of the Spaniards. In Question 2, Article 1, Vitoria denies that the Emperor can be the master of the whole world. He examines the possession of the New World based on the authority of the Pope in Question 2, Article 2. The third unjust title, possession by right of discovery, is the subject matter of Question 2, Article 3. The fourth unjust title, examined in Question 2, Article 4, is the refusal of the indigenous people to accept the Christian faith. In Question 2, Article 5 he denies that the Christian princes may compel the barbarians based on their sins against the law of nature. In Question 2, Article 6 the voluntary choice of barbarians is also an object of doubt for Vitoria. Finally, he denies that the New World is a gift from God in Article 7.[7]

Although Vitoria concludes that the natives were true masters with legitimate rights of dominion to their lands and possessions, he attempts to justify their subjection to the Spanish Crown. That is to say, he reopens the problem that was apparently closed by the end of the first question. He offers seven right titles (and an “eighth possible” one) for subjecting the Indians. The first just title is the “natural partnership and communication.” The second possible title is the right to predicate the Christian religion. The third is the protection of the converts. The fourth is the capacity of the Pope to designate a Christian prince to the newly converted Christian subjects. The fifth title is the defense of the innocent against tyranny. The sixth title is the voluntary will of the Barbarians to be administered by the Spaniards. The seventh is the protection of allies and friends. The eighth, “possible” title is the incapacity of the Indians to govern themselves. Again, what all these titles have in common is their being grounded in natural law rather than in faith. For this reason, Schmitt is right in calling these titles “indirect” ways of justifying the land appropriation of the natives and declaring a “just war” that does not discriminate between Christians and non-Christians. In Schmitt’s words: “Rejecting contrary opinions of other theologians, Vitoria obviously treated Christians and non-Christians as equals in legal terms, at least from the standpoint of international law” (Nomos 105).

The first legitimate title states that “just war” is the defense of the right to circulation and the possession of natural resources, the right to defend the “natural partnership and communication” (Vitoria, Political Writings 278). This argument starts by establishing the Spaniards’ right to “travel and dwell in those countries, so long as they do no harm to the barbarians” (Vitoria, Political Writings 278). No positive law can forbid international travel, commerce, or evangelization because these are fundamental rights of natural law. Thus, if the Amerindians made any attempt to deny these rights to the Spaniards they would “commit an offense against them” (Vitoria, Political Writings 282). Vitoria constructs the argument in negative terms. Since nobody can forbid what natural law allows, it is legal to travel to the new world, engage in trade and commerce, appropriate precious metals that do not belong to anybody, and finally defend this right by military force if persuasion fails. Vitoria’s first conclusion on this point is that Spaniards have the right to travel and dwell in those countries, so long as they do not harm the barbarians (Political Writings 278).

He continues by arguing that the law of nations (ius gentium) either is, or derives from, natural law. Moreover, for Vitoria the law of nations is what natural reason establishes among nations. The law of nations considers it inhuman to treat strangers and travelers badly “without special cause,” unless, of course “travelers were doing something evil” (Political Writings 278). According to natural law, “all things which are not prohibited or otherwise to the harm and detriment of others are lawful” (Vitoria, Political Writings 278). For Vitoria, commerce seems to belong to what Galli calls the “idea of justice” and the “Order of Being.” The dictates of natural law command all nations to refrain from committing injustice by impeding free circulation.

If natural law and divine law allow traveling, then positive law cannot prohibit what natural law allows. Positive law can never contravene its natural foundation, because “if there were a human enactment (lex) which barred them without any foundation in divine or natural law, it would be inhumane and unreasonable, and therefore without the force of the law” (Vitoria, Political Writigs 279). Placing obstacles to travelers and merchants is akin to doing an “inhumane” and “unreasonable” act of iniuria or injustice.

Vitoria then jumps to the conclusion that both natural and divine law justify the Spaniards’ right to use the abundance of precious metals in the New World. The “second proposition” is that Spaniards may lawfully trade among the barbarians. Spaniards may “import the commodities which they lack, and export the gold, silver, or other things which they have in abundance” (Political Writings 279). Although barbarians are true masters of their lands they cannot prevent their subjects from trading with the Spaniards (Vitoria, Political Writings 279).

Vitoria believes that “the proof” of the right to profit from American precious metals “follows from the first proposition” (Political Writings 279). The Spaniards have the right to trade and import commodities they lack, such as gold and silver, because it is not lawful to put limits to free circulation. Natural law and the law of nations (ius gentium) allow travelers to trade “so long as they do no harm to the citizens” (Political Writings 279). Since divine law also allows trade, positive law cannot prohibit it: “therefore any human enactment (lex) which prohibits such trade would indubitably be unreasonable” (Vitoria, Political Writings 279-280). The barbarian princes are obliged by natural law to allow the Spaniards to engage in commerce and extraction of riches, “and therefore cannot prohibit them without due cause from furthering their own interests” (Vitoria, Political Writings 280).

The third proposition is that it is not lawful for the barbarians to prohibit the Spaniards from sharing and enjoying the many things among the barbarians that are held in common both by their own people and by strangers (Vitoria, Political Writings 280). Vitoria argues, for instance, that barbarians cannot prohibit Spaniards from searching for precious metals “if travellers are allowed to dig for gold in common land or in rivers or to fish for pearls in the sea or in rivers” (Political Writings 280). Therefore, merchants are allowed to search for riches on the same terms as natives, “namely without causing offence to the native inhabitants and citizens” (Vitoria, Political Writings 280). If it is indubitably “unreasonable” to prohibit trade and commerce, it is no less unlawful to prohibit Spaniards from searching for precious metals in places that are held in common.

The ground for appropriating things that are held in common is the right to travel and trade: “The proof of this follows from the first and second. If the Spaniards are allowed to travel and trade among the barbarians, they are allowed to make use of the legal privileges and advantages conceded to all travellers” (Vitoria, Political Writings 280). The law of nations that derives from natural law allows mining, which is basically searching for “gold in the ground” that belongs to the “first taker” (Vitoria, Political Writings 281). The Spaniards who find gold can appropriate it because it is hidden in the subsoil and has not been appropriated by anybody before. And even if such an act of appropriation does not derive from natural law but from positive law, it is binding because the majority has agreed to it. In De potestate (1528), Vitoria claims that the world is like a republic, which is the basic unit of the law of nations: “The whole world, which is in a sense a commonwealth, has the power to enact laws which are just and convenient to all men; and these make up the law of nations” (Political Writings 40). Vitoria also states that “those who break the law of nations, whether in peace or in war, are committing mortal crimes, at any rate in the case of the graver transgressions such as violating the immunity of ambassadors” (Political Writings 40). As a result, “no kingdom may choose to ignore this law of nations, because it has the sanction of the whole world” (Vitoria, Political Writings 40). The imperative of the common good and the consensus of the majority of the international community require that the Amerindians cede those goods that belong to no one. To impede the common utility of the totality is to impede the realization of the ultimate end of every society and the whole global community. Both the universal and reasonable circulation of peoples and commodities, together with the use of the New World’s natural resources, are based on the principle of natural law, on what Galli calls a political space with intrinsic qualities grounded in the “Order of Being.” Finally, it is important to remember that Vitoria’s justification is retroactive: when Vitoria delivered his lectures, the Spanish Empire had already been extracting gold and creating a network of trade and commerce financed by German bankers. As Anthony Anghie notes, “while appearing to promote notions of equality and reciprocity between the Indians and the Spanish, Vitoria’s scheme must be understood in the context of the realities of the Spanish presence in the Indies” (21).[8] Moreover, gold was already the priority of Columbus, Cortés, and Pizarro, and mining was already practiced in the Caribbean islands. Vitoria provides a justification for events that were taking place before the delivery of this lecture by grounding them – after the fact – in principles of natural law and the law of nations. In a moment traversed by all the crises mentioned by Galli, it is easy to see how the basis of the law is shaken by uncertainty, filling this lack of certainty in an instrumentalism that sees America not only as an empty space, but also as a source of precious metals, a smooth space of circulation of commodities, a reservoir of natural resources and raw material.

Schmitt explicitly declares that in Vitoria, “the liberum commercium was not the liberal principle of free trade and free economy in the sense of the ‘open door’ of the 20th century; it was only an expedient of the pre-technical age” (Nomos 114). Intellectual inheritors of Vitoria attributed to him different aims because they did not take the missionary mandate and Vitoria’s theological context seriously.[9] By separating Vitoria from his theological context, they misread him and systematically ignored his intellectual milieu (Schmitt, Nomos115). For Schmitt, liberal appropriations of Vitoria do not take into consideration the missionary mandate: the liberum commercium and the ius peregrinandi depend on the potestas of the Pope who ordered the evangelization of the New World. According to Schmitt, Vitoria is operating within the mandate of the Church, and his “concreteness” derives from his political position against the reform and the “enemies” of Christendom, namely, the Jews and the Saracens. For Schmitt liberal appropriations of Vitoria should not distract the reader from the fact, which is visible through historiographical objectivity, that the decisive legal force of Vitoria’s arguments derives from a “missionary mandate” (Schmitt, Nomos 111). He claims that the “abstract generality” of Vitoria’s arguments should not prevent the reader from seeing that “concrete historical standpoint” (Schmitt, Nomos 111). Schmitt reminds the reader that the missionary mandate was the position not only of the Pope but also of the Catholic Monarchy (Nomos 111). The missionary mandate is issued by potestas spiritualis, a mandate that is both institutionally stable and intellectually self-evident (Schmitt, Nomos 119). These rights were not the same as the principle of the “open door” for industrial penetration, but were the means of justifying the declaration of just war and the land appropriation of the natives, which is the main focus of Schmitt when reading Vitoria (Nomos 120). Although Vitoria’s right to free commerce is not identical to economic liberalism, commerce and the extraction of the royal fifth appear twice in De indis. Commerce is associated to the right of the Spanish crown to extract tribute in the first title. It appears again when, after providing solid grounds for the subjection of the Indians, he considers the possibility of none of the above-mentioned titles being valid. He categorically affirms that even if these titles were not valid, commerce and taxation should not stop. Therefore, even if Spaniards have no right to invade the barbarians, they could profit from the circulation of commodities, the same circulation that was already taking place and displacing the circuit of commerce from the Mediterranean to Seville. Moreover, in the first legal title, America is considered a reservoir of commodities and raw material.

Despite considering the barbarians inferior to the civilized Christians, Vitoria does not consider their being non-Christians a cause of just war (Schmitt, Nomos 107). Stated differently, Vitoria’s justification of the appropriation of the lands of the New World and its annexation to the Old World depends neither on the right of Christians to subdue non-Christians, nor on the rights of civilization to subdue barbarism, but on the idea of a “just war” backed up by the missionary mandate of the pope to evangelize the new world (Schmitt, Nomos 107).[10] Schmitt repeatedly states that Vitoria’s scholasticism is both neutral and ahistorical and lacks presuppositions (Nomos 113). Vitoria reaches his conclusion based on “general concepts” and “hypothetical arguments” in order to justify the notion of a “just war” (Schmitt, Nomos 109). Schmitt proceeds to translate Vitoria’s assertion of the unconditional right of the Spaniards to circulate, evangelize, and commerce in hypothetical language: if the barbarians make injury to the Spaniards denying the right to visit the Indies, then the Spaniards have the right to repel force with force and declare “just war” (Schmitt, Nomos 109). The rights of occupation, intervention, and subjection of the Indigenous peoples derive indirectly from the right to back up circulation, commerce, and evangelization with “just war” (Schmitt, Nomos109).

Despite praising Vitoria for his neutrality and for his political commitment to the missionary mandate, Schmitt thinks that Vitoria is not a fully modern political thinker due to the way he adheres to the notion of a just war grounded in a just cause. Post-medieval European international law from the sixteenth to the seventeenth century displaced the justa causa and instituted the justus hostis, and as a result, only war between equal sovereign states was legitimate. This was enabled by the foreclosure of the moral-theological from juridical-political arguments, as well as the “separation of the question of justa causa, grounded in moral arguments and natural law, from the typically juridical formal question of justus hostis, distinguished from the criminal, i.e., from becoming the object of punitive action” (Schmitt, Nomos 121). Despite conceiving a non-discriminatory concept of war, one that does not discriminate between believers and non-believers, he did not expand his position into one of justus hostis, thus remaining within the frame of medieval just war (Schmitt, Nomos122).[11] In conclusion, for Schmitt, Vitoria’s indirect argumentation for land appropriation is not modern because it is grounded in the right to declare just war on those who block the passage to the Indies. Such argumentation implies that just war is not the war of civilization, progress, and liberalism against barbarians, but a defense of the right to circulate and evangelize mandated by the Church and the Spanish crown. Antony Anghie provides a reading of Vitoria diametrically opposed to the medieval framework attributed by Schmitt. According to Anghie Vitoria’s doctrine denies that human relations are governed solely by divine law. In addition, Anghie takes note of how Vitoria explicitly turns down the proposition that the Pope exercised universal jurisdiction by virtue of his divine mission to spread Christianity. According to Anghie, Vitoria “displaces divine law and its administrator, the Pope, and replaces it with natural law administered by a secular sovereign” (17). Anghie’s main thesis about Vitoria is that the emergence of a secular natural law as the basis of the new international law “is coeval with his resolution of the problem of the legal status of the Indian, for it is this problem which initiates Vitoria’s inquiry” (18). I understand that it is important to make some adjustments to this thesis. While it is indisputable that Vitoria’s corpus definitely results from the encounter between natural law and the problem of the sovereignty of the Indians, it is important to point out that Vitoria was a Thomist and that he inherited from Aquinas the natural and rational “Order of Being” that is the foundation of “natural law.” And as I will try to demonstrate in the last section of this article, the fracturing of the natural Order of Being inaugurates the violent act of transposing technique to nature.

My main thesis is that Vitoria’s notion of a just war in the service of free commerce and evangelization cannot be reduced to the missionary mandate and should be read against the backdrop not only of Aquinas’s ontological ground for natural law but also of the crisis of the “qualified space” of the pre-modern world. For Galli, Vitoria’s attempt to justify just war is a reactive formation that tries to cope with the traumatic encounter with the Other. The transposition of the realm of technique to the realm of nature and the natural law itself is an effect of the incapacity to ground the law in self-evident principles. With this purpose in mind, I will look for the foundation for both practicing commerce and the capacity to repel force with force in Vitoria’s use of Aquinas’s ontological framework of natural law. First, it is necessary to remember that, in Vitoria, commerce is a fundamental right because it is grounded in natural law. The ius gentium derives from natural law, which dictates that it is unlawful to do injustice to strangers. In his lecture De iure belli (1539), Vitoria explains that the only valid reason for conquering the Indians is avenging injuries, based on the natural right to repel force with force (Political Writings 301). In this lecture, he explains that only a “perfect community” (an autonomous sovereign with civil power) can declare war and repel force with force. In his lecture De potestate (1528), Vitoria explains that the source of validity of any sovereign power (including that of “barbarians” or non-Christians) is the rational and causal order of a “perfect community” exemplified by using the four Aristotelian causes. The final cause of Civil Power is the common good; the efficient cause is God; the material cause is the commonwealth; and the formal cause is the essence of the law imposed from above (Vitoria, Political Writings 4, 10, 11, 18). Above the right of commerce and the right to repel force with force is natural law grounded in natural causality. In other words, the right to make war on the Indians is not only the result of the missionary mandate belonging to the realm of Ecclesiastical power but also a natural right. This natural right, the right to repel force with force, belongs to civil power, a power that is grounded in natural and rational law, that is, a preexisting order of being with intrinsic hierarchical qualities (the ius gentium participates in natural law, which participates in eternal law). Stated otherwise, for Vitoria the ground of the right to repel force with force, the right to defend the right to trade, belongs to the realm of natural law and its non-juridical (ontological and theological) foundation. An injury made to the Spaniards who travel to the Indies to trade and evangelize is an injury made to the natural Order of Being itself. This means that Vitoria is capable of incorporating the New World into the Old by attributing dominion and obligations to the barbarians, because the natural law is universal, necessary, and unconditional.[12] The law is grounded in a qualified space that works as a transcendent, external guarantee that is hierarchical, natural, and rational.

For Galli, the nomos as cut/decision emerges out of the crisis and contradictions of pre-modern qualified space. Once again, in order to search for the cut/decision that precedes Schmitt’s dualisms, it is necessary to look for the non-juridical origin of the law and to ask how the law derives from eternal law as the rational and natural Order of Being dictated by God. Stated another way, in order to make sense of the right of a certain civil power to declare war on those who violate natural right, it is necessary to take a look at Vitoria’s meta-juridical foundation of the law, at the way the law is grounded in a non-juridical, or ontological, foundation. Since Vitoria was a Thomist, it is useful to read his commentary on the section of Aquinas’ Summa Theologica where, when dealing with eternal law, Vitoria explains how every human law must be based on divine law: “Does every law derive from the eternal law? Aquinas replies that they do. The proof is that inferior crafts are subordinate to superior ones, as bridle-making is subordinate to the art of war. God is the supreme legislator” (Vitoria, Political Writings 168). The following passage is Vitoria’s commentary of Aquinas’s “Articulus 3: Whether every law is derived from eternal law” in the Summa theologiae Ia IIae 93. There, Aquinas provides an onto-theological foundation of both natural and positive law:

Law denotes a kind of reason directing acts toward an end, as stated above. Now in all cases where there are movers ordered in relation to one another, the power of the second mover must be derived from the power of the first mover, since the second mover does not move except in so far as it is moved by the first. Hence we see the same thing in all who govern: that the plan of government is derived by secondary governors from the first governor, so that the plan of what is to be done in a State is derived from the king by way of this command to subordinate administrators; and, again, when things are to be made, the plan of what is to be made is derived from the designer to the lower craftsmen who work with their hands. Since, then, the eternal law is the plan of government in the Supreme Governor, all plans of government which are in lower governors must necessarily be derived from the eternal law. And these plans of lower governors are all other laws apart from the eternal law. Therefore all laws are derived from the eternal law in so far as they participate in right reason.

(106; emphasis added)

In this passage, Aquinas is claiming that sovereign commands are to the subordinate administrators what the plan of the architect is to the inferior craftsmen. Eternal law is to human law what the architect is to the inferior craftsmen. When explaining the ultimate origin/end of the law as the ultimate source of domination, Vitoria assumes that natural causality as subordination (the way the prime mover imparts movement over the second mover) is like the artificial subordination (the way the architect imposes a design over the inferior craftsmen). Vitoria and Aquinas fill the gap opened by the absence of a piece of concrete or sensory evidence of the origin/end of the law with an example derived from artificial subordination. Now, what is puzzling is that the subordinated element in the hierarchical strata, the craftsmen, serves as a conceptual metaphor for demonstrating the “binding force” of the law as such. Let us remember that for Galli, the origin of the modern is located in the catastrophes and spatial revolutions that reveal the weakness of pre-modern qualified space and its hierarchies grounded in the “Order of Being.” The lack/loss of ground, the gap in the order of Being, was being covered over by the transposition of technique to the theological sphere. Such a transposition allows Vitoria to see the Indies in terms of a reservoir of natural goods and commodities that can be molded and appropriated by subordinating them to their proper transcendent end.

This transposition engenders contradictions that are inseparable from the crisis eroding the origin/end structure of the natural order itself. Indeed, there is a contradiction plaguing the relation between the subordinating and the subordinated elements in the vertical structure of the law. On the one hand, natural mastery as a rational dictate presupposes artificial mastery, and on the other hand, the ultimate Master (Master of all Masters) is understood in terms of the subordinated craftsman. The material example appears twice: it is both the subordinating and the subordinated element. Aquinas compares the Master guarantor of the law with a craftsman in “Whether the eternal law is supreme reason existing in God” in the Summa theologiae Ia IIae 93:

Just as in every craftsman there pre-exists a rational pattern of the things, which are to be made by his art, so too in every governor there must pre-exist a rational pattern of the order of the things which are to be done by those subject to his government. And just as the rational pattern of the things to be made by an art is called the art, or the exemplar of the products of that art, so too the rational pattern existing in him who governs the acts of his subjects bears the character of law … God is the Creator of all things by His wisdom, and He stands in the same relation to them as a craftsman does to the products of his art.


Briefly said, ontological and political subordination and dominion presuppose technical mastery twice: God himself stands in front of the world in the same way the craftsman stands in front of the product of his art. The ground of the law, what Galli calls the objective order of Being, the source of mastery and dominion over the whole world, presupposes the technical mastery of the subordinated craftsman. Vitoria’s instrumental reason is the disavowed silent presupposition of metaphysical ontology: in its attempt to derive the law from the external preexisting Master Guarantor of sense, metaphysical ontology transposes artificial subordination to natural subordination, and then it proceeds to subordinate the manual labor of the craftsman to a superior Master by reintroducing the division between superior and inferior crafts. On the one hand, natural law uses originary technique to give the appearance of necessity to the law. On the other hand, it disavows technique by subordinating the craftsman to the architect in order to hide its own artificial and arbitrary decision. The fissure or contradiction arising from this tension is the result of the distance between the exemplary idea and the material example; for Vitoria and Aquinas’ metaphysical analogical gaze, examples are imperfect copies, since they never exactly represent what they are supposed to exemplify. For a critical and materialist gaze, “there is more in the example than in what it exemplifies, in other words, the example always threatens to undermine what it is supposed to exemplify since it gives body to what the exemplified notion itself represses or is unable to cope with” (Zizek, Less than Nothing 364). This excess in the example that undermines and contaminates the purity of the idea, is an originary technique, the excess of artificiality that permeates natural law, undermining what it is supposed to ground. The difference between the universal Master and the particular craftsman is also redoubled within the latter. Moreover, this difference between the natural and the artificial is internal to the artificial. Natural law is nothing but technique; will to mastery turned against itself. The disavowed originary technique is a fantasy that fills the gap opened by the lack of origin of the law, giving natural law an appearance of necessity. Originary technicity is the correlate of natural imperial reason. The apparent autonomous and self-enclosed character of the modern State and Subject emerges out of the inner antagonisms of a qualified space that is already contaminated by artificiality. Vitoria’s imperial agenda depends on the artifact in the same way the Spanish Empire came to depend on the circulation of silver.

Finally, the universal law of the law is illustrated with an example that transposes one particular technique, the art of war, to the eternal law, thereby providing technique with the iron necessity of universal law: “The proof [that every law derives from eternal law] is that inferior crafts are subordinate to superior ones, as bridle-making is subordinate to the art of war. God is the supreme legislator” (Vitoria, Political Writings 168). In his search for the metaphysical origin of the just war, Vitoria develops an imperial rationality based on instrumental calculation and military strategy for subjecting, controlling, and defending a territory. It is not surprising that the ultimate criteria for making war on the Indians is the right of the Spaniards to repel force with force and defend the right to circulate, trade, and evangelize.

At this point I would like to explicit my own appropriation of Galli’s narration in order to make a contribution to the understanding of the modern/colonial division that emerges in the 16th century. Schmitt’s reading of Vitoria as remaining pre-modern reinforces the conceptual division between pre-modern metaphysics and modern technicity or instrumental reason. Reinscribing the role of commerce in the justification of the conquest and colonization of the New World, and the role of originary technicity in the very meta-juridical ground of the law in Vitoria and Aquinas, helps us to replace the division between modern and pre-modern metaphysics with the transition from an instrumentalist metaphysics grounded on the Craftsman God to an instrumentalist geometry of the modern Subject/State. Before the technical ordering of the Geometrical Space of the State and the Cartesian subject, there is an instrumentalist metaphysics that grounds natural law, commerce, and imperial war in an origin/end structure. This is a disavowed instrumentalism that will undermine not only pre-modern metaphysics but also the instrumentalism of the Cartesian subject and the State. In other words, the cut/decision that inaugurates the technical mastery, division, and appropriation of the earth is preceded by another act/decision that transposes artificial mastery to the ground of natural law, commerce, and imperial war. This transposition is inseparable from the disavowal of technique, since it not only transposes technique to nature but also subordinates technique to a superior Master. The inner core of this ontology is the disavowed instrumentalism, already contaminated by the nihilism that it pretends to combat: the very origins and ends of the Law were phantasmatic projections that result from the forgotten decision/cut that transposes technique to nature and subordinates technique to transcendent ends. The entire structure of Natural law, and the eight valid titles for grounding imperial war, derived their validity and persuasive power from an instrumentalism masked by the metaphor of the craftsman God and the art of war.

Although the discovery and conquest of America is central to the emergence of the modern ius publicum europaeum, Vitoria’s natural right, the defense of commerce, and the justification of imperial war remain disfigured in Schmitt because Vitoria and Aquinas’ instrumentalism remains unthought.[13] In other words, it is necessary to supplement Galli’s catholic genealogy of the modern/colonial with a critique of instrumentalist metaphysics. This allows us to show how the inner contradictions of the instrumentalism of the geometrical State and the Cartesian subject result from the inner contradictions of Aquinas’ ontology in the service of Vitoria’s imperial agenda of promoting a network of commerce and evangelization subordinated to the Spanish crown. The consequence of forgetting the disavowed originary technicity behind natural law is that this lack of ground will undermine both the pre-modern world and the modern one. Schmitt’s reading of Vitoria as pre-modern reinforces the conceptual division between pre-modern metaphysics and modern technicity or instrumental reason. The excess of technicity disavowed by pre-modern metaphysics will undermine and corrode the instrumentalism of the modern Subject/State and the apparatuses that regulate conflict inside Europe, displacing it to the empty space beyond its frontiers by means of colonialism, conquest, and genocide. The instrumental State pretends to regulate internal and external conflicts, but empties out the transcendent ends of the pre-modern world (earthly common good guided by eternal salvation), leaving only production for the sake of production, instrumental means without transcendent ends. As Sitze explains, these transcendent ends become both necessary and impossible, and the artificial procedures employed by the State “undermine the end to which they aim” (XXXV). Once the transcendent ends disappeared with the catastrophe at the origin of modernity – the fracturing of the objective “Order of Being” – instrumentalism was left to its own devices. The means for attaining the end (peace, and taming the inner and external conflict) is plagued by its own contradictions: the attempts to pacify Europe inaugurated the jus publicum europaeum and gave origin to unlimited hostility toward the external borders of Europe. This is the perfect example of how the modern political order “must aim at, but cannot attain, a set of goals” (such as earthly peace and reconciliation of antagonistic opposition) inherited from the same medieval world it fiercely attacks and criticizes (Sitze XXXVI). With the transference of the technological properties from God to the Subject and the State, the transcendent and supersensory ends inherited from the medieval world were lost, and all that was left was production for the sake of production, the infinite drive of domination for the sake of domination, technological expansion for the sake of technological expansion.[14] Nihilistic technological reduction of everything to useful material is the result of an extreme instrumentalism that empties the supersensory world of transcendent ends and undermines its own sense and purpose. As a result, nihilism plagued Aquinas and Vitoria before provoking the series of contradictions that “will completely explode with the age of globalization” (Galli, Political Spaces 57). Originary technicity, the disavowed instrumentalism of natural law and imperial war, not only naturalized a conception of America as a reservoir of precious metals and natural resources, but also contained the inner contradictions that would also undermine the modern instrumentalism of the Subject and the State. Shifting perspectives from Galli’s reading of the nomos as abyssal act, to an examination of an originary technicity that is inseparable from colonial space’s inception, helps us reconsider the nihilistic technological drive that underlies the divisions at the heart of the appropriation and division of an earth-contaminating modernity that is exploding into a new epoch of global war, situated now beyond Schmitt’s genealogy of the ius publicum europaeum.


01. Sitze also writes that the more we engage in a serious reading of Schmitt’s writings, and the more “loyal” we remain to the inner core of his thought in our interpretations, the more we come to see how fruitless his categories are in a context that is radically different from the one that made such categories possible: “The use of Schmittian categories to interpret the global age not only betrays what was most alive in Schmitt’s thought; it also allows us to comfort ourselves with the reassuring knowledge that contemporary crisis will so resemble those of modernity that the critique of the latter will retain purchase on the former as well. The challenge of the latter will retain purchase on the former as well. The challenge of Carlo Galli is to read Carl Schmitt so completely, so carefully, and so loyally, that we therefore close the book on him, turning instead to face a set of crises about which Schmitt has, precisely, nothing to say” (LIV).

02. For some works on Schmitt see, McCormick, Carl Schmitt’s Critique of Liberalism: Against Politics as Technology; Moreiras, “A God without Sovereignty. Political Jouissance. Passive Decision;” Marder, Groundless Existence: The Political Ontology of Carl Schmitt.

03. In sum, Schmitt’s thought is extremely relevant to colonial studies on the condition that we critically examine his literal reading of Vitoria in the Nomos in order to reach the inner core of his logic. This inner core is the idea of the decisive cut as modern and Eurocentric ordering that emerges out of the crisis and catastrophes of the pre-modern world. Going through Schmitt’s somewhat problematic reading of Vitoria is a way of thinking the unthought element in his idea of technical ordering, which is the instrumentalist presupposition behind the ontological foundations of Iberian imperial reason. 

04. Following Galli, Sitze claims that it is necessary to avoid non-Schmittian understandings of Schmitt’s concepts (XLII). For instance, he maintains that it is necessary to avoid understanding nomos as a new and discontinuous phase of a Schmitt concerned with international law as opposed to domestic law in a postwar context, while also circumventing an idea of nomos that confuses it with an abstract name for any especially broad conjunction of space and law (XLII). The idea of nomos has been misread as a “methodological device” or as a “totalizing concept,” a broad conjunction of space and law “somewhat akin the episteme in the early work of Michel Foucault or the mode of production in Marxist thought” (XLII).

05. The entire second part of the book discusses the problem of “land appropriation of the New World.”

06. See also Adorno; Anghie; Covell; Fernández-Santamaría; Galli, “Introduzione;” Pagden.

07. These titles have been discussed extensively by Pagden and Adorno.

08. I agree with Anthony Anghie when he writes: “Seen in this way, Vitoria’s scheme finally endorses and legitimizes endless Spanish incursions into Indian society. Vitoria’s apparently innocuous enunciation of a right to ‘travel’ and ‘sojourn’ extends finally to the creation of a comprehensive, indeed inescapable system of norms which are inevitably violated by the Indians. For example, Vitoria asserts that ‘to keep certain people out of the city or province as being enemies, or to expel them when already there, are acts of war’. Thus any Indian attempt to resist Spanish penetration would amount to an act of war; which would justify Spanish retaliation. Each encounter between the Spanish and the Indians therefore entitles the Spanish to ‘defend’ themselves against Indian aggression and, in so doing, continuously expand Spanish territory, as discussed below” (21-22). 

09. Schmitt analyzes three examples: Hugo Grotius, Ernst Nys, and James Brown Scott rejecting all of their readings as liberal appropriations that misunderstand the theological dimension of Vitoria. 

10. This is only partly true, since Vitoria oscillates between attributing the label of serfs by nature to the so-called “barbarians” as it is evident in his last “possible” title for subjecting the natives of the New World. 

11. In his introduction to an Italian translation of Vitoria’s lecture De iure belli, Galli explains some of Schmitt’s options when reading Vitoria. First, Vitoria’s notion of “just cause” is entirely different from full modern warfare, which recognizes only the war between European states (“Introduzione” XXXIV). Schmitt reads Vitoria through the lenses of his central distinction between just war and just enemy. Second, Schmitt wants to rescue Vitoria from the “abstract universalism” intrinsic to liberal misappropriations (Galli, “Introduzione” XXXV). This decision is based on Schmitt’s political struggle against a universalism that disavows its own intrinsic conflicts and antagonisms, namely the friend-enemy division. Moreover, Schmitt’s decision to explain the right to free commerce as grounded exclusively in the missionary mandate derives from his antagonism against liberalism. Thus, Schmitt’s reading is an interested reading that poses as historiographical objectivity (Galli, “Introduzione” XXXV). Briefly put, in one and the same move, Schmitt underestimates the importance of the first title by rejecting the liberal misappropriations of Vitoria, while at the same time he relegates just war to a pre-modern sphere. According to Galli, Schmitt sees Vitoria’s political space as belonging to the res publica christiana as incorporating even non-Christians by including them in the notion of Justice and common good (“Introduzione” XLII). Galli asserts that Schmitt is right in suggesting that Vitoria’s universalism does not coincide with the modern one, but he does not think that Vitoria is pre-modern. Vitoria extends the news of the discovery to a traditional paradigm of justice, the order of rational being, and therefore modifies and transforms it into a model of regulation of international relations susceptible to future developments (Galli, “Introduzione” XVI). Unlike modern thinkers, Vitoria develops a notion of peace that rests on the assumption of justice as objective foundation of politics, taking for granted the absence of contradictions between the particular and the universal, between statehood and peace (Galli, “Introduzione” L). Despite being “concrete,” which for Schmitt means inserted in the political logic of his time, Vitoria’s just war subordinates the structural causes of war to the purposes of peace, concealing the complexity of the social, economic and political conditions of war (Galli, “Introduzione” LIV). 

12. See Anghie 17-23.

13. The way Schmitt downplays the role of trade in Vitoria has a deep connection with his overlooking of Vitoria and Aquinas’ instrumentalism. He subsumes trade and circulation under the missionary mandate that belongs to the sphere of divine law because he does not pay enough attention to the very ground of natural law itself. 

14. The nihilistic drive to endless technological domination is an essential part of Heidegger’s critique of technological reduction of everything to a standing reserve, but is also similar to Karl Marx’s insight about the functioning of capital as circulation for the sake of circulation that disguises itself as efficient satisfaction of needs. For an exploration of the relations between Iberian imperial reason, nihilism, and technology as reduction of being to “standing reserve,” see Bentancor. 

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