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History of Philosophy
Predecessors of St.Thomas
by Turner, William (S.T.D.)

Among the predecessors of St. Thomas in the thirteenth century were Simon of Tournai, Alexander Neckam, Alfred Sereshel, William of Auvergne, Alexander of Hales, John de la Rochelle, and Albert the Great. St. Bonaventure, the contemporary and friend of St. Thomas, and Roger Bacon, the adversary of both St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas, are also included in this chapter.

Simon of Tournai, Alexander Neckam, [12] and Alfred Sereshel [13] (Alfredus Anglicus) began, about the end of the twelfth century and the beginning of the thirteenth, to expound the physical and physiological doctrines of Aristotle and the Arabians. They taught and wrote before the introduction of the translations made from the Greek text of Aristotle, and were attacked by the mystics as innovators and teachers of profane doctrine.
[12] Alexander's principal work, De Naturis Rerum Libri Duo, was edited by Thomas Wright (London, 1863), and is No. 34 of the collection Rerum Britannicarum Medii AEvi Scrtiptores.

[13] Alfred's work, De Motu Cordis, was edited by Barach (Innsbruck, 1878).

Life. William of Auvergne (called also William of Paris) was born at Aurillac towards the close of the twelfth century. About 1220 he was appointed to teach in the episcopal school at Paris, and in a few years he became one of the most celebrated of the theologians of the university. In 1228 he became bishop of Paris. He died in 1249.

Sources. The principal works of William of Auvergne are a metaphysical treatise De Universo, and two psychological treatises, De Anima and De Immortalitate Animae. [14] His collected works were published at Nuremberg in 1496, at Venice in 1591, and at Orleans in 1674. Monograph: Die Erkenntnislehre des Wilhelm von Auvergne, by Dr. Baumgartner (Münster, 1893).
[14] This compilation of a work by Dominicus Gundisalvi is published by Dr. Bulow, Des Dominicus Gundissalinus Schrift von der Unsterblichkeit der Seele (Münster, 1897), pp. 39 ff.

William has for his aim to unite the newly introduced philosophy of Aristotle with the philosophy of St. Augustine and the other Platonists. When, however, he finds that the doctrines of the Arabian Aristotle clash with those of the Christian Platonists, he adopts the traditional Augustinian teaching.

In his theory of knowledge he rejects, on the one hand, the Platonic doctrines of preexistence and of innate ideas, and on the other hand, the Aristotelian doctrine of the active intellect, teaching that, although the soul obtains a knowledge of sensible things from the world of sense phenomena, it is able, nevertheless, to form the species of things in itself and by itself; that is, without the aid of a power such as the active intellect, distinct from itself. Thus, [15] he says, "Similiter (anima) non est recipiens tantum sed etiam actrix et effectrix earum (i.e., specierum) apud semetipsam in semetipsa." Roger Bacon, therefore, was wrong when, after having listened to two lectures by William of Auvergne, he ascribed to him the opinion: "Intellectus Agens est Deus principaliter et secundarlo Angeli qui illuminant nos." [16] In De Universo William explicitly declares that the intellect "levissime commotus (a rebus) earum species ipse sibi ipsi semetipso format." [17]
[15] De An., Q. V, Art. 6 (Orleans edition, p. 124

[16] Opus Tertium, Cap. 23.

[17] P. I, Sect. III, Cap. 3.
Our knowledge of first principles is obtained, William of Auvergne teaches, not from the contingent world, but from God, in whom we perceive them by means of a "special illumination (voluntaria Dei illuxio"). [18] In his solution of the problem of universals he seems to incline towards Platonic realism:
Necesse est res intelligibiles ita se habere sicut de eis testificatur 
intellectus. Testificatur autem eas esse communes, sempiternas, et 
seorsum a generatione et corruptione et ab omni tumultu mutationum. [19]  
[18] De An., VII, 6, p. 211.

[19] De Universo, P. II, Sect. III, Cap. 13.
The passage is, however, capable of being interpreted in the Aristotelian sense.

Historical Position. William of Auvergne represents the first stage in the transition from the Scholasticism of the twelfth to that of the thirteenth century. It was Alexander of Hales who, by the use of the Scholastic method, constructed the first of the great systems of Aristotelian Scholasticism.


Life. Alexander of Hales, [20] Doctor Irrefragabilis, was born in Gloucestershire, England. In 1222 he joined the order of St. Francis. In 1231 he was installed as the first Franciscan teacher of theology in the University of Paris. He died in 1245.
[20] Alexander derived his surname from Hales, or Haillis, in Gloucestershire.
Sources. The principal if not the only work of Alexander of Hales is the Summa Theologiae, which was completed by his pupils in 1252, and published at Nuremberg in 1482 and at Venice in 1575. Works to be consulted: M. Picavet, Abélard et Alexandre de Hales (brochure), De Martigne, La Scolastique et les traditions Franciscaines (Paris, 1888).


Method. Alexander of Hales was the first schoolman who wrote after the entire works of Aristotle had become known in the schools, and the prohibition that debarred some of his predecessors from the study of Aristotle had been removed. His is not the first Summa, Robert of Melun and Stephen Langton having composed Summae in the twelfth century; Alexander's is, however, the first Summa made after the introduction of Aristotle's works. In it we find the Scholastic method fully developed. Instead of the array of antithetical opinions found in Abelard's Sic et Non we find the tripartite arrangement of each question, corresponding to the arrangement afterwards made by St. Thomas under the heads Videtur quod non, Sed contra and Respondetur ad Ium, etc. Besides giving definite form to the Scholastic method, Alexander outlined the plan which St. Thomas and the other great summists were to follow.

Metaphysics. Human reason can arrive at a knowledge of the existence of God, but not at a knowledge of His essence: we can know quia est, but not quid est. [21] Alexander admits the validity of St. Anselm's ontological argument, [22] maintaining that a knowledge of God is natural to man: "Cognitio de Deo in habitu naturaliter nobis impressa est." He distinguishes, however, between cognitio actualis and cognitio potentialis.
[21] Summa, P. I, Q. II, Memb. 2, Art. I.

[22] Ibid., Q. III, Memb. 2.
God is actus purus. Everything else (all created being), is composed of matter and form. Even spiritual substances are composed of spiritual matter, "quae nec est subjecta motui nec contrarietati." This universal matter is different from the universal matter which, according to Avicebrol, is the substratum of all finite existence, for Alexander rejects the pantheistic and Neo-Platonic elements of Avicebrol's philosophy.

With regard to universals, Alexander teaches, in the first place, that they exist ante rem in the mind of God. The Divine Mind is, he thinks, the intelligible world of which Plato speaks: "Mundum intelligibilem nuncupavit Plato ipsam rationem sempiternam qua fecit Deus mundum." [23] In the next place, he teaches that the universals are in re; this may be inferred from his doctrine that the active intellect abstracts the intelligible species from phantasms. [24]
[23] Summa, P. II, Q. III, Memb. 1, with reference to St. Augustine's Retractationes.

[24] Cf. op. cit., P. II, Q. LXIX, Memb. 2, Art. 3.
Psychology. Alexander's psychology, while it is Peripatetic in its general trend, bears evidence of the influence of the Augustinian idea of the soul and its faculties. In the Summa, [25] our philosopher examines seven different definitions of the soul, and decides that the soul, although it is the substantial form of the body, is itself composed of a spiritual matter -- an admission which, as the later schoolmen conclusively show, is incompatible with the substantial unity of man. In his enumeration of the faculties of the soul, he follows the traditional Augustinian division of the powers of the mind into ratio, which has for object the external world, intellectus, which has for object created spiritual substances, and intelligentia, which has for object the rationes aeternae and first principles. Our knowledge of the supersensible world by means of intellect and intelligence is dependent on a special divine illumination. [26] Our knowledge of the external world is rendered possible by the active intellect, which abstracts intelligible species from the material intellect (phantasia). The possible intellect, the receptacle of these species, is the cognitive power of the mind considered as in potency to knowledge. [27]
[25] Op. cit., P. 11, Q. LIX ff.

[26] Cf. De Wulf, op. cit., p. 256.

[27] Cf. Summa, P. II, Q. LXIX.
Historical Position. Alexander's philosophy exhibits, in a less degree than did the philosophy of William of Auvergne, the strife of two elements, -- the Augustinian and the Peripatetic. The Irrefragable Doctor made more extensive use of the writings of Aristotle than his predecessor had done; still he did not succeed in substituting the Aristotelian doctrines of metaphysics and psychology for the Augustinian doctrines which had become traditional in the schools. Alexander's most important contribution to philosophy is his development of the Scholastic method and his application of it to the discussion of theological problems. To him is also due the credit of outlining the plan followed in all the great Summae, and, although his synthesis of philosophical doctrine is lacking in unity and completeness, it cannot be denied that his influence on the summists of the next generation was very great. He was held in high esteem by Albert and St. Thomas; as Gerson says, "Testantur scripta ejusdem Sancti Thomae . . . quam intimum sibi fecerat et familiarem ilium quem laudabat doctorem Alexandrum." [28]
[28] Bartholomew the Englishman was also one of the Franciscan teachers of this period. His principal work, De Proprietatibus Rerum, written about 1260, was translated into English in the fourteenth century. Selections from this remarkable treatise were published in 1893 by Steele, under the title Medieval Lore. Consult Jourdain, Recherches, pp. 358 ff., and Chartul., I, 644 and 649, note 5.
John de la Rochelle (1200-1245) was a disciple of Alexander, under whom he qualified for his license as teacher at Paris. He wrote a treatise, De Anima, in which he defends the Augustinian doctrine of the identity of the soul with its faculties (about which Alexander seems to hesitate), and accentuates the physiological aspect of psychological problems. In the latter point he shows the influence of the Arabian physicists. When, in 1245, he retired from the duties of teacher, [29] he was succeeded by John of Parma, who, in turn, was succeeded by St. Bonaventure.
[29] Cf. Chartul., I, 187. The work De Anima was published at Prati in 1882 by P. Marcellino da Civezza.

Life. St. Bonaventure (John Fidanza), surnamed Doctor Seraphicus, was the most illustrious among the disciples of Alexander of Hales. He was born at Bagnorea near Viterbo, in the year 1221. In 1238 [30] he entered the order of St. Francis. He was sent to Paris, where, as he himself tells us, [31] he had for master Alexander of Hales. In 1248 he received his licentiate; and although in 1253 he undertook the duties of teacher of theology in the Franciscan convent, it was not until 1257 that he made his solemn inceptio, having for fellow-candidate St. Thomas of Aquin. [32] The two saints were employed by their respective orders to defend the mendicants against William of St. Amour, and from the moment of their first acquaintance at Paris until their death, which occurred in the same year, 1274, they maintained a friendship in which they seemed to rise above the spirit of rivalry existing even at that time between the two great orders. St. Bonaventure was made general of the Franciscans in 1257, and was raised to the dignity of cardinal by Gregory X. He died during the Council of Lyons (1274).
[30] Cf. Sbaralea in Bullarium Franciscanum, III, p. 12, n., and in Bonaventurae Opera Omnia, Quaracchi edition, Vol. I, Introd., p. in. The Bollandists (Acta Sanctorum Julii, Vol. III, 781) give the year 1243.

[31] Commentarium in IIum Librum Sententiarum, Dist, XXIII, Art. 2, Q. III.

[32] Cf. Wadding, Annales Franciscani, II, 55. The Bollandists (Acta Sanctor., loc. cit.) doubt this assertion of Wadding's. They maintain that St. Bonaventure was elected general in 1256, and that St. Thomas did not receive his doctorate before 1257. Denifle (Chartul., I, p. 333, note 6) maintains that St. Bonaventure was elected general in 1257, that (ibid., 187, note 5) he was appointed to teach in 1248, and that (ibid., 244, note 5) he may have been magister regens in 1253. It is probable that St. Bonaventure was installed as teacher in the convent of his order in 1248, was appointed master in 1253, and made his solemn inceptio at a later date.
Sources. St. Bonaventure's works were published in Rome (1586-1596), Mainz (1609), and Lyons (1668). They have been republished by the Franciscans of Quaracchi (near Florence). The last volume of this excellent edition appeared in 1902. The most important of St. Bonaventure's works are his Commentaria in IV Libros Sententiarum, De Reductione Artium ad Theologiam, Itinerarium Mentis ad Deum, Breviloquium, and a number of treatises on ascetic theology, such as the Soliloquium, De Regimine Animes, etc. As secondary sources we have Della Vera filosofia, etc., del Serafico Dottor S. Bonaventura by P. Marcellino da Civezza (Genova, 1874), and Die Lehre des heil. Bonaventura, etc., by Krause (Paderborn, 1888).


St. Bonaventure's philosophy is, like that of his two predecessors in the Franciscan chair of theology, a combination of Augustinian with Peripatetic elements. Instead, however, of drawing from the psychology of St. Augustine, the Seraphic Doctor draws rather from the mysticism of the Christian Plato, at the same time retaining in his account of the relation of form to matter some of the anti-Aristotelian tenets which had even in his day become part of the traditional teaching of the Franciscans. He is careful, like his great contemporary St. Thomas, to distinguish between theology, which has for object supernatural truth, and philosophy, which has for object truth of the natural order. He is inclined, however, to attach more importance than St. Thomas does to the emotional and volitional element in philosophy and to the affective, or the ascetico-mystic, aspect of theology. Still, it is possible to set aside for a moment the mystic and emotional elements of his system of thought, so as to enumerate the points of teaching in which he differs from St. Thomas and to treat under separate titles his mysticism and his alleged ontologism.

Metaphysics. All finite being is composed of act and potency. St. Bonaventure, identifying form with act, and matter with potency, teaches the doctrine advocated by Alexander of Hales, -- that there is no form without matter. [33] This is one of the distinctively Franciscan doctrines. The plurality of forms is another. Besides the substantial form, which completes the being of a substance, there are subordinate forms, which are principles of ulterior perfection. [34] With regard to the principle of individuation, -- that by which the individuals of the same species are differentiated from one another, -- St. Bonaventure decides that the individual, hoc aliquid, is individualized both by the matter and by the form:
Si tamen quaeras a quo veniat (individuatio) principaliter; 
dicendum quod individuum est hoc aliquid. Quod sit hoc, principalius 
habet a materia. Quod sit allquid, habet a forma. Individuatio igitur 
in creaturis consurgit ex duplici principio. [35]  
[33] In IIum Sent., Dist. III, P. I, Art. 1.

[34] Cf. In IIum Sent., Dist. XII, Art. 1, Q. III.

[35] In IIum Sent., Dist. III, P. I, Art. 2, Q. III.
The doctrine of rationes seminales is another characteristic doctrine of the Franciscan school. St. Thomas accounts for the production of created substances by postulating the potency of the matter acted upon and the causality, or efficiency, of the agent which acts. Besides these, St. Bonaventure postulates on the part of the matter, principles created with the matter and cooperating with the agent in the production of the effect. Such principles he identifies with the rationes seminales of which St. Augustine speaks. [36]
[36] Cf. In IIum Sent., Dist. VII, P. II, Art. 2, Q. I.
Psychology. In his psychology, St. Bonaventure enumerates memory, intelligence, and will as faculties of the soul, and distinguishes them from the essence of the soul: "Quoniam egrediuntur ab anima, non sunt omnino idem per essentiam." [37] His theory of knowledge is best studied in connection with his mystical teachings.
[37] In IIum Sent., Dist. III, P. II, Art. 1, Q. III.
Mysticism. The mystical elements of St. Bonaventure's system of thought are developed in his Itinerarium Mentis ad Deum and his De Reductione Artium ad Theologiam. He quotes with approval the teachings of St. Bernard and of the Victorines, and in later times he himself became the favorite author of the orthodox mystics. All knowledge, he teaches, takes place by means of illumination. Now there are four kinds of illumination:
(1) lumen exterius, scilicet lumen artis mechanicae; (2) lumen 
inferius, scilicet lumen cognitionis sensitivae; (3) lumen interius, 
scilicet lumen cognitionis philosophiae, et (4) lumen superius, 
scilicet lumen gratiae et Sacrae Scripturae. [38] 
[38] De Reductione Artium ad Theologiam, No. I.
The lumen interius, the light of philosophical knowledge, starting from a knowledge of the sensible world, and of first principles, which are natural gifts, enables us to rise to a knowledge of God; but it is only by the lumen superius, the light of Divine Grace and Holy Writ, that we can arrive at a knowledge of <\>salutary truth, that is, of the truth which is unto salvation. In the Breviloquium, [39] St. Bonaventure adopts the teaching of Hugh of St. Victor, who distinguished the eye of the flesh, by which we perceive the external world, the eye of reason, by which we attain a knowledge of ourselves, and the eye of contemplation, by which we rise to a knowledge of things above us. In the external world we find a trace (vestigium) of God; in ourselves, and especially in the threefold activity of the soul (memory, reason, and will), we find an image (imago) of God. By means of contemplation of higher things we rise to a knowledge of God in His nature and threefold personality. Or rather, we are lifted up to this ecstatic knowledge; for, while it is possible without the aid of Divine Grace to know God as He is shadowed forth in nature and imaged in our own souls, it is impossible without the aid of Divine Grace to acquire any knowledge which is unto salvation, or to rise from the contemplation of higher things to a knowledge of the divine nature and the divine personalities. [40]
Ad contemplationem nemo venit nisi per meditationem perspicuam, 
conversationem sanctam et orationem devotam. [41]

Quam illuminationem nemo novit nisi qui probat, nemo autem probat nisi per gratiam divinitus datam. [42]
[39] II, Cap. 12.

[40] Itinerarium Mentis ad Deum, Capp. 2, 3.

[41] Ibid., Cap. 1.

[42] Breviloquium, p. vi, Cap. 6.
In the highest grade of contemplative knowledge the soul is united with God in mental and mystic ecstasy (excessus mentalis a mysticus), which is described in the last chapter of the Itinerarium as a state in which the soul leaves all sense and intellect, and is lost, as it were, in God:

Si autem quaeras quomodo haec fiant, interroga gratiam, non doctrinam; 
desiderium, non intellectum; gemitum orationis, non studium lectionis; 
sponsum, non magistrum; Deum, non hominem; caliginem, non claritatem; 
non lucem, sed ignem inflammantem et in Deum . . . transferentem." [43]
[43] Itin., Cap. 7.
Is St. Bonaventure an Ontologist? Ontologism maintains (1) that God, the first in order of being, is the first in order of knowledge (primum ontologicum est primum logicum); (2) that, consequently, our knowledge of God is intuitive, not abstractive; (3) that in the light of the idea of God all our other ideas are acquired. Now, on the one hand, St. Bonaventure teaches that we rise from a knowledge of creatures to a knowledge of God: "Deus, qui est artifex et causa creaturae, per ipsam cognoscitur." [44] "Cognoscere autem Deum per creaturas . . . hoc est proprie viatorum." [45] Thus, it is evident that St. Bonaventure does not maintain the priority of our knowledge of God with reference to our knowledge of created things, nor does he maintain that our knowledge of God is intuitive. Moreover, his theory of cognition does not agree with the doctrine that we see all things in God; for, while he maintains that some species intelligibiles are infused, he maintains at the same time that other species are acquired by the abstractive power of the active intellect, and that the mind was at the beginning, a tabula rasa. "Haec autem sensibilia exteriora sunt quae primo ingrediuntur in animam per portas quinque sensuum." [46] On the other hand, many of the teachings of St. Bonaventure are capable of an Ontologistic interpretation. He teaches, for example, that our knowledge of God and of the soul is independent of all sense-knowledge: "Necessario enim oportet ponere quod anima novit Deum et seipsam et quae sunt in seipsa sine adminiculo sensuum exteriorum." [47] He also teaches that the first object of our knowledge is God: "Esse igitur quod primo cadit in intellectu et illud esse est quod est actus purus: restat igitur, quod illud esse est esse divinum." [48] The context, however, shows that these two passages do not prove St. Bonaventure to be an Ontologist. He himself explains that the doctrine contained in the first passage agrees with the Aristotelian principle, "Nihil est in intellectu quod prius non fuerit in sensu," and he gives the key to the second passage when he explains [49] the difference between the intellectus apprehendens, which may understand the effect without understanding the cause, and the intellectus resolvens, which, if it fully "resolves" the effect, must include in a knowledge of the effect a knowledge of the cause, and in the knowledge of any creature the knowledge of God. Besides, when, in a treatise which is professedly mystic, the Seraphic Doctor speaks of God as the first object of knowledge, he may be understood to mean that a knowledge of God is the beginning of that knowledge which is unto salvation.
[44] In Ium Sent., Dist. III, P. I, Q. II.

[45] Ibid., Q. III.

[46] Itin., Cap. 2, No. 4.

[47] In IIum Sent., Dist. XXIX, Art. x, Q. II.

[48] Itin., Cap. 5.

[49] In Ium Sent., Dist. XXVIII.
Historical Position. St. Bonaventure is the type of the orthodox mystic. He reproduces the principles of the Victorine school without any of the exaggerations which characterized the later representatives of that school. He does not oppose the study of philosophy or the use of dialectic. To the Amo ut intelligam of the mystics he adds the Intelligo ut credam and the Credo ut intelligam of the dialecticians. He became, as has been said, the favorite author of the mystics of later times. Gerson, for instance, writes:
Si quaeratur a me quis inter caeteros doctores plus videatur idoneus, 
respondeo sine praejudicio quod Dominus Bonaventura, quoniam in docendo 
solidus est, et securus, pius, justus, et devotus. [50]  
[50] Opera Omnia, Vol. I, p. 21.

Life. Roger Bacon, Doctor Mirabilis, although belonging to the Franciscan order, is not a representative of Franciscan tradition. Still, he reproduces some of the Franciscan doctrines, and for this reason he may be associated with Alexander of Hales and St. Bonaventure. He was born near Ilchester in Gloucestershire, in the year 1214. He studied at Oxford, where be had for masters Edmund Rich, Robert Greathead, and Richard Fitzacre (or Fishacre), from whom he imbibed a love for linguistic, mathematical, and physical sciences. About the year 1245 he repaired to Paris, more suae gentis, as Brucker says, there to complete his studies. He listened, not very respectfully, as his writings show, to Alexander of Hales and, possibly, to Albert the Great. Returning to Oxford, he joined the Franciscan order and became one of the most famous masters at that university. His career, however, was as brief as it was brilliant. He was exiled by the authority of his superiors -- for what reason we are not told -- and lived from 1257 to 1267 in what was virtually a prison belonging to his order in Paris. In 1267 he was liberated by order of Clement IV, and returned to Oxford. In 1278 he was again imprisoned on the charge of insubordination and on account of his violent attacks on the religious orders and the higher clergy. He was liberated in 1292; but so little notice did the master once so famous now attract that not even the date of his death is recorded. [51]
[51] Hauréau, op. cit., III, 82; according to the Kirchenlexikon (Wetzer u. Welte), Roger died in 1294 and was buried at Oxford.
Sources. Bacon's principal works are Opus Majus, Opus Minus (an epitome of the Opus Majus), and Opus Tertium. Besides these he left a Compendium Philosophiae. The Opus Majus was published by Jebb in 1733, and by Bridges (Oxford), 1897. In 1859 Brewer published the remaining works of Bacon (London, 1859). [52] An excellent study of the life of Bacon is found in the work of M. Charles, Roger Bacon (Paris, 1861). Consult also article by Narbey in Revue des questions historiques (January, 1894) and Potthast, Wegweiser, p. 130.
[52] The volume contains the Opus Tertium, Opus Minus, and Compendium Philosophiae. It is No. 5 of the collection Rerum Brit. Medii AEvi Scriptores. On Roger Bacon's works, cf. Whewell, Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, XII, chap. vii.

Reform of Scientific Method. Roger Bacon is rightly regarded as the precursor of his namesake, Francis Bacon; for he was the first to attempt to reform science by advocating the use of observation and experiment. He advocated also the study of mathematics and of languages. But although his efforts were supported by papal authority as long as Clement IV lived, Bacon never attained even a momentary success. The age was not yet tired of metaphysical speculation, and, besides, the intemperate zeal which Roger Bacon expended on the cause of scientific reform was of itself sufficient to bring about the failure of his efforts. He rightly insisted on the use of observation in the investigation of nature; he was, however, not only wrong, but imprudent when, without distinguishing between science and science, he condemned all use of deductive reasoning, even going so far as to say that mathematical proof does not convince unless it is confirmed by experience: "Sine experientia nihil sufficienter sciri potest." [53] Moreover, Roger was somewhat boastful; in his Opus Majus, addressed to Clement IV, he said that he had invented a system of universal grammar by means of which any one might learn Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and Arabic within a few days (infra paucissimas dies). [54] So enthusiastic was he for the study of language that in the same work he advanced the extraordinary opinion that all Christians should read the Scriptures in the original Hebrew and Greek. These exaggerations had their natural effect. Bacon was regarded as a fanatic; he not only failed to influence the thought of his age, but even placed in the way of scientific reform obstacles which were not removed until the end of the Scholastic era.
[53] Opus Majus (ed. 1733), p. 445.

[54] In the Opus Tertium (ed. Brewer, p. 65) Roger is more specific: "Infra tres dies, ego quemcumque diligentem et confidentem docerem Hebraeum." A fragment of Roger's Greek Grammar has just been published by the Cambridge University Press (1902), edited by Nolan and Hirsch.
Philosophy. When Roger Bacon declared that he would burn all the books of Aristotle if he possessed them, he is to be understood as speaking of the translations of Aristotle, which he justly condemned as inaccurate. He held Aristotle, in the greatest reverence, and next to Aristotle he esteemed Avicenna; indeed, he drew much of his philosophical and scientific doctrine from Arabian sources. He agreed with his Franciscan predecessors as to the plurality of forms and the existence of rationes seminales in matter. In his account of the active intellect, however, he goes over to the camp of the Arabian transcendentalists, and not only maintains that the active intellect is separate, but explicitly identifies it with God, -- a doctrine which, as we have seen, he falsely attributed to William of Auvergne.
Et sic Intellectus Agens secundum majores philosophos non est pars 
animae sed est substantia intellectiva alia et separata per essentiam 
ab intellectu possibili. [55]
[55] Opus Majus, p. 26; cf. Opus Tertium, p. 74.
Still, Roger was convinced that in maintaining this doctrine he was not departing from the doctrine of the schools; he believed that he was merely interpreting St. Augustine's teaching concerning the rationes aeternae. [56]
[56] Cf. Opus Majus, loc. cit.; also Opus Tertium (ed. Brewer), p. 74.
The Arabian doctrine that human life and human action depend on the heavenly bodies, -- a doctrine which formed the theoretical basis of magic during the Middle Ages, -- is part of the philosophy of Bacon:
Per coelum enim alteratur corpus, et alterato corpore, excitatur anima 
nunc ad actus privatos, nunc publicos, salva tamen in omnibus arbitrii 
libertate. [57]
[57] Opus Majus, p. 117; cf. Opera (ed. Brewer), p. 560.
Scientific Doctrines. These belong to the history of the physical sciences rather than to the history of philosophy. [58] Bacon seems to have had some knowledge of the reflection and refraction of light, and in more than one passage of his Opus Majus he implies that he was acquainted with the use of the telescope: "Possumus sic figurare perspicua (ut) faceremus solem et lunam et stellas descendere secundum apparentiam hic inferius." [59] Figuier [60] thinks it probable that our philosopher used a combination of a concave mirror and a lens, and that by means of this combination he observed the heavenly bodies. In a work entitled De Secretis Operibus Artis et Naturae, which is ascribed to Bacon by Figuier and others, [61] we find interesting anticipations of modern inventions, such as locomotives (currus etiam possunt fieri ut sine animali moveantur cum impetu inaestimabili), flying machines (instrumenta volandi), and suspension bridges (sine columna vel aliquo sustentaculo). In the Opus Majus (p. 318) the Milky Way is described as composed of many stars, "habens multas stellas congregatas." [62]
[58] Cf. Berthelot, La chimie au Moyen Age (Paris, 1893); Meyer, History of Chemistry, trans. by McGowan (London, 1898).

[59] Opus Majus, p. 357; cf. Opera, ed. Brewer, p. 534.

[60] Cf. Figuier, Vies des savants du Moyen Age (Paris, 1883), p. 202.

[61] Cf. Appendix I to Brewer's ed., especially pp. 534 ff.

[62] Cf. Figuier, op. cit., pp. 209 ff.
Historical Position. Roger Bacon resembled Abelard in his complete lack of respect for authority and scientific prestige. He spoke disparagingly of the Irrefragable Doctor (Alexander of Hales), saying that his Summa was "plus quam pondus unius equi"; he characterized the great Albert as ignorant and presumptuous, and expressed contempt for the linguistic attainments of St. Thomas. He attacked the mendicant orders, the bishops, and the papal court. In this way he brought discredit on the cause which he was otherwise so well fitted to defend. He was certainly the greatest scientific light of the thirteenth century. Had he possessed as much prudence as scientific insight, he would probably have succeeded in his reforms and conferred inestimable benefit on Scholastic philosophy. Albert, who was less of an innovator than Bacon, contributed far more than Bacon did to the advancement of science in the thirteenth century.


Life. Blessed Albert the Great, Doctor Universalis, represents the beginning of the Dominican tradition in philosophy. He was of the noble family of Bollstädt, and was born at Lauingen in Suabia in 1193. About the year 1212 he went to Padua, where for ten years he devoted himself to the study of the liberal arts, including philosophy. In 1223 he entered the order of St. Dominic. After completing his theological studies at Bologna, he taught first at Cologne and other German cities, and later at Paris, where he seems to have eclipsed all his contemporaries. He taught at the convent of St. James, from which, after three years (1245-1248), he was transferred to Cologne, and it was to Cologne that he returned once more when, after three years (1260-1262) spent in Ratisbon as bishop of that see, he resigned the mitre to devote himself exclusively to study. He died in 1280, leaving a reputation for extraordinary learning and almost superhuman knowledge of the secrets of natural science. "Vir in omni scientia adeo divinus," says a contemporary, "ut nostri temporis stupor et miraculum congrue vocari possit."

Sources. Albert's works, comprising twenty-one folio volumes in the Lyons edition of 1651 (reprinted, Paris, 1890 ff.), contain: (1) commentaries on Aristotle's logical, physical, metaphysical, and ethical treatises; in these the text and the exposition of the text are not separated, as they are in St. Thomas' commentaries; (2) philosophical works -- De Causis et Processu Universitatis and De Unitate Intellectus contra Averroem; (3) theological works -- commentaries on Scripture, commentaries on the Sentences, Summa de Creaturis, Summa Theologica, and ascetic treatises, such as the Paradisus Animes. Monograph: Sighart's Albert der Grosse, trans. in abridged form by Dixon (London, 1876).


The philosophy of Albert the Great is mainly identical in spirit and content with that of his illustrious disciple, St. Thomas. There are, however, some points of difference; as, for example, in the doctrine of the existence of rationes seminales and the permanence of the forms of elements in a mixture, both of which are maintained by Albert but rejected by St. Thomas. It may be said, without detracting from the credit due to Albert as one of the greatest exponents of Scholasticism in its final form, that it was his pupil who first imparted to Scholasticism its most compact systematic development.

Logic is divided into two parts, the study of incomplexa, or uncombined elements of thought, and the study of complexa, that is, of judgment and inference. [63] In the second tract of the book, De Praedicabilibus, Albert takes up the study of the problem of universals and answers each of Porphyry's questions according to the principles of moderate realism, which, since the beginning of the thirteenth century, had become the common doctrine of the schools.
[63] De Praedicabilibus, Tract. 1, Cap. 5.
Metaphysics, or philosophia prima, treats of Being and its most universal properties. Under this head is included also the problem of the existence of God. The proof on which Albert places greatest reliance is not the ontological, but the cosmological argument. [64]
[64] Cf. Sum. Theol., P. I, Tract. 3, Q. XVIII, Memb. 1.
Cosmology. Albert teaches that God created the world ex nihilo, according to exemplars (species et rationes omnium creatorum) existing eternally in the Divine Mind. [65] The world is not the best possible world. [66]
[65] Op. cit., P. I, Tract. 13, Q. LV.

[66] Ibid., Tract. 19, Q. LXX VII, Memb. 3.
Psychology. The soul is an immaterial principle, the form of the body: "Ex anima et corpore fit unum naturaliter et substantialiter." [67] The intellect is a faculty of the soul, independent indeed of the body (non affixa organo), yet receiving from the organism the material of thought. It is not the intellect that is fatigued, but the organism (motus phantasmatum et discursus spiritus) which ministers to it. [68] Albert composed a treatise in refutation of the Arabian doctrine that the intellect is one for all men.
[67] Sum. Theol., P. II, Tract. 12, Q. LX VIII.

[68] Summa de Creaturis, P. II, Tract. r, Q. LIX.
Scientific Doctrines. It was as a student of nature that Albert showed the universality of his genius. He was an authority, in his day, on physics, geography, astronomy, mineralogy, botany, alchemy, zoblogy, physiology, and phrenology. His contributions to natural science are quite as important as his contributions to philosophy. Indeed, his chief merit as a philosopher lies in the fact that he did more than any of his predecessors to establish in philosophy the spirit of scientific investigation. It is true that he borrowed many of his scientific doctrines from Aristotle; nevertheless, he did not hesitate to criticise Aristotle and to reprove those who regarded Aristotle as infallible: "Si autem credit ipsum (Aristotelem) esse hominem, tunc procul dubio errare potuit sicut et nos." [69] He borrowed also from the Arabian and Jewish commentators of Aristotle, but he hints that personal observation led him to hold various physical doctrines which he did not feel justified in mentioning in his commentaries:
Physica enim tantum suscepimus dicenda plus secundum peripateticorum 
sententiam prosequentes ea quae intendimus quam ex nostra scientia. [70]  
[69] In Libros de Physico Auditu, Tract. 1, Cap. 14; Opera, Vol. II, p. 332.

[70] De Somno et Vigilia, Tract. i, Cap. 12.
"Dicta peripateticorum, prout melius potui, exposui," he says at the end of his book, De Animalibus, "nec aliquis in eo potest deprehendere quid ego ipse sent iam in philosophia naturali."

Albert's original contributions to natural science cannot be mentioned here except in a general way. He was the first to use the term affinity to designate the cause of the combination of elements. He rejected the current theory that baser metals may be changed into gold by means of the philosopher's stone. [71] Still, he maintained the possibility of transmuting one metal into another; for all metals are naturally produced by the earth from a combination of sulphur and mercury (argentum vivum); they differ, therefore, by an accidental, not by a substantial form. [72] Albert's observations and experiments in botany, zoology, and physical geography are mentioned in terms of the highest praise by Humboldt. [73]
[71] De Mineralibus, Lib. II, Tract. 1.

[72] Libellus de Alchimia, p. 2.

[73] Cosmos, Vol. II, Cap. 6. cf. also Revue Thomiste, March and May, 1893.
Historical Position. Albert is, without doubt, the greatest of the Christian expounders of Aristotle who appeared before the time of St. Thomas. We have seen that he is not a slavish follower of Aristotle; he takes cognizance of the work done by the Jews and Arabians, he acknowledges the debt that Christian philosophy owes to Plato and the Platonists, and in the region of physical science he advances by the exercise of personal observation beyond the doctrine of Platonists and Peripatetics. Great, however, as was Albert's erudition, -- for he seems to have been exceptionally well read in the literature of physical science, -- his knowledge of the succession of systems of thought was singularly inaccurate: he speaks, for example, of Plato as deriving certain doctrines from the Epicureans. [74]
[74] Cf. De Decem Praedicamentis, Tract. II, Cap. 4.
Albert's chief merit lies in the success with which he expounded Aristotle's physical doctrines, and in the impulse which his own researches in physical science gave to the investigation of nature. He was lacking in the power of synthesizing the scattered elements of knowledge into a compact system of thought. In this respect he was excelled by his illustrious pupil, St. Thomas, whose future glory he foretold, and whose renown as a teacher outshone his own, throwing greater luster on the Church and on the order of St. Dominic, to which both Albert and St. Thomas belonged.


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