ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

351. Anti-scholastic Views. -- Bacon's originality is seen principally in the views which put him in opposition to scholasticism. Of these the following are the more important: --

(1) The mutual relations of theology, philosophy and the sciences. The question of these relations is all-important in Bacon's philosophy: it occupies the entire second half of the Opus Majus. From the essential unity of all knowledge and the essential primacy of theology, he infers that the sole raison d'être of philosophy and the sciences is to explain the contents of the Scriptures. "Una est tantum sapientia perfecta quae in sacra scriptura totaliter continetur."{1} In itself, philosophy is of no value: "philosophia secundum se considerata nullius utilitatis est";{2} it is but the instrument of dogma: "philosophia non est nisi sapientiae divinae explicatio per doctrinam et opus".{3} Strange words in the mouth of an ardent natural scientist.

But Bacon goes even farther: he inaugurates what is a veritable traditionalism. God alone can have taught men to philosophize, by revealing the truth to them. Without books and teachers, the solution of the Universals problem would never have been reached. And so of all philosophy: "revelatio necessaria est in hac parte (veritate universalium); et cum haec sint puerilia et minima, multo fortius erit hoc in tota sapientia philosophiae":{4} "Impossibile fuit homini ad magnalia scientiarum et artium devenire per se, sed opportet quod habuerit revelationem".{5} And here are the consequences: the plenitude of philosophic wisdom was coeval with the cradle of humanity: "Eisdem personis data est philosophiae plenitudo quibus et lex Dei, scilicet sanctis patriarchis et prophetis a mundi principio".{6} But the wickedness of men drew down the anger of God;{7} He dispensed philosophic truth to them with a sparing hand and allowed them to mingle errors with it. We should therefore seek in the books of the ancient philosophers the soul of truth that revelation placed there; we should follow up the traces of Christian dogma in paganism and thus add all we can to our inherited treasure "usque ad finem mundi, quia nihil est perfectum in humanis adinventionibus".{8} But in order to discover this treasure in the philosophy of the ancients, we must interrogate history. Knowledge of languages thus becomes a primary requisite for wisdom.{9} On the study of languages should follow the study of mathematics, for these are required for the various sciences that interpret nature,{10} as well as for philosophy: "tota philosophiae intentio non est nisi rerum naturas et proprietates evolvere"{11} -- and for the understanding of the facts of Scripture. The study of philosophy properly terminates in ethics, for this branch has the most direct and intimate bearing on theology.

(2) The theory of the Intellectus Agens. The intellectus agens, which determines the passive intellect to elicit the act of "understanding," is not a part of the soul. It is the sun of our intelligences and illuminates them with its truth.{12} The connection between Bacon's ideology and his traditionalism is unmistakable: "quia istud est necessarium ad propositi persuasionem, ut ostendatur quod philosophia sit per influentiam divinae illuminationis, volo istud efficaciter probare, praecipue cum magnus error invaserit vulgus philosophantium in hac parte".{13} Aristotle, St. Augustine and all the "sapientes antiqui experti," he adds, were agreed on the separation of the two intellects. It is likewise, he urges, the view of Robert of Lincoln and Adam of Marisco. "And on two occasions, he informs us, I have heard William of Auvergne defend it".{14}

Of all the interpretations of the Augustinian theory of Divine illumination, that of Bacon -- who thinks he is merely paraphrasing the others -- is by far the most daring. It borrows half its ideology from Averroïsm, since it does not admit an intellectus agens for each individual man; but it rejects the other half; inasmuch as it does endow each individual with a proper intellectus possibilis of his own. In his Communia Naturalium, Bacon insists on the difference there is between his theory and that of the Averroïsts.{15}

(3) All cognition is intuitive: intellectual as well as sensible. For, all cognition is a direct union of the knower with the known. The universal notes, which exist the individual things of Nature, determine in us cognitions (species) of the universal, just as the individual notes, which envelop the universal, effect in us the cognition of the singular. Bacon describes every action of one being on another as a species, and so cognition is but a particular case of the interaction of cosmic agencies.{16}

(4) Experience and the methods of acquiring knowledge. There are three methods of acquiring knowledge: per auctoritatem et rationem et experientiam.{17} But authority is unsatisfactory without reasoning; and even reasoning does not secure the tranquil possession of truth unless experience confirms its findings.{18} Experience is thus the sole source of certitude. The argumentum to which Bacon opposes experientia is apparently the hollow reasoning exemplified in the sophismata of the schools, or also the reasoning based on alleged but unverified facts, or finally the reasoning which, in the investigation of the laws of nature, would foolishly try to dispense with experience altogether.{19} But he admits that demonstration based on established facts leads to science.{20} Anyhow, the exclusive claims set up by Bacon for the experimental method must not be understood in the absolute sense of modern positivism.

This is certain; for after concluding "Oportet ergo omnia certificari per viam experientiae," he immediately adds "duplex est experientia". The one is external ("per sensus exteriores").{21} The other is internal ("scientia interior") and is the fruit of divine inspirations ("divinae inspirationes"). But the first of the seven degrees of this scientia interior consists in illuminationes pure scientiales. And this brings us back to that whole body of scientific and philosophic knowledge engendered in us by the illumination of God, the intellectus agens of our souls; a view that seems to corroborate our interpretation of the nuda demonstratio. The objects of the remaining six illuminations are: moral virtue; the gifts of the Holy Ghost; the evangelical beatitudes; the sensus spirituales; the fructus de quibus est pax Domini; and, finally, the higher intuitions of the state of raptus or ecstasy. Some of those degrees are obviously the supernatural states experienced in catholic mysticism.

{1} Opus Majus, iii., p. 36.

{2} Ibid., p. 69.

{3} Ibid., pp. 68, 52, 53, 76, etc. This idea recurs repeatedly.

{4} P. 50.

{5} P. 53.

{6} P. 53.

{7} P. 67.

{8} P. 66.

{9} Pp. 97, 98.

{10} P. iv.

{11} T. iii., p. 52.

{12} " Intellectus agens, secundum majores philosophos, non est pars animae, sed est substantia alia et separata per essentiam ab intellectu possibili" (Opus Majus, iii., p. 47).

{13} Ibid., p. 45.

{14} " Nam universitate convocata bis vidi et audivi venerabilem Gulielmum Parisiensem Episcopum felicis memoriae coram omnibus sententiare quod intellectus agens non potest esse pars animae, et Dominus Robertus Episcopus Lincolniensis et frater Adam de Marisco et hujusmodi majores hoc idem firmaverunt" (p. 47). With some reserves, the relation propounded by Bacon agrees with the theory of William of Auvergne. See 244. The incident to which Bacon refers here is again mentioned in the Opus Tertium, pp. 74 and 75. He opposes his theory to that of the moderni for whom the intellectus agens is a pars animae. Concerning Adam of Marisco be adds: "unde quando per tentationem et derisionem aliqui Minores praesumptuosi quaesiverunt a fratre Adam, 'Quid est intellectus agens?' respondit 'Corvus Eliae'; volens per hoc dicere quod fuit Deus vel angelus".

{15} P. iv., c. 14, quoted by Bridges, i., p. 38, n. Cf. RENAN, op. cit., p. 262. Renan relies on the text quoted in the preceding note to include Bacon and the earlier Franciscans in the Averroïst school. But Bacon is no Averroïst; and he is, moreover, an exception among the Franciscans, for these agree with the Dominicans in making the intellectus agens a pars animae.

{16} HADELIN, Une theorie intuitionelle an xiii siècle (R. Néo-scolast., 1906, pp. 382 sqq.).

{17} BREWER, p. 397.

{18} Opus Majus, ii., p. 177: "Duo enim sunt modi cognoscendi, scilicet per argumentum et experimentum. Argumentum concludit et facit nos concedere conclusionem, sed non certificat neque removet dubitationem ut quiescat animus in intuitu veritatis, nisi eam inveniat via experientiae, quia multi babent argumenta ad scibilia sed quia non habent experientiam, negligunt ea, nec vitant nociva nec persequuntur bona."

{19} Ibid., p. 201.

{20} "Quod ergo dicit Aristoteles quod demonstratio syllogismus est faciens scire intelligendum est si experientia comitetur, et non de nuda demonstratione" (ibid., p. 168).

{21} In sensation he distinguishes the actual sensation, the memoria and the cogitativa. This latter is the domina sensitivarum virtutum logistica, and belongs to animals as well as to man. It is the vis aestimativa of scholasticism. Opus Majus, t. ii., pp. 79 and 127. Cf. 350, n. 7.

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