A Pre-Modern Description of Emergence: Albertus Magnus on Human Foetal Development

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Both the theory and the terminology of Albertus Magnus’s philosophical psychology in the thirteenth century bear an extraordinary resemblance to twenty-first century descriptions of emergent systems. In Albert’s description of the temporal drama of human foetal life, the emergent, ‘intellectual’ energies of human psychê or anima or soul cannot be at all predicated on the material or psychic agents that give rise to them. Though standing in a real continuity with those natural, causal agents, human psyche knows itself as existing discontinuously from them and as enacting, in and through the dimension of time, kinds of knowledge and types of experience which display complex potentialities that appear to be irreducible, or, at the least, not fully measurable: in art, in science, and also in cultic action.

A Pre-Modern Description of Emergence: Albertus Magnus on Human Foetal Development

in KronoScope



MagnusAlbertus B. Alberti Magni Ratisbonensis episcopi ordinis Praedicatorum Opera Omnia . . cura ac labore Augusti (et Aemilii) Borgnet 1890-99 Parisiis apud L. Vivès [See also the extraordinary online search-engine covering a selection of the complete works at albertusmagnus.uwaterloo.ca.]

AnzulewiczHenryk PorroPasquale Aeternitas, Aevum and Tempus in Albert the Great,” The Medieval Concept of Time: the Scholastic Debate and its Reception in Early Modern Philosophy 2001 Leiden Brill 83 129

AquinasThomas RobbJ.H. Quaestiones de Anima 1968 Toronto Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies

AquinasThomas FitzPatrickMary C.WellmuthJohn J. De Spiritualibus Creaturis/On Spiritual Creatures 1949 Milwaukee, WI Marquette University Press

Aristotle De Anima 1956 Oxonii e typographeo Clarendoniano recog. W.D. Ross

Aristotle Peri Psychen/(de Anima) 1986 Oxonii e typo. Clarendoniano recog. W.D. Ross

BazánBernardo Carlos “The Human Soul: Form and Substance? Thomas Aquinas’ Critique of Eclectic Aristotelianism,” Archives d’Histoire doctrinale et littèraire du Moyen-Âge 1997 64 95 126

ChenuM.-D. OP “SPIRITUS: le vocabulaire de l’âme au XIIe siècle,” Revue des Sciences Philosophiques et Théologiques 1957 41 209 232

LevinDavid Michael Phenomenological Psychology and the Deconstruction of Nihilism The Body’s Recollection of Being 1985 London Routledge & Kagan Paul

PerlerDominique Transformations of the Soul Aristotelian Psychology 1250-1650 2009 Leiden Brill (special offprint of Vivarium 46 3 (2008))

ReuscherJohn A. Essays on the Metaphysical Foundations of Personal Identity 1981 New York University Press of America


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