Aristotle for Insomnia
I’ve been working on Latin commentaries of Aristotle’s treatise on mechanics, which started showing up in Venice and Paris around the 1520s. Engineers and mathmaticians were involved in a debate about how mechanics fit in with the rest of theoretical knowledge. Mechanics, they mostly agreed, is the avenue by which we accomplish practical ends. Some of these commentators went back to the Biblical Adam: the mechanical arts, they argued, were the means by which humans first secured food and clothing and set up barriers to protect against nature. In the 16th century the questions revolved around whether or not it was easy to use technology to perform these kinds of operations. Did technology make it effortless? Many wanted to think so. Lifting weights is easy with levers. Moving water is simple with pumps. However, in many of these treatises, the cost of creating the technology in the first place is marginalized and ignored. Once you have the technology, it’s simple, therefore effortless, to move dirt or water. But what happens to the sorroundings? How straightforward is it to predict what will happen once you’ve moved that dirt or water? Or built that damn and hydroelectric plant? The questions still haunt and keep us awake today. You can read more about this here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/rest.12083.