Albert the Great

Medieval theologian, philosopher, and scientist


Related topics
Philosophy, Medieval, Germany, Science, Medieval, Early works, History,


Picture of Albert the Great
Source: Wikipedia

Albertus entered the newly founded Dominican order in Padua (Italy) in 1223. He taught in a number of Dominican schools in Germany (1228-1245), then at Paris (1245-1248) and Cologne (1248-1255), where he had Thomas Aquinas as his student. One of his last efforts was to defend Aquinas's theology in Paris in 1277 after the death of Aquinas in 1274.

Albertus mastered Aristotle's thought, which had a profound effect on the church through Aquinas. He also read the Jewish thinkers Gabirol and Maimonides, as well as Arab philosophers (Averroes, Avicenna, and Algazel) who brought Aristotelian philosophy in Arabic to Europe through Spain, where it was later translated into Latin. Albertus, though, did not accept certain ideas in Averroes's thought which could not be adopted in a Christian framework (for example, that God was separated from the world except for intelligences emanating from God; and that matter is eternal).

Albertus's writings laid the groundwork for future generations of scholars. He wrote twenty-one volumes, primarily commentarIies on Aristotelian philosophy and the beginnings of a theological system based on Aristoile. He also wrote commentaries on the Sentences of Peter Lombard and on a number of biblical books. A careful student of nature, he wrote a treatise based on Aristotle's prescientific works on nature; some of his ideas were brilliant and were later substantiated by scientific inquiry Because he studied nature, Albertus was often accused of neglecting theological pursuits. Because he sought to be exhaustive in his writings, his thought often digressed and was not presented in a logical manner. But he was careful to distinguish what was ascertained by revelations, pointing to the limitations of rational thought. He regarded revelation as primary in testing any thought (for example, philosophy cannot explain the triunity of God), although he did engage in speculative discussion. He adopted the same approach toward the existence of God. By drawing upon Aristotle and attempting to synthesize a philosophy and theology Albertus Magnus insisted that human knowledge could be used to discover divine mysteries.

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