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Throughout the Middle Ages there was little interest in theoretical science as such. Not since the Greeks had nature been considered a sufficient object in and of itself for most of the study that we would call scientific. The Middle Ages ' concern with nature was not its primary concern. The medievalist was interested in nature either as a mirror of the supernatural or as something which could be used in reaching the supernatural. The reappearance of Aristotle's thought and the development of those practical and technical interests which grew up around the problems of trade and industry demanded a new and different attitude toward the natural world, one quite different from that of previous times. [excerpt]

Additional Resources

Some material in the original text is restricted by copyright. Here are links to earlier editions or translations of the same material:

Bacon, Roger. Opus Majus. Volume I (1900).


This is a part of Section IV: The Medieval Ferment. The Contemporary Civilization page lists all additional sections ofIdeas and Institutions of Western Man, as well as the Table of Contents for both volumes.

More About Contemporary Civilization:

From 1947 through 1969, all first-year Gettysburg College students took a two-semester course called Contemporary Civilization. The course was developed at President Henry W.A. Hanson’s request with the goal of “introducing the student to the backgrounds of contemporary social problems through the major concepts, ideals, hopes and motivations of western culture since the Middle Ages.”

Gettysburg College professors from the history, philosophy, and religion departments developed a textbook for the course. The first edition, published in 1955, was called An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization and Its Problems. A second edition, retitled Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, was published in 1958 and 1960. It is this second edition that we include here. The copy we digitized is from the Gary T. Hawbaker ’66 Collection and the marginalia are his.