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Dr. Marta García Alonso | Associate professor

Marta García Alonso (Oviedo, 1972) holds a Ph.D. in philosophy ( UNED) and a B.A. in canon law ( UPCO). MA in Bioethics ( UNED) and MA in Neuroscience ( IAEU) Her research focuses mostly on the History of political ideas, with a sideline in Bioethics. She has been a visiting fellow at the Institut d'Études Politiques/CNRS-Université Bordeaux IV (1996), the Université Catholique de Louvain (1997), the École Pratique d’Hautes Études-Paris (1999, 2000), the Institut d’Histoire de la Réformation-Geneva (2001, 2005, 2006), the École Normale Supérieure-Lyon (2007-2008), the Maison française-Oxford (2012), the Centre for Ideas and Society/University of California-Riverside (2014) and the Erasmus University of Rotterdam (2017).

I was the principal investigator of a research project funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science on the sources of secularism in the works of Spinoza and Bayle, with researchers from Spain, France and Switzerland (2010-2014).

Brief Research Statement

I am a Historian of political ideas, focusing on French-speaking religious reformers and freethinkers of the 16th and 17th centuries. In my Ph.D Thesis and during the first part of my career I worked on the political theology of John Calvin, addressing it in the context of the Genevan Reformation. On the one hand, I discussed the sources of Calvin’s thought in medieval Catholic ecclesiology and canon law. On the other hand, I studied the Calvinist contribution to the modern concept of autonomy. In all my analyses, I make a point of studying concepts in their actual historical context. I have held pre-doctoral and postdoctoral fellowships, plus several visiting appointments, at major research centers in my field (Paris, Geneva, Lyon, Oxford, Rotterdam). I published in Spanish a reference research monograph on Calvin (Anthropos), plus an annotated version of his political writings (Tecnos). My major claims on Calvin have been published in English in French at leading journals in the field (History of Political Thought, History of European Ideas, Pensamiento, Renaissance and Reformation).

For the last five years, I have been working on the philosophy of Pierre Bayle, and in particular his views on political and religious tolerance. I study, on the one hand, how Bayle drew from contemporary debates on religion and politics and, on the other hand, I discuss the practical implications of Baylean views on tolerance.


- La teología política de Calvino , Barcelona, Anthropos, 2008.


Boletin del Jubileo de Juan Calvino 2 (2009); Contrastes vol. XIV (2009); Isegoría 40 (2009); Éndoxa 25 (2010); Revista Internacional de Filosofía Política 35 (2010); Foro Interno 195 (2008).

- Calvino (1509-1564), [nº 139] Madrid, Ediciones del Orto (2009)

- Textos políticos de Juan Calvino , Madrid, Tecnos, 2016.

Reviewed at: Protestante digital (junio 2016), Anuario Filosófico 49/3 (2016) Ágora 36/1 (2017)

Les Lumières radicales et le politique , Paris, Honoré Champion, 2017.

Including papers by: Julie Henry, Antony McKenna, Elena Muceni, Fabrizio Lomonaco, Paolo Quintili, John C. Laursen y Whitney Mannies, María José Villaverde, Charles Devellennes, Javier Peña, Benoît Cadoux, Olivier Ferret, Peter Bàlazs, Lorenzo Bianchi, Marta García-Alonso, Jonathan Israel.

Reviewed at: La Revue philosophique de la France et de l'étranger 4/143(2018)

Some recent papers download here

  • "Tolerance and religious pluralism in Bayle", History of European Ideas 45/6 (2019), pp. 803-16: 10.1080/01916599.2019.1616312
  • "Bayle’s political doctrine: a proposal to articulate tolerance and sovereignty”, History of European Ideas 43/4 (2017), pp. 331-344. 
  • "La Boétie and the neo-Roman conception of Freedom", History of European Ideas 39 (2013), pp. 317-334 
  • "Le pouvoir disciplinaire chez Calvin", Renaissance et Réforme/Renaissance and Reformation 33 (2010), pp. 29-49 
  • "Biblical Law as the source of morality in Calvin", History of Political Thought 32 (2011), pp. 1-19
  •  “Calvin and the Ecclesiastical Power of Jurisdiction”, Reformation and Renaissance Review 10. 2 (2008), pp. 137–155

In Spanish whit a summary in English:  download here

"La inspiración confesional de la Ley de libertad religiosa española: Laicidad de colaboración", Bajo Palabra 19 (2018), pp. 189-201

In this paper, we try to show that the existing Spanish secular model should be defined in terms of collaboration. Religious freedom is interpreted by Spanish judges in a Catholic framework, as an implementation of the Second Vatican Council's Declarations and Constitutions. In this sense, the Catholic Church has managed to impose its authority through privileged agreements with the Spanish State.

"La Leyenda Dorada del Protestantismo", Hispania Sacra 70/141 (2018), pp. 147-156.

It is usually assumed that political modernity and the Reformation go hand in hand. Authors such as Hegel, Tocqueville, Jellinek or Martha Nussbaum find in the Protestant Reformation the origin of ideas such as political freedom or freedom of conscience. In this paper, I will try to analyze the relationship between these two concepts in two fundamental characters in the Calvinist tradition. John Calvin, its founding father, on the one hand, and, on the other, Pierre Bayle, the Rotterdam philosopher who pushed Calvinism to its most heterodox forms in the XVII century. I will show how they both understand the interpretation of the Bible and the political arrangements that they defended for their close context.

“Jonathan Israel et Carl Schmitt. Contre-révolution théologique vs révolution philosophique” en Les Lumiéres radicales et le politique , M. García-Alonso (ed.), Paris, Honoré Champion, 2017. 

Schmitt et Israel souscrivent à l’analyse des idées majeures que Spinoza hérite de la modernité. En revanche, ils ne s’entendent pas sur l’appréciation de cette contribution ni sur le sens qu’il faut donner à cet héritage. Tandis que Spinoza s’avère être l’ennemi par excellence pour Schmitt – juif, libéral et paradigmatique −, il représente pour Israel le pilier du républicanisme démocratique; alors que pour le premier le pêché originel implique l’acceptation d’une anthropologie modérément pessimiste qui fondait la nécessité de l’État, le second assure que le perfectionnement humain et l’idée de progrès sont possibles ; tandis que Schmitt justifie l’existence de la guerre et du concept de katechon en tant que piliers politiques, pour Israel la tolérance universelle d’origine baylienne se pose comme alternative ; si Schmitt considère que le dialogue et le débat constituent de simples distractions bourgeoises qui empêchent de distinguer la véritable nature de la souveraineté – la décision dans un état d’urgence –, Israel estime quant à lui que la dialogue rationnel et philosophique qui suppose la revendication de la liberté de philosopher est la seule forme acceptable pour concevoir des normes morales et politiques ; si le juriste allemand attribue à la théologie catholique l’origine de tout concept politique – au sens historique et systématique –, pour l’historien anglais c’est plutôt dans la philosophie rationnelle matérialiste énoncée par les acteurs des Lumières radicales qu’il faudrait chercher les fondements de la doctrine politique occidentale républicaine et démocratique. Dans ce sens, le travail mené par Jonathan Israel dans sa trilogie sur les Lumières aurait fourni des éléments pour une critique de la théologie comme fondement de la politique moderne et, de ce fait, il nous aurait offert une critique indirecte à l’œuvre de Carl Schmitt. 

“Creencia religiosa y conciencia errónea según Pierre Bayle”, Anuario Filosófico Vol. 48 No. 2, 2015, pp. 35-56 

For centuries it was considered a Christian moral duty to compel everyone to join the Church (compelle intrare), as their salvation depended upon it. This concept of duty presupposes a clear distinction between religious truth and error. For Pierre Bayle, however, religious belief can only be considered a putative truth, sustained by the subjective conviction of the believer. This approach allows Bayle to soften the concept of heresy and to criticize the religious persecutions of his time. 

"La Ciudad de Dios como alternativa al Sueño de Escipión. Los primeros pasos de la teología política cristiana", Pensamiento, vol 65, nº 244, (2009), pp. pp. 197-220 

In this paper, I will discuss what the first phases of the long history of the transformation of Political in the Spiritual patria consisted of and those who made the development possible. In this essay the main protagonists will be Cicero and Saint Augustine. We will see how St. Augustine could complete the transformation of Cicero's political ideal not only theoretically but practically. St. Augustine's great work can be understood to be a replica of Cicero's Republic in which the City of God is made into the Dream of Scipio and the Church occupies the place of the res publica. The theologizing of the political concepts is taken from the modernization process which Schmitt defined as illegitimate politics of the process of secularization of theoretical concepts.

«Tutela e insurrección en los orígenes del derecho de resistencia », Revista Latinoamericana de Filosofía Vol. 33 Nº 1 (2007) pp. 5-25 

I will argue that Calvin’s theses on resistance theory do not allow for a constitutional reading. The people is not the source of political authority and cannot act spontaneously against their rulers if they do not comply with their religious or political duties. Active resistance should be exceptional and only if permission is granted by a political authority acting as the people’s tutor. 

«El control protestante de la transgresión moral: ¿Disciplina o derecho?», Anales de la Cátedra Francisco Suárez 41 (2007) 

This paper discusses the doctrinal foundations of criminal law in Calvin’s ecclesiology, namely his theology of the original sin, and its practical implementation in Geneva’s consistory. On this grounds, I analyse the distinction between civil and ecclesiastical criminal law. Both State and Church were granted by Calvin a ius gladii, but only the former can claim a right to impose physical punishment, whereas the latter should just punish spiritually. Here lies, in my view, the difference between law and discipline. 

«La contrarrevolución jurídica de Calvino», Ius Canonicum 93 (2007), pp. 99-118 

I argue here that the three marks of the Calvininian church (doctrine, sacraments and discipline) restate the three classical powers attributed to the Catholic Church: jurisdictional, sacramental and magisterial. Unlike Luther, for whom the only eclesiastical powers were the authority to preach and teach, Calvin not only acknowledges the magisterial and sacramental powers of the church, but considers also a jurisdictional power with legislative and judicial capability. This jurisdictional dimension is key to explain the role played by the Calvinist church viz a viz the State and its differences regarding other protestant creeds. 

Una ética para los cristianos: el fundamento bíblico de la moral calvinista», Revista Española de Filosofía Medieval 13 (2006) 

In this paper, I discuss the protestant contribution to the modern concept of autonomy on the basis of an analysis of John Calvin’s moral theology. I show that Calvin affirms our incapacity to know and want what is morally good, as expressed by natural law. Such incapacity is compensated by the biblical mandates that, according to Calvin, should be incorporated into the positive legislation of Christian republics. In view of all this, I conclude that Calvin is far from the Kantian idea of autonomy which defines our Modernity. 

«La Teología política de Calvino», Pensamiento 62 (2006), pp. 5-20 

In this paper, I will discuss Calvin’s political theology. First, I will show how the political subject is defined on the basis of his belonging to the People of God. Human institutions are thus divinely ordained in accordance to Calvin’s convenantal theology. Concordantly, the Christian State promotes our obedience to the Will of God through the legal implementation of His mandates, as Calvin argued from a purely theoretical standpoint and as a pastor in Geneva with a view to reform its religious and political institutions. As a result of this analysis, I conclude that Calvin’s political theological should be better appraised as a derivation from previous medieval doctrines that affirmed the divine right of kings, rather than as a source of modern constitutionalism. 

« Carl Schmitt o la imposibilidad de una política secularizada », Isegoría 32 (2005), pp. 235-243 

Carl Schmitt is usually regarded as a critic of modernity for his thesis concerning the theological ascent of the key concepts in the theory of the State. In this paper, I argue that there is more to theology in Schmitt’s thought than a mere genealogical issue. As a matter of fact, the sphere of politics is for him prior to the constitution of the State. It is at that initial stage that Schmitt introduces the key categories of his thinking by means of theological analogies –e.g., basic anthropological choices concerning our capability for good or evil are justified by invoking the myth of the original sin. As a result of an in depth discussion of these analogies, I contend that what it is indeed impossible to secularize are the Schmittian theses themselves. 

«Poder, derecho y secularización. Un apunte sobre Lutero», Revista de Estudios Políticos 129 (2005), pp. 281-301 

The topic I address in this paper is whether the independence of Church and State brought about by the Lutheran Reformation tantamounted to the secularisation of the latter. Taking into account two recent essays by Marshall Berman and John Witte on the Lutheran contribution to the Western legal tradition, I argue that Luther’s criticism of the catholic doctrine of Papal power came hand in hand with a theologization of the foundations of the authority of the State, which is difficult to deem «secular».