Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

St. Albert the Great: Against the Ulpian and the Decretists

IN THE THIRD CENTURY, ULPIAN, THE ROMAN JURISCONSULT, had defined the natural law as what “nature teaches all animals,” quod natura omnia animalia docuit. That definition was assumed by the Emperor Justinian when the jurist Tribonian crafted the Digest of Roman laws sometime in the early 530s. (Digest, 1.1.3). Marriage and procreation were generally considered to be matters that humans shared with animals under this definition of the natural law. That definition had been carried over into the canonical or jurisprudential area, largely unthinkingly, by the Decretists, i.e., Canon lawyers. We have seen, however, that as a result of St. Albert's treatment of the natural law and practical reason, the role of reason was greatly emphasized in the determination of right. Building from the notion that there was a natural law (ius naturale) inscribed in man's very reasoning nature, attached in the power known as synderesis, and from which, based upon knowledge gained by the senses, practical reasoning could be applied through conscience in a syllogistic manner, the union between right and reason was sealed. Because he saw the the ius naturale as a habitus that was at the foundation of rational morality, St. Albert rejected Ulpian's definition of the natural law. As Crowe puts it: "There is no room in [Albert's] view for Ulpian's quod natura omnia animalia docuit--there can be no natural law common to man and brute." Crowe, 121; see also Crowe, 96 (citing In 4 Sent., d. 33, q. 1, a.1.)

Albert the Great by Joos (Justus) van Gent

As we observed in prior blog postings on St. Albert's doctrine of natural law, St. Albert starts his discussion in his Summa de bono by quoting Cicero: the natural law is a force innately inserted or implanted in us: quod non opinio genuit sed quaedam innata vis inseruit. This quaedam innata vis, something of an innate power, distinguishes man from the brute. "Non erit ius naturale," Albert makes clear, "nisi solius hominis. . . . Haec distinctio nec artem nec rationem habet, sicut est mos decretistarum ponere distinctiones." Summa de bono, V, De iust., q. 1, a. 1 (quoted in Crowe, 121, n. 31). "There is no natural right except for in man . . . This distinction they do not have neither in art or in reason, as is put foward in the distinctions of the decretists." "We do not accept," Albert the Great makes clear in another part of his Summa de bono, "in the distinctions which [the decretists] posit, that is that the natural right may be known in many modes, at that one mode is shared in common with the brute animals." Non enim consentimus in distinctionem quam quidem posuerunt, scilicet quod ius naturale multis modis dicatur, et uno modo sit commune nobis cum brutis. Summa de bono, V, De iust., q. 1, a. 2. (quoted in Crowe, 121, n.30).

Albert the Great by Gerda Laufenberg

This is true, St. Albert insists, even of those aspects of man that are most closely aligned with animals, such as coupling, and the procreation and education of children. In comparison to the brute, the procreation of children is not the product of mere sensuality, but is intrinsically bound up in "sense-inclination as found in man." Crowe, 121. Reason is overriding and overarching, so as to pale any sharedness between the brutes and man, even in the matter of procreation. In short, though in brute animals the sexual act may be subject to instinct, in man the sexual act is (or at least ought to be) governed by, and subject to reason or the natural moral law. Since in man the sexual act is subject to reason, it follows, at least for St. Albert, that it is altogether of a different order than the sexual act in brute animals. Albert the Great "appears to grudge the admission that the tendencies of man's animal nature, as regulated by reason, properly form part of the natural law; and he has little patience with the ingenuity of the doctors who made distinctions to accomodate Ulpian." Crowe, 121. This attitude of St. Albert's was maintained by him all his life. As Albert explained years later in his Commentary on the Nichomachean Ethics, only materially, and not in any formal sense, can one describe the act of sexual congress between a man and a woman as belonging to animal nature, and never can it be viewed as something independent of man's reason. Crowe, 122.

Woodcut of St. Albert the Great in his Laboratory


  1. In Defense of Ulpian

    Where to start.

    That is difficult because the Natural Law is so interconnected that to use one point of the natural law one has to comprehend several underlying interconnected principles as well. One can't just talk of one thing without pulling in a whole range of things; one thing leads to another for St. Albert just doesn't break one principle but has broken the whole of the Natural Law. To understand one concept, one has to understand three more concepts at the same time.

    First thing: The Natural Law is not an academic exercise. It is not learned from books. It is not a purely intellectual excercise. Like "common sense", it is not learned by reading books, it is a lot like being conditioned. It is a part "sense", an intiution. That is why God threw us out of the Garden of Eden and into a harsh world. We are to learn a lesson, and that lesson must be lived. The natural law is learned by living in its condition. Socrates being a hoplite, a veteran of three wars, had a farm, was a stone mason, but more importantly, as Xenophon reports, would watch the banavsos at their jobs for Hours on end. It is observed. Socrates is emulating the philosophical training that the Spartans also engaged in--the watching and observing of nature as well as living in it. The failure to live in nature, is a failure to understand/comprehend the Natural Law.

    We are all very aware of the argument of "Nature vs Nuture". Environment plays an important, subconscious part on the human pscyhe. The Natural Law is felt. In a lot of respects "conditioning" comes into play. Not everything is "Mentally" done! One has to grasp the totality of Reality.

  2. One of the basic errors of St. Albert is understanding the first basic element of reality, and more specifically, human reality and that is his ignorance of the Golden Mean!

    We are in the image of God are we not? But what is God fundamentally? The God of Christianity is the Golden Mean between the strict monotheism of Judiasm and the polytheism of the gentiles. (Apostolos Makrakis, a Greek Orthodox theologian) The Trinity is the Golden Mean. Jesus Christ is the Golden Mean. (Aristotle, "where the extremes meet", where Jesus is Fully God and Fully Man)

    St. Albert does not recognize the Golden Mean in Mankind. We are Animals and we are part Angel. Humankind is the Golden Mean. That means we SHARE IN aspects of the Animal Kingdom! St.Albert was wrong to reject any connection between Man and the Animal Kingdom! Just like Christ is the Golden Mean, us, his creation, is also the Golden Mean!!!!!

    We share many aspects with the Animal kingdom; Not just procreation and sexuality but something more fundamental, mysterious, fascinating and wonderous, that is the Spinal bifactional symetry expressed in our bodies. We have a Leftside/rightside proportionality. Proportion, harmony, symmetry. In essence, we share the same transcendent characteristics. This is the plan of God. (Is this why Lucifer was jealous of us Humans) We are more than Angels who are pure spirit. We are more than just animals. We are the Golden Mean. We have SOME shared characteristics than just sex!

    The Golden Mean is the Queen of the Natural Law. The Golden Mean is the Centrality of the Natural Law. It is one of the most beautiful and perfect and wonderous of the Natural Laws. In his dismissal of Ulpian, St. Albert dismisses the Golden Mean. He is ignorant of this most defining element of Reality. Thru the Natural Law of the Golden Mean, one can see that we must share aspects of the Animal Kingdom! So you can not reject Ulpian.

    The Golden Mean means that there is a "Mixture". (And beware, the Golden mean is NOT the Hegelian Dialectic! It is a bastardization, an embelishment; Hegel stole the idea from the Classical Greeks.) Unconsciously, unknowlingly, F. Scott Fitzgerald bespeaks of the modality of the Golden Mean, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function." This is the modality of the Golden Mean. In discussing the Human Being we can NOT exaggerate one condition over another. We must read Reality as is. When St. Albert dismisses outright Ulpian, he is divorcing the animal nature and condition of man! He is separating Man completely from the reigns of the Natural Order. He is blinding us to our own reality. It is difficult but we have to hold two opposite things in our heads while we research into our own makeup. We are BOTH Animal and Divine. We are Human beings.

  3. In Defense of Ulpian.

    In the next point, the defense would like to call Jesus Christ to the stand.

    If He made us---he would know us, right?

    What is the metaphor that Christ uses to signify what humans are like?

    Sheep! He constantly uses the Sheep metaphor to describe and teach truths about man, God's relation to man, Himself to man, and the reality of man! Jesus is using Ulpian! Christ describes men as sheep---How could he if we have NO shared aspects to the animal kingdom?

    Have you ever worked with sheep? Have you ever seen sheep? Ever observe their behavior? Why do they need shepards? If Jesus Christ compares us to sheep, then don't we share in the characteristics of sheep?

    The biggest defense of the Ulpian definition is JC himself! Jesus Christ is using the Natural Law!

  4. In Defense of Ulpian

    The teaching method of Jesus Christ.

    Why did the Jews reject Jesus Christ? One of the lesser reasons is that he didn't teach like one of them.

    Have any of you know how of the modality of Jewish knowledge? They only read texts. That is all they do for their religion. Their yeshivas, their learning centers, are about constant reading. That is all they do. Exigesis of Scripture, or more than likely the exigesis of the Talmud. This is the basis of their learning: exigesis.

    Now, let me ask you this--What was the basis of Christ's teaching?

    Parables. Jesus rarely did exigesis. The only time he did any long teaching or quoting of scripture was with the Devil. When Jesus taught----He used Parables which are all based on the Natural Law! Jesus pulled examples from the Natural Order of man, animal and plant to teach. Rarely did Jesus go to Scripture! Jesus did NOT teach Scripture to the people!!!!! He taught visual representations of the natural law! Jesus did not use the teaching techniques of the Pharisees, but of the Greeks. Was not one of his most fundamental parables "The sower of the seed"? Was not the gospel compared to agrarian reality of sowing seed? Does not the farmer have to obey the dictates of nature when sowing seed? And doesn't that also, same rules apply, to the gospel? Jesus Christ is using the Natural Law.

    (The question should not be, did Plato read Moses but did Jesus Christ read Plato and Socrates.)

  5. In Defense of Ulpian

    Man is not to be viewed in a vacuum. He is not a solitary creature under a microscope.

    Aristotle in his book Politics, describes man, and most translators have it as "political animal". The Greek word is "politikon" and the word is not "politics" per se, but the word "social". Man is a SOCIAL animal; for Aristotle then compares man as (paraphrase)"more gregarious than a bee or any other animal."

    Well,---what has man surrounded himself with? What does the history of man show? What is God teaching us? Man has domesticated animals. Animals surround Man--in a close intimate relationships. Man is a farmer and for sustenance, he needs Animals. What is God teaching us? look at the """type""" of animal that we have domesticated. The domesticated animals are closer to man. He lives a close life with them.

    All the animals, except one, that man has surrounded himself with, are Herd animals! The dog, the chicken, the horse, the cow, the goose, the sheep, the pig, and the goat, are all herd animals. What is not a herd animal, is the cat and to some respects the duck. Is this strange? Is this "just" a concidence?

    By domestication, Man brings living reality in close relationship and inspection. Man is surrounded by Herd Animals. Why is that? Because maybe, he is supposed to learn something from that?

    Man is also a Herd animal. Is this now why Christ uses Sheep as a metaphor for humans? And if you worked on a farm, one would know that the sheep are the dumbest of the domesticated animals!

    Aristotle, a reader of nature, confirms this by his statement "Man is a Social Animal". Man is a herd animal.

    Was St. Albert smart in dismissing Ulpian? Human nature is very complex and it just doesn't "only" exist in morality; in moral conscience decisions. In the very nature of our being we share much with the Animal Kingdom. Aristotle, with Homer, points to being "clanless" as synonymous with lawlessness! Is this why there is a great push on everywhere for deracination? Political Correctness, a term coined in the Soviet Union, a goal of International Sociliasm/Communism/Marxism/Democratic Socialism is about destroying race and all of its parameters? Is this not a great evil? And as Catholic Social Justice mirrors and borrows from Marxist political Correctness, and attacks racism, it fundamentally attacks the very nature of humanness as a herd animal.

    If the Catholic Church follows the lead of St. Albert, does it not play into the hands of people who want to make humans "clanless"?---and therefore Lawless?

  6. In Defense of Ulpian

    In the metaphor of the sheep, is that not why Christ created the Church----to be a shepard? Does not a bishop carry a crosier?---and implement of a shepard? Is not Jesus, not only the Lamb, but the Shepard as well? Is not the job of the Bishop to shepard?

    If people are sheep---they need shepards, do they not?

    And if people need a religious shepard, do not people need secular shepards?

    What is the Monarch? Is not the Monarch very much like the Bishop? Do not people need a secular shepard? And who does that job? The Monarch.

    Who and what destroyed Monarchy? The Enlightenment? If you Destroy Ulpian, where is the resistance to the Enlightenment? Is not Jesus Correct? Does he not know us? If we are sheep---do we not need secular shepards? There is more to the human psyche than just moral reasoning.

    As Jesus foretold, the destruction of Monarchy, has led the Europeans to be victims of wolves. Was that not the whole point of the Enlightenment? To decieve people in order to kill them? Is that not the way of the devil?

    Ulpian has said more than he would ever know. The Natural Law is there for a purpose. What is happening is that the Natural law is being "narrowed" into a very miniscule sphere.

  7. In Defense of Ulpian.

    All the previous is just the introduction to this post. The crux of St. Albert is this: Reason is overriding and overarching, so as to pale any sharedness between the brutes and man, even in the matter of procreation.

    Oh, how wrong is this man! Granted, he may have merit in what he is trying to promote in the idea of the Moral Law, but his dismissal of Ulpian is without merit.

    There is no sharedness between brute and man?

    How often do I quote peasants and their sayings that refute the intelligentsia--too many to count.

    "Blood is thicker than water".

    Not even reason countermands this basic instinct IN MAN! Case in Point--the breakup of the Soviet Union. What happened in that ex-Marxist state? Everyone gathered by blood (nationality) into their own groups.

    How idiotic are ideologues. Horace, and I love this quote, an agrainist observed this: "Throw out Nature with a pitchfork, and she WILL return" You can not, will not break the Natural Law! That is an Ordinance by Almighty God that will not be broken in this life and not be requited in this life. One may steal, one may commit adultery, one may swear using God's name and not get the punishment for it until the next life---but break the natural Law---NATURE WILL ALWAYS have her way!

    When the s^#& hits the fan, survival instincts kick in. Reason not allowed. "Blood is thicker than water". Nature doesn't follow what the intelligentsia thinks. Either you are with the program---or Nature kills you. Regardless of the political correctness in this country that has deracinated the European, the more primal peoples act and operate on this paradigm. It always operates. And those beguiled and deceived and turned into clanless individuals--are only going to be hapless victims in times of crisis.

    Nature will have her harmony, her balance. Screw with the balance, and Nature will return---with a vengeance.

    The herd instinct can be seen in demogoguery throughout history. It is a tool that can be used unscrupously.

    Whether you agree with me or not does not concern me here. Life is War. God purposely put man into a hostile environment; that disobedience to the Rule of Law, to the Natural Law, brings quick and fast punishment. The survival of the man is in his group. It is only in the group that he survives. It is in the group that he has sustenance both materially and psychologically. The Natural Law is not just "Moral", it is of sociological, it is of psychological necessity and for the knowledge of righteousness in ALL spheres of life.

    In spite of the "Opinion" of St. Albert, there is a hellavu shared characteristics between the so-called brute animals and human beings.

  8. In defense of Ulpian

    That reason always operates? That sex is purely a "reason controlled" act? That it is purely reason.

    What baloney. Again, going to the extreme; Again, exagerating one aspect to the detriment of the other.

    Since in man the sexual act is subject to reason, it follows, at least for St. Albert, that it is altogether of a different order than the sexual act in brute animals.

    What utter nonsense. Technology has backed up the decritists and Ulpian. Humans are subject to Hormones, St. Albert! If St. Albert followed the real Natural Law, todays medicine and technology would not be able to throw egg on his opinions so readily. Modern medicine and technology prove Ulpian right.

    First, sex is a basic instinct. I used to listen to a great Protestant preacher named John Hagee. He had a favorite line when he talked about sex: "The Urge to Merge"! What a great line. We have urges. We are driven to mate just like animals are driven to mate! We have hormones coursing thru our viens just like the brute animals that St. Albert despises. If these urges are righteous, there is NO reason for reason to kick in. It is only when our dysfunctionality of original sin corrupts this urge that we need "reason" to correct it.

    Again, it is half and half situation. We are divine animals that must use ourselves in accordance with righteousness. Pure reason is not the answer. Reason plays a part in the sex act. It is NOT the sole arbiter of sex.

    We do share in the Animal Kingdom. The need to procreate is strong in humans as it is in rabits. A man's need for heirs, the womans need to have children. And for some, only age cures the sin; not reason.

    There is another reason as well. God commanded that woman shall have a need to be ruled by men. It is in Gensis. There is no reason there. The urge of a woman to find a man has been placed there by God. She can not control that. It is there. This is a case of special divine command.

    St. Albert in dismissing Ulpian really doesn't know what is going on in human beings. He does not know Man and he doesn't know Reality. Truth is a "Faithful representation of reality". Ulpian's definition is Truth.

  9. In defense of Ulpian.

    Last but not least, is the backbone of the natural law called Macrocosm/microcosm.

    All of the Natural Laws repeat! The Natural Law is in every sphere of reality. The same laws that operate in the Animal kingdom, operate in the Human sphere. God himself incorporates the whole of the Natural Law in himself. "As Above, so Below". Higher Animals are in family structures, just like Man is. Not only was St. Albert ignorant of the Golden Mean, he was also ignorant of the most fundamental of the Natural Law, that of Macrocosm/microcosm.

    The existence of macrocosm/microcosm automatically refutes St. Albert's dismissal of Ulpian. We can know and study the Natural Law thru the Animal kingdom. Without the animal Kingdom, it would be harder to know the natural law.

    Aesop is passed over by most and sundry in the list of philosophers but Aesop's fables (or parables) are really teachers of the Natural Law and of Wisdom. I so much like the tale of the Scorpion and frog. This fable proves Horace's dictum. The moral of the story is, If you fail to pay attention to the nature of a thing, it will cost you your life!

    You have to pay attention to Nature. Nature teaches a Law. Disregard and all Hell breaks loose---guaranteed!

    It is time that those of they, restore the Fullness of the Natural Law and to teach, defend, uphold and promulgate the whole of the law.