ALBERT OF SAXONY, Albertus de Helmstade, Albertus Rickemersdorf, Albertus Parvus, Albertutius (to distinguish him from Albert the Great)—a mediaeval philosopher, bishop of Halberstadt, commentator on the works of Aristotle, professor at the University of Paris, first rector of the University of Vienna, b. around 1316, d. around 1390.
Albert of Saxony began his studies in Prague in 1349. He obtained the title of master of the liberal arts on May 24, 1351. From 1353 to 1362 he was rector of the University of Paris. For 10 years he lectured in the department of arts until an edict was issued forbidding nominalists to teach. Besides the liberal arts, he also studied theology.
Albert is known as one of the leading representatives of nominalism; in his work he connects purely philosophical topics with a wealth of material from mathematics, physics, astronomy and botany. In logic he was primarily a disciple of Ockham, although Albert’s thought introduced new elements to logical procedures. In natural philosophy he tended to follow the views of J. Buridan (he propagated Buridan’s theory of impetus in physics), and he connected the critical analysis of language with epistemological realism.
Albert of Saxony was involved in diplomacy between Pope Urban VI and the prince of Austria. He was entrusted with founding a university in Vienna. In 1365 he became the first rector of that university, and in 1366 he was named Bishop of Halberstadt. None of Albert of Saxony’s theological works have been preserved, but his works in logic and in natural philosophy are known. The works in logic are: Quaestiones super artem veterem (published in: W. Ockham, Expositio aurea, Bol 1496); Logica Alberti de Saxonia (published as Logica Albertutii, Ve 1511); Commentarius in Posteriora Aristotelis (M 1497, Ve 1497); Sophismata Alberti de Saxonia, (P 1490); Tractatus obligationum, Insolubilia (P 1490). Albert of Saxony took Ockham’s Summa logica as his model in his own works, and he enriched logic with his thoughts on obligation, insolubility, and implication. He received the concept of the sign from Ockham. Signification, according to Albert, refers to the relations between a sign and an individual thing. He also accepted Ockham’s theory of supposition, in particular his view on simple suppositions. He also referred to Ockham in the theory of categories. In a few questions, however, he departs from Ockham. Albert’s linguistic analyses are based on a unique epistemological realism. He set forth an original conception of second intentions. He also added to them a semantic interpretation by stating that they are only signs. Albert’s views on logic were well received by many Polish logicians in the first half of the fifteenth century.
His writings in the area of physics are: Quaestiones super octo libros Physicorum (Ve 1504, 1516); Quaestiones in Aristotelis libros De Caelo et mundo (Ve 1492, P 1516); Quaestiones meteorum, Quaestiones De generatione et corruptione (Ve 1515, P 1516, this contains commentaries by Giles of Rome and Marsilius of Inghen); Demonstrationes de quadratura circuli; Quaestio de proportione diametri quadrati ad costam eiusdem; Alberti Richmestorp Parisius dicti de Saxonia Questiones super Spheram Johannis de Sacrobosco.
Albert of Saxony studied the motions of the earth, marine tides, and geology. He connected the views of Buridan and Nicholas Oresme. He analyzed the problem in ontological terms rather than in terms of nature. He accepted Buridan’s theory of impetus. According to him impetus is proportional to the velocity with which a body was set in motion, and proportional to the quantity of matter that a body contains. He rejected as impossible that the heavenly spheres were moved by a higher intelligence. Like Buridan, he thought that the heavenly bodies were subject to the same laws of motion as earthly bodies. He distinguished between uniform motion in which all parts of a body move with the same motion, and non-uniform motion, in which different parts of a body move at different velocities, such as in circular motion. In opposition to Buridan, Albert rejected the idea that “quantity” was something real, and he treated it as a composite of substance and quality. Albert’s hypotheses on the center of gravity, which he described as the center of the world, were significant in the development of modern mechanics. Albert distinguished two centers in a heavy body: the center of magnitude and the center of gravity. His thought had a great influence on the research of Copernicus and Kepler.
Albert’s psychological works are not as well known: Quaestiones super totalem librum de sensu et sensato collectae per reverendum magistrum Albertum de Rychmersdorf; Conclusiones et auctoritates supra parva naturalia corrogatae per rev. Mag. Albertum Halberst. Diocesis epm.. His unpublished ethical writings are: Expositio reverendi magistri Alberti de Ricmestorp super decem libros ethicorum Aristotelis; Dicta reverendi magistri Alberti Episcopi Helberstatensis super oeconomicam Aristotelis.
G. Heidingsfelder, Alber von Sachsen, Sein Lebensgang und sein Kommentar zur “Nikomachischen Ethik” des Aristoteles, “Beiträge" 22, 3–4, Mr 19272; B. Geyer, Die Patristische und Scholastische Philosophie, Bas 195613; Gilson HFS 459–460; J. Sarnowsky, Die aristotelisch-scholastische Theorie der Bewegung: Studien zum Kommentar Albert von Sachsen zur “Physik” des Aristoteles, Mr 1989.