Virtual Library of Francisco Sánchez, the Sceptic,
and Linked Open Data

Xavier Agenjo Bullón
of the Faculty of Archivists, Librarians and Archaeologists
Director (on leave of absence) of the Menéndez Pelayo Library
Project Director of the Ignacio Larramendi Foundation

Acceso a la ficha bibliográfica de esta introducción.
Acceso a la ficha de autoridad de Xavier Agenjo Bullón.


Firma de Francisco Sánchez, el Escéptico

It is more than justified to dedicate a microsite to Francisco Sánchez, the Sceptic (1550-1623), in the same way that Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo (1856-1912) has one,  not so much because of the intrinsic importance of his work, which is very important, as we will see below, but because new techniques, codings and technologies have been tested in this library which, related to Linked Open Data, seek to meet the basic aim of the Polymath Virtual Library, that is to say, to show the influence that Hispanic-American thought, the influence that Hispanic-American polygraphs, have had in world thought. In this case, Francisco Sánchez becomes the representative of a current that was created in the 16th century and seeks, for epistemological reasons, a firm foundation for philosophical and, above all, scientific development.

De arriba abajo: Francisco Vallés, Marin Mersene, René Descartes, Eloy Bullón y Frederick Copleston.Francisco Sánchez is not alone in this initiative, but there is another Spaniard contemporary to him, although with some decades of difference, in this case from Medina del Campo and also a doctor, like the Sceptic, Gómez Pereira (1500-1558), who published his Antoniana Margarita (1554), work with which Quod Nihil Scitur (1581) has an interesting parallel, even though they are so different. In fact, these two authors seek, through the use of reason and rejecting the auctoritas, especially Aristotle's (rejecting it, but not disregarding it) an unassailable foundation on which to elaborate scientific knowledge.

Justifiably Eloy Bullón (1879-1957), a very clear disciple of Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo, was able to write a book titled Precursores españoles a Bacon y Descartes (Spanish precursors to Bacon and Descartes) and, of course, the two Spaniards are this to a certain extent. The questions that Abate Mersenne (1588-1648) dedicated to Descartes (1596-1650) are famous when he published his Discourse on the Method (1637), asking him if he had not already read these reflections in Sanchez or Gomez Pereira, which by the way makes it clear, although it seems that no one has noticed something so obvious, that Marsenne evidently had read them, because if not he would not have been able to warn of that possible influence.

And it is also true that Descartes said that he did not know them directly, although he did know the refutations that these authors had carried out Francisco Valles (1524-1592) in his Sacra Philosophia (1587). When we also remember, something that must never be forgotten, that Descartes was educated in the Jesuit school of La Flèche where he read, among others, Francisco Suárez (1548-1617), studied, on the other hand, throughout Catholic Europe and what is perhaps strangest at first glance, in Protestant Europe, shows to the extent to which the author of the Meditations (1641) was close to the author of the Disputaciones (1597), as Heidegger pointed out (1889-1976). This also explains that Copleston (1907-1994) finished the third of his volumes of History of Philosophy in Suárez (1946-1974), and started the next with Descartes.

Of course, the point here is not to deny Descartes' originality, quite the contrary, but to show that, as Newton said (1642-1727), "if I have seen further, it is because I have looked while up on the shoulders of giants". Descartes - and Bacon (1561-1626) - also based themselves on a reality and on writings that - without a doubt - they knew.

To establish the relationships between the bibliographic records and the works themselves, since in the Larramendi Virtual Libraries, after the bibliographic record, the digitized work is only one click away, as the most advanced technology available is used.

Linked Open Data

In fact, DIGIBÍS has developed, within the Linked Open Data paradigm and especially in W3C Library Linked Data Incubator Group Final Report (accessible and translated into Spanish by the Ignacio Larramendi Foundation), as well as withEuropeana and its Europeana Data Model (which would be the specific application of Linked Open Data to the Europeana project), a data model, some functional specifications and standards that allow this type of relationship to be established.

Thus, the clearly semantic code influenced by or which influenced the Francisco Sánchez Virtual Library has been incorporated into it in two different ways. On the one hand, and in a simpler and less flexible way, through a complex relationship, using the$w subfield of the 500 field of the MARC 21 format, as well as, and already establishing techniques based on Linked Open Data, linking the authority records through the URIs of the records that are intended to be related.

Not only Francisco Sánchez and Gómez Pereira were able to have such an influence on the scepticism of the 16th and 17th centuries, and it is necessary to understand scepticism in the broad sense of the word as applied to epistemology and philosophy in general; also the first edition of the Outlines of Pyrrhonism (1562) of Sextus Empiricus (c.160-c. 210) had a huge influence on all the authors of the time.

DIGIBÍS y el paradigma Linked Open Data en el micrositio de Francisco Sánchez, el EscépticoThus, when Michel de Montaigne (1533-1595) read the work, he was truly shocked, for he saw in the work ofPyrrho (360-270 B.C.) and of Sextus, whose cognomen is a wonderful foundation for his vision of the world (in everything that did not concern the Catholic faith) and we must not forget that two of Montaigne’s brothers were Protestants and that he was the great-grandson of a Jewish woman (and a Spanish Jew) called López, to whom Sánchez had married Sánchez, yes, Sánchez, the grandfather of our author. In other words, Francisco Sánchez and Michel de Montaigne were both sceptics, had both read Pyrrho and were also related.

That this kinship and this relationship with Spain could be very important is clear when we review one of the requests Montaigne's father made to his son (let us remember that Montaigne felt such reverence for his father that many years after his death he used to dress in his father's clothes). Montaigne's father, Pierre, asked his son to translate into French the work of a Spanish author named Ramón Sabunde (c. 1385-1436). The translation was published in 1569.

Theologia naturalis siue Liber creatura y specialiter de homine et de natura eius inquatum homo…, de Ramón Sabunde (edición de 1502).Ramón Sabunde’s work, of whose name there are many different readings, presents many of the characteristics that colour Montaigne's thought and it should not be forgotten that, already motu proprio, Montaigne wrote an Apologie de Sebond, which he later included in his essays as Book II, Chapter XII (1580). Anyone who has become familiar with Montaigne's reading will have noticed that Apology hardly fits into his Essays (1580-1592), since it is far more extensive than any of them and is four to five times longer than the average length of his essays.

But it is precisely there, in Apology, where Montaigne establishes a good part of his methodological assumptions, which come from Sabunde as well as from the Outlines of Pyrrhonism or from the work of the two Spanish sceptics. It is true that Sabunde’s work, whose original title wasScientia Libri Creaturarum seu Natura (1484) appeared later in some editions under the title Theologia Naturalis (1484) and therefore was translated in 1569 by Montaigne under that name.

Pierre Bayle.The reader who is not particularly versed in the ins and outs of the development of Western thought and even science will no doubt be surprised, perhaps, by the very close intellectual or even kinship relations that exist between the two summits of French knowledge, Montaigne and Descartes, and their Spanish predecessors. It is not the intention of the Larramendi Virtual Library to go to the extreme, as did the contemporary of these authors Pierre Daniel Huet (1630-1721), of accusing them of plagiarism, or as many other authors, including Bayle (1647-1706),  in his influential period and perhaps today relegated, in his famous Dictionary (1674), but it is important to show, thanks to technology and not only due to the study of specialists, that we can show, suffice to say, these patent relationships. Fortunately, we have a translation of the chapter dedicated to Pyrrho in the Dictionaire historique et critique cited above [1].

In this sense, the Virtual Library of Francisco Sánchez, although not as extensive as theVirtual Library of the School of Salamanca, represents an advance on the previous project, to which these techniques will be applied retrospectively in any case, since the new technology provided by Linked Open Data allows anyone interested in the genealogy of ideas to establish these relationships.

Arriba, Jorge Luis Borges. Debajo, Gómez Pereira.In his Inquisiciones (1925) and in a footnote, Borges (1899-1986) sums up in unbeatable style some of the questions that have been raised here. This appears in the great essay La encrucijada de Berkeley:

"In the metaphysics course composed by José Campillo and Rodríguez [1834-1902], it is stated that the judgemental argument of the cogito, ergo sum, is nothing more than an abbreviation of an idea that doctor Gómez Pereira from Medina published in 1554. The anticipated Spanish paraphrase reads like this: Nosco me aliquid noscere: at quidquid noscit, est: ergo ego sum. "I know that I know something, anyone who knows exists, then I exist.

"I have also read - in an old Vie de Monsieur Descartes, published in Paris in 1691 and of which I only have the second volume, which is unpaired and without its author’s name - that it was the determination of many to accuse Descartes of having taken his speculation on the mechanicity of beasts from the book Antoniana Margarita of the aforementioned Gómez Pereira. This book is the same that includes the aforementioned formula.” [2].

In spite of Borges' fame, we believe that this note will not have been noticed by many readers, as perhaps neither was those of Menéndez Pelayo, Bonilla (1875-1926) and Bullón.

If the purpose of the Larramendi Virtual Libraries is to make known and promote knowledge of Spanish thought, it is essential to have extraordinary studies by specialists, such as Rafael Orden, who is included in this same microsite. But if that is necessary, it is not enough. In order to make this influence visible to the international community, the texts themselves must be edited on the Web and appropriate relationships must be established between them, using the most advanced technologies that the Web allows and, above all, advocates at this time: Linked Open Data.

This is how we, who work on this project, understand it both at the Foundation and at DIGIBIS, and the reader or Internet user will be able to say whether we have achieved it.

[1] Bayle, Pierre. Pyrrho: (from Dictionaire historique et critique); translation and introduction by Fernado Bahr.-Oviedo: KRK, 2007.

[2] Cited by: Borges, Jorge Luis. La encrucijada de Berkeley In: Inquisiciones; Otras inquisiciones. Digital edition. [Barcelona]: DeBolsillo, 2011 (Newcomlab). - (Contemporary Series)