“Why So Stoic?”: Antonius Walaeus and the Dutch Scholastic Project to “Call Back” the Ancients

This paper will provide excerpts of and insights from my ongoing translation project of Antonius Walaeus’s “Compendium Ethicae Aristotelicae,” with special emphases on (1) the persistence and presumption of certain Aristotelian philosophical fundamentals in the Dutch scholastic’s thought and also on (2) Walaeus’s intentional project to “call back” the thought of the ancient philosophers to the “truth of Christianity.”

Walaeus’s treatment of the Stoics, in particular, offers special insights and fresh directions forward in Reformed scholastic research. The theological anthropology of the early modern Reformed was plainly revolutionized with regard to soteriology (i.e. justification) and biblical theology (i.e. imago dei). However, Walaeus’s treatment of classical sources on ethics yields a theological anthropology that similarly emphasizes human nature as a locus for developing virtue—an emphasis far more resonant and harmonious with preceding views.

Walaeus’s Compendium, I argue, requires that we broaden our view of the Reformed Scholastic concept of the human person and the role of virtue in Reformed ethics.

Appreciation of Walaeus’s writing and impact—like that of so many other Reformed scholastics receiving fresh attention in translation—counterbalances the consensus notion that only discontinuity is to be found between the Reformed and their Catholic scholastic counterparts. Significantly, Walaeus stands as a remarkable example of continuity with the existing tradition through his humanist instinct to interact directly with the classical Greco-Roman sources.

Walaeus, among this cohort of thinkers, stands out less for his interaction with Roman Catholic interpreters of the classical tradition, and more for his direct interaction with and reappraisal of such figures as Aristotle and Cicero to “call back” the ancients, such as the Stoics, to Christian truth.

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