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4 Bacon and His Patron, Cardinal Guy le Gros de Foulque (Guido Fucoldi)

4 Bacon and His Patron, Cardinal Guy le Gros de Foulque (Guido Fucoldi)

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7 From Sapientes antiqui at Lincoln to the New Sapientes moderni. . .


England, but had been detained in France and was not allowed to enter England. In

this war, Bacon’s family suffered the costs of ransom, and he lost contact with his

brother the scholar. Where did this scholar brother reside? Was it at Oxford?

Further, any chance that Roger Bacon might continue his scholarly pursuits was

finished by the statutes of the Council of Narbonne under the presidency of

Bonaventure. It should be noted here that Cardinal le Gros de Foulque was

Archbishop of Narbonne in 1260. No writing especially De antichristo could be

published without the permission of the superiors, especially Bonaventure. Caught

in this bind, what does Bacon do? He does an end-run around his superiors. That is

never good policy. Given the statutes of Narbonne, it had practical consequences,

namely, a time of isolation on bread and water. To return to the matter of Islam,

North remarks:

The Saracens were for Bacon ‘a sect in one of the principal nations,’ a sect bound by the law

of Mohammed. How then could he reconcile himself to paying homage to the Saracens,

when their religious views were in direct conflict with those of his own church? (Ibid.).

We come now to the re-birth of Roger Bacon as an active scholar c. 1266. We

have the Mandatum that Pope Clement IV sent to Bacon in June 1266. Scholars are

in agreement that in July 1266, Bacon received a directive or Mandatum from Pope

Clement IV to write a work on philosophy and on other matters:

To our dear son, Brother Roger, called Bacon, of the Order of Friars Minor. We have

received your devoted letters gladly. And indeed we have attended carefully to the

explanation of them which our beloved son, Sir William, called Bonecour, related orally

to us, as faithfully as possible. So that we can obtain a clearer idea of what you intend, we

command you by apostolic letters notwithstanding [non obstante] the contrary instruction

of any prelate, to send to as soon as you can a fair copy of that work, which, when we were

in a lesser office [Cardinal-Legate], we asked you to communicate to our beloved son

Raymond of Laon, and explain in your explicit writings to us the remedies that you think we

should adopt to address those issues that you have described on the occasion of such great

danger, and do this quickly and as secretly as possible. [Text 12]

This then is the Papal Mandate issued in June, 1266. Yet, as is clear, Bacon had

earlier contact with Cardinal Guy le Gros de Foulque (Guido Fucoldi), sometime

prior to his becoming Pope in 1265. What did the Cardinal think of Bacon’s ideas?

How important was his encouragement as a motive for Bacon to begin writing? In

the Gasquet Fragment, which is an introduction to the Opus maius, Bacon states

explicitly that he had received a prior, first Mandatum from Pope Clement IV when

the latter was in ‘a lesser office, namely that of Cardinal.’ This fact has been

downplayed in the scholarship. Bacon had received an explicit Mandatum to

write from Cardinal Le Gros de Folque. In this introduction to the Opus maius,

Bacon writes: ‘Certainly, your Magnificence was aware, since both Mandates

asserted it, that I was under obligation by the strictest precept that I not communicate any writing which I made in this state of life [as a Franciscan Friar], just as all

our congregation is known thus to be firmly obliged, and so I utterly shrank from

writing.’ [Text 13] This is a very important text, in that he provides us with a true

picture of Bacon’s actual absence from active work in the arts and sciences. By

1267, he had been an exile for about ten years. Further, he had written nothing.


J. Hackett

Again, he speaks about the many impediments placed on him by his Franciscan

superiors. In the Opus tertium, he compares his plight with that of the great Cicero:

‘First, therefore in the Second Work, after the manner of the Letter of Cicero when

he was called back after exile, and humbled himself and congratulated the Roman

Senate, considering myself now for ten years an exile with respect to my fame for

study’(Opus tertium 7). [Text 14]

When did the Cardinal send Bacon the first Mandatum? I believe it was in the

period c. 1261–1262. Writing in the Opus tertium Bacon states that he began his

instruction of his student Johannes, which has now lasted for six or seven years,

since he first received a mandate from Cardinal Le Gros de Foulque. He also states

that he began the composition of his central work, the De multiplicatio specierum

when he first received the first Mandatum from the Cardinal. Further, he states that

it is ten years since he received that Mandatum (Opus tertium 38).10 Bacon began

the educational preparation of his messenger, the Iuvenis Iohannes, on receipt of

this first Mandatum from Cardinal Guy le Gros de Folque. Thus, sometime in the

very early years of the 1260s, probably around 1260–1261, Bacon began his writing


The big question therefore arises: When did Bacon write the Opus tertium? It is

important to get a verifiable result on this since much of the chronology depends on

this fact. After all as we saw above, scholars have tended to give 1267 as the time

for the writing of the Opus tertium. This simply does not make any sense: Bacon

tells us in the Opus tertium that he did not begin to finally write the Opus maius until

after Epiphany, 1267, and if one takes into account that he has to draft the De

multiplicatio specierum, the Perspectiva, Communia naturalium and the Moralis

philosophia, we must push the writing of the Opus tertiium up to the years

1268–1269. Moreover, recent Bacon scholarship on ‘Roger Bacon’s Communia

Naturalium: A thirteenth-century Philosopher’s Workshop,’ has come to a conclusion that this latter work was composed sometime between 1269 and 1270 (not later

than 1271), and as I prove there, Bacon uses material from the Opus tertium in Part

IV of Book two of the Communia naturalium (Bernardini and Rodolfi 2014;

Hackett 2014). Hence, it is likely that this material was written sometime between

1268, when Pope Clement IV was still alive, and 1269.

He completed his edition of the Secretum secretorum at the Franciscan Studium

in Oxford. By 1292, he had completed his Compendium studii theologiae, and he

probably died at Oxford sometime after 1292.


Sed laboravi per annos decem [on the De multiplicatione specierum], quantumcunque potui

vacare, et discussi Omnia ut potui, redigens in scriptum a tempore mandate vestre. [This raises

another issue. Elsewhere, Bacon states that he began teaching the Young John some six or seven

years ago, after he received the first Mandatum from Cardinal Le Gros de Foulque. It would follow

from his statement about the ongoing work on species that either the mandate was given in 1258 or

he continued working on the text for ten years after 1261. At any rate, it clearly shows that he did

these works for the Cardinal, later Pope Clement IV, in his spare time from his normal duties as a

Franciscan Friar.

7 From Sapientes antiqui at Lincoln to the New Sapientes moderni. . .



Bacon in 1266: An Exile with Respect to His Previous

High Reputation as a Master in Arts

In view of the fact that Bacon was an old man without institutional support, how did

he achieve so much writing? How did he do it? Did he have help? I am certainly

convinced that he did have helpers. But who were they? Did they include the young

theologian, moralist and astronomer Peter of Limoges? Yet, he is not mentioned

among the great mathematicians praised by Bacon. What do we know about those

in the Franciscan house of study and the University of Paris who might have shared

Bacon’s concerns? But first, we must ask: What kind of work are the Opera for

Pope Clement IV? Second, why did he present the Pope with scientific treatises?

Cui bono? Was Bacon writing for himself alone or was he a representative of a

group of theologians, philosophers and scientists at Paris who had an agenda that

differed considerably from the normal scholastic method of the regular teaching

based on the Sentence-Commentaries? I believe that we must take Bacon at his own

word when he states that he had nothing to present to the Pope but one or two

chapters from different sciences. He was now for about ten years an emeritus

Professor who had other duties as a Franciscan Friar.


The Uses of Mathematics in Opus maius, Parts IV–VII:

Science Interpreted Moraliter.11

Parts IV–VI, and Sect. 4 of Part VII of the Opus maius deal explicitly with the

applications of Mathematics to the natural, human and divine worlds. If one

abstracts for a moment from Bacon’s important concerns with sacred languages

and with speculative grammar, one must notice that the applications of mathematics

furnishes the main theme of Bacon’s later writings. Bacon’s opposition to the works

of the young boys of both Orders, Dominican and Franciscan, has to do with the

ignorance of the applications of mathematics even in theology. ‘Of these sciences

the gate and key is mathematics, which the Saints discovered at the beginning of the

world, as I shall show, and which has always been used by all the saints and sages

more than all the other sciences. Neglect of this branch now for thirty or forty years

has destroyed the whole system of studies of the Latins. Since he who is ignorant of

this cannot know the other sciences, they do not perceive their own ignorance, and

therefore do not seek a remedy. And on the contrary the knowledge of this science

prepares the mind and elevates it to certain knowledge of all things. . .’ (Opus maius

Part IV, 97). Again, he states, there is the example of Pythagoras, Ptolemy and

Boethius. Further, ‘For since there are three essential parts of philosophy, as


I am, for reasons of space, omitting an account of Bacon’s knowledge of Logic and Signs,

the English provenance of which is acknowledged by, Alain de Libera, Thomas Maloney, Ire`ne

Rosier-Catach, Jan Pinborg.


J. Hackett

Aristotle says in the sixth book of the Metaphysics, mathematics, natural and

divine, the mathematical is of no small importance in grasping the knowledge of

the other two parts, as Ptolemy states in the first chapter of the Almagest’ (Opus

maius, Part IV, 98–99).. Bacon covers a wide area in his application of mathematics, physics, astrology, theology, church history, geography.

For the purposes of this chapter, however, I will focus on the section in Opus

maius IV dealing with Astrology/Scientia Experimentalis: the reason for this is to

indicate that Bacon may well be the one condemned in regard to the charge of

‘Astral Determinism’ in the Parisian Condemnations of 1270, 1277. While Bacon is

not named explicitly, it is clear that some of the propositions cover his doctrine of

universal univocal causation based on the effects of the heavenly bodies on human

bodies and on temperament. And while Bacon does attempt to save freedom of the

Will, it is also clear that he does believe in an astral determination of individual

personality and in the astral determinism of sects and religions. Or better, he clearly

attempts to save Astronomy-Astrology for Statecraft and for the Church by means

of argument and authority: the matter is so important to him that he treats of it in

many places, most notably in Opus maius IV, Opus maiux VI, part three, the

Introduction and Notes to the Secretum secretorum, De secretis operibus naturae

et de nullitate magiae.

Writing on Astrology in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the renowned

authority on the subject, Graziella Federici Vescovini states:

Roger Bacon was one of the staunchest defenders of the theory of the birth of religions brought

about by the great conjunctions. He Bacon agrees with the astrological theory of religions and

while he strongly advocates Freedom of the Will, he does so at the cost of opposing the latter to

a more strictly deterministic world based on the influence of the stars. Proposition 68, 70,

76, 94 deal with this issue of Fatalism based on ‘Astral Determinism’ (Vescovini 2011, 2014).

I have argued that Proposition 101–107 beginning with the claim that no agency is

open to alternatives; indeed, all agency is determined to one outcome clearly find

warrant in Roger Bacon’s works (Hackett 2000). The diversity of heavenly positions

determines one’s fate. Further, not only is one’s physical complexion is determined

but so also one’s spiritual well-being is determined. Health, infirmity, life and death

are determined by the stars such that the heavenly bodies influence human destiny.

Bacon scientia experimentalis, Part III, and his Moralis philosophia, Part IV,

which Bacon calls the most important part of his Moral Philosophy, are a major

attempt to save Mathematics (Astronomy-Astrology) in regard to contingent

changes on earth and in regard to the human organism. It is the basis for his theory

of prediction of the future and for his astro-sociology of world-religions. A related

approach to Bacon can be found in the works of his younger contemporary, and I

believe his helper, Master Peter of Limoges. This is clear from the sermon De

antichristo (Be´riou 1986).12 Both John North and Graziella Federici Vescovini


See Be´riou (1986). This work reference to a De antichristo by Pierre de Limoges, who was a

Master in Arts at Paris, and then, a theologian, in the 1260s indicates that he had with Roger Bacon

a common concern with astronomy/astrology.

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