Albert the Great Criticism - Essay

Joachim Sighart (essay date 1876)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Philosophical and Theological Works Written by Albert at This Period," in Albert the Great, of the Order of Friar-Preachers: His Life and Scholastic Labours, translated by T. A. Dixon, 1876. Reprint by Wm G. Brown Reprint Library, pp. 101-19.

[In the following excerpt, Sighart surveys the writings Albert produced while he resided and taught in Paris and Cologne.]

Contemplation, prayer, and preaching were to [Albert] but the accessories of the greatest activity, the adornment, the joy of his life, a sweet recreation and an interior refreshment amid his more serious studies. The principal work to which he felt himself called was, besides teaching, his labours as...

(The entire section is 3398 words.)

Lynn Thorndike (essay date 1929)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Albertus Magnus," in A History of Magic and Experimental Science during the First Thirteen Centuries of Our Era, Vol. II, The Macmillan Company, 1929, pp. 517-92.

[In the following excerpt, Thorndike examines Albert's representative thoughts on magic and natural science, his influence on his students, and his reputation among various critics and biographers.]

It may be well at the start to indicate the scope and character of Albert's works in the field of science. In general they follow the plan of the natural philosophy of Aristotle and parallel the titles of the works then attributed, in some cases incorrectly, to Aristotle. We have eight books of physics,...

(The entire section is 10100 words.)

Thomas Greenwood (essay date 1932)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Albertus Magnus: His Scientific Views," in Nature, Vol. 129, No. 3251, February 20, 1932, pp. 266-68.

[In the following essay, Greenwood comments on Albert's scientific writings "as they represent the state of scientific knowledge in the Middle Ages."]

"Everything there was to be known, he knew." Thus is the genius of Albert the Great characterised by the Pope in the remarkable Bull "In Thesauris Sapientiæ" declaring the blessed Bishop of Regensburg a saint and a doctor of the Church. In this "Decretal Letter", dated Dec. 16, 1931, but published on Jan. 14, 1932, Pope Pius XI. points out that Albert the Great (1206-1280) was not only a lover of God, a pastor...

(The entire section is 1950 words.)

Thomas M. Schwertner (essay date 1932)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "All-Seeing Naturalist" and "Theologian," in St. Albert the Great, The Bruce Publishing Company, 1932, pp. 210-29, 270-95.

[In the following excerpt, Schwertner describes the breadth and depth of Albert's erudition both as a scientist and a theologian.]


One of the inevitable results of the assiduous cultivation of the history of the various natural sciences, so characteristic of all scientific research today, is the rehabilitation of Albert's good name as a scientist. Scholars in goodly numbers are again thinking it worth their while to seek to evaluate his original contributions to the various sciences and to...

(The entire section is 13785 words.)

S. M. Albert (essay date 1948)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Doctor Universalis," in Albert the Great, Blackfriars Publications, 1948, pp. 59-88.

[In the following essay, Albert discusses the accomplishments of Albert the Great as a scientist, philosopher, and theologian, stressing "the universality of his genius" and his vocation as a teacher.]

In one of his books Ulrich von Strassburg, who is usually described as St Albert's favourite pupil, says of his master that "he was the wonder and miracle of his age"; and Pius II in his dogmatic letter to the Turks 1464, hails him as one "who was ignorant of nothing, and knew all that was knowable." In his preface—in verse after the fashion of the times—to the first printed...

(The entire section is 9719 words.)

Stanley B. Cunningham (essay date 1967)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Albertus Magnus on Natural Law," in Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. XXVIII, No. 4, October-December, 1967, pp. 479-502.

[In the following essay, Cunningham maintains that Albert's writings in his De bono constitute a significant development in the Medieval conception of natural law.]

In the history of the concept of natural law and its development in the Middle Ages, a privileged authority is commanded by the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. By comparison, only scant attention has been paid to speculations in the area of law and morals carried out by Thomas' teacher, Albert the Great (1206-1280), and still less to the extent of Thomas' dependency...

(The entire section is 10095 words.)

Dorothy Wyckoff (essay date 1967)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to Book of Minerals, by Albertus Magnus, translated by Dorothy Wyckoff, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1967, pp. xiii-xlii.

[In the following excerpt, Wyckoff presents an overview of Albert's life and discusses the nature of his scientific writings, specifically of his Book of Minerals.]


Albert was a famous man even in his own time but, as so often with famous men of the Middle Ages, contemporary biographers omitted much that we should like to know about him. Modern scholars have had to piece together the sometimes contradictory statements in medieval chronicles and histories of the Dominican Order, local...

(The entire section is 9519 words.)

Stanley B. Cunningham (essay date 1969)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Albertus Magnus and the Problem of Moral Virtue," in Vivarium, Vol. VII, 1969, pp. 81-119.

[In the following essay, Cunningham examines Albert's treatise on ethics, Do bono, arguing that the work displays an innovative concern with "the purely natural and human elements of morality."]


Within the intellectual upheaval that attended the appearance of Greek philosophical literature in the Latin West in the early thirteenth century, a special problem was put for Christian moralists when they were confronted by the theory of natural virtue contained in the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle. Not...

(The entire section is 14946 words.)

James R. Shaw (essay date 1979)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Albertus Magnus and the Rise of an Empirical Approach in Medieval Philosophy and Science," in By Things Seen: Reference and Recognition in Medieval Thought, edited by David L. Jeffrey, University of Ottawa Press, 1979, pp. 175-85.

[In the following excerpt, Shaw argues that Albert's works were among the first to emphasize experimentation in the biological sciences.]


Insofar as it is possible to generalize meaningfully about such things, it is true that at the beginning of the thirteenth century Plato was the establishment philosopher, but at the end of the same century he was not so firmly established. At the end of the century,...

(The entire section is 4547 words.)

Léonard Ducharme (essay date 1980)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Individual Human Being in Saint Albert's Earlier Writings," in Albert the Great: Commemorative Essays, edited by Francis J. Kovach and Robert W. Shahan, University of Oklahoma Press, 1980, pp. 131-60.

[In the following essay, Ducharme analyzes Albert's "ambiguous and puzzling" metaphysics of individual being and dicusses in detail his borrowings from Christian faith, Aristotle, the Doctors of the Church, and Neoplatonism..]

The self-standing value of individual beings often appears as holding little interest for philosophers and metaphysicians. Since they are mainly preoccupied with the universal and the necessary, they grant scant recognition to the...

(The entire section is 11266 words.)

Pearl Kibre (essay date 1980)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Albertus Magnus on Alchemy," in Albertus Magnus and the Sciences: Commemorative Essays 1980, edited by James A. Weisheipl, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1980, pp. 187-202.

[In the following essay, Kibre focuses on Albert's association with the Medieval science of alchemy and on several apocryphal alchemical texts sometimes attributed to him.]

Albert's interest in alchemy, the art, in his words, that best imitates nature, is revealed in the references to the subject in his authentic writings, particularly the Book of Minerals (Liber mineralium), his Commentary on Aristotle's Meteorology, and other tracts....

(The entire section is 5053 words.)

Nicholas H. Steneck (essay date 1980)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Albert on the Psychology of Sense Perception," in Albertus Magnus and the Sciences: Commemorative Essays 1980, edited by James A. Weisheipl, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1980, pp. 263-90.

[In the following essay, Steneck explores Albert's theory of sense perception, arguing that it typifies the general level of scientific understanding in the field at the time.]

By the mid-fourteenth century, when the anonymous Tractatus ad libros Aristotelis … was copied, most Latin writers in the scholastic tradition held in common a conceptualization of sense perception that served well the needs of natural philosophers, theologians, and physicians...

(The entire section is 8962 words.)

Katharine Park (essay date 1980)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: "Albert's Influence on Late Medieval Psychology," in Albertus Magnus and the Sciences: Commemorative Essays 1980, edited by James A. Weisheipl, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1980, pp. 501-35.

[In the following excerpt, Park discusses Albert's theory of the soul and its importance to Medieval psychological theory, including that of his student Thomas Aquinas.]

Albert wrote four major works on the soul: a commentary on De anima; Summa de homine (Book II of his Summa de creaturis); De natura et origine animae; and De intellectu et intelligibili. The first two were the most important for...

(The entire section is 2287 words.)

Simon Tugwell (essay date 1988)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction in Albert and Thomas: Selected Writings, edited and translated by Simon Tugwell, Paulist Press, 1988, pp. 3-129.

[In the following excerpt, Tugwell investigates Albert's theological writings on epistemology, especially those that concern human knowledge of God.]

In 1241 William of Auvergne, by now bishop of Paris, together with the Masters of the University, issued a formal condemnation of several propositions, of which the first is that "the divine essence will not be seen in itself either by any human being or by any angel." The ninth proposition is that "whoever has better natural endowments will of necessity have more grace and glory," which...

(The entire section is 16008 words.)