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Albert The Great. Questions Concerning Aristotle's On Animals.

ALBERT THE GREAT. Questions Concerning Aristotle's On Animals. Translated by Irven M. Resnick and Kenneth F. Kitchell, Jr. The Fathers of the Church Mediaeval Continuation, vol. 9. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2008. xxxiii + 574 pp. Cloth, $69.95--By the summer of 1248, Albert the Great had been the Regent Master of Theology, holding the Dominican chair for foreigners at the University of Paris for three years. He was then sent by his Dominican superiors to Cologne to establish a new studium for the order. This provided Albert with an opportunity to design a theology curriculum from the ground up. As his published works show, he included in his curriculum studies of a number of then newly available Aristotelian texts. Indeed, Albert's use of this Aristotelian material was as far-ranging as it was innovative. Not only did he provide lectures and disputations on Aristotle's psychology and ethics, as one might expect in a school of theology, but he also found a place for natural philosophy, even to the point of introducing his students to the details of zoological research. The text translated in this volume, a reportatio of a series of disputed questions derived from Aristotle's zoological treatises, supplies evidence of this. The Libri de Animalibus had been translated from the Arabic into Latin by Michael Scotus at Toledo sometime during the first quarter of the 13th century. Albert had clearly become acquainted with this text while at Paris and, by 1258, was expert enough to present these quaestiones in the studium at Cologne.

These disputed questions belong to Albert's second period at Cologne when he was serving as lector at the studium following his resignation as provincial of the German province in 1257. The reporter who transcribed and edited the questions was one Conrad of Austria whose name appears, along with the date 1258, in a colophon to a manuscript now in the Bibliotheca Ambrosiana in Milan. That Albert disputed questions on Aristotle's zoology had long been known from medieval catalogues, but this reportatio seems to have been lost until the Milan manuscript came to light in 1922. Eventually, other manuscripts were discovered and, in 1955, Ephrem Filthaut prepared a critical edition for the Editio Coloniensis of Albert's works. The translation of Resnick and Kitchell that appears in this volume is the first English version of the text and is accompanied by notes, bibliography, and index.

The questions correspond to the topics covered by Aristotle in his three longest zoological treatises collected under the title "De animalibus" in the Arabic-Latin version of Michael Scotus. The text is divided into nineteen books: books I through X corresponding to the Historia animalium including the disputed book X, books XI through XIV corresponding to the De partibus animalium, and books XV through XIX corresponding to the De generatione animalium. Each book is divided into a series of questions based on topics arising from the text. Each question is set out in typical disputation fashion: beginning with a series of objections, then an oppositum based on the text of Aristotle, Albert's general response to the question, followed by his specific responses to each of the objections. The questions address topics according to the general order of Aristotle's books, but do so in an abbreviated manner. As Resnick and Kitchell point out in their introduction, it is probable that at the time Albert disputed these questions, he was already at work on his De animalibus libri XXVI, a massive paraphrastic commentary on the same Aristotelian works. Thus, he may have intended that anyone needing more extensive access to Aristotle's animal studies could consult his longer work.

This last point is illustrated by Albert's treatment of the logical structure of zoological research in book XI of the disputed questions. He here treats in a summary fashion the two stages of scientific research, the relation of theoretical description to scientific demonstration, the use of division in zoological description, and the order of the causes in zoological explanation. All of these topics are more thoroughly treated in the corresponding book of his longer De animalibus. In the longer commentary, Albert provides far more detail of these methodologies, discussing them in the context of the Aristotelian reform of the Platonic method of division and the suppositional character of natural necessity. The disputed questions, however, remain valuable as a summary of the more extensive treatment. They also provide historical evidence of Albert's attitude of the place of natural philosophy in theological studies and of the relation of faith and reason generally.--Michael W. Tkacz, Gonzaga University.
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Author:Tkacz, Michael W.
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 1, 2009
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