It is often said that the scholastic philosophers, and notably Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas, almost idolatrously worshipped at the shrine of Aristotle, and were ready to accept anything that this great Greek philosopher had taught. We have already quoted Roger Bacon’s request to the Pope to forbid the study of the Stagirite. It is interesting to find in this regard, that while Albert declared that in questions of natural science he would prefer to follow Aristotle to St. Augustine–a declaration which may seem surprising to many people who have been prone to think that what the Fathers of the Church said medieval scholars followed slavishly–he does not hesitate to point out errors made by the Greek philosopher, nor to criticise his conclusions very freely. In his Treatise on Physics, he says, “whoever believes that Aristotle was a god must also believe that he never erred. But if one believe that Aristotle was a man, then doubtless he was liable to err just as we are.”

In fact, as is pointed out by the Catholic Encyclopaedia in its article on Albertus Magnus, to which we are indebted for the exact reference of the quotations that we have made, Albert devotes a lengthy chapter in his Summa Theologiae to what he calls the errors of Aristotle. His appreciation of Aristotle is always critical. He deserves great credit not only for bringing the scientific teaching of the Stagirite to the attention of medieval scholars, but also for indicating the method and the spirit in which that teaching was to be received.

James J. Walsh, The Popes and Science (1908)


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