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Catherine König-Pralong

Séminaire de lecture en version originale

Automne 2008

Roger Bacon
et les
Opus maius,
Prima pars
Bibliographie sommaire
[Pour une bibliographie plus complète, aller à la fin de l’article de J. Hackett joint à ce document]

Une grammaire latine se révèlera très utile, par exemple cet ouvrage dédié au latin médiéval :
M. GOULLET – M. PARISSE, Traduire le latin médiéval. Manuel pour grands commençants, Paris, Librairie
Picard, 2005.

Le dictionnaire de base sera toujours :

F. GAFFIOT, Dictionnaire latin français, Paris, Hachette, 1934 [nombreuses rééditions].

Pour le latin médiéval, on consultera aussi l’un ou l’autre de ces dictionnaires :

A. BLAISE, Dictionnaire latin-français des auteurs chrétiens, Turnhout, Brepols, 2ème éd., 1967.
A. BLAISE, Dictionnaire latin-français des auteurs du Moyen Age, Turnhout, Brepols, 1975.
J. Fr. NIERMEYER, Mediae latinitatis lexicon minus, Leyde, Brill, 1976.

Opus maius, 3 Vols., ed. John Henry Bridges, Oxford and Edinburgh. (Vols. 1 & 2, Oxford (1897),
Vol. 3 with corrections, Edinburgh, 1900. Reprint, Frankfurt Am Main: Minerva, 1964.

Littérature secondaire
BOURGAIN, Pascale, «Le sens de la langue et des langues chez Roger Bacon», in Geneviève
CONTAMINE (éd.), Traduction et traducteurs au Moyen Âge, Paris, CNRS, 1989, p. 317-329.
HEDWIG, Klaus, «Roger Bacon’s Scientia experimentalis», in Theo Kobush (éd.), Philosophen des
Mittelalters, Darmstadt, Primus, 2000, p. 140-51.
HACKETT, Jeremiah (éd.), Roger Bacon and the Sciences: Commemorative Essays,
Leiden, Brill, 1997.
HACKETT, Jeremiah (éd.), Roger Bacon and Aristotelianism, = Vivarium 35.2, 1997.
HACKETT, Jeremiah (éd.), «Philosophy and theology in Roger Bacon’s Opus maius», in R. James
LONG, Philosophy and the God of Abraham. Essays in Memory of James A. Weisheipl, Toronto,
Pontifical Institute, 1991, p. 55-69.
MALONEY, Thomas S., «The Semiotics of Roger Bacon», Medieval Studies, 45, 1983, p. 120-154.
LARDET, Pierre, «Un lecteur de Jérôme au XIIIe siècle : langues et traduction chez Roger Bacon», in
Yves-Marie DUVAL (éd.), Jérôme entre l’Occident et l’Orient…, Paris, Études augustiniennes,
1988, p. 445-463.
LEMAY, Richard, «Roger Bacon’s attitude toward the Latin translations and translators of the
twelfth and thirteenth centuries», in HACKETT, Jeremiah (éd.), Roger Bacon and the Sciences:
Commemorative Essays, p. 25-47.
POWER, Amanda, 2006, «A Mirror for Every Age: The Reputation of Roger Bacon», The English
Historical Review, 2006, 121/492, p. 657-692.
ROSIER, Irène, La Parole Comme Acte: Sur la grammaire et la sémantique au XIIIe siècle, Paris, J. Vrin,

Article introductif
Jeremiah HACKETT
«Roger Bacon», in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,
First published Thu Apr 19, 2007

Roger Bacon (1214/1220–1292), Master of Arts, University of Paris, later Franciscan Friar was one of
the earliest witnesses to the reception of Aristotle at Paris soon after the lifting of the Condemnations of
1210, 1215, 1231. Trained in Logic and Natural Philosophy at Oxford he was a contemporary of Albert
the Great and William of Auvergne at Paris in the 1240s. Sometime after 1247/8, he became an
independent scholar with an interest in languages and experimental-scientific concerns. Between 1247
and 1267, Bacon mastered most of the Greek and Islamic texts on Optics. He had expected to get a
teaching position on becoming a Franciscan friar ca. 1257. He was to be disappointed. Because he
regarded the following ten years as an exile from teaching, he sought the Patronage of Cardinal Guy le
Gros de Foulque (Pope Clement V, November 1265-1268). On the instruction of the Pope, June 22,
1266, Bacon quickly wrote “an introductory work,” the Opus maius and the related works Opus minus
and Opus tertium. He set out his own new model for a system of philosophical studies that would
incorporate language studies and science studies then unavailable at the Universities. He succeeded in
setting out a model of an experimental science on the basis of his study of Optics (Perspectiva). He
does this in a new context: the application of linguistic and scientific knowledge for a better
understanding of Theology and in the service of the Res publica Christiana. It would appear that Bacon
was condemned by his Order in 1278 “on account of certain suspected novelties.” This may have been
due to his interests in astrology and alchemy. Bonaventure and John Pecham were among his first
readers and the former in particular was critical of his interests in astrology and alchemy. Bacon,
however, found a sympathetic reader and interpreter in the great scholar of the Sorbonne, Peter of
Limoges (d. 1306). Through the latter, Bacon may have influenced Raymond Lull. Bacon returned to
Oxford about 1280, where he completed his edition with introduction and notes of the Secretum
secretorum, a Latin translation of the Arabic text on the education of the Prince, the Sirr-al-‘asrar. He
believed it to be a work by Aristotle for Alexander the Great. He died at Oxford ca. 1292.

• 1. Modern Research on Roger Bacon

• 2. Life and Works
• 3. Bacon's early work on Grammar and Logic
o 3.1 Summa grammatica
o 3.2 Summa de sophismatibus et distinctionibus (SSD)
o 3.3 Sumulae dialectics (SD)
• 4. Bacon as an Aristotelian Commentator
o 4.1 Roger Bacon and Richard Rufus: In physicam Aristotelis
o 4.2 Bacon and Grosseteste: Knowledge, Science and Intuition
o 4.3 Bacon on Matter
o 4.4 Bacon on Universals and Individuation
o 4.5 Bacon's Realism: On the Way to late Medieval Nominalism?
o 4.6 Bacon on Body, Soul and Mind: Early Works
o 4.7 Bacon on Body, Soul, Mind: Later Works

• 5. Bacon's Later Philosophy: Language Study and Science in the service of both Moral
Philosophy and Theology
o 5.1 Background
o 5.2 Opus maius/Parts One and Two
o 5.2 Opus maius/Part Three: On Language, De signis and Compendium Studii
o 5.4 Opus maius/Parts Four, Five and Six: Mathematics and Philosophy of Nature (De
multiplicatione specierum, Perspectiva, Scientia Experimentalis)
o 5.5 Opus maius/Part Seven: Moralis philosophia
o 5.6 Bacon's political philosophy: the Secretum secretorum
• 6. Conclusion
• Bibliography
o Primary Sources
o Secondary Sources
• Other Internet Resources
• Related Entries

1. Modern Research on Roger Bacon

Modern understanding of the Philosophy of Roger Bacon is largely conditioned by two distinct
traditions of interpretation from the nineteenth century. The first is the study of the physical,
metaphysical, and related works of Bacon. Discovered in 1848 by Victor Cousin in Amiens MS 406,
these works were edited by Robert Steele and Ferdinand Delorme (OHI, 1905-1940) . With the
exception, however, of the teaching on the soul, some aspects of Bacon's theory of matter and form, the
doctrine of experientia/experimentum, and the doctrines of universals and individuation, the content of
these works has remained largely unstudied until present times. One can argue that “critical” scholarly
study of these works has just begun.

The second and more well-known interpretation of Roger Bacon as a scientist is found in nineteenth
and twentieth century writers on science and has a solid basis in Bacon's own work, for example, the
edition of the Opus tertium by J.S. Brewer [OQHI]. Bacon tells us that around 1247/8 he departed
normal Arts teaching to devote himself to language study and the sciences. Bacon's Perspectiva (1267)
[PRSP, 1996] presents a model for an experimental science that ushered in a new addition to the
traditional Quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music) in the new universities of the Latin
West, namely, the study of Optics. There has been significant modern research on this aspect of Bacon's
work. In fact, for the first time in the history of Bacon scholarship, we now have accurate texts, with
adequate matching geometrical diagrams for the scientific works (post 1260). The early works (ca.
1240-1250) have need of new critical editions. .

In 1859, William Whewell set the tone for this modern account of “Roger Bacon and the Sciences”
(Whewell, 1858, p.245). He viewed Bacon as an advocate of experiment ahead of his time. In the late
nineteenth century, Robert Adamson and many others interpreted Bacon as a philosopher of science in
the modern sense of the term This understanding of Roger Bacon did not begin in the nineteenth
century. Already in the late Renaissance, Francis Bacon had characterized Roger Bacon as an
exceptional figure among the schoolmen.[1] Francis Bacon held that Roger Bacon had set aside the
scholastic disputations of his times and engaged in the mechanical understanding of the secrets of

In the 1900s, Thorndike [LT1; LT2] and Duhem [LSDM, III, 442] asserted that the role of observation
in Bacon's science was minimal and added nothing to his idea of a science. In the post-World War II
years, A.C. Crombie (1953) argued that the “qualitative” aspects of modern science originated at

Oxford in the early thirteenth century, specifically in the work of Grosseteste and Roger Bacon. This
interpretation received a critical response from Alexander Koyré (1957) and others. It was argued that
Crombie read back some aspects of modern scientific method into the works of Grosseteste and Bacon.
Thomas S. Kuhn (1976), however, maintained that Crombie did identify a real methodological
connection between medieval and early modern science. The studies and editorial work of David C.
Lindberg on Bacon's natural philosophy, for example, De multiplicatione specierum (DMS) and
Perspectiva [PRSP] emphasized the need to read Roger Bacon as a medieval scientist and not an early
modern or modern scientist. Thus, it is as a medieval philosopher, scientist and theologian that he must
be properly understood. Despite the obvious polarity generated by two separate traditions of
interpretation, it should be noted that there is some continuity between the interests of Bacon, the
Aristotelian Commentator, and Bacon the writer on Science.

2. Life and Works

Bacon remarks in the Opus tertium [OQHI] ca.1267 that he had devoted forty years to study since he
had first learned the alphabetum and that no other scholar worked so much in the Arts and Sciences as
he had done. Some scholars use this text to argue that Bacon was writing about his elementary
education and was born ca. 1220 [Crowley (1950), Easton (1952), Lindberg (DMS, 1983); others hold
that he was writing about his early university education (Alphabetum philosophiae) and thus that he was
born ca. 1214 Little (RBE, 1914), Maloney (CSTM, 1988), Hackett (1984, 1992, 1997a, 2005),
Molland (2004). The text reads:

I have labored much in sciences and languages, and I have up to now devoted forty years [to them] after
I first learned the Alphabetum; and I was always studious. Apart from two of these forty years I was
always [engaged] in study [or at a place of study], and I had many expenses just as others commonly
have. Nevertheless, provided I had first composed a compendium, I am certain that within quarter or
half a year I could directly teach a solicitous and confident person whatever I know of these sciences
and languages. And it is known that no one worked in so many sciences and languages as I did, nor so
much as I did. Indeed, when I was living in the other state of life [as a Magister], people marveled that I
survived the abundance of my work. And still, I was just as involved in studies afterwards, as I had
been before. But I did not work all that much, since in the pursuit of Wisdom this was not required.
([OQHI], 65)

It would seem then that prior to his entry to the Franciscan Order c. 1256/7, he was very active in
studies or at a studium and was known for his proficiency in sciences and languages. And yet, he
himself tells us that around 1247/8 or so, he had set aside the common scholastic ways of teaching in
order to devote time to languages and experimental concerns. Thus, we can see the period from c. 1240-
48 as the time during which he lectured on Aristotle and on Grammar/Logic at Paris. And so, depending
on the chosen year of birth, the chronology would be as follows:

(1) Bacon was born ca.1214, educated at Oxford ca. 1228-36, Master of Arts, Paris ca. 1237-47/8,
Private Scholar 1248-56/7, returned to Oxford ca. 1248-51, was at Paris 1251, Franciscan Friar at Paris
ca. 1256/7 to 1279, return to Oxford ca. 1280, died ca. 1292.

(2) Bacon was born ca.1220 born, educated at Oxford ca. 1234-42; Master of Arts, Paris ca. 1242-47/8,
return to Oxford, ca. 1248-51, Paris 1251, Paris 1256/7 to 1279, return to Oxford ca. 1280, died ca.

Further precision on the chronology will need to await a critical edition of all the works of Roger Bacon
and careful scientific study of these works in relation to other thirteenth century scholars.

The Aristotelian Quaestiones are to be found in one single manuscript, Amiens MS Bibl. Mun. 406.
The materials found in this manuscript include two sets of questions on the Physica and two sets of

questions on the Metaphysica of Aristotle, the questions on the Liber de causis, and the Pseudo-
Aristotelian De vegetabilibus. A new version of Bacon's second set of Questiones on the Physica inter-
textually excerpted by another 13th century author has recently been identified by Silvia Donati in
Philadelphia MS Free Library, Lewis Europe, ff. 77ra-85rb [Donati, in Hackett, 1997b]. This is an
important discovery that has enabled scholars for the first time to carry out a “critical-textual” study of
Bacon's works on Aristotle's Physica in the context of the development of English natural philosophy in
the period 1240-1300.

The early logical works consist of the Summa grammatica, Summa de sophismatibus et distinctionibus
and the Summulae dialectics [=Summulae super totam logicam]. These works show that Bacon is
indebted to the teaching of logic as Oxford and Paris in the 1230s and 1240s. These works in grammar
and logic have received much critical study in recent years and show that Bacon was a mature
philosopher of logic who is representative of terminist and pre-modist grammar and logic. These
writings have a connection with the Oxford Logica cum sit nostra and with the works of William of
Sherwood. The logical works are clearly influenced by the teaching in Paris of Robert Kilwardby. They
give evidence of Bacon as a philosopher who connects the Logica modernorum with the new logical
and philosophical issues based on the natural philosophy and metaphysics of Aristotle as commented on
by Avicenna and Averroes.

Scholars have long held that Roger Bacon was a pioneer in the introduction of the study of Aristotle as
interpreted by Averroes and Avicenna to the University of Paris ca.1240. During the past ten years or
so, research has shown that two Erfurt manuscripts (Amplon. Q. 290 and Q. 312) ascribed to Walter
Burley (1274/5-1344) by the Amplonius de Berka in the fifteenth century, actually belong to the first
half of the thirteenth century. Rega Wood, the editor of the Physica from the Erfurt MS Amplon. Q 290,
has attributed these questions on the Physica and most of the other works in these two Erfurt
manuscripts to Richard Rufus of Cornwall, a contemporary and opponent of Roger Bacon [Wood in
Hackett 1997b; Wood, IPA, 2003].

Recently, it has also been demonstrated that as Master of Arts at Paris (ca. 1240-48) during the period
of the First Averroism, Bacon had confronted and reviewed some of the major issues concerning Latin
Averroism that lead to a major crisis at Paris in the period 1266-1277.[2] And, as we will see below,
Bacon, in his works from the 1260s, will revisit these topics. One can conclude that sometime in the late
1240s, Bacon ceased being a Master of Arts at Paris, became an independent scholar, and returned to
England. Yet, there is evidence that he was back in Paris in 1251.

Bacon joined the Franciscan Order about 1256/7, whether at Oxford or Paris is not known. At any rate,
he was probably in Paris in the late 1250s and was definitely there in the early 1260s. He had been
attracted to the Order by the philosophical, theological and scientific example of Grosseteste, Adam
Marsh and other English Franciscans. He had personally known Adam Marsh at Oxford and possibly
Grosseteste at Lincoln ca.1247/8-51.

By 1266, he had come to regard the previous ten years as one of enforced absence from active teaching
and scholarly work.

The Opus maius, minus, tertium, the related foundational work in Philosophy of Nature, De
multiplictione specierum, and the work on burning mirrors, De speculis comburentibus, together with
an optical lens, were sent to the Pope ca. 1267-68. They were seen as a preamble to a proposed major
work on Philosophy. Together with these in the 1260s, he produced the Preface to the Works for the
Pope, Communia naturalium, Communia mathematica, Epistola de secretis operibus naturae et de
nullitate magiae. The Compendium studii philosophiae can be dated to about 1271. This latter is largely
a work of polemic on the state of studies at Paris and an apology forhis scholarly situation. It does,
however, contain an importantsection on his theory of language and signs, which has enabled scholars
to grasp the full range of Bacon's new semiotic interests. He completed the edition of the important
work in medieval politics and statecraft, the Secretum secretorum at Oxford some time after 1280. It

used to be the view of scholars [Easton, 1952] that Bacon had composed this work in the 1240s and was
the main influence in his search for a “universal science.” He also produced an important work on the
calendar, the Computus. The Compendium studii theologiae is usually dated to ca. 1292.

One must bear in mind that Roger Bacon in the 1260s is writing as an individual author for a patron,
Cardinal Guy le Gros de Foulque (Pope Clement IV, 1265-68). A onetime Master of Arts, he was no
longer a teaching Master at the University of Paris. This gave Bacon the freedom to address both
philosophical (Aristotle) and theological (Augustine) issues in a manner denied to the teachers in the
Faculty of Arts. They were limited for the most part to disputations on the text of Aristotle. He writes
self-consciously as a representative of the text-based practices of Robert Grosseteste and in opposition
to the new “sentence-methods” of the schools. His polemical writings ca. 1267/8 are centered on the
struggles in the Arts and Theology at Paris. The Pope instructed Bacon in 1266 to ignore the rules of his
Order and to send him his remedies about a matter of some importance. It would appear from the
context of Bacon's works for the Pope that the remedies had to do with educational matters at Paris,
which at this time was the main University of the Christian Commonwealth. Because of this instruction,
Bacon's later works, written in haste, consist of short treatises united by a self-conscious rhetoric for the
reformation of education in the early universities of the Latin West. They are fundamentally important
for an understanding of the “struggle of the faculties” in the mid thirteenth century. The Compendium
studii theologiae ca. 1292 reflects the concerns of the 1260s. It does not add new information.

The reception of the life and works of Roger Bacon is complex. Each generation has, as it were, found
its own Roger Bacon. A recent study by Amanda Power has provided a thoughtful account of the
complex reception of Roger Bacon in England and of the extent to which the image of the Doctor
Mirabilis is often colored by the changing controversies of the present moment. [Power, 2006]

3. Bacon's early work on Grammar and Logic

Bacon has a complex concept of grammar. It ranges from the elementary teaching of Latin through
“rational grammar” (linguistics) to a knowledge of the sacred “Wisdom” languages. It is also connected
with a theory of signs and with the vis verborum, including the magical power of spoken language. One
notices continuity between Bacon's early works on grammar and logic and his later works after 1260 on
the theory of signs (De signis).

3.1 Summa grammatica

In this work, Bacon draws directly from one of the important thirteenth century commentaries on
Priscian (Priscian minor), that of Robert Kilwardby. It is a representative of early speculative grammar
as it developed in Paris during the first half of the 13th century. Bacon's approach to grammar and logic,
like that of William of Sherwood, exhibits the influence of the early Oxford books on these topics such
as the Logican cum sit nostra.

Part one of the SG sets out the rules governing both common constructions with subject and verb and
rules governing figurative constructions. The latter include specific accounts of the five figures of
construction: antithesis, synthesis, prolepsis, syllepsis, and zeugma. This is borrowed from Kilwardby
(Institutiones grammaticae, xvii, 153). In part two, Bacon analyses the more difficult non-figurative
constructions such as impersonals, gerundives, ablative absolutes, interjections. In a third part, he
examines sophisms in terms of their subject-matter and ranges from a cursory treatment to more
extended treatments typical of a disputed question. In the last section, there is a cursory analysis of
some short sentences including adverbial constructions [lupus est in fabula] and some liturgical
formulae [ patris et filii et spiritus sancti, ita missa est]. The latter are problematic due to their elliptical
character. A complete account of Bacon's intellectual relationship as a student to Robert Kilwardby can
be found in Irène Rosier (1994).[3]

As noted above, a main feature of this treatment of speculative grammar is the fact that the reasoning is
closely linked to the Physica of Aristotle. The latter work had newly come into use at Paris. This
reasoned grammar is based on the belief that “art imitates nature to the extent that it can” (Physica II,
219 4a 21). Borrowing from Aristotle and Averroes and influenced by Robert Kilwardby, Bacon
exploits the distinction between the permanent and the successive as the ground of the grammatical
distinction between the noun/pronoun and the verb/adverb. He applies this to the definition of
grammatical category.

As Irène Rosier-Catach has noted “The construction of words is conceived as a movement. The verb,
the pivot of the sentence, signifies action and movement and needs for that reason two terms, a terminus
a quo or principium and a terminus ad quem or terminus (S.G. 66, 78). On one level, physical
conceptualization is used to re-define certain notions. Cases are properties allowing an expression to
function as a term of movement (S.G. 34); in this way the accusative expresses the terminus ad quem.
At a second level, Bacon's conceptualization allows him to state some very general rules for the
combination of categories.”[4]

For example, Bacon argues that neither the participle nor the infinitive is by their verbal signification
sufficiently stable to be a terminus of motion. This is based on the premise that “nothing which is in
motion can come to rest in something in motion, no motion being able to complete itself in something
in motion.” And, using the principle that “the action is in the patient as in a subject,” he tackles the issue
of grammatical agreement. Further, the organizing principle for the organization of terms is the notion
of dependence (dependencia). Hence, the relation of natural dependence between the accident and the
subject is reflected in the construction of the adjective with its substantive.

There are, however, limits to a kind of argument that depends on this parallelism of physics and
grammar. Grammar is a function of reason and hence does not imitate nature in an absolute manner.
Take the example, urbem quem statuo vestra est (the city which I found is yours, S.G. 33). Here, the
subject is in the accusative. But the accusative which expresses dependency cannot be the terminus of
the verb. Even if this is adjusted due to location or motion in generation, it still will not do since in
physics the beginning or end point is accidental. In rational grammar, however, words in construction
have definite functions, and the accusative holds an element of stability due to the priority of the nature
of the thing it signifies. Thus the subject can be in the accusative with the infinite (S.G. 14-40.3).

Grammatical reasoning, then, finds itself wedged between physical and logical reasoning. This can be
seen in the analysis of the expression est dies. Why one term and not two; what is the function of dies?
In an analysis of motion there are two terms. But in reason, one can see that the one term has two
functions that are necessarily present in every assertion. And whereas Logic requires that the subject be
different from the predicate, Grammar as a positive science depends on the intellect and will.

The most significant aspect of Bacon's grammatical analysis is one that will be replicated in his logical
works and in his later semiotic writings. This is his intentionalist analysis. The reasons connected to
grammatical analysis cannot be discovered or applied mechanically: they are dependent on the
signifying intention of the speaker (intention proferentis). This kind of analysis is found in Robert
Kilwardby and in many similar texts on sophisms. As Rosier-Catach puts it, “The correctness of a
statement does not depend solely on its conformity with the rules of grammar but equally on its
adequateness with its signifying intention. Sometimes indeed, because the speaker wishes to signify
some precise idea, he may legitimately distance himself from the normal rules (Hackett 1997a, 73).
Still, this freedom is not absolute and it must be justified linguistically. Even elliptical expressions such
as Ita missa est have within them the capacity to allow further application of the formula such as
cantata, dicta etc. Thus, to quote Rosier-Catach, “The rule-governed nature of language- functions is to
be found not only in the common usage but also in those “authorized” variations. It is precisely this
principle that Bacon will put to work at the semantic level when he conducts his analysis of Signs [ca.
1267]. Beyond the ordinary usage of the sign, derivable from its institution, the speaker always has the
liberty to use it in the translated way, the variation being in the majority of cases explainable and for

this reason comprehensible by the listener. In the case of figurative constructions and of metaphorical
meanings the variation arises from the signifying intention of the speaker. It is the speaker, who,
knowing the rules of language, can decide consciously and knowingly to exempt himself from the rules,
for the sake of some signifying intention, thus adapting the intellectus significatus to the intellectus
intentus. As Bacon puts it nicely elsewhere, it is not the sign which signifies but rather the speaker by
means of the language—in the same way that it is not the stick which hits but he who uses it. In other
words, language is for man an instrument, a means. This voluntarist conception is to be seen likewise in
the context of Bacon's treatment of the magical power of words” (Hackett 1997a, 73-74).

Bacon's Logic (1240s):

• Summa de sophismatibus et distinctionibus (SSD)

• Summula super totam logicam (= Sumulae dialectics) (SD)

The late Jan Pinborg has described the terminist logic found in Bacon and his contemporaries as
“semantical analysis of a natural language, viz. Latin, built on Aristotelian logic, especially the
Sophistici elenchi and the Peri hermeneias, and on the development of grammar. This analysis stressed
the truth value of propositions analyzed and its conditions, and therefore displayed what can be called a
contextual approach, that is, it was based on the actual function and reference of the term in the
proposition to be analyzed. A given word could be used differently, or according to different
suppositions, and the rules for these different uses helped to avoid ambiguities. The doctrine of
supposition was intended to solve both the relatively trivial ambiguities which arose from confusion of
linguistic levels (man is white, man is a species, man is a noun) and ambiguities involved in
quantification (or distribution) theory. These problems were primarily solved in terms of Reference,
since different suppositiones picked out different ranges of individuals.”[5]

3.2 Summa de sophismatibus et distinctionibus (SSD)

Alain de Libera has provided a very precise summary of Bacon's place in the history of logic and
especially of the two early works just listed. He remarks:

“The SSD belongs to a literary genre found in Paris during the first half of the thirteenth century, the
Distinctiones sophismatum. It compares with the Tractatus de distinctionibus communibus in
sophismatibus accidentibus attributed to Matthew of Orleans, the Distinctiones “notandum,” the
Abstractiones of Hervaeus Sophista, the tracts on Distinctiones sophismatum as well as “anonymous”
treatises described by De Rijk and Braakhuis. Briefly, the Distinctiones have the task of listing the rules
to be used in the practice of sophisms and setting out the context, while the syncategoremata set out the
logical conditions for the proper use of syncategorematic words.”[6] (HRBS, 105-106).

Generally, the SSD deals with the problems of universal quantification, as for example the uses of the
word Omnis. Bacon gives close attention to words that present philosophical difficulties such as
‘infinite,’ ‘whole,’ ‘negation.’ The common logical topics are covered. Still, Bacon shows some
originality in his treatment of “inclusion” or “scope” in quantification. He also develops the outline of
what will become his own contribution in the 1260s, that is, his analysis of a “production of speech”
analysis. Bacon develops this analysis to deal with sentences such as “Every animal is either rational or
irrational.” Here, his contemporaries invoked a theory of natural sense to account for the provision of
semantic information on the basis of the order of the presentation of the terms. Bacon insists that one
must take into account (a) the signifying intention of the speaker, (b) the linguistic expression, (c) the
sense that the listener provides. Bacon presents two basic positions: an expression must have parts that
enable the hearer to make an interpretation that will correspond with the intention of the speaker. Thus,
the actual expression alone is a necessary but not sufficient for an account of the meaning. A linguistic
analysis that involves speaker/hearer/ expression is required.

The expression of the proposition alone is accidental and thus contains only a relative sense. Further,
the linear order of the expression does not provide the listener with enough information about the
logical form. Knowledge of the logical form requires reference to the mental proposition. This implies
that every mental proposition, for both speaker and listener, is an interpretation. The meaning of any
statement is a function of the understanding. This presentation of the speech act prepared the ground for
Bacon's mature theory in his later post 1260s works, the De signis (DS), Compendium studii
philosophiae (CSP), Compendium studii theologiae (CST).

3.3 Sumulae dialectics (SD)

De Libera has placed this work at Oxford ca. 1250 but notes the presence of Parisian teaching in the
text. The title given in the Seville MS: Summulae super totam logicam, provides a better sense of the
nature of the work. I will provide an outline of this long work below. To summarize De Libera, this is a
mature work of a practiced teacher. It is not the work of a beginner. It is ahead of other works of the
1240s in the skillful manner in which it examines Aristotle and other works newly translated in
philosophy and science. The work is important for two new semantic positions: (1) the doctrine of
univocal appellation and (2) the doctrine of “empty classes” in predication. For Bacon, a word cannot
be applied in a univocal manner to both an entity and a non-entity. This position will provide Bacon
with a basis for his attack on Richard Rufus of Cornwall in his works after 1260, and especially in the
Compendium studii theologiae (1292). This attack is not limited to Rufus; it is written in opposition to
the common teaching of the time at Paris. For the latter, a word has a natural meaning and once the
meaning is given, it remains a constant. For example, the term ‘Caesar’ can cover both the once living
Caesar and the now dead Caesar. Bacon rejects this on the ground that for him terms are imposed on
“present things” and there is nothing in common between an entity and non-entity or between past,
present and future. Thus, terms have present appellation and reference to past and future is accidental.
For Bacon, the name and signification is imposed on the present object, and is open to past and present
on the basis of verbal tense. One might call it ”supposition through itself for present things.” Another
important aspect of SD is the complex theory of determination found in the composition and division of
the propositional sense.

The theory of imposition is fundamental to Bacon's approach.[7] It allows for explicit and tacit changes
of imposition of meaning in communication and it points to the need for a linguistic analysis and the
careful study of context in order to be strict about univocal meaning. The overcoming of equivocation
and ambiguities will figure throughout Bacon's logical works. Words can, indeed, be extended
‘metaphorically’ to cover non-extant things. In this work of Bacon, one finds a combination of
influences from both the Oxford ‘terminist logic’ and the Parisian pre-modist grammar of the 1240s.

Summulae Dialectices: Contents

Prologue: On Art and Science, Two Kinds of Arts, Logic as a Science, Logic as an Art, i.e. Dialectics,
and why it is so called.

Part I: Terms

1.1 Predicables
1.2 Categories

Part II: Statements:

2.1 Interpretation
2.1.1 The Parts of a Statement
2.1.2 Categorical Propositions and their Triple Divison

2.1.3 Hypothetical Propositions and their Divisions
2.1.4 Single and Multiple Propositions
2.1.5 The Quantity [and Quality] of Conjunctive Propositions
2.1.6 Modal Propositions
2.2 The Properties of the parts of an Expression:
Supposition, Appellation, Copulation

Part III: Argumentation

3.1 Syllogism
3.1.1 The Parts of a Syllogism
3.1.2 Syllogisms: Conversion; Modal Propositions, Conversion.
3.1.3 The form of the Syllogism in General.
3.1.4 The form of the Syllogism in particular: Demonstrative, Falsigraphic, Dialectical.
3.2 Topics
3.2.1 Topics in General
3.2.2 Intrinsic Topics: Substance
3.2.3 Extrinsic Topics
3.2.4 Immediate Topics
3.3 Fallacies
3.3.1 Disputation
3.3.2 Sophistical Syllogisms, Defective in Form Verbal Fallacies: Equivocation, Amphiboly, Composition, Division, and rules
governing Composition/Division: Accent, Figure of a Word. Extra-Verbal Fallacies: Accident, Consequent, To an extent & absolutely, Ignorance
in regard to Refutation, Begging the Question, Taking what is no cause for a cause,
Multiplying questions.
3.3.3 Sophistical Syllogisms Defective in Matter.

The reader can easily see that this treatment of “all of logic” corresponds to a large extent to what is
found in many ‘modern’ logic books prior to the treatment of predicate logic. It would be useful to
show the extent to which Bacon's SD provides a template for later works on the totality of logic such as
the Summa Logica of William of Ockham and subsequent texts up to modern times.

4. Bacon as an Aristotelian Commentator

4.1 Roger Bacon and Richard Rufus: In physicam Aristotelis
The recent publication of Richard Rufus of Cornwall, In Physicam Aristotelis has made available what
is certainly a very important text for an understanding of the influence of Aristotle's Physica on the
early tradition of English natural philosophy in the thirteenth century (IPA. 2003). Richard Rouse has
dated the text of the Physica questions as beginning “on the early side of the middle of the century”
(Wood, IPA Introduction, 33). Silvia Donati and Cecilia Trifogli have mapped out the complex tradition
of named and ‘anonymous’ commentaries on Aristotle's Physica in 13th century England. (Del Punta,
Donati & Trifogli (1996), Trifogli, Donati in Hackett, (1997b); Trifogli, 2000). As noted above, Rega
Wood ascribes the text to Richard Rufus of Cornwall (died ca. 1260). She claims that “Richard Rufus
was the earliest Western teacher of the new Aristotle whom we know. He taught Aristotelian physics

and metaphysics as a Master of Arts at the University of Paris before 1238. His lectures are the earliest
known surviving Western lectures on these subjects…Rufus flourished between 1230 and 1255,
teaching philosophy and theology at Oxford and Paris in this crucial period. His philosophical career
ended and his theological career began in 1238 when he became a Franciscan friar and left the Arts
faculty at Paris” ([IPA], Introduction, 2). Wood in the apparatus of the edition notes that these
comments on Aristotle's physics are later taken up by Roger Bacon in his Questiones on Aristotle's
physics, and as a result, she sees Roger Bacon as Richard Rufus's successor as a Parisian Physics

One thing is clear: this is a very important Physics Commentary, which influenced not only Roger
Bacon, but many ‘anonymous’ physics commentaries in the thirteenth century England. Whether the
work was written by Richard Rufus is another matter. The best response at present is to state in the
Scottish manner: not yet proven! The issue of ascription however, does not lessen the importance of this
text for an understanding of English Natural Philosophy in the 13th century.[8] As evidence for the
influence of Rufus on Roger Bacon, Wood presents a discussion of three topics: (1) projectile motion,
(2) heaven's Place, (3) the beginning of the world ([IPA], 12-28).

4.2 Bacon and Grosseteste: Knowledge, Science and Intuition

Bacon in the Questiones altere super libros prime philosophie Aristotelis (1240s) takes up and develops
the well known treatment of knowledge, science and intuition as presented in Grosseteste's Commentary
on Aristotle's Posterior Analytics.[9] Bacon writes in response to explicit comments from newly
available works on optics, perspectiva, that the knowledge of scientific principles is innate in us
because “by nature we argue and demonstrate and prove without labor, but to argue (syllogize) and
demonstrate are modes of knowledge.” This is a significant contact with Grosseteste, since he was the
one who explicitly connected study in optics with the epistemic concepts found in the Posterior
Analytics of Aristotle. It is also a sign that Bacon was concerned with perspectiva issues in the late
1240s, since it would appear that the quotation can be found in Alhacen's (Ibn al-Haytham's) Optics.

Bacon holds that scientific knowledge is twofold: first, there is “imperfect and confused knowledge” by
which the mind is inclined to the love of the good and of truth. This implicit knowledge is innate.
Second, there is explicit rational knowledge. One part of this has to do with the knowledge of the
principles of science; the other is the knowledge of conclusions. This latter is complete knowledge but it
is not exhaustive.

Bacon's account of sense, memory and experience is more extended than that found in Grosseteste's
Commentary and reflects his own reading in Avicenna, the medical tradition and in works on optics.
Bacon distinguishes experientia from experimentum. Experience (experientia) is the distinct knowledge
of singular things, and all animals have this distinct knowledge of singulars. But all animals do not have
an experimentum, that is, a science of principles based on experience. As he puts it, “On the contrary,
experience is the distinct reception of singulars under some aspect of universality, as is stated in the text
[of Aristotle], but only the universal is grasped by the intellect. Therefore, only humans and not other
animals have experience [experimentum] ([OHI, XI], 16). Many animals have an image (imaginatio) of
singular things and live by innate art and industry, naturally knowing how to adapt to changing weather
conditions. Human art, however, is acquired and is an experience of principles (experimentum

One can express Bacon's position as follows: experimentum is the universal source for our discovery of
scientific principles. Scientific knowledge, once established, proceeds by demonstration. Experientia
designates the simple perception of singulars. Only in a very loose sense can it be used of scientific
knowledge. Sometimes, however, these two terms about experience are used interchangeably. In this
account, Bacon has not yet come to his later notion of a scientia experimentalis, and the experimental
verification (certificatio) of the conclusions of demonstrative knowledge (ca. 1267). He is dealing only

with experience as the source of the principles of our knowledge of art and science. [cf. 3.1.4 The
Syllogism in Particular]

In other words, at this stage, Bacon is mainly concerned with Aristotle's definition of experience in the
Metaphysics and Posterior Analytics, although one already notices that he relates the Aristotelian
subject-matter to the issues in Alhacen's Perspectiva.

4.3 Bacon on Matter

In the later (post 1260) Communia naturalium, Bacon gives six meanings for the concept of matter. (1)
Matter is the subject of action as when we say that wood is the matter for the action of the carpenter. (2)
In the proper sense of the term, matter is that which with form constitutes the composite as in the case
of every created substance. (3) Matter is the subject of generation and corruption and has the property
of being an incomplete and imperfect thing in potency to a complete thing. (4) Matter is the subject of
alteration since it receives contrary accidents. (5) Matter can be considered as an individual in relation
to the universal, the latter being founded in its individual as in a material principle. (6) Matter is the
name for that which is gross, as when we say that earth has more matter than fire.[10]

Form has a certain priority to matter as the end of generation and as the perfection of the material
principle. It is the principle of action and of knowledge. In general, for Bacon, matter is not a mere
potency. It is an incomplete something (substance) and so for him matter and form are two incomplete
substances that integrate so that one has one individual substance. In this one notices a notion of matter
as in some sense a positive thing. It is not a nullity.

In both early and later works, Bacon objects to the idea, found for example in David of Dinant, that
matter is one in number in all things. To the contrary, he holds that matter “is not numerically one, but
in itself and from itself it is numerically distinct in numerically different beings.” Still, he does not
object to some unity of matter. For example, matter as potentiality is the original source of the being of
contingent things. This is the non-being of the creature in contrast with the being of the Creator. Thus,
Bacon will speak of the matter of both corporeal and spiritual beings, and hence of “spiritual matter,” a
concept that Aquinas found to be contradictory.

In his later works, and specifically in his works on natural philosophy, Bacon presents nature as an
active agent. The form or the species is the first effect of any natural agent. The power of the species
educes the emergence of the thing from the potency of matter. It does not simply produce a
form/species and impose it on the matter. Matter has an active potency, and this is actualized due to the
action of the natural external agent.

4.4 Bacon on Universals and Individuation

Bacon has two distinct treatments of universals and individuation, his early works (1240s) and later in
the Communia naturalium (1260s-70s).

In the works from the 1240s, Bacon distinguishes the real universal from the mental universal. Hence,
the universal as the ultimate basis of predication is not the species as mental intention. Universals in the
primary sense as the basis of scientific objectivity are extra-mental. Bacon's presentation of this issue is
complex. Certainly, he is not a complete “Platonist” in regard to universals. To the objection that since
form is individuated through its matter and whatever exists in things must exist in matter as
individuated, but the universal is not such a thing, he responds: a universal is either in the mind or in
things. If it is not in the former, therefore it has to be in the latter. A universal arises from common
matter and common form and so has no need of being immediately individuated. “And because the
common matter and common form exist along with the proper matter and form of individuals, the
universal is present in this way in singulars ([OHI, VII], 242-243 = TTUM, 3.6). Hence, one cannot

split apart the common matter from the particular matter or the common form from the particular form
of a particular individual.

In one question, Bacon rejects the view that universals are constituted only by the mind. He holds that
the universal in and of itself is prior to the knowledge process. “This follows because a universal is
nothing other than a nature in which singulars of the same (nature) agree; but particulars agree in this
manner in a common nature predicable of them, without any act of the mind ([OHI, VII], 242-243 =
TTUM, 36). This sounds “Platonic,” but in factfor Bacon there are no Platonic universals in a separate
world; rather, real universals do exist but they are found only in and with individual things. There is a
mutual interpenetration of common form and matter and proper form and matter such that there is just
one individual, and so the common nature is realized in this or that individual. Bacon's answer to the
possibility of a universal being present in a singular is stated as follows: “Only three kinds of being are
imaginable: either [being] in and of itself, [being] in the mind, or [being] in things, but a universal is not
something that has being in and of itself and stands on its own, because then it would be a Platonic idea;
neither [does it have being] in the mind, as we have seen….Again, a universal is a common nature in
which particulars agree; but Socrates and Plato and [others] of this sort cannot agree in a common
nature which is in them unless the nature [be] in some way duplicated in them, because a universal is
nothing other than a common nature extended into particulars and existing in them as duplicated, in
which all things truly exist. And thus, without them [the particulars] there can be no universals…”
([OHI, VII, 243-244 = TTUM, 37). For Bacon, there are two kinds of particular, the determinate here
and now particular and the indeterminate particular.

Bacon treats the problem of individuation in both the early Parisian lectures and in the later Communia
naturalium. This has given rise to the issue of Bacon's realismor his proto-nominalism. It is addressed
in the next section. Here, I will briefly review his account of individuation in the Parisian lectures.
Some hold that accidents are the cause of individuation. The examples are taken from Boethius and
from Al-Ghazali. Bacon raises objections and states that matter and form constitute the thing and are the
causes of individuation. For Bacon, an individual is both a substance and an individual. As a substance,
accident could not be the cause of individuation. As an individual, accident is “formally its perfection.”
He holds that one can look at this issue from two positions. First, from the formal cause, accident could
be the cause of individuation, but from the efficient cause the principles of substance (matter and form)
are the efficient causes of the one substance. He devotes much space to whether matter alone or form
alone or both are causes of individuation. He outlines the reasons why matter alone can be taken as the
cause of individuation. He holds that matter is a cause of individuation and that form is a co-cause of
individuation. The latter, however, is not the principal cause; it is an instrumental or formal cause.

4.5 Bacon's Realism: On the Way to late Medieval Nominalism?

In the light of the foregoing, a key issue arises: In his early works, Bacon, even if he disclaims being a
“Platonist” in regard to universals, is clearly a strong external realist. This realism is continued in the
Communia naturalium [OHI, 2-4] but with certain important qualifications. This polemical account of
discussion of Aristotle in the 1260s is understood by Bacon as an aid for the study of theology. And
now, it is clear that for Bacon, in the intention and execution of nature, the individual has definite
ontological priority over genera and species. His account becomes an attack on contemporary positions
influenced by Albertus Magnus that would subordinate the individual to the universal. Species and
genera are there for the sake of the production of the individual. He states “In no other field are the
authorities in such disagreement.” Aristotle himself seems to contradict himself. Bacon finds a correct
answer in the Metaphysics of Avicenna. “There are two kinds of nature, universal and particular,
Avicenna teaches in the sixth book of [his] Metaphysics.” Bacon adds: “Universal [nature] is the
governing force of the universe [and is] diffused among the substances of the heavens [and] throughout
all the bodies in the world; it is [that] in which all bodies agree and through which all are maintained at
a certain general level of perfection and well being. This universal nature is the corporeal nature that is
designated in the second genus, which is [that of] body, and this nature excludes all incompatible things
which are abhorrent to the whole universe, such as a vacuum” ([OHI, II], 92 = TTUM, 85-86).

We see then that Bacon understands universal nature as supervening on a world of distinct individual
natures such that corporeal action is contiguous and that a vacuum is excluded. The “particular nature”
is the directing power of the species with its individuals, and is divisible into the directive power of the
species and of the individual. The example he gives is from embryology: there is the directing power of
the species intending the production of the human in general; it intends the production of the individual
accidentally. And there is the directing power of the individual, which aims at the determinate human as
such and mankind in general. As he puts it, “the universal is prior to the particular in [both] the work
and execution of nature, but is posterior in intent ([OHI,II], 93 = TTUM, 87). He then states the
ontological priority of the individual over universals as follows: “But if we would speak about the
universal nature that is the directing power of the universe, [we should say that] it intends and brings
about an individual first and principally, about which there is mention in the Book of the Six Principles.
Nature operates in a hidden manner in things: once a determinate man is generated, man as such is
generated. And the cause of this is that one individual excels all universals in the world, for a universal
is nothing but the agreement of many individuals” ([OHI,II], 94, = TTUM, 86). He distinguishes the
absolute nature of an individual as something absolute, that is, “that which constitutes it and enters its
essence.” This absolute nature of an individual is ontologically more important than that by which one
individual has some agreement with another. One can notice that Bacon is now writing as a person with
a theological interest: “And because all the things which I am treating are for the sake of theology, it is
clear through theological reasons that a universal is not [favorably] compared to singulars. For God did
not make this world for the sake of universal man, but for singular persons…Therefore, speaking
plainly and absolutely, we must say that an individual is prior in nature [to a universal] both in
operation and in intent,” and so “…it is necessary that the ranking according to prior and posterior be
denominated absolutely and simply from the governing power of an individual…” ([OHI,II], 94-95 =
TTUM, 88-89). Bacon knows that he is defending a position in rank opposition to the common view.
“Since the whole rabble [at Paris] holds the contrary position, because of certain authorities, the views
of the latter must be presented ([OHI,II], 96 =TTUM, 90).

This account has given rise to opposing interpretations. Theodore Crowley (1950) saw in these passages
the beginnings of late medieval nominalism that would find its expression in William of Ockham.
Thomas S. Maloney (1985) challenged this reading and argued that the later Roger Bacon, like the
earlier Bacon, was not a nominalist but a moderate realist. Perhaps, we should hold that there are
elements of proto-nominalism in this account in the Communia naturalium. Jorge J.E. Gracia (1991) in
his important essay on individuation in the fourteenth century, argues coherently for seeing this text and
others as the beginning of the strict tradition of late medieval nominalism.

4.6 Bacon on Body, Soul and Mind: Early Works

Bacon understands the soul to be a spiritual substance in union with the Body. At this early stage, he
does not hold the Avicennian notion of a separate agent intellect. In union with the body, the soul has
two intellects, potential and agent. The former is directly connected with the sensitive powers and the
object of this intellect is the singular material thing. The agent intellect is directed upward and knows
spiritual beings in its own essence. For Bacon, there is a kind of confused innate knowledge in the soul.
This is not a Platonic idea. It is more like a disposition that inclines the soul towards knowledge of the
truth. Still, it is in some sense an innate knowledge of the first principles of knowledge. The agent
intellect illuminates the images and frees them from specific material conditions. The universals are
then impressed on the potential intellect.

Bacon in his second set of Questiones on Aristotle identifies the potential intellect with the intellective
soul, and it is now both a spiritual substance and a form of the body. As a spiritual substance it has
confused innate knowledge of spiritual substances. As united with the body, it has become an empty
slate open to knowledge. It is helped towards new knowledge by means of impressed intelligible
species given by the agent intellect, and this enables the potential intellect to proceed to new

4.7 Bacon on Body, Soul, Mind: Later Works
In his Communia naturalium, Bacon explains that he wrote his account of sensation, the sensitive soul,
and perception in the Perspectiva as a criticism of the common teaching of the Aristotelian teachers in
the schools. Further, he comes to the conclusion in the Opus maius that the greater philosophers in
Greek, Islamic and Christian traditions maintained that the Agent Intellect is God, the source and agent
of illumination. He now makes this position his own, and attacks those teachers who hold that the agent
and the potential intellects are parts of the soul.

Bacon's short treatise on the soul in CN is titled distinctio tertia de anima. It provides an interesting
window on contemporary debates ca. 1267-70 at Paris. It belongs with Aquinas's masterful polemic, De
unitate intellectus contra averroistas, Siger of Brabant on Aristotle's De anima, and Richard Rufus's
treatise Contra averroistas (Hackett, 1997b) in the debates on Averroism.

He divides the work into seven chapters: (1) On the production of the parts of the soul, (2) On the
Sensitive Soul, (3) On the Unity and Plurality of the Intellectual Soul, (4) On the Composition of the
Rational Soul, (5) On the Powers of the Soul: whether they are parts of the soul?, (6) On the Vegetative
Soul, (7) On the Parts of the Intellectual Soul.

The first chapter reviews the common teaching since 1250. He notes that “And still to this day the
English theologians and all true lovers of wisdom (philosophantes) uphold this position ([OHI, IV],
282), that is, that the intellectual soul alone is created by God while the vegetative and sensitive souls in
the human are produced from the potency of matter in accordance with the laws of nature. He argues
that those opposed to this position rely on the Pseudo-Augustine De spiritu et anima and on the De
ecclesiasticis dogmatibus by Gennadius. Those who follow these sources, he states, hold that “the
vegetative and sensitive souls are co-created with the intellectual soul…”. He describes this as a kind of
“folk-psychology.” For Bacon and “all philosophers,” embryology shows that the embryo is nourished
and grows prior to the infusion of the intellectual soul. Bacon states the problem as follows: “But if the
vegetative and sensitive souls were co-created with the intellective soul, as many moderns teach
publicly, then, they would not precede the intellective soul in being. And so these people are forced to
claim that one needs a double vegetative and sensitive soul, one that is produced from the potency of
matter through the power of nature; the other is created with the intellective soul…But no authorities
hold this position, and experts in philosophy, therefore, dismiss it as nonsense ([OHI,IV], 283). Henry
of Ghent among others advocated this doctrine of the co-creation of souls.

In the second chapter, Bacon attacks some of the leading philosophers at Paris as follows: “But the
leaders of the common philosophers at Paris fall into other deadly errors, which the theologians
contradict” ([OHI,IV], 284). For about ten years, the leader of the philosophers, “an erroneous and
famous man,” held that “prior to the existence of the rational soul, one must presuppose a specific
substantial difference educed from the potency of matter which places man in the species of animal,
such that the intellective soul does not do so…This is contrary to the philosophy of Aristotle and to all
authors” ([OHI,IV], 284-85). In the third chapter, Bacon makes explicit the object of his polemic. It is
the view commonly ascribed to Siger of Brabant and the so-called Radical Aristotelians (Latin
Averroists). Bacon states: “We are concerned with this second proposition on the unity and plurality of
the intellective soul. Therefore, they [the Latin Averroists] argue that the intellective soul (anima
intellectiva) is one in number among all human beings. Therefore, they cover their error when they are
compelled [to respond] stating that ‘Through philosophy it is not possible to hold anything else, nor is it
possible to have any other position through reason alone, but only through faith alone” ([OHI,IV], 286-
87). This is the proposition that is analyzed and critiqued by Thomas Aquinas in his De unitate
intellectus contra Averroistas (1269) [TUIA]. It is also closely related to the celebrated doctrine of
double truth imputed to the Latin Averroistsby their Franciscan opponents. Bacon's arguments, like
those of Aquinas, deal specifically with philosophical reasons for the mistaken positions of the
Averroists. The first two arguments are moral arguments. That is if there were one identical intellect in
all humans, the same person would be both virtuous and vicious. The denial that “this individual human

thinks” is contrary to both philosophy and faith. This is contrary to the Nicomachean Ethics and would
lead to a destruction of moral philosophy.

The remaining arguments hold that the doctrine destroys “the laws of nature,” that is, of natural
philosophy and psychology. First, he presents Aristotle's arguments against the transmigration of souls.
Second, he argues that this intellect would be infinitized and be power equal to God. Third, he
addresses the important issue of the connection between diverse imaginations and the intellective soul.
This could lead to the same person being learned and ignorant at the same time in respect of the same
things. Again, injury to the sensory organs can lead to a person becoming insane. If the sensory organs
work, the existence of diverse imaginations will not differentiate the intellect in different persons.
Fourth, there will be no unified object of knowledge. Bacon distinguishes between the single object of
the intellect and the “intelligible species” by means of which we know that object. “For when it will be
argued that the species will be multiplied in diverse persons, I concede that the diverse representations
of the same thing can be present to present to diverse persons because the thing itself produces its
species according to every diameter, as was proved in De multiplicatione specierum. And so, just as in
the diverse parts of the air the species of the same thing are diverse, and come to the eyes of different
perceivers, so it is the case with the intellects of different persons” ([OHI,IV], 289). Thus, he makes a
basic distinction between the thing which is the object of knowledge and the representations
(intelligible species) by which one knows them. Fifth, Bacon holds that the Averroists leave no room
for new knowledge. Sixth, against the “Averroist” position that all logicians and grammarians must
have the one same knowledge, Bacon holds that one must distinguish between the cognitive habit by
which the soul knows anything knowable and the object of knowledge in the sense of “the object of
knowledge,” which is a unity. Seventh, based on Aristotle's teaching on the passiones animae
(species/concepts), he holds that just as the soul is multiplied so too will knowledge be multiplied. And
so in a real sense, there is distinct and different knowledge in different human beings.

Chapters four to seven on the parts of the soul place Bacon in the context of the Franciscan and
Dominican arguments on the parts of the soul.

This short treatise has the advantage of contextualizing Bacon's works in the 1260s in terms of the
debates on Latin Averroism. It would appear that Bacon in agreement with Bonaventure and Pecham
was an explicit opponent of the young teachers of the Arts at Paris, especially Siger of Brabant. And it
would appear that Bacon's treatises such as the Perspectiva were written with this context in mind.
Since as we have noted above, Bacon provided a “philosophical critique” of the issues concerning Latin
Averroism already as a teacher at Paris in the 1240s, we should see this as a return to the university
debates by the emeritus Professor of Philosophy who has now engaged himself with the arguments of
the 1260s on the relation of philosophy to theology.

5. Bacon's Later Philosophy: Language Study and Science

in the service of both Moral Philosophy and Theology
5.1 Background
At the beginning of the Opus maius and related works, Bacon offers a structural critique of the
scholastic practice in the universities. He favors both language study and science over “Sentence-
Method” as a way of interpreting the texts of Scripture. And he advocates training in mathematics and
the sciences as requirements for students in theology. Second, Bacon's later works on languages and
sciences are written in the specific historical and political context of the Mongol invasion of Europe,
and the sack of Baghdad in 1258 by the Mongols and the geo-political situation of a Europe hemmed in
by both the Mongols and Islam. His sense of world-geography was aided by the travel reports of
William of Roebruck [Southern, WVI].

The overall division of the Opus maius is Stoic: language study, natural philosophy/mathematics,
morals. The general context is theological and Franciscan: the arts and sciences leading to human well
being in this world and the next. It is also clear that Bacon is constructing a “new model” for medieval
philosophy, one in which Aristotelian concerns are taken up and transcended in a Neo-Platonism
adapted towards Moral Philosophy and Christian Theology. Metaphysics is subordinated to Moral
Philosophy. The latter becomes the end or finis of linguistic and scientific study. Logic is reduced to
Mathematics, and the applications of mathematics become central to an understanding of the sciences.
The applications of mathematics can in turn be used in religion and theology. Therefore, in his later
works, especially in the Perspectiva and Scientia experimentalis, Bacon will define experientia-
experimentum in a distinctly new manner, one that takes up and but goes beyond the use of this term in
Aristotle and his own Questiones from the 1240s. Peter King has recently claimed that Ockham was the
first to create this new definition of experientia-experimentum (2003). He is correct that this definition
is found in Ockham, but he is wrong to claim that this concept began with Ockham. The concept is
formulated in these scientific works of Roger Bacon and is found in a number of Franciscan writers
including John Pecham well before the age of Ockham.

5.2 Opus maius/Parts One and Two

Part one examines “the causes of error” in education and is critical of some theological limits on
science. These causes are: belief in unworthy authority, long custom, uncritical popular opinion,
concealment of academic ignorance in a display of rhetorical wisdom. The polemic is presented as one
of conflict among the canon lawyers and theologians at Paris concerning the reception of Aristotle and
the recent works on Greek and Arabic sciences, especially Astronomy/Astrology.

Part two contains the pre-Cartesian view of truth and wisdom as a result of a Universal Revelation to
the Hebrews that was transmitted through the Greeks, Romans and Islam to Medieval Christianity. This
view would be influential in Philosophy up to the age of Descartes. Bacon links it to a doctrine of
illumination taken from Augustine, Avicenna and the Commentary on the Pseudo-Ptolemy:
Centiloquium. He contrasts the tradition of the great philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle with the
mythical traditions from ancient times.

5.2 Opus maius/Part Three: On Language, De signis and Compendium Studii

Part three deals with language study, grammar, semantics and semiotics, and contains Bacon's general
theory of signs. The discovery by the late Jan Pinborg and his colleagues of De Signis, a missing section
of part three in 1978, led to very intense study of Bacon's semiotics and the philosophy of language in
his later works. Bacon's proposals are radical.

Bacon's concerns with language in his later works transgress the disciplinary boundaries of the
medieval university. First, he demands that the universities study the Wisdom languages, i.e. (Hebrew,
Greek, Latin) in one list or (Hebrew, Greek, Arabic and Chaldean) in another list. He wrote Greek and
Hebrew Grammars (GGHG). Bacon takes Latin as a model for a natural language, the ‘mother
language’ of the West. For Bacon, this language is dependent on Greek and Hebrew. He distinguishes
the “vulgar language” or “language of the laity” from the “language of learning” of the clergy. For him,
the vulgar language cannot be use in learning; it is does not have an adequate technical vocabulary.

Bacon's relative originality consists in the fact that he brings together the semantic and semiotic
concerns of both the Arts and Theology or as one might say, Aristotle and Augustine. From these
concerns, he develops his own novel theory of the sign. Indeed, Bacon uses the words signification and
its cognates in a manner quite different from the traditional position.

The commonly used medieval definition of a sign was substitutional or representational: “A sign is that
which shows itself to the senses and presents something else to the intellect.” This definition is similar
to that of Augustine in De dialectica: “A sign is something which is itself sensed and which indicates
something beyond the sign itself.”[12] In this case, the parts of our language are given by either God or
the human so that the thoughts of the speaker can be communicated to the mind of the hearer. The
expressions in language stand for the thoughts of the speaker and represent them to the hearer. In De
signis, Bacon provides the following definition: “For the sign is that which offered to the senses or to
the intellect represents itself to that intellect, since not every sign is offered to the senses as the common
definition of sign supposes. However, on the testimony of Aristotle, another kind is offered only to the
intellect. He states that the passiones anime (concepts/species) are signs of things, and such passions are
a habit of the soul and species (representations/intentions) of the thing existing for the soul, and
therefore they are offered only to the intellect so that they represent external things to that intellect
([DS], 82). Some interpreters claim that Bacon's definition of sign is close to that of to that of Augustine
in De doctrina Christiana: “For a sign is something that apart from the impression it gives to the senses,
also causes something else from itself to be present to the mind.”[13] Augustine gives the examples of
animal tracks leading us to think of the animal, smoke leading us to think of fire, human expressions
leading to our understanding the mood of a person, soldiers answering the call of the trumpet in battle
and then knowing where to march.

One can see that Bacon in a manner uncommonfor his times relates Augustine's definition of sign to the
inferential notion of sign in the works of Aristotle. And so one can see how Bacon, influenced by
Kilwardby and Fischacre, unites the different concerns of the philosopher and the theologian.

Bacon continues and states: “The sign is in the predicament of relation.” This may sound innocent, but
in Bacon's account it will have the effect of transforming the traditional relation between a sign and its
meaning, either a thing or a concept. The theologians were aware of a twofold relation: that of sign to
thing signified and that of sign to the perceiver of the sign. For the majority of theologians, the first
relation is an essential and permanent relation; the latter is accidental and non-permanent. Bacon
reverses this position. He remarks: “The sign is in the predicament of relation and is spoken of
essentially in reference to the one for whom it signifies. For it posits that thing in act when the sign itself
is in act and in potency when the sign itself is in potency. But unless some were able to conceive by
means of this sign, it would be void and vain. Indeed, it would not be a sign, but would have remained a
sign only according to the substance of a sign. But it would not be a definition of the sign, just as the
substance of the father remains when the son is dead, but the relation of paternity is lost” ([DS], 81).

And so it is not sufficient that a sign have reference to what it signifies (accusative) in order to be a
sign; it is required that it have an interpreter (dative) for whom it signifies. In medieval theology, the
thing signified (accusative) had priority, and was true even if there were no interpreters. The notion of
this two-way relation is found in Bonaventure, Rufus and Fishacre among others, and the thing signified
holds ontological priority to the relationship of sign to perceiver.

For Bacon, the communicative relation to a hearer is basic, and the relation to the thing signified is
secondary. The common theological teaching held that the relation of sign to thing signified is
fundamental and once a name has been instituted, it does not change.[14] And so, the name ‘Caesar’ can
be used of both the living and the dead ‘Caesar.’ Against, the position of both Rufus and Bonaventure,
Bacon held that it introduced ambiguity into language. Even in the case of ordinary signs such as that of
a tavern sign, they remain only a sign potentially if there are no customers or staff.

Bacon's own classification of signs introduces distinctions that reflect an integration of both Augustine
and Aristotle.

1. Natural Signs

1.1 signifying by concomitance, inference and consequence

1.1.1 Necessarily
1.1.2 Probability
1.2 signifying by configuration and likeness
1.3 cause and effect

2. Intentional Signs purposefully generated:

2.1 Signifying conventionally by means of a concept:

2.1.1 Linguistic signs by way of imperfect deliberation: interjections
2.1.1 Linguistic signs by way of perfect [completed] deliberation: other parts of speech
2.1.3 Non-linguistic signs (language of gestures, monk-signs, sign-boards)
2.2 Signifying naturally, in the mode of affect
2.2.1 Products of the sensitive soul: animal sounds
2.2.2 Products of the rational soul: groans, exclamations, cries of pain[15]

The distinction between 1 and 2 is taken from Augustine's De doctrina Christiana. Bacon himself
claims that he worked out the typology himself prior to finding it in Augustine's great work on
interpretation. Modern scholars, however, believe that he must in some way have borrowed it from
Augustine.[16] The distinction between [2.1 and 2.2] is taken from the Aristotelian tradition as handed on
by Boethius. Type 1 signs happen naturally as part of the agency of Nature. Type 2 are signs only
because they have been willfully creates as such by deliberation and are include linguistic and non-
linguistic signs. However, Type 2.2 are designated “natural” in a sense different from Type 1. These
sounds and groans are products of nature and happen instinctively but in an “animate” action.

Interjections are a problem. They are parts of language, conventional signs, and so conceptual, yet they
are emitted suddenly and often due to pain. They are similar in a way to groans of animals (Type 2.2).
This discussion is common to writers on grammar and logic from the 1240s, especially in the works of
Richard Kilwardby and other related works.

The signs in 1.1 on natural consequence indicate that Bacon has integrated not only Aristotle and
Augustine but also the work of Averroes on the Rhetoric of Aristotle. Thomas S. Maloney has argued
that Aristotle's De anima plays an important role in Bacon's distinction between signs by nature and
signs by intention.[17] Bacon's provides an analysis of ambiguity and equivocation in De signis and
Compendium studii theologiae (Maloney 1984).

5.2.1 Bacon and the semiotic triangle

In the traditional semiotic triangle inherited from Plato and Aristotle the sign is a symbol and symptom
of the passiones animae (concepts/species) in the soul and the latter in turn have a relation of similitude
to the things. And so the relation of sign to thing is indirect. Bacon gets rid of the mediation of
concepts/species and has the sign refer directly to the object. In this way, Bacon substitutes an
extensional relation for an intentional. Words can directly refer to individual things be they single
objects in the world, mental objects, or philosophical concepts. Primarily, then, words refer strictly to
the present object. Reference to past or future objects will require the extension of univocal terms by
means of analogy or metaphor. Simply because a sign exists, it will not follow from that alone that the
object of the sign exists. As we saw above, without the interpreter of the sign, a sign is a sign in name
only or potentially. Bacon does not deny the existence of the concept/species, but he notes that one
requires a second imposition of meaning to name it. As U. Eco puts it, “Bacon definitely destroys the
semiotic triangle that was formulated since Plato, by which the relationship between words and
referents is mediated by the idea, or by the concept, or by the definition.”[18] The relation of sign to

concept is reduced to that of a symptom and is no longer a symbol. Here one can see the preparation of
the ground for the semiotics of William of Ockham and late medieval nominalism..

5.4 Opus maius/Parts Four, Five and Six: Mathematics and Philosophy of
Nature (De multiplicatione specierum, Perspectiva, Scientia Experimentalis)
Parts four, five and six of the Opus maius present the main themes of Bacon's contribution to scientific
education. It is important to see Bacon's main contribution to science as one who advocated “scientific
education” in an Arts Faculty that was predominantly dedicated to the linguistic arts. Bacon had a very
wide reading knowledge of most of the newly translated work from Greek, Jewish and Islamic
Philosophy and Science. His major claim to fame in science is that he is the first Latin Western thinker
to comprehend and write on most of the ancient sources of Optics. In brief, he initiates the tradition of
Optics/Perspectiva in the Latin world. This tradition would be formulated as teaching text by both
Pecham and Witelo, his contemporaries, and would be taken up by the tradition leading to both Kepler
and Descartes. In his Perspectiva and De scientia experimentali, Bacon outlines a sketch for a scientific
method, one that takes Optics as the model for an experimental science. In fact, he succeeded in his
endeavor in that Perespectiva was added to the four traditional ‘quadrivium’ university subjects:
arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music.

Opus maius, Part four, deals with Mathematics and the applications of Mathematics. Bacon presents
reasons for a reduction of logic to mathematics (a kind of reversal of modern logicism) and sees
mathematics as the key to an understanding of nature. Clearly, he is proclaiming the “usefulness” of
mathematics for knowledge; he is not doing mathematical theory. Following his abbreviation of the De
multiplicatione specierum which shows how mathematics might be applied to physics, he deals with the
application of astronomy/astrology to human affairs, the uses of mathematics in religious rites as in
chronology, music, symbolism, calendar reform, geographical knowledge and a resume of astrology. It
used to be thought that Bacon was a ‘Platonist’ in his view of the absolute priority of mathematics.
More recently, that view has been seriously qualified. He does not reduce physics to mathematics. His
explicit work on mathematics, the Communia mathematica, is not an exercise in mathematics; it is a
presentation of the “common notions” that are important for a variety of mathematical practices. Bacon
himself acknowledges those who were better mathematicians, namely, John of London, Pierre de
Maricourt and Campanus of Novara (Molland in Hackett, 1997a). In general, Bacon is more interested
in what mathematics can provide about knowledge of the world as an aid to missionary activity. He sent
a map of the world to the Pope.

Bacon was very interested in the applications of Astronomy/astrology to human events. Although
committed to a doctrine of freedom of the will, he held to a deterministic notion of causation in nature
based on the Introductorium Maius in Astronomiam of the Islamic authority on Astrology, Abu Ma'
Shar (Albumassar), on the De radiis of Al-Kindi, and on the Centiloquium by Pseudo-Ptolemy (Ahmed
Ibn Yusuf). And since he held to a doctrine of universal radiation in nature, he had to account for the
influence of the heavens on the human body and hence indirectly on the human mind. Much of the
polemic in his later works consists of a justification of this interest in an astrologically necessitated
universe in the face of traditional theological objections. These works play a big role as background for
his natural philosophy in De multiplicatione specierum. He was also interested in alchemy. It was his
determined interest in these areas of study that lead to disagreement with his superiors in the Franciscan
Order, specifically, Bonaventure.

5.4.1 The Philosophy of Nature

Bacon's treatise De multiplicatione specierum, his major later work on physics, written before 1267, is
closely related to the study of light, vision and perception in the Perspectiva. David C. Lindberg (PRSP,
Introduction) has noted that Bacon takes Grosseteste's physics of light, a development of Al-Kindi's
universal radiation of force, out of its metaphysical background and develops a universal doctrine of
physical causation.

The use of ‘species’ in this account is not that of Porphyry's Logic or the perceptual notion of likeness.
It is “the force or power by which any object acts on its surroundings.” It denotes “al-Kindi's universal
force, radiating from everything in the world to produce effects.” As Bacon himself notes, “species
[force, power] is the first effect of an agent….the agent sends forth a species into the matter of the
recipient, so that, through the species first produced, it can bring forth out of the potentiality of matter
[of the recipient] the complete effect that it intends ([DMS], 6-7). This is a universal theory of natural
causation as the background for his philosophy of vision and perception. Most importantly, species is a
univocal product of the agent. The first immediate effect of any natural action is definite, specific and
uniform. This production is not the imparting of an external form. The species is brought “forth out of
the active potency of the recipient matter.” (DMS, 6-7).

This is also a first attempt in the Latin world to provide separate domains for material and spiritual
being. Natural causation occurs ‘naturally’ according to regular processes or laws of nature. There is no
‘spiritual being’ in the medium as was commonly taught by other Scholastic philosophers. No, for
Bacon, universal causation is corporeal and material, and matter itself in not just pure potentiality but is
rather something positive in itself. Hence, the general philosophy of nature prepares the theoretical
ground for the specific application of mathematics to matters of vision and perception.

5.4.2 The Perspectiva and De speculum comburentibus (1266-67)

Bacon in his Perspectiva and related works presents his model for a careful and detailed application of
mathematics to the study of nature and mind. In imitation of the De aspectibus of Alhacen (Ibn al-
Haytham), he provided an application of geometry to vision that within the terms of reference of his
times was successful. But he is critical of both Alhacen and Ptolemy. He sees himself as answering
some of the optical problems not solved by each author.

Bacon's approach to vision and perception, however, is not an exercise in modern mathematical optics.
It should be seen as the sketch of a physics of light as the basis for a philosophy of perception and mind.
The account of visual perception in terms of natural philosophy, medicine and philosophy of mind is
found in Part one and a section of Part two. The account of Perspectiva sets out a consideration of
direct, reflected and refracted rays, and ends with the application of geometrical models for moral and
religious considerations.

Part One and also distinctio one and two of Part Two, deal with the structure of the eye, problems of
vision and visual errors. The aim is psychological and epistemological, that is, it sets out the conditions
for certifiable/verifiable and certain perception. The theory of the eye is taken from the Galenic
tradition handed on by Constantine the African's translation of Hunyan Ibn Isaq and from Avicenna and
Alhacen (Ibn al-Haytham). For this tradition, vision occurs when the crystalline humor is altered by the
intromission of visual species from the object. Vision is completed when the species proceeds through
the vitreous humor to the optic nerve and through this to the common nerve. It is here that a common
visual judgment is made. Bacon follows Ibn al-Haytham and imposes a geometrical model on the eye.
Using this model, Bacon is able to give a geometrical account of radiation through the eye. How then
does one avoid confusion in vision and gain verifiable clarity? For Bacon, the perpendicular ray is
primary; the other rays are treated as cases of indirect vision. The latter rays are refracted in the rear
surface of the crystalline humor.

Bacon then is concerned with “optical illusions,” whether inverted images, magnification, vision of
distant objects, the moon illusion and such matters. He seeks in a rational and experimental manner to
solve the puzzles found in Ptolemy, Alhacen (Ibn al-Haytham) and others. Still, he is a child of his
sources. These sources do not provide him with the more advanced data and mathematical method that
would be characteristic of the seventeenth century. But they do provide him with a functional
qualitative geometry of the eye and vision based on the best Greek and Islamic science. Bacon is
committed to an intromission theory of vision but he combines it with an extramission theory of vision

that avoids the ‘anthropomorphisms’ of earlier extramission theories. He uses the latter theory mainly to
emphasize the active role of the eye in vision.

In Parts Two and Three, he is to some extent successful in applying geometry to problems of direct,
reflected and refracted vision. He moved the study of these matters to a new level. The geometrical
arguments are worked out with careful diagrams and various appeals are made to “experimental”
conditions. What are these conditions? Some of them are simple ‘thought-experiments’ or even reports
of actual experiments from earlier writers. It seems clear, however, that Bacon himself did experimental
work with pinhole images, lenses, and discrete observations. This does not lead to a pure
geometrization of nature and he inevitably falls back on physical, perceptual and metaphysical
arguments. One might argue that he lacks the notion of infinity that is present in modern geometry.

Bacon introduces another important item for science. He refers to the “laws of reflection and refraction”
as leges communes nature. For Bacon in his account of nature in Communia naturalium and the later
works in general, a general law of nature governs universal force. This universal law of nature is
imposed on a world of Aristotelian natures. This notion would have a significant future in experimental

Bacon ends Part Three with an account of how a better understanding of the phenomena of nature could
lead to a more accurate knowledge of natural phenomena mentioned in Scripture. He finds in visual
phenomena significant metaphors and analogies for use in moral and religious teaching. Direct evidence
of Bacon's influence here in making science available for an educated public is seen in the use of his
work by Pierre de Limoges in his influential work De oculo morali (On the Moral Eye), written at Paris
between 1275 and 1289. MS Paris, BN Lat. 7434 owned by Pierre de Limoges contains an early copy of
Bacon's Perspectiva. All of this suggests Pierre de Limoges, (Magnus theologus et astronomus) as a
very early reader of Bacon's works (Newhauser, 2001).

5.4.3 On the nature of Experimental Science: De scientia experimentali (1266–67)

Presupposing the Perspectiva, Bacon in De scientia experimentali and in related works on the halo and
on burning mirrors situates this new scientific practice as a desired area of study in the medieval
university. Starting from Aristotle's account of empeiria (experience), Bacon argues that logical
argument alone, even when it originates from experience, is not sufficient for the ‘verification of
things.’ Even arguments that have their origins in experience will need to be verified by means of an
intuition of the things in the world. He distinguishes ‘natural scientific argument’ from moral and
religious mystical intuition, although he does allow for the notion of a revealed intuition in science.

His aim is to provide a method for science, one that is analogous to the use of Logic to test validity in
arguments. This new practical method consists of a combination of mathematics and detailed
experiential descriptions of discrete phenomena in nature. It would be distinguished from the
conjurations of Magic and from Moral and Religious Belief. It would also be different from Philosophy
of Nature and from broad Optical Knowledge. These two areas are important for experimental science
but they constitute general principles and in themselves and without experiment, they do not provide
access to minute, detailed experiments. Nevertheless, for his description of the first example of an
experimental science, the study of the Rainbow, Bacon depends on the accounts handed on by Aristotle,
Seneca and Avicenna. He is not uncritical of these accounts.

His own important contribution is to be found in his calculation of the measured value of 42 degrees for
the maximum elevation of the rainbow. This was probably done with an astrolabe, and in this, Bacon
advocates the skillful mathematical use of instruments for an experimental science. That Bacon had
mathematical competence in this field can be seen in his account of the ‘Halo’ in Opus tertiium (OQHI)
and in his complex arguments in De speculis comburentibus. Bacon takes up Grosseteste's theory of
refraction and tries to work out the difficulties in the latter. It would appear at first glance that Bacon is
rejecting the notion of refraction out of hand (Lindberg 1966). No. He is demonstrating that refraction

as formulated by Grosseteste did not make experimental or rational sense. Bacon knew the rules
governing the geometry of refraction. Important here is his emphasis on the role of individual drops of
water for the process of reflection and refraction. A correct account of the rainbow would appear some
forty years after Bacon in the De iride of Theodoric of Freiberg (d. ca. 1307) [TFT] with his account of
a single reflection and double refraction in single drops of water.

A second task for experimental science is the discovery by ‘experience’ alone of instruments (armillary
sphere), new medical cures, chemical discovery and military technologies. An important item here is
the discovery of magnetism. It would seem that Bacon is reporting on the actual experimental work of
Magister Petrus Peregrinus (fl. 1260-77), author of De magnete, who is lauded in the Opus tertium as
the only worthwhile ‘experimentalist’ at Paris. Bacon has been lauded down the centuries for his
medical learning, but recent scholarship has limited the number of works attributed to Bacon. Still, it is
important here to note that he did draw on medical practice to set out rules and procedures that in a non-
scholastic manner would lead to a more ‘experimental’ approach to nature. The third task is that of the
prognostication of the future on the basis of astronomical/astrological knowledge.

The conclusion to the De scientia experimentali is important. Bacon presents the ideal of the
‘philosophical chancellor’ who will organize science and its technological products for the benefit of
the Res publica Christiana. In this, he is influenced by the important “Mirror of Princes” from the
Islamic World, the Sirr-al-‘asrar (Secretum secretorum) (OHI, V). Stewart C. Easton (1952) proposed
that this work was the guiding vision for Bacon's reform of science. Williams (1994) has argued that
Bacon completed the edition of this work after his return to Oxford ca. 1280. Still, there is much cross
reference between this work and Bacon's writings in Paris ca. 1266-71.

David C. Lindberg (in Hackett, 1997a) has given a succinct summary of Bacon's model for an
experimental science [RBS]. He sees four main aspects. First, Bacon's perspectival theories were not his
own creation. He took the best available materials from Greek and Islamic scholars and produced his
own synthesis. Second, there is much evidence that Bacon himself did mathematical work and
experiments with visual phenomena such as pinhole images and the measurement of the visual field.
Third, as seen above, Bacon correctly calculated the maximum degree of elevation for the rainbow.
Fourth, the experiments in Bacon, especially in the Perspectiva served ‘theoretically significant
functions.’ It supplied observational data that required explanation in terms of a given optical theory.
The usual role of experiment in Bacon is to “confirm, refute or challenge theoretical claims.”

One might have expected Bacon to have given equal treatment to Astronomy, but in this field he was a
child of his time. He reports on the accounts of Aristotle, Ptolemy and Alfraganus (OHI, IV). He
discusses the pros and cons in a Scholastic manner but does not advance the field in the manner that he
did for Perspectiva.

5.5 Opus maius/Part Seven: Moralis philosophia

Bacon's Moralis philosophia (= Opus maius, VII = RBMP) comprises Philosophy of Religion, Social
Philosophy, a theory of the Virtues, an astrological-sociology of religion and cultures, an account of
argument and rhetoric.

Bacon describes the object of moral inquiry as follows: “This science is preeminently active, that is,
operative, and deals with our actions in this life and the other life” ([RBMP], 3). It is focused on human
action. Of course many human actions deal with issues that are the concern of the natural and linguistic
sciences. Bacon notes that these sciences are active and operative but they are concerned “…with
artificial and natural works which refer to the speculative intellect, and they are not concerned with
those things which refer to the practical intellect, which is called practical because it exercises
operations of good and evil” ([RBMP], 3). These works of the human being (operabilia) are “…more
difficult to know than the objects of speculative knowledge.” These include “…the highest truths
concerning God and divine worship, eternal life, the laws of Justice, the glory of peace and the

sublimity of the virtues” ([RBMP], 247). For Bacon, the human ability to deal with these topics is
affected by a certain corruption of the human will.

Moral science has two parts. The first part is speculative and deals with ultimate moral truths. The
second deals with the process of moral persuasion. “The practical part is related to the first part as the
curing of the sick and the conserving of health, which are treated in practical medicine, are related to
that part of medicine which teaches what health is…” ([RBMP], 248).

Part one deals with the object and method of morals science and with an outline of a philosophical
anthropology based on Platonic, Aristotelian and Stoic texts in which Bacon argues for an Augustinian
view of the place of the human being in the world. This includes a section on metaphysical proof for
God's existence. And the ancient source texts are treated as testimony for the universal religion of
Christianity. Part two is a very brief outline of the structure of social life taken from Avicenna.

Part three, the most substantial in the book, is concerned with Virtue and Vice. Bacon's own text for this
part of the Opus maius still exists and one can see his personal editorial remarks on the margins. He did
not have time to write a formal treatise, and so he presents an anthology of texts from Seneca and
excerpts from Cicero with comment. This is preceded by a brief resume of Aristotle on the virtues. But
it is clear that Bacon favors the image of the Stoic wise person as his model for virtue. Above all, he is
concerned with reproducing as much of the Stoic account of virtues as possible, and he is concerned
with making the Dialogues of Seneca known to Pope Clement IV. In particular, he is most of all
concerned with Seneca's De ira. He regards it as a fundamental text for the moral instruction of princes
and prelates. Certainly, Bacon, as he does in the Secretum secretorum, presents himself as a moral
advisor to Princes.

Part four provides an astrological sociology of human nations or “sects.” It relies on the moral/political
account of al-Farabi and on the astrological views of Abu Ma'shar (Albumassar). Bacon had a wide
knowledge of the world including the customs of the Mongols, and so he compares Mongol, Jewish,
Arab, and Pagan civilizations.

Part five deals with the role of rhetoric in moral persuasion. Bacon is convinced that rhetoric is closely
connected with logic, and believed that the university system failed by teaching only grammar and logic
(linguistics). The omission of rhetoric and poetics, as found in Aristotle and as interpreted by al-Farabi
and Averroes, from the university, was in Bacon's view a mistake. He knows the latest translations and
remarks: “But al-Farabi has presented to us the meaning of this kind of argument, and Avicenna, al-
Ghazali and Averroes have done likewise. Because of this, one ought to present an account of the nature
of poetic argument, and it falls to logic alone to compose such a book, since the composition of
argumentation pertains to logic alone… The appropriate presentation of this argument is found in [my]
Moralis philosophia, and in its use, and likewise in theological proofs and doctrines; and in such moral
matters, this kind of argument moves a [person] much more than does a demonstrative argument since it
has much greater power. And I have already composed a treatise on this [rhetorical-poetic] argument in
my works on logic, and I have shown there what is proper to this science.”[19] He continues and notes
that according to Aristotle and al-Farabi, this argument makes use of appropriate language so that the
self can be led to virtue and to the overcoming of vice. He then links up the Greek and Islamic sources
with the regular sources in the Latin tradition such as Cicereo, Sencca and Augustine. And he
distinguishes carefully between demonstrative, dialectical and rhetorical forms of argument.

5.6 Bacon's political philosophy: the Secretum secretorum

Bacon devoted considerable time to the study of this work, the Latin translation of the Arabic work on
statecraft in the tradition of Mirrors for Princes entitled Sirr-al-‘asrar. He worked on the text at Paris
and completed the edition of this text with Introduction and Notes at Oxford after his return there from
Paris ca. 1280. This is the most important text on government and the education of the Prince prior to
the writing of The Prince by Machiavelli. The work is divided into four parts. Part one begins with the

letter of Alexander to Aristotle and deals with the King's maintenance of the kingdom. It deals with
virtues, largesse and gifts. It is an account of the behavior expected of a King. Part two deals with
health care, medicine and the origins of the sciences. Part three deals with alchemy and with the human
emotional structure. Part four deals with physiognomy and anthropology.

Bacon's introduction is substantial, consisting of seven chapters. It is closely connected with his account
of astrology in Opus maius, part four, and with scientia experimentalis in part six. His sources are
mostly Islamic and include the De radiis and De aspectibus of al-Kindi and the introduction to
astrology of Abu Ma'shar. Bacon proposes a kind of statistical predictive astrology, and so has to deal
explicitly with the issue of freedom and determinism. He objects to a kind of infallibilist
necessitarianism and thinks that provided ‘possibility’ and ‘contingency’ can be guarded one can
predict what can happen in nature and in human society (due to the effects of the elements on
temperament) in a general manner. Thus, the ruler will have need of the astrologer who will function as
a kind of doctor, psychologist, sociologist and political theorist. This is a far cry from a contemplative
ethics. It is significant that in the work entitled Errores philosophorum ascribed to Giles of Rome, a
contemporary of Bacon at Paris, many of Bacon's sources are severely criticized. Giles in the De
regimine principum (1280s), unlike Bacon, provides a moral education for the prince that is entirely
based on Greek and Latin sources, especially on Aristotle.

6. Conclusion
It will be clear from this account that Roger Bacon is an important teacher of the Arts at Paris in the
1240s. He was ahead of his time in the vigorous manner in which he integrated the New Aristotle with
the traditional Latin traditions of Grammar and Logic. He taught for a long period in the Arts but seems
to have become an independent scholar by about 1248. He then, it would seem, returned to England,
where, under the influence of Adam Marsh, the friend of Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln, he was
attracted to interests associated with both scholars. These interests included language study including
the learning of ancient languages, experimental concerns such as Optics and Experimental Science, and
a renewed critical study of the text of Scripture. When Bacon returned to Paris in the 1250s, he was to
witness a profound change in the methodology of university learning, that is, the introduction of the
“Sentence-Method” into the study of Theology. For Bacon, this was a destruction of the practices that
he associated with Robert Grosseteste. Taking up the flag of the Bishop of Lincoln (d. 1253), he
became the great critic of the Parisian mode of doing philosophy and theology.

As we saw above, Bacon already by 1266 is very concerned with the new heterodox interpretations of
Aristotle found in the Faculty of Arts. His later works for Pope Clement IV must be read in the context
of the Parisian Debates on Latin Averroism (1266-1277).

The later Roger Bacon has a good knowledge of the geography and history of the world and he has an
awareness of geo-politics. In this context, he devoted much time to the important work on the education
of the Prince, the Secretum secretorum. Following his Condemnation in the Franciscan Order in 1278,
and his return to Oxford ca. 1280, he completed his edition, with notes and introduction, of this work. In
his last work, the Compendium studii theologiae (thought to be ca. 1292), he repeats some of the main
themes from the 1260s against Richard Rufus of Cornwall.

Roger Bacon set out themes in his philosophy of language and his philosophy of nature that would
influence fourteenth century writers such as Duns Scotus and William of Ockham among others. His
influence on the fourteenth century has been documented by Katherine H. Tachau (1988). He is much
more important for the philosophy of the thirteenth century than has been recognized in past


Primary Sources

Roger Bacon's Work

[OQHI] Opera quaedam hactenus inedita (=Opus tertium, Opus minus, Compendium studii
philosophiae, Epistola de secretis operibus Artis et Naturae, et de nullitate Magiae),
ed. J.S. Brewer, London, 1859; reprint 1965, Nendeln, Lichtenstein: Kraus.
[OMB] Opus maius, 3 Vols., ed. John Henry Bridges, Oxford and Edinburgh. (Vols. 1 & 2,
Oxford (1897), Vol. 3 with corrections, Edinburgh, 1900. Reprint, Frankfurt Am
Main: Minerva, 1964.
[UFRB] F.Gasquet, “An Unpublished Fragment of Roger Bacon,” in The English Historical
Review, 1894, 495-517.
[GGHG] The Greek Grammar of Roger Bacon and a Fragmengt of His Hebrew Grammar, ed.
Edmund Nolan and S.A. Hirsch, Cambridge University Press, 1902.
[OTFD] Opus tertium: Fragment, ed. Pierre Duhem, Quarrachi, 1909.
[OHI] Opera hactenus inedita (Vol. 1-XVI), ed. Robert Steele, Oxford, 1909–1940.
[CSTR] Fr. Rogeri Bacon Compendium Studii Theologiae, ed. Hastings Rashdall, Aberdeen
University Press, 1911.
[OTFL] Part of the Opus tertium of Roger Bacon, including a Fragment Now Printd for the
First Time, ed. Arthur George Little, Aberdeen University Press, 1912. Reprint,
Farnborough, U.K.: Gregg Press, 1966.
[WFB] The Works of Francis Bacon, ed. J. Stebbing, R. L. Ellis, D.D. Heath, London:
Longmans, 1870; Reprint, Garrett Press Inc., New York, NY, 1968.
[TUIA] Thomas Aquinas, Tractatus de unitate intellectus contra Averroistas, ed. Leo W.
Keeler, Rome: Gregorianum, 1946.

Modern Critical Editions

[RBMP] Rogeri Baconis Moralis Philosophia, ed. Eugenio Massa, Zurich: Thesaurus
Mundi, 1953.
[DS] “An Unedited Part of Roger Bacon's ‘Opus maius’: ‘De signis,’” ed. K.M.
Fredborg, Lauge Nielsen, Jan Pinborg, Traditio 34 (1978), 75-136.
[SD] Summulae dialectices, ed. Alain de Libera, “Les Summulae dialectics de Roger
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[CSTM] Compendium studii theologiae, ed. Thomas S. Maloney, Leiden: Brill, 1988.
[DMP]/[DSC] De multiplicatione specierum and De speculis comburentibus, ed., David C.
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[PRSP] Perspectiva, ed. David C. Lindberg, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996.


[MOA] Stanton J. Linden, The Mirror of Alchemy, New York: Garland Press, 1992.
[TTUM] Thomas S. Maloney, Three Treatments of Universals by Roger Bacon, Binghamton,
New York: MARTS, 1989.

Richard Rufus of Cornwall

[IPA] Richard Rufus of Cornwall, In Physicam Aristotelis, Rega Wood (ed.), Oxford
University Press, for The British Academy, (ABMA, XVI), 2003

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Copyright © 2007 by
Jeremiah Hackett <>