Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/303

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ALBERTUS
ALBERTUS
265

"On the Apocalypse" (38). Sermons (13). The "Quindecim problemata contra Averroistas" was edited by Mandonnet in his "Siger de Brabant" (Freiburg, 1899). The authenticity of the following works is not established: "De apprehensione" (5); "Speculum astronomicum" (5); "De alchimia" (38); Scriptum super arborem Aristotelis" (38); "Paradisus animæ" (37); "Liber de adhærendo Deo" (37); "De Laudibus B. Virginis" (36); "Biblia Mariana" (37).

III. Influence.—The influence exerted by Albert on the scholars of his own day and on those of subsequent ages was naturally great. His fame is due in part to the fact that he was the forerunner, the guide and master of St. Thomas Aquinas, but he was great in his own name, his claim to distinction being recognized by his contemporaries and by posterity. It is remarkable that this friar of the Middle Ages, in the midst of his many duties as a religious, as provincial of his order, as bishop and papal legate, as preacher of a crusade, and while making many laborious journeys from Cologne to Paris and Rome, and frequent excursions into different parts of Germany, should have been able to compose a veritable encyclopedia, containing scientific treatises on almost every subject, and displaying an insight into nature and a knowledge of theology which surprised his contemporaries and still excites the admiration of learned men in our own times. He was, in truth, a Doctor Universalis. Of him it in justly be said: Nil tetigit quod non ornavit; and there is no exaggeration in the praises of the modern critic who wrote: "Whether we consider him as a theologian or as a philosopher, Albert was undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary men of his age; I might say, one of the most wonderful men of genius who appeared in past times" (Jourdain, Recherches Critiques). Philosophy, in the days of Albert, was a general science embracing everything that could be known by the natural powers of the mind; physics, mathematics, and metaphysics. In his writings we do not, it is true, find the distinction between the sciences and philosophy which recent usage makes. It will, however, be convenient to consider his skill in the experimental sciences, his influence on scholastic philosophy, his theology.

IV. Albert and the Experimental Sciences.—It is not surprising that Albert should have drawn upon the sources of information which his time afforded, and especially upon the scientific writings of Aristotle. Yet he says: "The aim of natural science is not simply to accept the statements [narrata] of others, but to investigate the causes that are at work in nature" (De Miner., lib. II, tr. ii, i). In his treatise on plants he lays down the principle: Experimentum solum certificat in talibus (Experiment is the only safe guide in such investigations). (De Veg., VI, tr. ii, i). Deeply versed as he was in theology, he declares: "In studying nature we have not to inquire how God the Creator may, as He freely wills, use His creatures to work miracles and thereby show forth His power: we have rather to inquire what Nature with its immanent causes can naturally bring to pass" (De Cœlo et Mundo, I, tr. iv, x). And though, in questions of natural science, he would prefer Aristotle to St. Augustine (In 2, Sent. dist. 13, C art. 2), he does not hesitate to criticize the Greek philosopher. "Whoever believes that Aristotle was a god, must also believe that he never erred. But if one believe that Aristotle was a man, then doubtless he was liable to error just as we are." (Physic. lib. VIII, tr. 1, xiv). In fact Albert devotes a lengthy chapter to what he calls "the errors of Aristotle" (Sum. Theol. P. II, tr. i, quaest. iv). In a word, his appreciation of Aristotle is critical. He deserves credit not only for bringing the scientific teaching of the Stagirite to the attention of medieval scholars, but also for indicating the method and the spirit in which that teaching was to be received. Like his contemporary, Roger Bacon (1214–94), Albert was an indefatigable student of nature, and applied himself energetically to the experimental sciences with such remarkable success that he has been accused of neglecting the sacred sciences (Henry of Ghent, De scriptoribus ecclesiasticis, II, x). Indeed, many legends have been circulated which attribute to him the power of a magician or sorcerer. Dr. Sighart (Albertus Magnus) examined these legends, and endeavoured to sift the truth from false or exaggerated stories. Other biographers content themselves with noting the fact that Albert's proficiency in the physical sciences was the foundation on which the fables were constructed. The truth lies between the two extremes. Albert was assiduous in cultivating the natural sciences; he was an authority on physics, geography, astronomy, mineralogy, chemistry (alchimia), zoölogy, physiology, and even phrenology. On all these subjects his erudition was vast, and many of his observations are of permanent value. Humboldt pays a high tribute to his knowledge of physical geography (Cosmos, II, vi). Meyer writes (Gesch. der Botanik): "No botanist who lived before Albert can be compared with him, unless it be Theophrastus, with whom he was not acquainted; and after him none has painted nature in such living colours, or studied it so profoundly, until the time of Conrad, Gesner, and Cesalpini. All honour, then, to the man who made such astonishing progress in the science of nature as to find no one, I will not say to surpass, but even to equal him for the space of three centuries." The list of his published works is sufficient vindication from the charge of neglecting theology and the Sacred Scriptures. On the other hand, he expressed contempt for everything that savoured of enchantment or the art of magic: "Non approbo dictum Avicennæ et Algazel de fascinatione, quia credo quod non nocet fascinatio, nec nocere potest ars magica, nec facit aliquid ex his quæ timentur de talibus" (See Quétif, I, 167). That he did not admit the possibility of making gold by alchemy or the use of the philosopher's stone, is evident from his own words: "Art alone cannot produce a substantial form". (Non est probatum hoc quod educitur de plumbo esse aurum, eo quod sola ars non potest dare formam substantialem—De Mineral., lib. II, dist. 3).

Roger Bacon and Albert proved to the world that the Church is not opposed to the study of nature, that faith and science may go hand in hand; their lives and their writings emphasize the importance of experiment and investigation. Bacon was indefatigable and bold in investigating; at times, too, his criticism was sharp. But of Albert he said: "Studiosissimus erat, et vidit infinita, et habuit expensum, et ideo multa potuit colligere in pelago auctorum infinito" (Opera, ed. Brewer, 327). Albert respected authority and traditions, was prudent in proposing the results of his investigations, and hence "contributed far more than Bacon did to the advancement of science in the thirteenth century" (Turner, Hist. of Phil.). His method of treating the sciences was historical and critical. He gathered into one vast encyclopedia all that was known in his day, and then expressed his own opinions, principally in the form of commentaries on the works of Aristotle. Sometimes, however, he hesitates, and does not express his own opinion, probably because he feared that his theories, which were "advanced" for those times, would excite surprise and occasion unfavourable comment. "Dicta peripateticorum, prout melius potui exposui: nec aliquis in eo potest deprehendere quid ego ipse sentiam in philosophiâ naturali" (De Animalibus, circa finem). In Augusta Theodosia Drane's excellent work on "Christian