Schools and Scholars" (419 sqq.) there are some interesting remarks on "a few scientific views of Albert, which show how much he owed to his own sagacious observation of natural phenomena, and how far he was in advance of his age.…" In speaking of the British Isles, he alluded to the commonly received idea that another Island—Tile, or Thule—existed in the Western Ocean, uninhabitable by reason of its frightful clime, "but which", he says, has perhaps not yet been visited by man". Albert gives an elaborate demonstration of the sphericity of the earth; and it has been pointed out that his views on this subject led eventually to the discovery of America (cf. Mandonnet, in "Revue Thomiste", I, 1893; 46–64, 200–221).
V. Albert and Scholastic Philosophy.—More important than Albert's development of the physical sciences was his influence on the study of philosophy and theology. He, more than any one of the great scholastics preceding St. Thomas, gave to Christian philosophy and theology the form and method which, substantially, they retain to this day. In this respect he was the forerunner and master of St. Thomas, who excelled him, however, in many qualities required in a perfect Christian Doctor. In marking out the course which others followed, Albert shared the glory of being a pioneer with Alexander of Hales (d. 1245), whose "Summa Theologiæ" was the first written after all the works of Aristotle had become generally known at Paris. Their application of Aristotelean methods and principles to the study of revealed doctrine gave to the world the scholastic system which embodies the reconciliation of reason and Orthodox faith. After the unorthodox Averroes, Albert was the chief commentator on the works of Aristotle, whose writings he studied most assiduously, and whose principles he adopted, in order to systematize theology, by which was meant a scientific exposition and defence of Christian doctrine. The choice of Aristotle as a master excited strong opposition. Jewish and Arabic commentaries on the works of the Stagirite had given rise to so many errors in the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries that for several years (1210–25) the study of Aristotle's Physics and Metaphysics was forbidden at Paris. Albert, however, knew that Averroes, Abelard, Amalric, and others had drawn false doctrines from the writings of the Philosopher; he knew, moreover, that it would have been impossible to stem the tide of enthusiasm in favour of philosophical studies; and so he resolved to purify the works of Aristotle from Rationalism, Averroism, Pantheism, and other errors, and thus compel pagan philosophy to do service in the cause of revealed truth. In this he followed the canon laid down by St. Augustine (II De Doct. Christ., xl), who declared that truths found in the writings of pagan philosophers were to be adopted by the defenders of the true faith, while their erroneous opinions were to be abandoned, or explained in a Christian sense. (See St. Thomas, Summa Theol., I, Q. lxxxiv, a. 5.) All inferior (natural) sciences should be the servants (ancillæ) of Theology, which is the superior and the mistress (ibid., 1 P., tr. 1, quaest. 6). Against the rationalism of Abelard and his followers Albert pointed out the distinction between truths naturally knowable and mysteries (e.g. the Trinity and the Incarnation) which cannot known without revelation (ibid., 1 P., tr. III, quæst. 13). We have seen that he wrote two treatises against Averroism, which destroyed individual immortality and individual responsibility, by teaching that there is but one rational soul for all men. Pantheism was refuted along with Averroism when the true doctrine on Universals, the system known as moderate Realism, was accepted by the scholastic philosophers. This doctrine Albert based upon the distinction of the universal ante rem (an idea or archetype in the mind of God), in re (existing or capable of existing in many individuals), and post rem (as a concept abstracted by the mind, and compared with the individuals of which it can be predicated). "Universale duobus constituitur, naturâ, scilicet cui accidit universalitas, et respectu ad multa, qui complet illam in naturâ universalis" (Met., lib. V, tr. vi, cc. v, vi). A. T. Drane (Mother Raphael, O.S.D.) gives a remarkable explanation of these doctrines (op. cit. 344–429). Though follower of Aristotle, Albert did not neglect Plato. "Scias quod non perficitur homo in philosophiâ, nisi scientiâ duarum philosophiarum, Aristotelis et Platonis" (Met., lib. I, tr. v, c. xv). It is erroneous to say that he was merely the "Ape" (simius) of Aristotle. In the knowledge of Divine things faith precedes the understanding of Divine truth, authority precedes reason (I Sent., dist. II, a. 10); but in matters that can be naturally known a philosopher should not hold an opinion which he is not prepared to defend by reason (ibid., XII; Periherm., 1, I, tr. l, c. i). Logic, according to Albert, was a preparation for philosophy, teaching how we should use reason in order to pass from the known to the unknown: "Docens qualiter et per quæ devenitur per notum ad ignoti notitiam" (De prædicabilibus, tr. I, c. iv). Philosophy is either contemplative or practical. Contemplative philosophy embraces physics, mathematics, and metaphysics; practical (moral) philosophy is monastic (for the individual), domestic (for the family), or political (for the state, or society). Excluding physics, now a special study, authors in our times still retain the old scholastic division of philosophy into logic, metaphysics (general and special), and ethics.
VI. Albert's Theology.—In theology Albert occupies a place between Peter Lombard, the Master of the Sentences, and St. Thomas Aquinas. In systematic order, in accuracy and clearness he surpasses the former, but is inferior to his own illustrious disciple. His "Summa Theologiæ" marks an advance beyond the custom of his time in the scientific order observed, in the elimination of useless questions, in the limitation of arguments and objections; there still remain, however, many of the impedimenta, hindrances, or stumbling blocks, which St. Thomas considered serious enough to call for a new manual of theology for the use of beginners—ad eruditionem incipientium, as the Angelic Doctor modestly remarks in the prologue of his immortal "Summa". The mind of the Doctor Universalis was so filled with the knowledge of many things that he could not always adapt his expositions of the truth to the capacity of novices in the science of theology. He trained and directed a pupil who gave the world a concise, clear, and perfect scientific exposition and defence of Christian Doctrine; under God, therefore, we owe to Albertus Magnus the "Summa Theologica" of St. Thomas. (See Alexander of Hales, Aristotle, Averroes, Bacon, Roger; Paris, University of; Philosophy, Rationalism, Scholasticism, Thomas Aquinas, St.; Theology.)