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Albert the Great (1200–80)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-B004-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 15, 2024, from

Article Summary

Albert the Great was the first scholastic interpreter of Aristotle’s work in its entirety, as well as being a theologian and preacher. He left an encyclopedic body of work covering all areas of medieval knowledge, both in philosophy (logic, ethics, metaphysics, sciences of nature, meteorology, mineralogy, psychology, anthropology, physiology, biology, natural sciences and zoology) and in theology (biblical commentaries, systematic theology, liturgy and sermons). His philosophical work is based on both Arabic sources (including Alfarabi, Avicenna and Averroes) and Greek and Byzantine sources (such as Eustratius of Nicaea and Michael of Ephesus). Its aim is to insure that the Latin world was properly introduced to philosophy by providing a systematic exposition of Aristotelian positions.

Albert’s method of exposition (paraphrase in the style of Avicenna rather than literal commentary in the style of Averroes), the relative heterogeneity of his sources and his own avowed general intention ‘to list the opinions of the philosophers without asserting anything about the truth’ of the opinions listed, all contribute to making his work seem eclectic or even theoretically inconsistent. This was compounded by the nature and number of spurious writings which, beginning in the fourteenth century, were traditionally attributed to him in the fields of alchemy, obstetrics, magic and necromancy, such as The Great and the Little Albert, The Secrets of Women and The Secrets of the Egyptians. This impression fades, however, when one examines the authentic works in the light of the history of medieval Aristotelianism and of the reception of the philosophical sources of late antiquity in the context of the thirteenth-century university.

Citing this article:
De Libera, Alain. Albert the Great (1200–80), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-B004-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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