Annual Aquinas Lecture 2018: Prof. Jeremiah Hackett 'Situating Roger Bacon in Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy and Theology'

Thursday, November 8, 2018 - 19:30
Renehan Hall, St Patrick’s College, Maynooth


Roger Bacon, the Doctor Mirabilis, is known to modern readers as a Medieval Scientist.  By the Renaissance, he had been installed as an icon of English Medicine and Science.  My lecture will present a re-appraisal of the place of Bacon in Medieval Philosophy and Theology.  My argument is that, in certain respects, especially in Logic, Natural Science, and Moral and Political Philosophy, Roger Bacon sets the agenda for some philosophical traditions in the late 12th to the late 13th century and beyond. Bacon is very important as a critic of the state of the Scholastic Theology of his times.  He is a major source for The Treatise on the Moral Eye (De oculo morali) of Peter of Limoges, perhaps, the most important treatise on the virtues from the 13th to the 17th centuries.
   Essentially, Bacon proposed a Research Program in Philosophy and Theology that differed significantly from the models offered by Albertus Magnus and his great student, Thomas Aquinas.  Bacon also had a great student, the Iuvenis Iohannes.  But who was he?  Did he make any contribution to Medieval Philosophy and Theology?  I will tentatively identify this student.  During the Renaissance, the core of Roger Bacon’s science finds its mature expression in Nicholas of Cusa, and in the work of Artists in 14th and 15th centuries in Italy, especially in Florence.  In the Europe of the late 16th-17th centuries, especially in England, France and Germany, there was a revival of his teaching in medicine, optics and natural philosophy..  
    My lecture will begin with a brief review of Bacon scholarship from 1914 to 2018.  It will focus on Bacon’s later Philosophy (ca. 1260-1292).  The status of some of his scholastic Questiones (ca. 1240-48/52) are now in doubt.  The scholarship on this period is now problematic and must be re-written.  Bacon claimed that post 1260 he had developed a new “Method” and a new Philosophy and Theology.  What is it?  How important is it?  How does it differ from his Scholastic questions?  I will examine the structure, sources, and teaching of the Opus maius and related works including the final works, the Edition of the Secretum secretorum [Mirror of the Prince genre] and the Compendium studii theologiae [said to be his final work ca. 1290].   I will conclude that one must read Bacon, John Pecham, and Thomas Aquinas in the context of the Paris of their times there and in relation to each other.  In this way, we can hope in the near future to gain a greater understanding of the philosophical, scientific and theological issues that motivated such a great contribution of all three to the development of Western Christian Civilization in the late Middle Ages and Early Renaissance.

The lecture will be followed by a wine reception. All are welcome!


The Speaker:

Prof. Hackett is Professor emeritus of Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, University of South Carolina, SC. He studied Logic, Philosophy, Theology and Medieval Studies in UCD, Rome, and Toronto.
Hi general area of research interest include Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy and Theology, Modern Phenomenology and History of science with the  specific topics of  the Philosophy, Science and Theology of Roger Bacon,  and Medieval Mysticism with focus on Meister Eckhart and the Erfurt Augustinian School. His most recent publications include A Companion to Meister Eckhart, Leiden: Brill, 2013. Prof. Hackett is currently very active with the SISMEL Roger Bacon Research Group in Florence and has been involved in the Summer Conferences on Franciscan Philosophers at St. Bonaventure University.