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The Balance, the Lever and the Aristotelian Origins of Mechanics

  • Jürgen Renn
  • Peter McLaughlinEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science book series (BSPS, volume 270)

Abstract

The Mechanical Problems traditionally attributed to Aristotle is a short problem collection that also contains an ambitious project of reduction, which traces various mechanical devices back to the lever, the balance and the radii of a circle. This work is thus not just a collection of problems, but also the first theoretical mechanical treatise that has come down to us: Basic concepts of technical mechanics such as force, load, fulcrum are abstracted from an analysis of simple technology, and the workings of this technology are explained by arguments cast in syllogistic form. This chapter traces the origins of mechanical theory in this work and analyzes the form and structure of its argument. The key steps in the concept formation of basic mechanics carried out in this treatise are analyzed in detail. We focus on the special role of the balance with unequal arms in the early development of mechanics, on the interaction of various forms of explanatory practice and on their integration into systems of knowledge in the Peripatetic school.

Keywords

Mechanical problems Aristotle The balance The lever Peripatetic school 

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for the History of ScienceBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Philosophy Department, University of HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany

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