ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf


266. Life and Works. -- Albert of Bollstädt, commonly known as Albertus Magnus or Albert the Great, was born of the family of the Counts of Bollstädt in the year 1193, or, according to others, in 1206 or 1207. He took the habit of St. Dominic in 1223. A lengthened scientific education, combined with much travel, had wonderfully developed his great natural genius. He tells us himself that he took observations of a comet in Saxony (1240), and went abroad to study the nature of the metals. From 1228 to 1245 he taught successively at Cologne, Hildesheim, Freiburg, Ratisbon, Strassburg, then again at Cologne, where, in 1245, he had among his pupils Thomas Aquinas. It was in Paris, from 1245 to 1246, that he taught theology as magister with exceptional renown. It was then he commenced the publication of his vast scientific and philosophical encyclopedia. This was practically finished in 1256, but he kept on perfecting it to the end of his life.{1} When he returned to Cologne, in 1248, to establish the studium generale that had been decided on at the general chapter of the order in June, he had Thomas Aquinas again among his pupils. In 1252 Albert himself recommended his eminent pupil to the magister regens of the order at Paris for promotion to the bachelorship. Subsequent to this date, Albert's numerous judicial labours, his cares as provincial of the German province from 1254 to 1257, and later as bishop of Ratisbon (1260-1262), drew him away somewhat from study. After resigning those charges he withdrew to the convent of Cologne, which he made his habitual residence, teaching and writing there. In 1270 we find him in correspondence with Giles of Lessines on the subject of the theses condemned a few months subsequently by Stephen Tempier (313), and when in 1277 the condemnations of the bishop of Paris touched the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas, Albert travelled to Paris to defend the teachings of his former pupil. He died at Cologne, on the 15th of November, 1280.{2}

Even during his own lifetime, Albert had earned a world-wide reputation as a man of science. Roger Bacon, though no friend of his, bears testimony to this fact. In Albert's case an exception was made to the general rule recognized in the thirteenth century, of not quoting living authors by name. The illustrious Dominican was declared the equal of Aristotle, Avicenna and Averroës.{3}

The works of Albert form a library in themselves. To convince ourselves of this we have only to consult the catalogue of the abbey of Stams -- an invaluable repertory of Dominican works down to the third decade of the fourteenth century, continued and completed by Lawrence Pignon (fl. 1449).{4} The following are Albert's principal works: --

(1) Philosophical Writings. -- (a) Paraphrases: De Praedicabilibus; De Praedicamentis; De Sex Principiis; Perihermenias; Analytica; Topica; Libri Elenchorum; Physica; De Coelo et Mundo; De Natura Locorum; De Proprietatibus Elementorum; De Generatione et Corruptione; De Meteoris; De Mineralibus; De Anima; De Sensu et Sensato; De Memoria et Reminiscentia; De Intellectu et Intelligibili; De Somno et Vigilia; De Spiritu et Respiratione; De Motibus Animalium; De Morte et Vita; De Vegetalibus; De Animalibus; Metaphysica; Ethica (two separate works); Politica; and various smaller treatises.

(b) More original treatises: De Unitate Intellectus contra Averroïstas; Quindecem Problemata contra Averroïstas; De Causis et Processu Universitatis, -- a study of the gradations of order among created things. The Summa Philosophiae Naturalis, or Philosophia Pauperum, of which the authenticity is contested, sums up his teaching on the natural sciences.

(2) Theological Writings, all of which contain much philosophy: Commentaries on the Sentences of Peter Lombard; the Summa Theologiae (numerous doctrines, as well as plan of the whole, borrowed from Alexander of Hales); the Summa de Creaturis, which reconsiders some of the matters contained in the second part of the Summa Theologiae and the De Anima.

{1} MANDONNET, in the Dict. de Théol. Cath., t. i., col. 666.

{2} DE LOË terminates his account of Albert's regesta with this well-deserved judgment: "nullus eo tempore in tam diversis negotiis simul tantus exstitit" (De Vita et Scriptis, etc., cf. 271).

{3} Nam sicut Aristoteles, Avicenna et Averroës allegantur in scholis, sic et ipse" (R. Bacon, Opera Inedita, Brewer's edit., p. 30). Similarly Giles of Lessines writes: "haec est positio multorum magnorum et praecise Domni Alberti quondam Ratisponensis episcopi" (De Unitate Formae, De Wulf's edit., p. 36).

{4} This catalogue is published by DENIFLE, Quellen z. Gelehrtengesch. d. Predigerordens, etc. See 237.

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