It has long been thought that the ancient Greeks did not take mechanics seriously as part of the workings of nature, and that therefore their natural philosophy was both primitive and marginal. In this book Sylvia Berryman challenges that assumption, arguing that the idea that the world works 'like a machine' can be found in ancient Greek thought, predating the early modern philosophy with which it is most closely associated. Her discussion ranges over topics including balancing and equilibrium, lifting water, sphere-making and models of the heavens, and ancient Greek pneumatic theory, with detailed analysis of thinkers such as Aristotle, Archimedes, and Hero of Alexandria. Her book shows scholars of ancient Greek philosophy why it is necessary to pay attention to mechanics, and shows historians of science why the differences between ancient and modern reactions to mechanics are not as great as was generally thought.
Preface; 1. Mechanics and the mechanical: some problems of terminology; 2. 'Mechanistic' thought before mechanics?; 3. Mechanics in the fourth century; 4. The theory and practice of ancient Greek mechanics; 5. Ancient Greek mechanics continued: the case of pneumatics; 6. The philosophical reception of mechanics in antiquity; Conclusion; Appendix. Ancient mechanics and the mechanical in the seventeenth century; Bibliography; Index.
This 2009 book argues that the idea that the world works 'like a machine' can be found in ancient Greek thought, predating the early modern philosophy with which it is most closely associated. Topics include balancing and equilibrium, lifting water, sphere-making and models of the heavens, and ancient Greek pneumatic theory.
Sylvia Berryman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of British Columbia.