Roger Bacon LO25670

Date: 11/18/00

Dear Rick and At and all dear Learners,

(Which is not to imply that At and Rick are not Learners too, but I think
it probably does imply that all Learners are not Rick or At, maybe even

At, you seemed to hint;-) that I ought to aquaint my marbles with Roger
Bacon and so this is my initial primer. Rick, maybe you will let this long
autobiographical one through on the premis that it seems quite interesting
in relation to At's constant references to this quite obscure man;-)? As
for me, in the words of Manuel the esteemed servant to Mr Basil Fawlty, "I
kno' nothinnnnggggg;-)"

BACON, ROGER (c. 12I4-92), English Franciscan philosopher, born according
to one tradition near Ilchester in Dorset and according to another at
Bisley in Gloucestershire, most probably went to Oxford for his first
schooling but was not, as is often assumed, a pupil of St Edmund of
Abingdon or of Robert Grosseteste: by this time they were both masters in
divinity, and a master in theology would not teach the triviwn or
quadri-vium, which were the courses suitable to Bacon's age. He was
already in Paris by I236 for his philosophical course. There, after
gaining the mastership, he lectured for some years in the faculty of arts.
His Quaestiones on Aristotle's Phwsics and Metaphysics and on the
pseudo-Aristotle's De Plantis (incomplete) and De Causis are extant in
Amiens MS. 4O6 and have been edited by R. Steele. It would seem that Bacon
was one of the first to 'read' these Aristotelian books in Paris. About
1247 he resigned his chair to devote himself entirely to experimental
sciences. He was still in France in 1251, as he asserts that he saw the
leader of the Pastoureaux revolt. The place and date of his joining the
Franciscans is unknown, but it may have happened at Oxford some time after
his return to England. It is highly improbable that he ever taught at
Oxford; and there is no trustworthy evidence that he became a master in
theology. Probably he was never raised to the priesthood. On his return to
France, ill health compelled him to rest and to abandon his studies for
ten years (c. 1256-66). He was already writing very little, yet it would
seem that the D-'Speculis and De Mirabili Potestate Artis et enturae and
certainly the Computus Naturalium (1263-64) belong to this period. At the
bidding of Pope Clement IV (1265--68) that a copy of his writings should
be sent to him 'secretly and without delay, notwithstanding any order of
his superiors and any 'constitution of the Franciscan order to the
contrary', Bacon started to write his great work. His plan was to compose
a systematic and scientific treatment of the various branches of learning;
but after completing two parts, the Communia Naturalium and the Communia
Mathematicae, he found his task unmanageable. He wrote instead a Tractatus
Praeambulus, known as the Opus Maius, which was followed by the Opus Minus
and later supplemented by the Opus Tertium. The first two works, together
with the De Multiplicatione Specierum and a treatise on alchemy, were sent
to the pope (c. 1268); but Clement died on 29 NOV. 1268.

Bacon returned to Oxford, and to this next period belong his glosses on
the Secretum Secretorum of the pseudo-Aristotle, the Greek and Hebrew
grammars and the Compendium Studii Philosophiae (c. 1272). Whether he ever
finished the last work is doubtful: at qny rate only a fragment is extant.
Stephen Tempier, bishop of Paris, on 7 Mar. 1277 condemned 219
propositions and various books of magic and excommunicated all those who
taught them. It is generally supposed that Roger Bacon was involved in
this condemnation and in consequence im- prisoned by the general of the
Franciscans, Jerome of Ascoli; but it is difficult to understand how this
Paris decree could affect a master residing in Oxford. Moreover the only
evidence of Bacon's imprisonment arises from the dubious authority of the
Chronica xxiv Generalium, which is of a later date. That he suffered
vexations from his religious superiors, as he complains in the Opus
Tertium, is without doubt, but this is un- connected with the decree of
1277: the Opus Tertium was in fact written well before. Bacon's last work
was the Compendium Studii Theologiae written in 1292.

It is not easy to Assess Roger Bacon's place in the history of thought.
His was a complex personality: he was a keen observer of places and things
but dissatisfied with everybody and everything; and he criticized
unmercifully all around him. His statements, though on the whole true, are
often exaggerated, and should be accepted only with great caution; he
overstated ihe defects and underrated the merits of his contemporaries, he
criticized the abuse of dialectics and authority and urged the necessity
of direct observation, but his own arguments were mainly based on
authority; and he complained bitterly of the badness of Aristotelian
translations and of the fewness of versions from the Greek fathers, but
failed to appreciate the value and the number of the existing ones. He
advocated the study of ancient languages in order to gain a better
understanding of Aristotle and the Scriptures, wrote Greek and Hebrew
grammars and called for a correction of the Latin Bible and laid down
rules for its restoration; yet he adhered to the 17th- century method of
interpretation. In philosophy his outlook is that of the traditional
school; and even in his later works, such as the Connnunia Naturalium, his
speculation is representative of that of the first half of the 13th
century. His merits are greater in the domain of experimental science, and
in optics he certainly achieved great progress. Roger Bacon, in A. G.
Little's words,'-had his feet firmly planted in mediaeval soil, and yet
had a strikingly clear vision of far-off future things'. He was surnamed
the doctor mirabilis.

All from ChambersVol II

Post script.

P. 796. Quantity of heat is usually, although not invariably, expressed in
terms of the amount of heat necessary to raise the temperature of unit
mass of water through one degree. It was not realised for a considerable
amount of time that that the latter quantity depended upon the initial
temperature of the water, and therefore that the practical heat unit
varies according to the temperature range over which the water was heated.
etc, etc.

Mmmm;-) !!!!!

Best wishes,

Andrew Campbell


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