Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Henrik Lagerlund

Roger Bacon

  • Yael Kedar
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-024-1151-5_449-2


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 the reorganization of Christian studies, to the Pope. 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. 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. By this move, he initiated the tradition of the science of Perspectiva in the West. Bacon viewed nature as a coherent system governed by laws and formulated some of them. He stressed the importance of mathematics in providing scientific explanations and drew geometrical diagrams exemplifying various optical phenomena. 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. His view of matter as positive and worthy of investigation found expression in his strong notion of representation, advocating the need to portray both formal and material aspects in cognitive contents and language.

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


Primary Sources

  1. Bacon, R. (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, J. S.). London (repr. Kraus, Nendeln, Lichtenstein, 1965).Google Scholar
  2. Bacon, R. (1897–1900). Opus majus (ed.: Bridges, J. H.). Oxford/Edinburgh: Wiliam & Norgate (repr. Frankfurt am Main, Minerva, 1964).Google Scholar
  3. Bacon, R. (1902). Grammatica Graeca (ed.: Nolan, E., & Hirsch, S. A.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bacon, R. (1905–1940). Opera hactenus inedita Rogeri Baconi, 16 fascs (eds.: Steele, R., & Delorme, F. M.). Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  5. Bacon, R. (1928). De retardatione accidentium senectutis cum aliis opusculis de rebus medicinalibus (ed.: Little, A. G., & Withington, E.). Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  6. Bacon, R. (1978). An unedited part of Roger Bacon’s Opus majus: De signis (eds.: Fredborg, K. M., Nielsen, L., et al.). Traditio, 34, 75–136.Google Scholar
  7. Bacon, R. (1983). De multiplicatione specierum and De speculis comburentibus (ed. & trans.: Lindberg, D. C.). Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  8. Bacon, R. (1988). Compendium studii theologiae (ed. & trans.: Maloney, T. S.). Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  9. Bacon, R. (1996). Perspectiva (ed. & trans.: Lindberg, D. C.). Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  10. Bacon, R. (2013). On signs (ed. & trans.: Maloney, T. S.). Toronto: PIMS.Google Scholar

Secondary Sources

  1. Crowley, T. (1950). Roger Bacon: The problem of the soul in his philosophical commentaries. Louvain/Dublin: Éditions de l’Institut Supérieur de Philosophie.Google Scholar
  2. Easton, S. C. (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. Westport: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  3. Hackett, J. M. G. (1997). Roger Bacon: His life, career and works. In J. M. G. Hackett (Ed.), Roger Bacon and the sciences: Commemorative essays (pp. 9–24). Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  4. Hackett, J. M. G. (2006). Experience and demonstration in Roger Bacon: A critical review of some modern interpretations. In A. Fidora & M. Lutz-Bachmann (Eds.), Erfahrung und Beweis: Die Wissenschaften von der Natur im 13. und 14. Jahrhundert / Experience and demonstration: The sciences of nature in the 13th and 14th centuries (Wissenkultur und gesellschaftlicher Wandel 14, pp. 41–58). Berlin: Akademie Verlag.Google Scholar
  5. Hackett, J. M. G. (2008–2009). Roger Bacon’s concept of experience: A new beginning in medieval philosophy? The Modern Schoolman, 86, 123–146.Google Scholar
  6. Hackett, J. M. G. (2013). Roger Bacon on animal knowledge in the Perspectiva. In L. X. Lòpez-Farjeat & J. A. Tellkamp (Eds.), Philosophical psychology in Arabic thought and the Latin Aristotelianism of the 13th century (pp. 23–42). Paris: Vrin.Google Scholar
  7. Kedar, Y., & Hon, G. (2018). Roger Bacon (c. 1220–1292) and his system of laws of nature: Classification, hierarchy and significance. Perspectives on Science, 25 (6), 719–745.Google Scholar
  8. Lindberg, D. C. (1966). Roger Bacon’s theory of the rainbow: Progress or regress. Isis, 57, 235–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Lindberg, D. C. (1982). On the applicability of mathematics to nature: Roger Bacon and his predecessors. British Journal for the History of Science, 15, 3–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Lindberg, D. C. (1987). Science as a handmaiden – Roger Bacon and the patristic tradition. Isis, 78, 518–536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Lindberg, D. C., & Tachau, K. H. (2013). The science of light and color, seeing and knowing. In D. C. Lindberg & M. H. Shank (Eds.), The Cambridge history of science (Medieval science, Vol. 2, pp. 485–511). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Maloney, T. S. (1983). The semiotics of Roger Bacon. Medieval Studies, 65, 120–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Maloney, T. S. (1984). Roger Bacon on equivocation. Vivarium, 22, 85–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Maloney, T. S. (1985). The extreme realism of Roger Bacon. The Review of Metaphysics, 38, 807–837.Google Scholar
  15. Newman, W. R. (1997). An overview of Roger Bacon’s alchemy. In J. M. G. Hackett (Ed.), Roger Bacon and the sciences: Commemorative essays (pp. 317–336). Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  16. Power, A. (2013). Roger Bacon and the defense of Christendom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Raizman-Kedar, Y. (2009). The intellect naturalized: Roger Bacon on the existence of corporeal species within the intellect. Early Science and Medicine, 14, 131–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Rosier-Catach, I. (1997). Roger Bacon and grammar. In J. M. G. Hackett (Ed.), Roger Bacon and the sciences: Commemorative essays (pp. 67–102). Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  19. Sharp, D. E. (1930). Franciscan philosophy at Oxford in the thirteenth century. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Smith, A. M. (2015). From sight to light – The passage from ancient to modern optics. Chicago/London: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  21. Williams, S. J. (1994). Roger Bacon and his edition of the Pseudo-Aristotelian, Secretum secretorum. Speculum, 69, 57–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Multidisciplinary StudiesTel-Hai College and the University of HaifaKiryat ShmonaIsrael