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Volume 12, No. 2
Choosing to be Human: Albert the Great on Self Awareness and Celestial Influence
Albert the Great (c.1200-1280) was so interested in astrology and the influence of the heavens upon terrestrial affairs that he discussed this important component of natural philosophy in almost everything he wrote, from his early De bono to his late and unfinished Summa theologiae. A poorly understood component of the reason why he was so fascinated with this subject is his understanding of human versus animalistic action. According to Albert it is only when people act in accord with a willed choice informed by an understanding of why the action is undertaken that an activity may properly be considered human and therefore good, making it very important to understand external affecting factors. In Albert’s philosophy, the most powerful external influence affecting a person is that derived from the heavens—therefore understanding these forces is important if one wishes to act as a fully actualized human. Analysis of this component of Albert’s philosophical system is essential if we are to understand the vast importance that he gave astrology, which in turn is the key to many elements of his broader philosophy.