Mandonnet’s Hypothesis: Acquiescence and Doubts

  • Paola Zambelli
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 135)


Despite the fact that reactions were mixed, Mandonnet’s study gained a great audience. Birkenmajer and other scholars took for granted the hypothesis put forward by the Dominican historian, and abandoned further examination.1 But the specialists in the field were soon divided on the issue. Among Franciscans, Father Raymond uncritically summed up Mandonnet’s conclusions.2 Later, Father Vandewalle re-examined the entire issue questioning Mandonnet’s basic assumption concerning the dating of the Speculum. He, like Thorndike, disagreed that the condemnation of 1277 had anything to do with the Speculum (which he considered as having been written before 1277). He felt that the Speculum was answering “accusations”, not a formal condemnation or “declaratio”. Vandewalle concluded that Bacon could not have been the author of the treatise, on the grounds that the name of the English philosopher is never found in the manuscript tradition, and the testimony offered by Naudé is irrelevant, since it was based on a misconstruction of Pico’s passage discussed above. Moreover, the style and the anonymity of the Speculum did not fit Bacon’s personality: the tone of the discussion is so moderate, the doctrines put forward so relatively orthodox, that the Speculum could never have led the alleged author to prison. Finally, the doctrinal content of the work “is part of the common scholastic heritage of the time”, and is characterized by peculiarities which lead to Albert.3 Writing soon after Mandonnet, the Jesuit Franz Pangerl quoted authorities such as Gerson, Pierre d’Ailly, and Giovanni Pico, who, without trusting the spurious writings or believing the legend of Albert magus and alchemist, did nevertheless “find in his authentic writings, especially in the Speculum astronomiae, several points worth considering”.4


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  1. 1.
    See the undoubtedly more penetrating remarks by Etienne Gilson and Paul Simon concerning the astrological determinism that John of Salisbury already attributed to Aristotle, quoted above, ch. 2, n. 32.Google Scholar
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    Cf above, pp. 18–19. See however F. Pangerl, Studien über Albert cit., pp. 325–326. Without mentioning the then recent standpoint taken by Mandonnet, Pangerl re-examined Albert’s defenders (Petrus de Prussia, Trithemius, Aventinus, Martin Delrio, Athanasius Kircher and Natick) as well as two of his critics, namely Pico —who tried to demonstrate that the Speculum was a spurious work— and Gerson —who reproached Albert precisely for the opposite reason: he considered him the author of the treatise. Pangerl was surprised by Gerson’s criticism, in view of the fact that “Albert had repeatedly and at length said that false astrology was a `diffamatio stellarum’, and precisely in the Speculum had taken a stand against the discipline”. T. Witzel expressed his agreement with the thesis put forward by Mandonnet, and used the Speculum as a Baconian work in the entry `Roger Bacon’, The Catholic Encyclopedia, XIII, New York 1913, pp. 111–116. Equally in favor of Mandonnet was P. Robinson, `The Seventh Centenary of R. Bacon’, in The Catholic University Bulletin, 1914, fasc. I; Roger Bacon Essays, ed. by A. G. Litle, Oxford 1914, p. 25; R. Carton, L’expérience physique chez Roger Bacon, Paris 1921, p. 14 (“jusqu’au P. Mandonnetchwr(133) il était attribué [à Albert] et continue d’ailleurs de l’être encore par d’autre médievistes”) and p. 172 ff., where the work is unhesitatingly attributed to Bacon. Also P. Duhem, Le système du monde, VIII, Paris 1958, p. 390: “il semble que cette attribution [de Mandonnet] soit légitime, car, de Roger Bacon, on trouve dans le Speculum Astronomiae, certaines locutions coutumières, certaines métaphores habituelles, certaines pensées favorites”. A critical standpoint was taken by Ch. V. Langlois, who reviewed Mandonnet’s Siger in the Revue de Paris, VII, 1900, p. 71.Google Scholar
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    F. Tinivella, `Il metodo scientifico in S. Alberto Magno e Ruggero Bacone’, Angelicum, XXI, 1944 [ = Serta albertina], p. 76: this Franciscan scholar maintained, “against Mandonnet and the authors who took from him, the Albertinian authenticity of the Speculum” and concluded: “The very fact that the Speculum astronomiae has been at times attributed to the Universal Doctor, and at times to the Admirable Doctor, proves the two authors’ almost identical views on the matter”. In his L’expérience physique cit., pp. 23–25, R. Carton too establihed a relationship between the observational methods used by Albert and by Bacon. A. G. Little, another editor of Bacon, was less positive in the attribution, and in his introduction to Bacon’s Opus tertium, Aberdeen 1912, p. XX, he mentioned the Speculum astronomiae as a work “generally ascribed to Albertus Magnus, but attributed by Father Mandonnet to Roger Bacon”.Google Scholar
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    Cf De retardation accidentium senectutis in Opera R. Baconis hactenus inedita, IX, ed. A. G. Little and E. Withington, Oxford 1928, pp. 34, XXIV-XXV. This edition contains a passage from the shorter version given by two ms., “hanc [epistolam] incepi ad suasionem duorum sapientum Parisiensium, sc. Joh. Castellionati et Philippi cancellarii Parisiensis”. The second figure mentioned in this passage could be Philippe de Grève, chancellor from 1218 to 1236, the year of his death, after having been condemned for corrupted habits and heretical doctrines (cf. Thomas Cantimpré, Bonum universale de apibus, I, cap. 19; ed. Douai 1597, p. 59). The dates of Philippe de Grève do create some difficulty also concerning the Baconian pamphlet.Google Scholar
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    Brusadelli, `Lo Speculum astronomiae’ cit., p. 575.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., pp. 577–78.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 575. Compare similar topical statements in the Speculum with relevant Baconian passages: “quamvis loquantur [astrologi] de sectis, et sectae dependant ex libertate rationis, tarnen non imponunt aliquam necessitatem libero arbitrio dicentes planetas esse signa innuentia nobis ea quae Deus disposuit ab aeterno fieri sive per naturam, sive per rationem humanam, sive per rationem propriam secundum beneplacitum suae voluntatis” (Opus maius cit., p. 646).Google Scholar
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    B. Geyer, `Das Speculum astronomiae kein Werk des Albertus Magnus’, Münchener Theologische Zeitschrift, IV, 1953; [cf the same paper printed in Studien zur historischen Theologie. Festgabe für F. X. Seppelt, hrsg. v. W. During u. B. Panzram, München 1953 ], p. 97.Google Scholar
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    Cf. Speculum, pp. 93 ff., Appendix I and II: only 9 out of 51 mss. are anonymous, and one of these (ms. Vat. Borghesiano 134), as well as the CLM 8001 reproduced the Speculum — here attributed to Aquinas — as part of a collection of Albertinian works on natural history. When the Speculum is included in astrological miscellanies, it is usually attributed to Albert.Google Scholar
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    Ueberweg-Geyer, Die Geschichte der patristischen und scholastischen Philosophie, Berlin 1928, p. 406.Google Scholar
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    Geyer, `Das Speculum astronomiae’ cit., p. 98 n. 58.Google Scholar
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    Geyer, `Das Speculum astronomiae’ cit., p. 99: “Es ist ferner schwer vorstellbar, dass Albert sich mit dem Schleier der Anonymität umhüllt und sich selbst im Prolog als `vir quidam zelator fidei et philosophiae’ bezeichnet habe. Er hat stets mit offenem Visier gekämpft und seine Person hinter der Sache zurücktreten lassen. Für jeden, der mit dem Schriftum Alberts vertraut ist, steht ohne weiteres fest, dass er diesen Prolog nicht geschrieben haben kann”.Google Scholar
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    Cf. S. Dezani, `S. Alberto Magno: l’osservazione e l’esperimento’, Angelicum, XXI, 1944 [ = Serta albertina], pp. 43–47. Dezani pointed out that Bacon, “wholeheartedly devoted to the exact sciences”, theorized but did not practice experiments; on the contrary, Albert cultivated experimental concerns, even though “his concept of the experiment amounted to mere observation”. Cf below ch. 4, n. 11 and passim, the remarks and the texts adduced by Grabmann, here taken up by Dezani. Tinivella too emphasized the role of experiments in Albert, see `Il metodo’ cit., p. 73.Google Scholar
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    Super Matthaeum, ch. II, ed. B. Schmidt,in Opera omnia, Münster 1987, p.46/36 ff. (already cit. on the basis of the autograph by Geyer `Das Speculum astronomiae’ cit., p. 100 n.): “Si quis enim pronosticatur per Stellas de his quae non subiacent nisi ordini causarum naturalium, et sua pronosticatio est de his secundum quod ordini illi subiacent, et non extendit se ad ilia eadem, nisi eatenus quo inclinat ad ea primus ordo naturae, qui est in situ stellarum et circulo, non malefacit, sed potius utiliter a multis cavet nocumentis et promovet utilitates. Qui autem non consideratis omnibus praenuntiat de his quae future sunt aliter quam dictum est, trufator est et trutannus et abiciendus” (Italics mine). Cf. De sommo et vigilia (III, tr. ii, c. 5), ed. Jammy, V, p. 106, where Albert concluded his interesting discussion of the distinction between necessary and purely probable forecasts — the only possible ones for the human mind — in this way: “universaliter dicendo non omne contingens fieri in futurum evenietchwr(133) Et haec est causa quare non deceptus videtur decipi astronomus et augur et magus et interpres sommiorum et visionum et omnis similiter divinus: omne enim fere tale genus hominum deceptionibus gaudet, et parum literati existentes putant necessarium esse quod contingens est, et pronuntiant tanquam absque impedimento aliquid futurum, et cum non evenit, facit scientias vilescere in conspectum hominum imperitorum, cum defectus non sit in scientiis, sed potius in eis qui abutuntur eis; propter quod etiam Ptolomeus sapiens dicit nihil esse iudicandum nisi valde generaliter et cum protestatione cauta, quod stellae ea quae faciunt faciunt per aliud et per accidens, ex quibus multa in significatis suis occurrunt impedimenta: frustra enim poneretur studium ad scientias vaticinantes si ea quae futura previdentur impediri non possent; ad hoc enim praevidemus ut mala impediantur et bona expediantur ad actum, sicut faciunt periti medicorum in suis prognosticationibus” ( Italics mine ). On this text, see TH, II, 585.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    SuperMatthaeum, cap. II, ed. cit., p. 46/21 ff.: “Magus enim et mathematicus et incantator et maleficus sive necromanticus et ariolus et aruspex et divinator differunt. Quia magus proprie nisi magnus est, qui scientiam habens de omnibus ex naturis et effectibus naturamm coniecturans, aliquando mirabilia naturae praeostendit et educit”. Cf In Danielem, cap.I, 20; ed. Jammy, VIII, p. 8b (cit. by TH, II, 554 n.). Among previous authorities, going back to Varro and Isidore of Seville, we also find the Liber introductorius to astronomy (a source often referred to in the Speculum), where Michael Scot distinguished between true and legitimate mathesis (astronomy and astrology) and mathesis (forbidden magic); cf. C. H. Haskins, Studies in the History of Medieval Science cit., pp. 285–286; Thorndike, Michael Scot, London 1965, pp. 118–119; on Bacon, see Opus tertium cit., pp. 26–27; Secretum secretorum, in Opera hactenus inedita, V, Oxford 1920, ed. R. Steele, pp. 3–7; on other texts, see TH, II, 668–69.Google Scholar
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    In II Sententiarum, d. vii, art. 9: “An daemon in suis operationibus constellationibus iuvetur an non? et utrum scientia imaginum sit operatione daemonum an non?”; ed. Jammy, XV, pp. 87–88: the answer is “videtur quod [fiat] operatione daemonis, quia talis scientia prohibetur; non autem prohiberetur, si fient operatione naturaechwr(133)”.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    It is not easy to identify a Liber de mansionibus Lunae among the numerous still unpublished homonym or similar works (cf. TK, cols. 834–84, 139, 819), many of which contain the attribution to Aristotle. Albert’s text, however, gives a lection which is open to some doubt, in the absence of a critical edition of the Commentary to the Sentences. The more probable identification is however with the Liber Lunae, a work usually recorded as Hermetic, also in the Speculum, XI/47; in some ms. of this work, such as the one preserved in Copenhagen (Gl. kg. S. 3499, ff. 92v-95v) we find the following paragraph: “Et nota quod Aristoteles plenior artibus dicit Selim, idest lunachwr(133)”. Cf. TK, 819; M. Steinschneider, `Die europäischen Übersetzungen aus dem Arabischen’, in Sitzungsberichte der K. Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien, Ph.-Hist. K1., 151, 1906 p. 6; F. Saxl, Verzeichnis astrol. u. mythol. illustrierter Handschriften der National-Bibliothek in Wien, Hamburg 1927, p. 102; Zinner, 8225; Thorndike, `Traditional Medieval Tracts concerning engraved astrological Images’, in Mélanges Auguste Pelzer, Louvain 1947, pp. 238, 255.Google Scholar
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    In II Sententiarum cit., p. 88a: “videmus nativitates variari secundum substantiam et secundum operationes consequentes a constellationibus, sicut dicit Ptolomeus in Quadripartito, quod Sole existente in quadam parte et minuto Arietis, non fit generatio humana, et si cadat tuns semen in matricem, monstrum nascetur. Et ut credatur, ego probavi experimento hoc in duabus matronis probis et bonis, a quibus ego percepi quod monstra pepererunt, et quaerens tempus ab eis et aequans stellas, inveni quod Sole existente circa eundem gradum et minutum secundum suas aestimationes conceperunt” (my italics). It is noteworthy that in this passage Albert declares that he performed an experiment in astrological measurement; shortly afterwards, we find his interesting discussion of a thesis by Avicenna, where Albert denies the origin of such monsters from a combination of semen of various animal species, but calls upon an astrological cause, defined as equally natural: “ergo videtur quod hoc sit naturale: non differt autem scientia imaginum ab illa impressione, nisi sicut ars et natura: quia si natura tuns efficeret imaginem talem qualis fit per artem, facilius et melius haberet ista mirabilia, quae imprimit aspectus stellae, quam imago facta per artem: ergo videtur, quod ibi nihil sit de opere daemonum, sed tantum opus artis et naturae”. The discussion of the relationship between art and nature as far as demons’ actions were concerned, had already taken place ibid., dist. VII, articles 6–8, pp. 84–87.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 88b: “absque dubio, sicut etiam supra per auctoritatem Augustini probatur, ortus et aspectus stellarum magnum habent effectum in operibus naturae et artis, sed tarnen super nostrum liberum arbitrium non habent, ut dicit Damascenus. Sed imaginum ars ideo mala est, quia inclinans est ad idolatriam per numen quod creditur esse in stellis et quia non sunt inventae imagines nisi ad vana vel mala”.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Summa theologiae (Pars II, tr. XI, q. 61), ed. Jammy, XVIII, p. 322: “Hoc autem quod dicit Albumasar error pessimus est et vituperandi sunt qui hoc adducunt quasi pro testimonio quod philosophi nobis testificentur de partu virginis” (Italics mine). Cf. Speculum, XII/60–61. For an even more blasphemous formulation, expressed within a discussion of spontaneous generation —which is considered as caused by celestial influence—cf. ibid., p. 321: “Albumasar dicit in Introductorio, quod Virgo, in cuius facie prima oritur constellatio quaedam ad similitudinem virginis in gremio habentis puerum, quae tantae virtutis est ut fecunditatem quibusdam virginibus afferat sine commixtione virili. Et dat examplum, quod penitus haereticum est, quod beata Virgo sic conceperat Iesum quem gens Christianorum adorat” (Italics mine). Cf. Speculum, XII/78ss and 83.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Geyer, `Das Speculum astronomiae’ cit., p. 100. In a letter sent to me on November 30th, 1973, Lemay pointed out: “Que dans ses ouvrages propres Albert ait parfois pensé différemment que dans le Speculum, il n’y a pas raison d’en être surpris. En particulier, la difference de pensée remarquée par Mgr. Geyer entre le Speculum et les ouvrages authentiques d’Albert, concernant la prédiction de la naissance virginale du Christ s’explique (en plus de l’argumentation importante de Thorndike répondant à Geyer) par le fait que dans le Speculum d’Albert ne rapport pas sa pensée definitive, mais trace les limites permises à la spéculation des chrétiens sur ce sujet délicat. Dans ses ouvrages plus personnels, par contre, Albert prend partie pour ou contre la validité scientifique de certaines de ces doctrines des Libri Naturales dans le cadre de son propre système de pensée. Il peut très bien alors avoir rejeté de sa synthèse philosophique ce morceau astrologique, que dans le Speculum il ne jugeait pas opposé à l’orthodoxie. Faire, comme Mgr. Geyer, de ces différences un argument historique pour rejeter la paternité d’Albert dans le Speculum c’est méconnaître aussi bien le milieu culturel d’alors que les véritables circonstances de la production intellectuelle d’Albert le Grand”. Thorndike, `Further consideration’ cit., p. 426 conceded that “Undoubtedly the two passages in Summa and Speculum are contradictory, but that in the Summa may be an interpolation, or Albertus may have changed his mind upon this pointchwr(133) Albertus like others, wrote from a different standpoint in his theological and natural writings. In the one he was apt to reflect the views of the Church Fathers, in the other not merely those of Aristotle and Avicenna, but of Aaron and Evax, Hermes and Albumasar”. As readers will easily deduce from my own insistence on the Albertinian method allowing the so-called “duae viae”, I find the second of the two remarks by Thorndike quoted above as more convincing.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Speculum, XII/60–100.Google Scholar
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    Cf Meersseman, Introductio cit., p. 112: “Omnes conveniunt Albertum hoc opus scripsisse in ultimo suae vitae decennio et a continuatione eius impeditum fuisse memoriae lapsu, morbo et morte. Doctrina ibi magis evoluta et generaliter magis aristotelica est quam in priori Summa vel in Sententiis. Imo, influxus Summae theologicae S. Thomae non omnino excludendus videtur. Major tarnen et indubitabilis videtur influxus Summae theologicae quae Alexandri Halensis dicitur”. To the bibliography on this issue listed by Meersseman we should now add H. Neufeld, ‘Zum Problem des Verhältnisses der Theologischen Summe Alberts des Grossen zur Theologischen Summe Alexander von Hales’, Franziskanische Studien, 27, 1940, pp. 22–56, 65–87, where some texts are confronted on parallel columns.Google Scholar
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    O. Lottin did not agree with Meersseman’s Aristotelic-Thomistic characterization of the Summa, and saw in that work the presence of Franciscan tendencies; see his review of R. Kaiser, `Die Bedeutung proklischer Schriften durch Albert den Grossen’, in Bulletin de théologie ancienne et médievale, IX, 1963, pp. 387–88; the sentences we have quoted have been taken from that review.Google Scholar
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    This information still awaits confirmation; on the contrary, it is certain that Albert attended the Council of Lyon in May 1274, which means that his vitality was unimpaired at least until that date: cf P. von Loe, `Albert der Grosse auf dem Konzil von Lyon’, Literarische Beilage der kölnischen Volkszeitung, LV, 1914, Nr. 29, pp. 225–226. The earliest biographers who mention the trip to Paris in 1277 agree that Albert’s sight and memory remained unimpaired until three years before his death, that is, until 1277; the trip to Paris is endorsed by H. C. Scheeben, Albertus Magnus, Köln 1955 2nd ed., pp. 172173; by W. A. Wallace, s. v. `Albert’ in New Catholic Encyclopedia, I, 1967, and s. v. `Albert’ in Dictionary of Scientific Biography, I, 1970; J. A. Weisheipl, `The Life and Works of St-Albert’, in Albertus Magnus and the Sciences, Toronto 1980, pp. 43–46, has denied that the trip took place.Google Scholar
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    Some of the Baconian texts concerning the horoscopes of religions have been quoted and discussed by D. Bigalli, I tartan e l’apocalisse, Firenze 1971, pp. 179–188, and p. 110 n. 46 where an interesting passage is quoted from the Chronica magistri Rogeri de Hoveden: “Habebit autem Antichristus magos, maleficos, divinos et cantores: qui eum, diabolo inspirante, nutrient et docebant eum in omni iniquitate et falsitate et nefaria arte”.Google Scholar
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    Summa theologiae, Pars I, tr. XVII, q. 68, m. 4, ed. Jammy, XVII, p. 387 a-b: “Christus assumpsit nostros defectus indetractabiles, ut dicit Damascenus. Unus autem et praecipuus nostrorum defectuum est subiacere fato et fortunae. Ergo ilium assumpsit Christus. Adhuc, omnibus mobilibus adhaeret dispositio quae est fatum. Christus mobilis fuit secundum corpus, hoc constat. Mobilis etiam fuit secundum electionemchwr(133) Ergo videtur quod secundum corpus et animam fato subiacuit et fortunae”.Google Scholar
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    Summa theologiae cit., ed. Jammy, XVII, p. 389b: “Ad id quod ulterius quaeritur, utrum Christus secundum corpus vel secundum animam subiacuerit fortunae, dicendum quod non. Cum enim ipse sit conditor dispositionis quae in rebus est, vel ex ordine causarum vel ex positione siderum, non potest subiacere dispositioni tali: nec qui Deus est gubernans unumquodque ad debitum ordinem et finem providentia sua, ab alio quodam potest gubernari et suo ordine necti. Et hoc est quod dicit Augustinus in sermone de Epiphania, quod de Christo verum non esset, quod sub decreto stellae nasceretur, si etiam alü et alü homines sub decreto stellae nascerentur. Nam Christus Dei filius propria voluntate homo factus est: alü homines nascuntur conditione naturae. Ad id quod obicitur in contrarium, dicendum quod Christus defectus nostros assumpsit voluntate et non contraxit naturae vitiosae necessitate, et ideo non subiicitur ei, sed supponitur quod passus fuit quae voluit et quando voluit et a quibus voluit. Ad aliud dicendum, quod Christus mobilis fuit secundum corpus, sed mobilitas voluntati suae subiacuit et ipse non ei; secundum animam autem non fuit mobilis. Et quod dicitur, quod proficiebat sapientia et gratia tropice dicitur, tropo illo quo tes dicuntur fieri quando innotescit, ut dicit Ambrosius”.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paola Zambelli
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di FilosofiaUniversitá di FirenzeItaly

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