Katja Krause (Max Planck Institut, Berlin)

Human Themes in Albert the Great’s Natural Philosophy


Some of the most contested spaces of philosophical and theological dispute during the Scholastic period concerned the human being: the composite nature of humans, the human soul and intellect, and the possibility of human intellectual perfection and the attainment of happiness in this life and/or the afterlife. In this talk, I explore Albert’s mature view of the human being as presented in his natural philosophical works. I first examine Albert’s assessments of physiognomy and physiology and the dispositions that enable individual humans to acquire the scientiae, as discussed in his Metaphysica and De animalibus. I then turn to his views on psychology and the intellectual development that results from the pursuit of the philosophical scientiae, as reflected upon in De anima, De intellectu et intelligibili, and De natura et origine animae. I argue that Albert’s integration of different explanatory levels—physical composition, physiological and psychological functioning, and intellectual development— allowed him to deliberate philosophically on human nature and its possibilities for perfection in a matchlessly holistic fashion. Perhaps most remarkable is that Albert thus brought together many Aristotelian and Peripatetic teachings that others, such as his student Thomas Aquinas, found difficult to reconcile.


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