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The 'mechanical hypothesis' in Ancient Greek natural philosophy

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I argue that the impact of the mechanics of the Hellenistic period on ancient natural philosophy has been underappreciated, and that the reasons for its rejection by the philosophical schools of late antiquity need to be re-examined. Traces of a ‘mechanical hypothesis’ can be found in late antiquity; attention to this helps us understand the role of the discipline of mechanics in the history of natural philosophy. The reason for the Neoplatonist rejection of the generality of mechanical theory stem from some unsolved problems and counter evidence, rather than a blanket rejection of mechanics as mere art, as marvellous, or as working ‘against nature’.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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