Article ID: CBB814457946

The First of All Natural Sciences: Roger Bacon on Perspectiva and Human Knowledge (2021)


Abstract This article is devoted to Roger Bacon’s understanding of perspectiva as “the first of all natural sciences.” After considering a few alternative medieval definitions and classifications of this discipline – such as al-Fārābī’s, Grosseteste’s and Kilwardby’s – the author turns to Bacon’s arguments for according to perspectiva so exceptional a role. He shows that Bacon’s arguments are grounded in his peculiar understanding of the visual process: according to Bacon, vision is indeed the only sense in which perception takes place “by reasoning” (per sillogismum). The author argues that this theory of perception also lays the foundations for Bacon’s – prima facie amiss – claim that “concerning vision alone, and no other sense, have philosophers developed a separate science.” The author explores this point by contrasting with one another Bacon’s conception of perspectiva and of music, and closes with some more general remarks on the implications of Bacon’s account of the visual process for his theory of knowledge. Based on his theory of a “vision by reasoning,” the author concludes that Bacon came to reinterpret perspectiva as the organon of visual knowledge.

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Authors & Contributors
Wade, Nicholas J.
Lindberg, David C.
Hackett, Jeremiah M. G.
Nader-Esfahani, Sanam
Amery, Fiona
Raynauld, Dominique
Micrologus: Nature, Sciences and Medieval Societies
Mefisto: Rivista di medicina, filosofia, storia
The Senses and Society
Revue d'Histoire des Sciences
Journal for the History of Arabic Science
Galilæana: Journal of Galilean Studies
Clarendon Press
Boydell Press
Ashgate Publishing
Harvard University
Senses and sensation; perception
Visual perception
Optical illusion
Bacon, Roger
Wylton, Thomas
Wollaston, William Hyde
Thomas Aquinas, Saint
Scheiner, Christoph
Proust, Marcel
Time Periods
13th century
17th century
19th century
20th century, early
14th century
Great Britain
Jesuits (Society of Jesus)

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