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TechnologyCritical History of a Concept$
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Eric Schatzberg

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226583839

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226584027.001.0001

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Natural Philosophy and the Mechanical Arts in the Early Modern Era

Natural Philosophy and the Mechanical Arts in the Early Modern Era

Chapter:
(p.42) Four Natural Philosophy and the Mechanical Arts in the Early Modern Era
Source:
Technology
Author(s):

Eric Schatzberg

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226584027.003.0004

The sharp medieval distinction between philosophy and the mechanical arts began to erode in the fifteenth century, in part because technical knowledge became increasingly important to political rulers, especially in fields such as gunpowder weapons, mining, and public architecture. The links between technical knowledge and political power encouraged a surge in authorship about the mechanical arts, with works written by both humanist scholars and artisan-practitioners. Francis Bacon drew from this tradition when be began arguing, about two centuries later, for a closer connection between natural philosophy and practical application. Yet respect for the mechanical arts did not imply respect for the artisan. Instead, natural philosophers maintained a conceptual hierarchy of mind over hand that mirrored the social hierarchy of the philosopher over the artisan.

Keywords:   natural philosophy, science versus arts, Francis Bacon, early modern science

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