Saint Albert the Great's Revolution Legitimizing Aristotelian Ethical Thought and Its Integration into a Theory of the Cardinal Virtues

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John Francis Cacchione

Abstract

Despite a slow but growing interest in the writings of Aristotle in the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, Saint Albert the Great’s embrace of Aristotelian thinking significantly increased the depth and breadth of scholarly interest.  In the context of moral thinking, Saint Albert integrated Aristotelian ideas even before the entire Nicomachean Ethics was available in the Christian West.  After its availability, he redoubled his efforts and effectively “mainstreamed” Aristotle as an authority, opening new paths for intellectual development.  Drawing on several strands of recent scholarship, this paper attempts to establish Saint Albert’s influence with regard to Christian acceptance of Aristotelian ideas by specifically exploring Saint Albert’s approach to the cardinal virtues.  It traces his growing engagement with Aristotle’s ideas over time and briefly chronicles his definitive influence on the trajectory of subsequent scholarship.  Even after certain of his ideas fell out of fashion, the problems which he raised and investigated continued to frame later thinkers’ intellectual explorations for generations.

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Section
Theology