Roger Bacon LO25688

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 11/22/00

Replying to LO25670 --

Dear Organlearners,

Andrew Campbell < > writes:

>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;-)"

Greetings Andrew,

Thank you very much for this delightful (auto?)biography. Rick, thank you
for your hosting.

Andrew, Roger Bacon (RB) may be very obscure, but my hunch is that he
shaped the minds of the English people for many centuries to come. As you
say, it is not easy to assess the complex personality of RB.

I have studied several assessments on RB. They differ considerably from
each other which shows how complex this assessment is. But I also had the
wonderful opportunity to study for a few days a translation into modern
English of his Opus Maius. Once again I came deeply under the impression
of the great difference between commentaries on a person (even with much
difference among them) and what that person self had written.

I wish I had the book available so as to treat you on some wonderful

Sometimes I fall back into the dialectical groove of viewing commentaries
as second hand and original writings as first hand. It usually happens
when the commentator present what he thinks the person has written as
factual for that person rather than quoting what the person has written
self as the fact. But actually commentaries are very important as sources
of information for the thoughts of other persons on a person rather than a
source of information on the very knowledge of the person self. These
commentaries together with the person's own writings form a very important
entropic force in my own learning. I can describe it as
. [C(dassein) - C(mitsein)]
where the intensive factor C in this case is Creativity. Perhaps we can
have some time in future a LO-dialogue on it.

As I see it, RB was deeply under the impression of the power of knowledge
which resides in the mind. He also had little tolerance, if any, for
ignorance posing as knowledge and its herald by rote learning which are
the outcomes of scholasticism. What he wrote about, became almost "as if
echoed" in many of the letters of great English scientists centuries
afterwards like Robert Boyle, Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, John Ray and
Robert Hooke. I say "as if echoed" because I think that even in their days
RB was already a forgotten personality. Thus they did not quote him -- he
merely preceded them. It is through these scientists that the "scientific
societies" emerged as extraodinary "communities of practice". Thus 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" surely applies. (I
wonder whether I should dare writing the following ;-) Sadly, some of them
have become "societies for neo- scholasticism" as this vision of RB
gradually weared off.

The most profound accomplishment of RB for me is that he had "foreseen"
the "birth of physics" through the mental efforts of Copernicus, Keppler
and Newton four centuries before it actually happened. I put the
"foreseen" in quotation marks because he actually stressed the two things
which would be prerequisite to such a "birth of physics" -- careful
observations and mathematical descriptions. Many people nowadays want to
take pot shot at Newton for our modern predicaments. By bring RB back into
the picture, they might be tempted to take pot shot at RB too ;-)

By the way, I think there is some error in "yet he adhered to the
17th-century method of interpretation". RB could not adhere to something
which would come only four centuries afterwards.

>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.

Andrew, this is because the intermolecular forces which keep the water
molecules together as a liquid rather than apart as in a gas, are
influenced by the temperature. The higher the temperature, the easier they
will break apart. Now, breakin the molecules apart, thus increasing the
vapour pressure, requires energy. Some of the heat supplied goes for this
purpose rather than merely raising the temperature.

This is a fine example of a one-to-two mapping. Both temperature T and
vapour pressure P are intensive quanitites while heat /_\H (thermal energy
in flow) is extensive. The original assumption was a one-to-one-mapping:
. /_\H ===> [T(2) - T(1)]
But actually it is "at least" the one-to-two-mapping
. /_\H ===> [T(2) - T(1)] AND [P(2) - P(1)]
It is called in irreversible thermodynamics the Onsager behaviour. I say
"at least" because there are other intensive quantities (like the chemical
potential of water) which become influenced too.

>Mmmm;-) !!!!!

Yes. It is wonderful that your "eye has seen" this. (See my reply to
Winfried on the "one eyed Job".) For me it is a sign of your authentic
learning advancing.

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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