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102 B.M.



Albert the Great provided his times with a very rich and carefully
worked out science of the natural world built on the Aristotelian
model. His exposition in some respects. however. lacks the precision
and consistency of Aquinas, and is not altogether free of imperfectly
assimilated vestiges of Neoplatonism. Neither Albert or Aquinas
were able fully to appreciate Aristotle's empirical method in biology, Albertus Magnus on Suppositional
but modern commentators have hardly done better. Necessity in the Natural Sciences
Albert understood natural science to be an investigation of the
facts and causes of changeable bodies as they undergo regular
change through natural processes. Such a science must be based on
sense experience. It can and should use mathematics as an instru-
ment of research, but not to provide ultimate explanatory principles. William A. Wallace. OP
It should be logically systematized by proceeding from the general The Catholic Lniversit\' of America
properties of all naturally changeable bodies. hut should extend its
researches down to the special properties of every specific kind of
body, coming ultimately to a study of the human being. It should
seek strict, causal demonstrations when possible. working backward Albertus Magnus is commonly recognized as the master who.
from stable elements, compounds. and organic living things to the more than any other, championed the cause of ..\ristotle's natural
processes by which they are regularly produced in nature. Natural science in the University of Paris and thus gave stimulus to the Aris-
science discovers its own limits, leaving room for a metaphysics to · totelianism that was to flourish in the Latin West until the time of
consider wider and deeper aspects of reality. It is valuable for its Galileo. 1 Considerably senior to his celebrated student, Thomas
technological application, but more valuable for the contribution it Aquinas, and thus more subjected to the Neoplatonism and Augusti-
makes to the life of the intellect. and most valuable as leading nianism present at the university when he lectured there, Albert is
toward a better understanding of how we should live. For the Chris- also regarded as more Platonic in his thought than was Aquinas. 2
tian. however. the light which natural science casts on the world The latter evaluation of Alben·s philosophy poses an interesting
requires support and even correction from the light of revealed truth. problem when juxtaposed with his enthusiastic support for the
scientiae naturales of Aristotle. It also raises a question as to the
meaning of the Aristotelian term sciemia ( ~rrtari}µ71) "'when com-
pared with its English equivalent "science ... as the latter term has
come to be understood in the present day. For Aristotle. scientia is A."'1.<
the highest form of human knowledge. true and certain because f-
achieved through apodictic demonstrations. and thus yielding con-
clusions about a subject matter that cannot be otherwise. 3 For Plato,

i See William A. Wallace. "Albertus :vtagnus. Saint." Dic11vnar1· o( Scien11fic Biography. 1

(1970): 99-103.
Some of Albert's teachings that support such an interpretation are given in Etienne Gilson.
History of Christian Philosophy in 1he Middle Ages (London. 1955). pp. 277-294. 666-673.
Posterior Analylics 1.2 (7lb8-12).


as is well known, such an ideal could never be realized in the chang- ally recognized in the Latin Wesc. To our knowledge the first com-
ing world of appearances studied by the naturalise. At best, in the mentator to become explicitly aware of the connection between them
Platonic world view~is_~:lik~~~ By and large. philos- was Thomas Aquinas. In a recent study we have focused on Aqui-
'} / l_,~ ophers of modern science are no more sanguine in their expectations. nas' exposition of the technique of demonstrating ex suppositione
The characteristic method of "science." in their view. is not that finis as providing Aristotle's basic answer to the problem of how
sketched in Aristotle's Posterior Anafrtics. which claims to yield cer- there can be a scientia naturalis in the strict sense of sr;ientia. 8 What is
tain knowledge. Rather. a hypothetico-deductive methodology is more. in another study we have argued that ·this technique as
generally seen as characteristic of scientific investigation. and this explained by Aquinas was known through the later Middje Ages and
can never yield certitude. but only probability. 5 When evaluating the was explicitly advocated by Galileo as the basis on which he con-
philosophy of science implicit in the work of Albertus Magnus, structed his nuova scienza of motion at the onset of the modern
therefore, an intriguing question arises. Was this Doctor unii•ersalis a period. 9 Now. since Aquinas was Albert's disciple. and surely would
strict Aristotelian in his commitment to demonstrative methodology, have had access to his commentaries on the Analrtics and the Phvsics
or did he stand midway between the Platonist view of natural science (no less than to his commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics). an
as a likely story and the fallibilist evaluation of modern science as engaging speculation presents itself - a speculation that. apart from
providing a probable but ever revisable account of nature and its showing a transmission of knowledge from master to disciple, may
operations? An answer to this question based on Albert's commenta- shed light on the question raised in the opening paragraph of this ,
• r \. f ,0
•~• '.s./ll,.it'' v~,' "'} ~ ~,
ries on Aristotle is the burden of this essay.
Aristotle. of course, could know nothing of the direction that
essay'. Coul~ it be that_ Albertus Magnus had already anticipated the
technique ot ex suppos1tione reasoning later explained by Aquinas. or (
'.J.r'1''- \e,c-· I recent science and its philosophy were to take. but he surely was at least supplied the basic elements from which Aquinas drew his \
? ~,,,.: ~· '·'·c("" aware of the Platonic objection that his ideal of scientia naturalis own, fuller, solution? ...._)
~ rr
,) ·~r·.( '. 1

·. ,,....h
t would have to overcome. Nature, for him as for Plato, is particular,
variable, and contingent; scientia, on the other hand, must be univer- .; ,
This further elaboration of the problem makes it somewhat more
complex, but it provides both an historical and a systematic frame-
'.J sal, unvarying, and necessary. How, then, can one attain necessary~ work within which to work. Our investigation will accordingly pro-
knowledge of a subject matter such as nature, which apparently can ceed in three stages. The first will consider a somewhat enigmatic
~ )
.l!!~b,e somewhat otherwise than it is? In the view of the writer text of Aristotle in its various translations, and the sense that Aqui-
Aristotle faced up to this__~ and formulated his answer in nas makes of this in terms of the technique of ex suppositione demon-
._;_,Chapter 9 of Book II of the Physics. 67J-le did so in rather cryptic fash- stration detailed in his commentaries on both the Phvsics and the
ion. however. and translations of his Greek text into medieval Latin Posterior Ana(vtics. The second stage will then concentrate on corre-
(as those into English) leave somewhat obscure. if not garbled. the sponding treatments in the Aristotelian commentarie!\_of Albertus 2. ·J
main lines of his solution. Apparently Aristotle also gave hints as to Magnus. The third stage, finally. will attempt to situate Albert with
how demonstrative methodology could be applied to the changing respect to Aquinas, as well as briefly to assess the later import of his
world of nature when laying out his general logic of scientific investi- work for the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century and for
gation in the Posterior Analytics. 1 The connection between these tw_o the solution of contemporary problems in the philosophy of science.
treatments. i.e., the general logical canons of the Ana(vtics and their
particular application in the Physics. appears not to have been gener-

Timaeus 290: also Republic 7. 530o-533A: Phi/ebus 55o-57E. ' "Aquinas on the Temporal Relation Between Cause and Effect." The Review of
' For a general description of this methodology. see Carl G. Hempel. Philosophy of Natural '4etaph_vsics 27 (1974). 569-584.
Science (Englewood Cliffs. N.J .. 1966), pp. I9-32. -...'Ga1i!e6"and Reasoning Ex Suppositione: The Methodology of the Two New Sciences," in
• 199b33-200b9. Proceedings of the 1974 Biennial Meeting of the Philosoph_v of Science Association, ed. R. S.
7 1.8 (75b2I-36). 11.11-12 (94a20-96a19).
Cohen et al. (Dordrecht-Boston, 1976). pp. 79-104.

106 W. A. WALLA CE

h '
A.i\ji., ',
A. ARISTOTLE AND AQUINAS In this passage Aristotle is distinguishing between two types of
.p J '.J-·.
necessity, one conditional and the other absolute. as is clear from the ,, ,'d'. ,:..!'_

The classical locus in which Aristotle treats the method of demon- first sentence. The remainder of the discussion is apparently making ( ''
Vµ.-.-( ..

strating in scientia naturalis, as already remarked. occurs in the sec- the point that Aristotle's contemporaries believed necessity in nature
ond book of his Physics. Throughout this hook Aristotle has been to be absolute. because a natural thing acts in ways that are deter-
discoursing about nature. how the consideration of the naturalist mined by its material cause. i.e .. by the matter out of which it is
differs from that of the mathematician. what kinds of causal explana- made. Aristotle seems to take exception to this vievi. however. and
tions are available for natural phenomena. how chance and contin- holds instead that necessity in nature is conditional. and in some
gency can disrupt the regularity of nature's operation. and the way in way related to the final cause. i.e .. to that for the sake of which the
which nature acts for an end. The latter consideration leads him to natural operation comes about. He concludes his argument. then.
, pose his final methodological questions. namely:what kind of neces- with the puzzling statement that what is necessary exists by hypothe-
sity characterizes nature's operation. and how this type of necessity sis, but "not as an end. for it exists in the matter. while the hnal
!--ls.. comirienforate with the manner of demonstrating that is required cause is in the reason ...
of a scientia naturalis. The substance of Aristotle's answer to these The passage as a whole is cryptic. and both translators and com-
questions is found in the following passage. given in literal English mentators have puzzled for centuries over its true meaning. For our
translation and with the Greek equivalents of the more significant purposes it may be sufficient to give the Greek text of the first and
terms indicated in parentheses: the last sentences. and then illustrate the diversitv of translations of
these two sentences into medieval Latin and contemporary English.
As for that which is of necessity ( ava-yK175 ), does it exist by hypothesis The Greek reads as follows:
( E~ i11ro8EO'EWf) or also simply ( a'lrAWf)? Nowadays it is thought that
what exists by necessity does so in generation ( ev TU ')'E11eun ). as if To 0' t~ ava')'K'17S 1f0Ttpov t~ U1fo8EuEWS urapxEL ~ KO.L a7rAws;
one were to consider the wall as having been constructed by necessity, t~ inro8EO'EWS 01' TO ava.')'KO.LOll, &XX' ovx

t 'Ya.P Tfi ii>-.11 To ro o• ou Tc!' M')' 41 •

since what is heavy is carried down by its nature and what is light is a11a.')'Ka.to11, tvua. iv
carried up by its nature, and so the stones and the foundations are
down, then earth right above because it is lighter. and finally wood at In the second half of the twelfth century these sentences were ren-
the very top since it is lightest. However, although a wall is not con- dered into Latin by James of Venice as follows:
structed without these, still it is constructed not because of these -
except in the sense that they are causes as matter ( vA17ll) - but for the Quod autem ex necessitate est utrum ex conditione sit aut et
sake of(<i.At.' EllEKa.) sheltering and preserving certain things. Similarly. simpliciter. ... Et opus ipsius ex suppositione necessarium est. sed non
in all other cases in which there is a final cause ( EllEKa. ). although what sicut finis: in materia enim necessarium est. quod autem est cuius
is generated could not have been generated without the nature (r~ll causa fit. fit in ratione. 12 - "

cfhnll ) that is necessary for it. still it is not because of what is neces-
Note here that James is not consistent in his rendering of the Greek
sary - except as a material cause ( uA17ll) - but for the sake of some-
~~ uro8l.:1nw5 , but translates it the first time as ex conditione and the
thing (at.'/\ EVEKa rou ). For example, why is a saw such-and-such? So
that this may come to be or for the sake of this. But this final cause second as ex suppositione. In another Latin translation. however,
( EVEKa. ) cannot come to be unless the saw is made of iron. So if there which usually accompanied Averroes' Great Commentary on the
is to be a saw capable of doing this work. it is necessary that it be made Physics and is generally attributed to Michael Scot. neither of these
of iron. What is necessary, then, exists by hypothesis ( i:~ inro8i:uEW5) two Latin expressions occur, but rather two others. namely. a
and not as an end ( ri:f.05 ); for it exists in the matter ( Ell rfi i!A.17 ).
while the final cause ( fllEKa. ) is in the reason ( Ell r4J AD'YIJ! ). 10
II Ibid.
Ibid.; for the Latin text we have used the editio princeps of Averroes commentary on the
10 Physics 11.9 (199b33-200al6). Physics (Padua. ca. 1472-1475). since no critical edition is yet available.


positione and ex positione. The latter translation was made from an ends, and thus] unconditionally? ... Necessity. then. is hypothetical.
Arabic text that had previously been translated from the Greek, pos- but not as an end. In other words, necessity is in the material: the end
is in the "logos." 16
sibly also via a Syriac version, and reads as follows:
Et considerandum est de necessitate utrum sit a positione aut (4) Apostle:
simpliciter. ... Ex positione igitur erit necessitas. non ex fine intenta: As for that which is necessary. does it exist by hypothesis or also sim-
necessitas enim est in materia. et illud propter quid est in diffinitione. 13 ply? ... What is necessary. then. exists by hypothesis and not as an
end: for it exists in matter. while final cause is in-the formula. 17
Apart from the differences in translating E~ irrrofHcHw5 . there are
other noteworthy changes, such as that from sicut finis to ex fine (5) Charlton:
intenta. that from cuius causa to propter quid. and the different ways Is that which is of necessity. of necessity only on some hypothesis. or
of rendering M)'o5 as ratio and diffinitio respectively. can it also be simply of necessity? .. .The necessary. then. is necessary
With such a diversity to work from. it is not surprising that vernac- on some hypothesis. and not as an end: the necessary is in the matter.
ular translators have failed to arrive at a consistent reading. To our the "that for which" in the accountY
knowledge there are now five different English versions. all of which Among these translations. Apostle's is the most literal. and is sub-
take one or other liberty with the text and none of which is com- stantially the text reproduced in its entirety above. Suffice it to add
pletely clear and unambiguous in its meaning. These five are the fol- that these five different English versions have literally hundreds of
lowing: counterparts in medieval and Renaissance Latin commentaries. to
say nothing of translations into other vernaculars.
(1) Hardie and Gaye:
Apart from this classical locus in the Phrsics. Aristotle also
As regards what is "of necessity," we must ask whether the necessity is touches on the matters that relate to methodology in natural science " r·~~,
"hypothetical," or "simple" as well .... What is necessary then, is nec-
essary on a hypothesis; it is not a result necessarily determined by ante-
cedents. Necessity is in the matter, while "that for the sake of which" is
"'":£;c.;, i,..' when elaborating his doctrine of demonstration in the Posterior
Analytics. Some of these references occur in the first book, where
general questions are asked: whether demonstrations must always
~'2 ~""'
in the definition. 14 concern incorruptible and eternal things. and also whether there can
(2) Wicksteed and Cornford: be demonstration of things that fall under sense knowledge or of
merely fortuitous events. In the second book there are passages that
The phrase "must of necessity" may be used of what is unconditionally
necessary or of what is "necessary to this or that." ... The necessity, relate to demonstrations made through a number of causes. and the
then. is conditional, or hypothetical. The purpose. mentally conceived. ordering of causal explanations am;ng themselves. which supply a
demands the material as necessary to its accomplishment; but the framework in which the discussion at the end of the second book of
nature of the material, as already existing. does not "necessarily" lead the Phvsics may be located. Also of methodological iMerest is Aris-
to the accomplishment of the purpose. 15 totle's treatment of cases involving a temporal interval between
cause and effect, and the possibility of demonstrating future events
(3) Hope: and things that happen only for the most part. Finally. in the first
In what sense. then, does anything happen "necessarily"? "Condition- book of De partibus animalium Aristotle repeats the canons given for
ally" [in subjection always to ends]? Or also [without any reference to demonstrating in natural science in the Physics. and works out in
detail the import of such canons for developing a science of zoology.
13 Ibid .. again using the editio princeps cited in the previous note. • Aristotle's Physics. newly translated by Richard Hope (Lincoln, Neb., 1961 ). p. 39.
14 Aristotle. Ph_vsica. translated by R. P. Hardie and R. K. Gaye. in The Works of Aristotle Aristotle's Physics, translated with commentaries and glossary bv Hippocrates G. Apostle
Translated Into English. ed. W. D. Ross. vol. 2 (Oxford, 1930) l99b. (Bloomington, Ind .. 1969). p. 40.
2 18
Aristotle's Physics 1. 11. translated with introduction and notes by Walter Charlton. Claren-

1' Aristotle. The Physics. translated by Philip H. Wicksteed and Francis M. Cornford.

vols .. The Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge. Mass., 1957). vol. l. pp. 179-181. don Aristotle Series (Oxford, 1970), pp. 42-43.

Thomas Aquinas did not comment on the De partibus animalium, and necessary knowledge of the world of nature, even though in the
and thus it is impossible to know what he would have made of the individual case a particular result willrigf be attained. Tt also allows~
specific instructions laid down there for the study of animals. He did the possibility of reasoning from a cause to an effect that is not fully
comment. however. on both the Phvsics and the Posterior Ana~vtics. achieved until after some time has elapsed. and from a cause that.
and in both of these expositions he worked out a consistent interpre- because of something that may hav~ happened in the interim. may y
tation of Aristotle's methods for demonstrating in the scientiae never produce the intended effect. QJ.Llbe_ supposition that the effect
naturales. 19 The central technique. as already mentioned. he identifies i:?__!O be produced. the prior cause~re universally necessitate~,~and
tO\: ,,.rJ' :.
as one of demonstrating ex suppositione Jinis. The necessity that char- '-~the-requirement for their existence could not be otherwise - with
0 ilc:>'Cf( , ;t "' acterizes scientia naturalis, in Aquinas' understanding. is not so the result that all the demands of a strict sc1entw are satisfied. !tis
\" •• ,tJ}···
much an absolute necessity (although some types of explanation may further noteworthy that Aquinas. when commenting on the Posterior
,;_'('j_P'.. (~ ~.) involve a necessity of this type). as it is a conditional necessity. which A nalrtics. explicitly refers to the second book of the Phrsics and the
may be understood as the demand for whatever may be required to techniques there outlined for demonstrating ex suppositione finis. as
achieve a certain end. The reason for the latter is that nature is con- providing the answers to difficulties involving hoth defective and
f. tingent in its operations. or stated otherwise. that natural things time-dependent causality. 21
\11i come into being through '-'
that do not always
occur invari- This brief sketch of Aristotle's and Aquinas' teaching. truncated
\ably. Nature does act for an end. but the agents it employs and the though it is. provides a setting in which Albert's teaching on demon-
materials with which it works can be defective. and thus it is not strative methodology in scientia naturalis can he explained. A con-
completely determined in its operation. Because this is so. one can- venient way of doing this is first to take up a question that is not in :tf ,'.J'_" ~
not argue from prior causes to the effects they intend to produce: either Aristotle or Aquinas but is explicitly raised by Albert. namely. \ j :,,-;
~-".V.h.~tl!.er _it__is. possible to have a scien~e of_n'1J.llre. 1This wi_~~ lead to an . . ) tr ~
00 01%,· r' '"' "'F
v(·n ~ ·;, ·l .
rather. one must proceed in the reverse direction and. on the basis of
the effect to be realized. reason back to the causes that will be t analysis of Albert's teaching on the nnality otnaftiYeand the way-
this entails a conditional necessity in its operation. A third section

entailed in its realization. Aquinas illustrates this with the example of
the olive tree, for from the fact that one plants an olive seed he can- t will then explain how Albert himself envisaged the application of
not be certain that a fully developed tree will be generated from it. I this methodology when elaborating the part of natural science deal-
whereas. on the supposition of the olive tree's existence, he can rea- ing with animals.
son back to the strict necessity of an olive seed. 20 The example of the
house is similar. in the sense that although all the materials that go to B. ALBERT ON THE PossrnILITY oF A Sc1ENTIA NATL'RALIS
(;\ ~/. [J ........ make it up dictate necessities by reason of their being different types
'r . \ , of matter. the purpose for which the house is being built. which is At the very outset of his exposition of the Phrsics Albert raises
'( \ O' 1 reflected in the plan of the builder, is the final cause that dictates some preliminary queries. among which is the question Utrum sit
why the materials come to be arranged in the way in which they ulti- scientia de physicis, vel non? 22 The query, he says. is proti'ipted by the
mately are. objections of Heraclitus and his followers. who bring three
· Aquinas' interpretation, which bases the necessity on the end or difficulties against the possibility of a science of natural things. The
final cause. may not seem to agree with the last sentence of the pas- first is that natural entities exist in an infinite variety of ways. and so
sage from Aristotle cited above in its various versions and transla- cannot be comprehended by the human intellect. The second argu-
tions. but it serves to explain rather well ~.?-\V. there can be univ~r~al ment denies the possibility of obtaining definitions that can serve as
middle terms. and thus rejects the possibility of achieving strict dem-
onstrations such as a scientia would require. And the third objection
" See the texts referenced in Wallace. "Aquinas on the Temporal Relation Between Cause
and Effect," pp. 572-573.
rests on the basic instability of natural forms. which are constantly in
20 In 1 Anal. post. lect. 42, n. 3; for the English translation. see St. Thomas Aquinas.

Commentary on 1he Posterior Analvtics of Aristotle. translated by F. R. Larcher (Albany. 1970). " Ibid.; see also Int Anal. post. lect. 16. n. 6 (tr. Larcher. pp. 54-55).
p. 148. " Phys. I. tr.I. c.2 (ed. Borgnet 3: 4b).


motion and never remain in the same state. and so cannot be the Albert does not explicitly use the expression ex rnppositione or enter
object of a scientific demonstration. which deals only with things into details of the demonstrative process in a natural science.
that are unvarying and necessary. Here Albert interjects the remark although his answer to the first Heraclitean objection may be seen as
that Ptolemy was persuaded by the last argument to believe that implicitly involving this doctrine. Much the same can be said for
there could not be a science of nature. but only opinion about it. as Albert's treatment of problems relating to demonstration as these are
witnessed by the diversity of opinions among naturalists. which is far taken up 111 his exposition of the Posterior .·lnalrtics. To our knowl-
from the agreement found among mathematicians. Albert does not edge he do::s not discuss conditional necessity in tl1~~1 work. or use
side with Ptolemy. however. but states his own position unequivocal- the expressions t:X conditione and ex suppositione as these are
ly: "We. however. say that there is scientia and demonstration of employed in Book 2 of the Physics. For example. when discussing
physical things. because they have subjects and properties. and prin- whether definition and demonstration must he of "incorruptibles ...
ciples through which attributes can be proved of their subjects." 23 Albert reviews the opinions of Alfarabi. Themistius. and Alexander
In taking this stand. Albert has effectively rejected the Platonist of Aphrodisias. He also gives indication of having perused Robert
position as well as the Heraclitean. as becomes apparent from the G rosseteste's commentary on the A nalrtics to see how he handled
ways in which he replies to the objections. As to the first. he is quite the yuestion. and gives his own solution in terms that are not very
willing to admit the force of Heraclitus's objection if the work of different from Grosseteste's. 27 A lunar eclipse. when referred to the
nature is to produce variety in individuals. hut this is not its task. moon as its proper attribute. is not always occurring and thus is not
which is rather the production of things complete in natural essen- a universal and an incorruptible: when referred to the causes that
tials. and these are nothing more than the species that the natural produce 1t. however. there is always the .. universal eclipse:· and this
scientist studies. In Albert's view it is the ··complete entity (ens is "always necessary since it results from the orderly motion of the
completum) that is intended by nature: this is finite. and is made so sun and the moon .... " 28 Similarly. when explaining why there can-
by its essential causes taken in a real sense. which are form and mat-
ter, and [grasped] through the moving cause. which is the efficient
agent. and through the cause to which the motion tends, which is the t not be strict demonstration of fortuitous events and of things that
fall directly under sense knowledge. Albert again has recourse to uni-
versals as his way out of the difficulty that this poses for developing a
end." 24 Albert handles the second objection in a similar way. holding
that univocal definitions can be given of essential species. even
though there can be a vast multitude of individual differences that
' scientia naturalis. He does attribute a significant role to sense knowl-
edge. however. allowing that it is only because we observe eclipses
occurring at different times and under different circumstances that
arise from the dispositions of matter. but which are never the princi- we are able to discover the universal explanation that makes a dem-
pal result intended by nature in its operation. 25 And this. in turn. onstrative science of eclipses possible. 29
provides an answer to the third objection. for natural science Albert comes closer to the ex suppositione doctrine when discuss-
achieves its necessity through abstraction from individual matter. ing in the Ana~\'tics the cases of multiple causality such as those that
and this yields a universal concerning which there can be necessary concern the naturalist. and also the problem of time in~rval between
knowledge. 26 cause and effect. Here he stresses that arguments from efficient cause
It is noteworthy that throughout his treatment of this question. and from final cause are appropriate in both the natural and
mechanical sciences. since the end is what is principally intended in
23 Ibid. (3: 5b). Elsewhere Albert cites Ptolemy on this point with approval: see Metaph. I.
these disciplines. 30 Albert also cites Aristotle's example of the freez-
tr.l. c.l (ed. Colon. 16/l: ! line 27 and note). and below. pp. 122-126. The writer discusses the
apparent inconsistency and its relation to Albert's methodology in his "The Scientific Method-
ology of St. Albert the Great," forthcoming in the A/bertus-Magnus Festschrift to appear tn "See W. A. Wallace. C11usali1r and Scien1ijic Explanatwn. 2 \Ols. iAnn Arbor. 1972). I: 66-
1980 under the editorship of Gerbert Meyer. OP. 67.
24 Phys. 1. Ir.I. c.2 (ed. Borgnet 3: Sb). " Post. Anal. 1. tr.2. c.17 (ed. Borgnet 2: 65a).
25 Ibid. (3: 6a).
" Ibid .. tr.5. c.7 (2: 143h).
26 Ibid. (3: 6a-b ). 30
Post. Anal. 11, Ir.3. c.4 (2: 202a-b).


ing of water caused by the absence of internal heat, and acknowl- because they are convinced that the only necessity found in the
edges this as a type of demonstration wherein cause and effect are world of nature is that deriving from the matter of which natural
simultaneous. If the cause and the thing caused are not simultane- things are composed. 34 This leads them to ascribe everything that
ous. however. then Albert admits that this circumstance places a lim- happens in nature to chance. and to say that the use of the various
itation on the wav in which one can reason about them. He makes parts of animals. for example, follows from the way in which these
the statement that "when the cause itself is posited the thing caused parts are arranged and not from any utility that guided their
is not posited de necessitate, but conversely when the thing caused is formation. 35 Albert rejects this teaching. affirming that those who
posited then the cause must be posited de necessitate." 31 Thus. when regard everything in nature as arising from chance are just as much
an effect is to occur later in time. the principle of demonstration in error as those who wish to eliminate chance events completely and
must be taken from what is to be achieved later. rather than from the maintain that everything in nature is absolutely determined. For
earlier cause. even though this may rightly be regarded as the Albert, as for Aristotle, the chance occurrence is a reality in nature
principium essendi of the effect. 32 Throughout these discussions. how- that must be taken into account. but it is something of rare and infre-
ever, Albert makes no reference to the Phrsics. nor does Aristotle's quent occurrence, and this enables one to differentiate between it
text on which he is commenting. although their statements are obvi- and what is from nature. Natural processes occur regularly and for
ously dictated by the type of problem encountered in the scientiae the most part. whereas chance events do not. Moreover. nature itself
naturales. can be identified with either the matter or the form. and it is the form
that is attained regularly and for the most part in natural processes
C. ALBERT ON FINALITY AND SUPPOSITIONAL NECESSITY that is actually the final cause. that for the sake of which natural
things come to be.3 6
Albert's explicit treatment of suppositional necessity. not surpris- Albert argues for this interpretation of nature·s activity by com-
ingly, is located in his exposition of the second book of the Physics,
where he devotes his third treatise to the problem of nature's acting
i paring it with activities that arise from the mechanical arts, them-
selves also directed to the attainment of the ends intended by the arti-
\\ for an end and the necessity that this imposes on its operations. 33
Wh~n commenting on the Physics, moreover. Albert goes into more l ficer. Following Aristotle, he points out that it is only the existence of
a plan or purpose that makes possible a mistake or error in works of
detail than he does in his exposition of the Posterior Ana~vtics. His art. An analogous case can be made for nature. he says. where the
Physics commentary has more the character of a postilla. wherein occasional production of monsters or defective organisms is an indi-
effectively he gives a continuous reading of Aristotle·s text, while cation of nature's failure in its purposive effort. Here Albert has an
interjecting his own explanatory phrases and illustrations. and occa- extensive digression on the ways in which monsters originate in the
sionally interpolating an extensive digression on a related subject animal kingdom, pointing out the great variety of material and other
matter. In giving the text of Aristotle. moreover. Albert does not pre- indispositions that give rise to their occurrence. He observes that
tend to make a literal translation. but rather seems to oscillate there are fewer monstrosities among plants than there are among
between the alternate readings ascribed to James of Venice and animals because the seeds of the latter are softer and th~ mechanisms
Michael Scot. This circumstance of his composition enables us to for their development much more complicated than those that are
ascertain the precise sense he gives to the passage from Aristotle found in the plant kingdom.37 Albert also expounds Aristotle's doc-
cited above with its various translations. Before coming to that. how- trine that purpose can be present in an activity even though there are
ever. first a few remarks on his understanding of nature's finality. no signs of the agent's deliberating. contrary to the view of Empedo-
Those who deny that nature acts for an end. Albert begins. do so
Ibid .• c. I (3: 162a).
31Ibid .• c.6 (2: 203a). Ibid. (3: 163a).
36 Ibid .• c.2 (3: 165b).
" Ibid. (2: 203b).
" Phys. II, tr.3 (ed. Borgnet 3: 162-176). Ibid., c.3 (3: 169b).


cles. and goes on to dispose of the latter's objections against nature's happen by chance that in nature there is onzr an absolute necessi1_v that
acting for an end.38 arises from the demand of matter. Just as if one were to say that it is
This brings Albert to chapter 9 of Book 2 of the Physics. and to the not "propter suppositionem finis" but on account of the demand and
aptitude of matter that a house comes to be, because one 1hi11ks 1hat the
passage cited above. which is identified in Albert's exposition as cor-
wall is made and erected not so that it will support the roof but because
responding to Texts 87 and 88 in the Great Commentary of Aver-
the wall is composed of different [materials]. Of these some are heavr.
roes. As already noted. Albert stavs rather close to the text of Aris-
- - and so ii is necessw:r 1ha1 ther will go dmrn to rhe Jimnda1io11 111 1he
totle. but interweaves his own remarks anJ ohiter dicta. all the while hot10m. from the fact that their nature disposes them so to move.
giving a continuous development of Aristotle's Joctrine. To enable Certain 01hers are light in intermediate fashion. and so they cohere with
the reader to discern when Albert is giving Aristotle's text (in the the heavier [materials] in the lower parts. and ex1e11d upwards touching
Latin translation made either from the Greek or the Arabic. which the higher. and so the expanse of the wall comes to be. For 1he .\'/ones
he appears to use interchangeably). and when he is interpolating his are carried downward and muke the foundation. and the 11·01Hls being of
own clarifications. we shall use a Jitference of type face when trans- intermediate lightness go upward. and the lightest 11( all are on the wp.
lating his exposition. Thus. passages in italics give the translation of Thus they say that there is a motion of components in the composite.
Aristotle. which is usually not literal but can he iJentified on close and so from the necessity of the matter figures and shapes that arc
comparison with the more literal translation maJe from the Greek compatible with the motions arise in them. Therefore it is apparent
that according to them form follows the necessity of matter. and the
text and indicated above on p. 106. Passages in roman type. on the
matter is not required for the form in the way that matter would not be
other hand. indicate Albert's composition. With this understood.
required by nature except on account of form: and this cs absolute
Chapter 9. at Text 87. begins as follows: necessity. which arises from the demand of mattcr. 00
We ask therefore first whether 1he necessin- 11(phrsical 1hi11gs is u neces- Here Albert is following Aristotle's text. filling out the example ()f
sity simp~v or is u necessirr ··ex supposi1io11e ·· and on the condition of
the house. emending it slightly by eliminating the reference to earth
some end that is presupposed. For example. a simple necessity is such
that it is necessary that the heavy go down and the light go up, for it is ~: but retaining that to stones and wood. and finally presenting the
argument in more generalized form. He then continues on. explain-
not necessary that anything be presupposed to this for it to be neces- fo-
sary. Necessity "ex conditione," however. is that for whose necessity it ing the passage parallel to Text 88 in Averroes' commentary:
is necessary to presuppose something, nor is it in itself necessary except r But their statement is not true. for although form does n01 come to he
"ex suppositione"'; and so it is necessary for you to sit if I see you sit- wi1hoU1 the necessary maller. it is 1101 on uccozm1 of the 11eccss11_1' of the
ting. For there is a simple necessity in the aptitude and necessity of ma/ler 1hat the form comes to be. For thus matter would not be sought
matter considered alone. But necessity "sernndum positionem .. is on account of form. but matter could have anv form whatever that
based on some kind of hypothesis. such as it is necessary that you sleep would result from the necessity of the matter's movements. So also a
if your sensible powers are to be brought to rest within you. 19 natural form would be subjected to chance. since it would not be
This. it will be recognized, is the first sentence of the chapter. anJ intended by nature. But we say that form is not on account of this.
unless one wishes to call the cause of the necessitr that which disposes its
one can see that Albert. following the two translators. uses suppositio.
subject, which is ma11er. Rather. as in works of art, ail of the earlier
conditio. and positio interchangeably to translate the Greek
come to be on account of the later. from the fact that the ends are pro-
071'68tcns. He then goes on to describe how some have thought that duced later and the earlier are ordered to the end. Nonetheless the later
nature's operation was characterized by an absolute necessity alone: are not without the earlier. for both are found in natural things, since
Now indeed ii was an opinion of the ancients who thought that all things the end in them is the form that serves as a principle of the entire pro-
cess. on account of which all other things come to be and are. This
indeed is obvious in a house. because that which is 1he principle of all
38 Ibid .. c.4 t3: 170-171).
39 Ibid .. c.5 (3: I72a): cf. Anscocle. De i111erpre1111ione 1x ( I8bl-2) and Boechius. De consola-
tione philosophiae. 5.6. lbid.(3: 172a-b).


those things that are made in the house is what proposes itself as an the efficient agent acts and the necessity of the matter whereby it is pre-
effect to the one who makes the house. and this is as a covering from pared to achieve that end. 42
rains in bad weather and as a storage place o( raluables and security for
From this account. one can see readily that Albert's interpretation
its contents. And on account of this end the matter of the house is
of the passage is the same as Aquinas·. and the sense of both is most

sought and prepared and put together: and everything that comes to be
in the house is made on account of this. So we said above that the end clearly captured in the English translation of Wicksteed and Corn-
which is first in knowledge is last in operation and being. and is the ford. The latter version. unft)rtunatelv. is not so much a translation
cause of causes. because on account of its being the other causes cause as it 1s a paraphrase of Aristotle's text. (Hardie and Gaye. as well as
what they do. 41 Apostle. are accurate in translating. but they leave the text ambigu-
LL ous in meaning. Hope and Charlton. on the other hand. remove the
This. as is apparent. is the alternate explanation provided by Aristot-
ambiguity but in so doing they give the wrong sense to the conclud-
le. where the causality of the end is introduced. The remainder of the
ing phrases of the last sentence.) Albert. it would appear. is trymg to
passage thereupon generalizes the explanation. gives further exem-
Jo what Wicksteed and Cornford would later attempt. while at the
plification in terms of the purpose of a saw. and concludes with
same time keeping all the words in Aristotle's te:o;t and interpolat1ng
Albert's exegesis of the puzzling sentence with which Aristotle con-
others that clarif~' l11S meaning. The net result is somewhat clumsy.
cludes the passage:
and in the view of ·the writer would have heen more degant had
And just as it is in the house. so ii is in all 01hcr things 1ha1 are made on Albert rendered the last sentence in the passage along the following
accounl of something. which is certainly their end. For none of these lines:
indeed comes to he wi1hout !he necessarv mailer. and this being disposed
to receive it. but at the same time the end is nerer on acco11111 of' the matter Whm is necessar\', !hen. exisls "ex supposit1011e"' and not as an absolutelv
or on account of its necessity. but conversely matter and its necessity determined end: for necessit,v exists m the mailer. while 1he jinal cu use is
come to be for the end - unless equivocation be allowed in the prepo- in the reason set out in the "suppositio." which explains why the matter
sition denoting the cause, such that you say that the cause is the "sine is arranged as it is.
qua non," and the necessity of the matter. which is the disposing cause Albert's expression leaves out the explicit reference to necessity ex
in the subject in which the end has existence. Whence if one inquires suppositione and is quite involuted. but there can be little doubt that
why a saw is of this kind. that is. made of iron. one would rep~v that the
this is the sense he wishes to convey.
form of the saw. which is toothed. requires such a matter. and on
The remainder of Albert's exposition of the second book of the
account of this form it is necessary to seek a matter of this type. And if it
be further inquired wh_v the teeth should have irom· matter of this kind. Physics further substantiates what has just been said. He goes on to
the reply is on acco11n1 of the cause. the ultimate end that is 1he work of contrast the way in which necessity is found in mathematics with the
the saw. and this is to divide wood. And although this work cannot be way in which it is found in physics. Albert says that the ancients
performed unless the teeth are of iron. nonetheless the task that is the were thrown otf bv the fact that there is an absolute necessitv in
ultimate end, for which reason the other things come to be. is not on
- -
mathematics. which can also be seen as proptcr s11ppos1jJ011em finis in
account of the iron and the teeth. whereas con~verselv thev are for it. If the sense that the finis or end of a mathematical demonstration is
therefore it is necessary that the saw be made of iron a~d b~ toothed. if ii knowledge of the conclusion. 43 In mathematical reasoning. however.
is to complete its work. this does not mean a necessitv of the end on
account of which everything is done that serves to explain a saw. blll It
means a necessi~v that is in the matter and in its dispositions. For the end " Ibid. (3: l 73a).
" Ibid .. c.6 (3: 173b-174a): "Est autem necessarium in Jisc1plints Jemonstrauns 'JUOU fuil
is not in the matter having its necessity. but rather in the reason. since
Antiquis causa erroris. 1n quo est necessarium simplicller propter suppos111onem finis: lice!
this is what moves the artificer and is etfet:tivelv the principle of the enim scientia conclus1001s finis m <lemonstrattvis. tamen praemissa non sunt necessaria prop-
entire operation. Therefore there also ftow from it the motion by which ter conclusionem. sed in se habent necessitatem. et propter necessitatem earum conclus10 est
necessaria. Et cum ipsa habeat necessitatem rei. non atten<litur in 1ps1s necessllas consequentiae
lantum. sed pot1us necess1tas rei quae conse'luitur. 4uae vocatur a <ju1busdam necessi1as
41 consequent is.··
Ibid. (3: 172b).

.rfl. ..

the premises are not necessary only on account of the conclusion but expanded it by inserting his own explanations. examples. comments.
have a necessity in themselves. It is because of their necessity that and digressions in the way we have already seen in his exposition of
the conclusion becomes necessary. and thus there is a twofold neces- the Phvsics. 47 Book 11 is divided into two treatises. the first concen-
sity in mathematical proof. namely. that of the consequence trating on the general procedures to be followed when studying ani-
(consequentiae) or inference and that of the consequent (consequent is) mals, viz. those required for suppositional argument. and the second
, 1&.,. ~.~~:/ 1s - or end result. In proofs in natural science. on the other hand. there is on a discussion of the form that terminates the development of a111-
~~;,,.,.; 0,.:,,(1,J; _ a necessity of consequence only.:...~~~_ause_ the end result is­ mals and their organs. which should serve as the starting point for
.\, JJ
• r;. ( ·
r. ;, ;t~ --~~!ic~_l_lr_~~~-1:.1:.~~ ..
Y et there is a type of necessity that. characterize.s
Its uemonstrat10ns. and t.h1s 1s a necessHas condH10111s ex finis
demonstrations ex suppositione. In what follows we shall concentrate
only on the first treatise. and restrict ourselves to contexts where sup-
ua<>- .,;~ . _ suppositwne. 44 This suppos1t10nal necessity 1s one where the end positional necessity is explicitly discussed.
~IV'>~ serves as a pnnc1ple Ill the same way as the premises serve as a prm- The broad methodological questions raised by Aristotle at the out-
~;!-U)f 1'1/9;;_., i' ciple in a mathematical demonstration. That is the sense in which set of De partibus animaliwn include whether there can be a scientific
;;,t i<"'~, ;_) natural science exhibits a necessity that is ex conditione Jinis. 45 It exposition of animals. as opposed to the type of knowledge possessed
;fr '~· ~ '\serves also to explain why all four causes function in its demonstra- by a person of general education: if so. whether such scientific
"',_/ i:i..: -;,.;\~'" tions. and particularly the final cause. which is identified with the knowledge should begin with discussions of particular types: what
f" t .• k~·.
, completed form and its defining characteristics that terminate a nat-
kinds of causes should be sought in the studv of animals: whether
ural process. 46 the investigation will result in necessary knowledge: and. if so. what
kind of necessity will be involved. 48 Albert. like .\ristotle. embraces
D. ALBERT ON DEMONSTRATIO~S I'< ZOOLOGY at the outset the ideal of strict scientific knowledge. and even notes a
certain parallel between the astronomical and mathematical sciences
With this we have effectively answered our question about Albert's and those dealing with animals. The former. he says, "first posit
conception of the demonstrative methodology to be employed in the
t: those things of which they inquire, such as the eclipse of the moon or
scientiae naturales. For the sake of completeness. however, it will be of the sun, or that a triangle has three angles equal to two right
well to indicate other passages in his De animalibus where he also angles, and afterward they add the causes of these properties. which
refers to suppositional necessity, and gives a fuller explanation of the are the middle terms of demonstrations. " 49 Similarly. he goes on. the
methodological procedures associated with it. These passages reveal naturalist should consider the common properties and attributes of
that. for Albert. a suppositional type of argument need not be strictly animals and proceed from this to an invescigation of their causes.
demonstrative but also may be extended into the realm of dialectic The proper procedure. therefore. is "first to recount everything that
- a technique that proves useful in studying animal development. pertains to the manifest operations and properties of animals. as we
where apodictic certainty is not always attainable. have done in all ten of the preceding books. and nmy. we ought to
Book 11 of Albert's De animalibus is actually an exposition of add the causes of those things that we have enumerated and that we
Book I of Aristotle's De partibus animaliwn. which poses methodo- said belong to the kinds of animals. ·· 5o
logical questions relating to the science of zoology. For his exposi- The types of causes to be enumerated. this being a study devoted
tion Albert made use of the Latin translation of Michael Scot. and
In what follows we use the Stadler edition. which indicates AnSlotk\ text and Albert's
'"' Ibid .. (3: 174b): "Sic ergo pate! quod in disciplinis pnora sunt principia sequentium. et ea interpolations by a system of vertical lines inserted into the transcnptwn.
quae sunt materialia sunt principia finis: sed in his quae fiunt propter aliquem finem. sive in Aristotle. De partibus animalium 1. I (639a I ·642b4 ).
art1bus. sive in physicis fiant. e contrario est. lbi enim (ut diximus) finis movet etlicientem. et "De animalibus xi. tr.I. c.2 (ed. Stadler. Bei1riige 15: 765.15-18): the numerals appended to
ab efficiente infunditur matenae motus. et sic finis est principium totius: et ideo est ibi the page number after the decimal point indicate the line numbers in the pnnted edition.
necessicas conditionis ex finis suppositione." ' Ibid. (765.23-27). The first ten books of Albert's De unimulibus recount the contents of
" Ibid. (3: 174a). Aristotle's Hisloria animalium; with this descrip11ve material completed. Albert begins its cau·
"' Ibid. (3: 175-176). sal analysis in the eleventh book.


to the generation of natural beings - and here Albert references his Albert likewise stresses that one cannot attribute to an animal the
prior discussion in Book 2 of the Pin-sics - include all four causes. necessity proper to an eternal thing. but can only seek in zoology a f"v,/ ( r
but particularly the final cause ... the cause of causes." 51 In the case of necessity of consequence (consequentiae) such that. "the last thing ( ~ <
animals. he goes on. the final cause is identical with the form to be being given. it follows necessarily that the earlier e~fst-orha~e e.xi-st-'-"_ ·
generated. and this is a sensible form defined in relation to sensible ed. but not conversely .... " 54 In the demonstrations of mathematics.
matter. The zoologist. in this respect. is like the physician who wishes on the other hand. there is a necessity of the consequent ,.,.,,,.c
to know the sensible dispositions of the human body so that he can (consequentis)._~~ereby the thing entailed follows necessarily and
restore it to health. So the naturalist must give his definitive account absolutely as soon as
the first thing is posited. And here again Albert
by looking to the ultimate end that is intended through the process refers the reader to the account in the second hook of the Phrsics.
of generation. and this along the lines already presented in the where all these matters have been generallv treated.
__....-- Physics. 52 Apart from Albert's introducing the notion of opinion and proba-
'\~ At this J·uncture. following the text of Aristotle. Albert broaches ble reasoning into this discussion of the science of animals. the fore-
1'<''('1/ ,, . ) -
fl'. <6:\:-t' ~ ... : rl anew the_ different ways in which thin_gs are said to be necessary. going agrees substantially with his account of suppositional necessity
li.~Jr-," -~,,,/Here again he enumerates two types ot necessity. absolute and sup- in the exposition of the Phrsics. In his further development of this
i;.; ,~,,,~to""" positio~al. The first:. he states._ applies to eternal things. :·which exist treatise. however. a difficulty in the text of Aristotle leads him to go
·· apart from mot10n. and exh1b1t the necesslly that 1s found in the deeper into the teaching on necessity. so as to differentiate two types
demonstrative disciplines. The second is a conditional necessity. a of suppositional necessity that will be found to characterize the study
necessity per suppositionem finis. and this 1s found in all changeable of animals. The problem arises. Albert notes. because some say that
things that come to be by a process of generation. Not only is suppo- the kinds of necessity noted in the Physics. absolute and supposition-
, sitional necessity found in these. however. but in all things that are al. do not seem to be sufficient to account for all zoological phenom-
', ordered to an end. as is seen in the art of carpentry. ena. and so perhaps there is need for yet a third mode of necessity.' 5 ~ Kl
Up to this point Albert has been merely repeating what already What requires attention. he goes on, is not so much the manner of p,_.,_,.,_
~ : 'r'~ appears in his exposition of the Physics. Now he sounds a new note. seeking "the cause of the generation of animals. but rather [the way ~
'S' j,_ I\ for. somewhat surprisingly:..--~ ~QJ.lates knowkdg,e of nat1.1:~~UbJ!l_g~------ to investigate] the cause of the shapes of their members .... " 56 What
.' '1..-\L:- , I with prol:>_~_~le opiJ1ion, and so differentiates it from knowledge that this third mode is. Albert continues. can be discovered among the
't~.;_. <-... -is.scie.ntlfic and grasped through principles. He continues:
'wf-- .J . . .
various modes Aristotle has alreadv enumerated in Book 5 of his
Metaphysics. Albert thereupon reverts to the text of the Me1aphysics.
,.,~ For the necessity is orhem·ise in changeable thmgs that are matters of
opinion. such as are natural beings. and in scientific matters that are remarking that he "will touch briefly on the modes there set forth. " 57
intelligible and pertain to rhe demonstrative sciences. For we have alreadr These turn out to be four. in Albert's enumeration. and are described
determined. in the second book of our Pln·sics. that in certain things. by him as follows: _;
such as demonstrables. there is a first that ~xists. and that is the princi- (I) that which is necessary for a thing's being or coming-to-be. and
ple of others. as the premises are the cause and principle of the conclu- this is the suppositional necessity found in the generation of natu-
sion. In other things, however. as in generables and in matters of opinion ral things:
that could possibly come to be otherwise. rhe principle is not what
exists. for this is matter. but rather the first and the principle of all
others is what will exist finally. And therefore everything that is neces- " Ibid. (768.7-9).
" The English edition of The Works v{Ariswtle. vol. 5. has a confusing note at De par11b11s
sary in these matters is necessary according to an intention that is pre-
amma/ium t. I (642a6. note 3) which creates che impression that the additmnal mode of neces-
supposed. and not otherwise ... .5 3 my is not contained in Aristotle"s ,\1etapln·s1cs v.5 ( 1015a20-l0 l 5b8). Albert correcclv identifies
this source and explains how the two texts can be understood so as mutuallv 10 illumine each
51Ibid. (765.28-38); see the text cited above. note 41. other. as will now be explained.
" Ibid. (766.1-28). " De animal. xi. tr.I. c.3 (777.7-9).
" Ibid. (767.15-26). " Ibid. (777.14-17).

(2) that which is not required absolutely for a thing to exist. but 11, for in his reportatio Conrad of Austria records the cryptic com-
which is necessary if it is to be good and perfect in its mode of ment that a propter quid demonstration is given through causes.
existence or operation: whereas a quia demonstration can be given either through effects or
(3) that which is necessary because it results from a force that can- ex suppositione. 00 The topics mentioned in the Q11aes1io11es are frag-
not be withstood - and this. Albert savs. is needed in the moral mentary. however. and add nothing substantial to what is already
sciences but not in those dealing with nature: and available in the longer De animalibus. or in the treatments of neces-
(4) that which is absolutely necessary. which characterizes the sity in the expositions of the Phrsics and the Jfr1aphrsics.
mathematical disciplines. but is also required in the natural sci-
ences "if we wish to syllogize ·· in these matters.'s E. ALBERT. AQUINAS. AND MODERN SCIE:\CE
Having listed these types. Albert points out that the person seeking a
third mode of necessitv should note that the first two modes have With this we have provided most of the materials that bear on a
something in common. for both involve suppositional reasoning. The solution of the problems posed at the beginning of this essay. ~·
second mode. however. is not explicitly mentioned in the Phrsics. for First of all. from the texts of Albert's expositions of Aristotle that lliw
there only the first and fourth modes have been discussed. This sup- have been cited. it now seems most likely that Albert was the pro.xi- Alfi;.
positional necessity of the first mode. moreover. :s treated in the mate source from which Aquinas derived his knowledge of suppos1-
Physics only as ordered to the existence of the animal. and not to tional necessity and the manner of demonstra11ng in the .1cie111iw:
eve_rything that would prove good or useful for it. 'Jow. apart from naturales. Everything that later appears in St. Thomas· commentaries
such a consideration. one should note that if an animal is to use its on the Pos1erior .·l11a!r1ics and the Phl'sics is :dread\ contained in
members for their proper functions. it is further necessary that these germ in Albert's exp~sition of the Phl'.1ics. and i~ d~veloped m yet
be shaped or structured properly - a necessity that pertains to the fuller detail in the methodological canons he elaborates for the study
second mode. The example Albert adduces is the animal's walking. of animals. This circumstance notwithstanding. it could well be that
for which it requires feet that have the right form or shape. To state Aquinas' teaching. while not completely original with him. nonethe-
the matter more generally, since the animal is an organism. i.e .. a less played a greater role than did Albert's in the transmission of this
body made up of parts that serve various functions as instruments of methodological doctrine to the later Middle Ages and to the Renais-
the whole. there must be an end or final cause for each member. and sance. The fact that Albert does not explicitly discuss demonstration
this is nothing more than the operation or function it is to perform ex supposilione in his rather brief exposition of the Posterior
for the good of the whole. Possibly an animal could exist without one Ana~vtics. whereas Aquinas does, could serve to explain their relative
or other member. or even with a certain amount of malformation. importances for the doctrine's transmission. One can readily con-
but the necessity of the end that should govern its development as a ceive that Albert's treatises were better known to biologists. mineral-
whole will include the proper formation of all members that contrib- ogists.
and other investigators
concerned with the ·derailed studv- of
ute to the fullness of its being. This requirement adds a second mode nature. Yet there seems little doubt that Aquinas was the authority
of necessity. above and beyond the first. which is proper to the bio- who became better known in universitv circles. for here the Posterior
logical sciences. Analvtics and the Physics served as ~ajor textbooks for teaching
These. then. are the main methodological texts in Albert's De logic and natural philosophy respectively. Since Aquinas discusses
animalibus where he speaks of suppositio~al necessity. As noted. he reasoning ex supposi1ione in both of these treatises. and connects the
also touches. but briefly. on this type of necessity in his exposition of e_xpositions in an explicit and meaningful way. he seems the more
Book 5 of Aristotle's Metaphysics. 59 In addition. Albert seems to have likely vehicle for its dissemination among later thinkers.
mentioned the topic in his disputed Quaestiones de animalibus, Book On the matter of Albert's Neoplatoni; leanings and the possibility
that he may have viewed the study of nature as pertaining more to
" !bid. (777.17-36).
" Tr.I. c.6 (ed. Colon. 1611: 220b-222b). "° Q.1 (ed. Colon. 12: 218.51-55).

dialectics than to science in the strict sense. a more nuanced answer teachings while a medical student at Pisa. 62 The majority of his cita-
would seem to be indicated. St. Thomas· discussion of reasoning ex tions of both Albert and Aquinas that derive from verifiable sources.
suppositione stresses the requirements for sciemia and demonstration. however, are traceable to the Jesuits at the Collegio Romano. 03 In
if for no other reason than that both contexts in which he discusses this faculty. although the Jesuits did treat the mathematical disci-
this type of reasoning are concerned with Jemonstrative methodol- plines and dwelt in considerable detail on the Phrsics. the De caelo.
ogy. On this account Aquinas can be and unambiguous in his the De generatione, and the Meteorology. there is no evidence that
presentation. and the question of Jialectics and its relation to scien- they ever taught the De animalibus. 64 Again. sirice methodological
tific reasoning need not even arise. 61 In Albert's case. on the other doctrines were treated in the logic course rather than in that on natu-
hand. his treatments of matters pertaining to the scientiae naturales ral philosophy. and Aquinas' commentary on the Posterior Ana!rtics
Jo not remain at the general level of Aristotle"s Phrsics. but are pur- entered prominently in the former. it seems that Aquinas. as noted
sued in detail down to the it~/ima .1pecies of animals. plants. and min- above. is a more likely source of Galileo"s knowledge of the techni-
erals. Surely Albert entertained no doubts that at the general level ques of ex suppositione reasoning than is Albert the Great.
one could have certain and apodictic Jemonstrations even when To come finally to the substantive problems that are being treated
treating of ammals. provided the proper norms of ex suppositione rea- in contemporary philosophy of science. it would seem that a redis-
soning were observed. When. on the other hand. he had to broach covery of Albert's methodological views could contribute substan-
detailed considerations relating to the shape or structure of the mem- tially to the solution of problems that dominate discussions m rres-
bers of animals. and particularly the shapes that might facilitate their ent-day literature. Most of these problems arise from an attempt to
characteristic operations. he was aware that it might not be possible equate the necessity found in the natural or phys1t:al scient:es wtth
to achieve apodictic cert:iinty. in such cases. therefore. scientific con- that of the mathematical disciplines. Profoundly aware that there
clus1ons would have to yield gradually to matters of opinion. and can be no absolute necessity in nature. but unaware of the poss1hility
there could be a merging of demonstrative and dialectical results. of discerning a suppositional necessity in nature's operation. t:on tem-
Yet the mere fact that Albert admits "matters of opinion" into his porary philosophers have retreated immediately to the dialectics ot'
detailed investigation of animals should not be construed as the .f hypothetico-deductive methodology as the only adequate account of
abandonment. on his part. of the Aristotelian ideal of scientia. His "scientific method." Again. they revere David Hume because he was
own statements in both the Phvsics and the De animalibus in favor of the first in their eyes to show how readily one can be deceived when
this ideal are too straightforward to permit any misinterpretation in postulating necessary connections in nature. Now Albert. like Aris-
this regard. totle before him. never pursued necessary connections of the
Preciselv how Albert's overall methodologv stands in relation to Humean type: yet neither. on that account. abandoned the search
that of 1.;10dern science is a question th~t cannot be quickly for any necessity whatever in nature"s operations - and so they were
answered. On the historical side. and particularly when one consid- not tempted to locate such necessity. as Hume was. later to do. in
ers the type of hypothetical reasoning invoked by Galileo. which he men's minds or expectations alone. It was precisely this lack of sub-
referred to as demonstration ex suppositione. it seems to the writer tlety on Hume's part that created for him the so-called "problem of
that this relates more readily to the teaching of Aquinas than to that induction." which still continues to generate a substantial literature.
of Albert. Having said this. however. we should note that Galileo
manifests an acquaintance with Albertus Magnus in his early note- 1
' See W. A. Wallace. Gali/eo"s Early Notebooks: The Phl's1ca/ Quesrions !Notre Dame. Ind ..
books. and might even have been exposed to Albert's biological 1977). p. 315. for references to Galileo;s sixteen citations of Albert"s works.
Ibid .. pp. l-24; for fuller details. see W: A. Wallace. "Galileo's Citattons of Albert the
Great." forthcoming in a commemorative issue of The Sourh\\'esr Journal o( Philosophr to
" See. however. John A. Oesterle. "The Significance of the Universal Ur Sime.'" The appear in 1980.
Thomist 24 (1961). 163-174. for a discussion ofa text in Aquinas commentary on the Posterior Details of the curriculum at the Collegio Romano are given in R. G. Villoslada. Srona def
Ana/vtics ({n r Anal. Post .. Iect. 9. n. 4) that shows an awareness of dialectical argument and its Collegio Romano da/ suo inizio ( 1551) al/a s;ppressione de/la C'ompagnia di Gesu I 1773). Analecta
relation to demonstration. Gregoriana 66 (Rome. 1954).


For, if there is no necessity of any kind in nature that causes one

state of affairs to be entailed by previous states, then certainly a per-
son can never make a valid universal generalization of the type "All
crows are black." Yet. by one of those ironies that continue to amuse
historians. today medievals are commonly thought to have been very 5
naive in this matter, and to have taught that one could make such a
generalization on the basis of a simple enumeration of instances. It is
surely enlightening to learn that Albert the Great, who had consider- St. Albert on Motion as Forma fluens
able knowledge of crows. would never make the unqualified state-
ment that "All crows are black." 65 He was well aware that exceptions and Fluxus formae
could occur in the generation of crows as in that of other animals,
and indeed attempted to explain precisely under what circumstances
of egg formation a non-black crow might be produced. 66 But on the
supposition that a crow was to be generated with black feathers and Ernest J. McCullough
the other attributes that characterize its species. he felt confident that St. Thomas More College
he could enumerate the causes that would be required for its genera-
tion. In other words, he would see Hume's problem of causation and
his problem of induction as pseudo-problems created by a mistaken
concept of the necessity to be sought in the scientiae natura/es. And Etienne Gilson once said that in spite of the fact that Albert the
once a person understood, as Albert did, the complex causality Great is famous he remains little known. 1 The many conflicting
involved in natural operations, and the way in which one has to rea- interpretations of Albert's works indicate at the very least that a
~·' . son ex suppositione finis in order to discern the necessity that mak~.~" ·' unified understanding of Albert is difficult to achieve. A variety of
science of nature possible, he would be well prepared to shed light on. sources claim that Albert is original, unoriginal, eclectic, a devoted
the problems that seem endlessly to perplex philosophers in the pres- .. Aristotelian, Avicennian, Averroist, or some combination of these.
entday. ·• Historians rate him as both confused and perceptive. 2 Legends
Seven centuries separate us from this Doctor universalis who obscure an already clouded picture. It is the aim of this paper to
played such an important role in the genesis of the scientific mental- examine in detail a rather short but vital section of Albert's De motu,
ity in the Latin West. We honor him in this volume precisely because which is his commentary on Aristotle's Physics m, 1-3. This examina-
of his contributions in all areas of research activity. Perhaps it is time tion should reveal the precise nature of Albert's doctrine on motion
that we begin to see him also as a methodologist who had a precise and why the first formulation of a distinction bet~en motion as
and nuanced knowledge of both the ideals and the limitations of nat- fiuxus formae (purportedly an A vicennian view) and motion as forma
ural science - as one who, to use the modern idiom, merits the title fiuens (purportedly an Averroist doctrine) is attributed to Albert.
of "philosopher of science" par excellence. This is the view taken by the eminent historian Anneliese Maier. 3

•> See Albert's De praedicabilibus, tr.7, c.2 (ed. Borgnet I: 122a-b): tr.8. c.10 (I: 140a). 1
66 Ibid., tr. 7. c.2 ( l: 122). E. Gilson, "L'iime raisonnable chez Albert le Grand," Archives d'histoire doctrinale et lit-
teraire du moyen age, 14 (1943-1945), 5: "Albert le Grand est beaucoup moins connu qu'il n'est
} celebre."

l See, for example, George Sarton, Introduction to the History of Science, vol. 2, part l
(Washington: Carnegie Institute, 1931), pp. 935-939.
Anneliese Maier, Die Vor/iiufer Gali/eis im /4. Jahrhundert (Roma: Edizioni de Storia e
Letteratura. 1949), pp. 9-25.