Dieter Harlfinger, Lutz Koch and Joyce Van Leeuwen, "Mechanics", in: Reports of the Research Groups at the Topoi Plenary Session 2010, eTopoi. Journal for Ancient Studies, Special Volume 1 (2011), 1–6


a) Topics and goals. The aim of group D-III-3 “Mechanics” is to investigate the Aristotelian Mechanica as a mathematical discipline in the context of Aristotle’s natural philosophy. Especially relevant for the group’s research is the question of how geometric discourse, spatial models, and diagrammatic representation are employed in these different but intimately correlated scientific areas. The textual tradition of the Mechanica is receiving a thorough philological analysis, including the first systematic examination of the diagrams contained in the manuscripts of this treatise. Moreover, the mechanical knowledge presented in this text is being investigated in the context of its reception in antiquity, the medieval world, and the Renaissance. Not only are the insights gained through this research contributing to our understanding of the history of the text, but are also telling for our knowledge of ancient mechanics. b) Methods. The basic philological research of the group, which is being conducted at the Aristoteles-Archiv of the Freie Universität Berlin, benefits from the extensive microfilm collection and paleographical and codicological materials of this institution. In addition to the philological analysis of the transmission of the Mechanica, the contents of the text will be interpreted in the broader context of natural philosophy, ancient mathematics, and the history of science. c) State of the discussion. The initial approach to the Aristotelian Mechanica was primarily philological; planned for the future, however, is an increased emphasis on the text’s philosophical and mathematical aspects. The research of the group involves exchanges with several projects in areas D-II-1, “The Ontology of Space,” and D-II-2, “Place, Space, and Motion,” which focus on the mathematical aspects of Aristotle’s general theory of motion. Mechanical concepts are also highly relevant to Aristotle’s theory of animal loco- motion as expounded in De Motu Animalium and De Anima.

Published In

Friederike Fless, Gerd Graßhoff and Michael Meyer (Eds.), Reports of the Research Groups at the Topoi Plenary Session 2010, eTopoi. Journal for Ancient Studies, Special Volume 1 (2011), Berlin: Exzellenzcluster 264 Topoi