Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy

2011 Edition
| Editors: Henrik Lagerlund

Roger Bacon

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-9729-4_449


Roger Bacon was born in Ilchester in either 1214 or 1220. After his matriculation at Oxford, he was one of the pioneers to teach Aristotle at the University of Paris. His return to Oxford in the late 1240s marked a turning point in his career. He joined the Franciscans in 1257, and in 1267/1268, he sent three works, comprising a plan for a thorough reorganization of Christian studies, to the Pope. He was condemned and imprisoned about 1277, to be set free only a year before his death, in 1293. In his Parisian phase of career, he developed the idea of the utmost significance of the speaker’s intention, and original theories of imposition and equivocation. He affirmed that universals are extramental, believed in innate confused knowledge and held to the theory of universal hylomorphism. Instead of the Aristotelian linear scale of colors, he posited five principal colors, from which the other colors are produced by mixtures. In his mature phase of thought, he proposed an order of sciences in which the practical sciences received precedence, advocated the use of experimental method, developed the theory of the multiplication of species, and combined it with Alhacen’s ideas on light and vision. He stressed the importance of mathematics in providing scientific explanations and drew geometrical diagrams exemplifying the rules of reflection, refraction, and other related phenomena. His view of matter as positive and worthy of investigation found expression in his strong notion of representation, arguing for the need to portray not only formal aspects but material ones as well in both cognitive contents and language. Bacon described the details of the workings of the sensitive soul and ascribed complex cognitive capacities to animals. He presented an original classification of signs and reversed the linguistic triangle prescribed by Aristotle and Boethius.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


Primary Sources

  1. Bacon Roger (1859) Opera quaedam hactenus inedita (=Opus tertium, Opus minus, Compendium studii philosophiae, Epistola de secretis operibus Artis et Naturae, et de nullitate Magiae), ed. Brewer JS. London (repr. Kraus, Nendeln, Lichtenstein, 1965)Google Scholar
  2. Bacon Roger (1897–1900) Opus majus, ed. Bridges JH. Oxford/Edinburgh (repr. Minerva, Frankfurt am Main 1964)Google Scholar
  3. Bacon Roger (1902) Grammatica Graeca, ed. Nolan E, Hirsch SA. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  4. Bacon Roger (1905–1940) Opera hactenus inedita Rogeri Baconi, 16 fascs, ed. Steele R, Delorme FM. Clarendon, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  5. Bacon Roger (1928) De retardatione accidentium senectutis cum aliis opusculis de rebus medicinalibus, ed. Little AG, Withington E. Clarendon, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  6. Bacon Roger (1978) De signis, ed. Fredborg KM, Nielsen L, Pinborg J. An unedited part of Roger Bacon’s Opus majus: De signis. Traditio 34:75–136Google Scholar
  7. Bacon Roger (1983) De multiplicatione specierum and De speculis comburentibus, ed. and trans. Lindberg DC. Clarendon, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  8. Bacon Roger (1988) Compendium studii theologiae, ed. and trans. Maloney TS. Brill, LeidenGoogle Scholar
  9. Bacon Roger (1996) Perspectiva, ed. and trans. Lindberg DC. Clarendon, OxfordGoogle Scholar

Secondary Sources

  1. Carton R (1923) L’experience physique chez Roger Bacon. J. Vrin, ParisGoogle Scholar
  2. Cromby AC (1953) Robert Grosseteste and the origins of experimental science, 1100–1700. Clarendon, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  3. Crowley T (1950) Roger Bacon: the problem of the soul in his philosophical commentaries. Editions de l’Institut Supérieur de Philosophie, Louvain/DublinGoogle Scholar
  4. Easton SC (1952) Roger Bacon and his search for a universal science: a reconsideration of the life and work of Roger Bacon in the light of his own stated purposes. Columbia University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  5. Fisher NW, Unguru S (1971) Experimental science and mathematics in Roger Bacon’s thought. Traditio 27:353–378Google Scholar
  6. Hackett JMG (ed) (1997) Roger Bacon and the sciences: commemorative essays. Brill, LeidenGoogle Scholar
  7. Lindberg DC (1982) On the applicability of mathematics to nature: Roger Bacon and his predecessors. Br J Hist Sci 15:3–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Lindberg DC (1987) Science as a handmaiden – Roger Bacon and the patristic tradition. Isis 78:518–536CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Maloney TS (1983) The semiotics of Roger Bacon. Mediev Stud 65:120–154Google Scholar
  10. Maloney TS (1985) The extreme realism of Roger Bacon. Rev Metaphys 38:807–837Google Scholar
  11. Marmo C (1997) Bacon, Aristotle (and all the others) on natural inferential signs. Vivarium 35(2):136–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Molland AG (1983) Roger Bacon and the hermetic tradition in medieval science. Vivarium 31:140–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Parkhurst C (1990) Roger Bacon on color: sources, theories and influence, ed. Selig KL, Sears E. The verbal and the visual: essays in honour of William Sebastian Hechscher. Italica Press, New York, pp 151–202Google Scholar
  14. Power A (2006) A mirror for every age: the reputation of Roger Bacon. Engl Historical Rev 121(492):657–692CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Raizmam-Kedar Y (2009) The intellect naturalized: Roger Bacon on the existence of corporeal species within the intellect. Early Sci Med 14:131–157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Rosier I (1994) La parole comme acte: Sur la grammaire et la sémantique au xiiie siècle. J. Vrin, ParisGoogle Scholar
  17. Sharp DE (1930) Franciscan philosophy at Oxford in the thirteenth century. Oxford University Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  18. Thorndike L (1914) Roger Bacon and experimental method in the Middle Ages. Philos Rev 23:271–298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Whewell W (1858) History of the inductive sciences from the earliest times to the present times, vol 1. D. Appleton & Company, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  20. Williams SJ (1994) Roger Bacon and his edition of the Pseudo-Aristotelian, Secretum secretorum. Speculum 69:57–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Wood R (2007) Imagination and experience in the sensory soul and beyond: Richard Rufus, Roger Bacon & their contemporaries, ed. Lagerlund H. Forming the mind – essays on the internal senses and the mind/body problem from Avicenna to the medical enlightment. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 27–57Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentUniversity of HaifaMount CarmelIsrael