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Lecture 3

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Natural Science
NATS 1775
Vera Pavri

September 27, 2012 Lecture 3: Technology in the Middle Ages Important Points - Plato and Aristotle made distinct differences between technical arts and science; the 3 reasons were 1) Natural philosophy was universal knowledge; applied anywhere and everywhere whereas technical arts was very subject specific 2) Socio economic status: scientists had the freedom and time to study the world around them for its own sake whereas people in technical arts had to make a living for themselves and use their hands in their work making it less valuable 3) Artisans and craftspeople could create new technologies but they could not explain why they were able to work; shown as an inferior discipline I. Medieval Attitudes towards Technology Change in attitude towards natural philosophy -The disregard will not last forever -Aristotle at one point was banned by Christian philosophers because his ideas were against the church; but later in the years, his ideas become more accepted by the church because what later Christian philosophers did was take parts that they understand were used and others that were not were disposed of -There was a world view that meshed aristotles ideas with Christian ideas; he then became the main philosopher in the Christian world -Ex: his ideas of the great change of being meaning everything has its natural place, where he made a nature hierarchy with (1) men (2) women (3) animals (4) objects and other entities -Christian philosophers added to his chain of being God, spirits etc. -Changes were happening in the technical arts was an attempt to link technology to religion in a new way -Ex: Hugh of St. Victor attempts to change peoples views about technology; technical knowledge was valuable and parallel to philosophical and theoretical knowledge but that it was one path towards religious salvation; they were part of mans religious and philosophical quest -He believed all of this knowledge was parallel knowledge and was a basis for human sin; theoretical knowledge was the remedy for human ignorance, practical knowledge for human weakness, technical knowledge was the remedy for human weakness -If people engage in technical activities they were trying to obtain the goal of religious salvation -The groups that embraced Hugh of St Victors ideas were the 1) artisans and how they were making a living was helping them achieve religious salvation 2) monks tied closely to a community -The medieval natural philosophers will reject his idea because at this point were following Aristotle, believing the idea that technology had any religious value; talk about technology being vulgar and mundane - distinct views of technology developed within medieval intellectual tradition; one that we will examine closely today involves linking technical arts with religious salvation - idea that technical arts could lead to religious salvation first proposed by Hugh of St. Victor around 1140 AD who saw the mechanical arts as “part of man’s religious and philosophical quest” - St. Victor saw mechanical arts as a branch of knowledge that paralleled theoretical knowledge and practical arts - Theoretical knowledge was a remedy for ignorance; practical knowledge a remedy for vice and the mechanical arts a remedy for physical weakness - Pursuing any of these kinds of knowledge would contribute to man’s rise from his fallen state (i.e. Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, etc…) and would lead to religious salvation - Different ideas about how influential St. Victor’s views were - Most positive attitudes towards technology found in artisan monk and laboring classes as opposed to medieval philosophers who continued to reject the importance of the technical arts - In treatises written by these philosophers, the mechanical arts continued to be subordinate to all other sciences - This was because the mechanical arts were preoccupied with the body and material world - crafts therefore were considered “unworthy, servile or vulgar” - Aristotle’s views on technology greatly influenced many of these medieval philosophers: he believed that technical arts or craftwork was “base” and that this kind of knowledge was inferior to theoretical knowledge because former dealt with particular or specific kinds of information while theoretical info was more universalistic and could be applied to all phenomena - Islamic science was flourishing - The contact between eastern and western philosophers was retranslated from Arabic back into latin - Some philosophers influenced by Arab tradition did give mechanical arts a higher status but on the whole, during this time the technical arts remained subordinate to natural philosophy II. Asian Technology in the Middle Ages - The “Golden Age” of Chinese science and technology came with the Sung dynasty (960-1279 AD) - Experiencing a population boom; more food, and more agricultural productions - Chinese civilization developed many techniques for improving agricultural practices and increasing rice surpluses - Population rose from 50M in 800 AD to 115M by 1200AD - They were engaged in technological activities and well ahead of other countries but their attitude towards technology was still seen has an inferior discipline to natural philosophy - In China, science and technology were also considered to be very separate traditions done by different people in different institutions, etc… - Although craftsmen had a lower social status than natural philosophers, China became a world leader in technological advancement - Chinese “firsts” and technological achievements include the wheelbarrow, gunpowder, porcelain, umbrella, fishing reel, suspension bridges, paper- making, moveable type - Their government and state played a large role in facilitating these technical activities and industries - Chinese also using paper money by 1024 AD - One reason why Chinese are so successful in producing these kind of technologies is because of government involvement: government owned many of the industries (i.e. mining, silk, paper-making, iron production) chose whom they employed craftsmen who specialized in particular fields to work in these factories - One of the most important technologies to come out of China was block printing (9 century) and moveable type (11 century) - Finding success when items do not have an essence but being used by multiple groups at different times - Success/failure: Chinese block printing and paper - It was the Chinese who came up with most of the ideas associated with the printing press, but it is Europe who claims the creation - However, they did not take to the technology (printing press) as much as Europe did overtime because (1) china during this period of time had a strong and powerful scribe community and tradition; seen the technology as threatening to their livelihood (2) nature of Chinese lettering: the complex nature of Chinese alphabet, letters were difficult to replicate and duplicate with early printing systems; other countries had very small and simple alphabets - Ex: Chinese invented the first compass: we think of it as a travel device; but it was originally created to find directions for ceremonial purposes (best location to bury people, build a house) - Ex: Chinese invented gun powder: But it is 300 years later that it is used in military weapons; it was used primarily for fireworks - Reveals the attitudes Chinese had to technical arts (rather negative) technology can be created in one area, but popular in another and technology used for one purpose but used for another later on - Important to understand that although moveable type was invented in China, it eventually became a much more successful technology in Europe, especially after the advent of the printing press - Why? Some consider moveable type impractical for Chinese writing which involves complex pictograms th - Gunpowder also developed in mid 9 century in China, although it was initially used for fireworks, etc… and not for military purposes - By 12 century gunpowder was being used for military purposes such as rockets, explosive grenades, bombs, guns, etc… nd - Chinese also amongst first to use magnetic compass (2 century); initially did so for spiritual practices, such as the proper area to site houses, temples, roads, etc… - Compass eventually used as navigational tool by 12 century, and by 15 century th China had one of the largest navies in the world th - However, by end of 15 century there begins to be a decline in oversees travel, shipbuilding - As dynasties change in China, so do their philosophies and interest in technologies; a construction project of the grand canal where the state ran out of money and China no longer had to mix with outsiders because they could trade more internally - Reasons for this change include construction of Grand Canal: lots of money put into this technological project, removed need to go oversees; also could be result of whims of ruling party III. European Technology in the Middle Ages - Rise in interest in technological activites later in the years - while many technical advances “lost” in Middle Ages, European innovation came with new agricultural techniques and energy sources - Europe had an “Agricultural Revolution” between 600-1000 AD where its population rose almost 30% - This term Agricultural revolution new innovations and techniques were creating that made the landscape look much different than it usually did - This came as a result of new technological innovations which allowed for a greater agricultural surplus; the population was growing - In Europe, land is very scarce; land used for everything and use of wood for fuel makes it even more of a precious commodity - Most land that was cultivated in Europe at this time was done by a light plow where only 2-3 oxen used, but it had disadvantages (could only cultivate so much land, which was not as effective) - Major change came with invention of heavy plow which used up to 8 oxen; this allowed heavier, richer land (soil) to be cultivated for farming - The significance of the heavy plow the European farmer could toil land that was originally not been able to access with the light plow. - The land they could now use had better nutrients - Potatoes and corn was a part of European farming and the diet of the people - Europe also started importing crops from “new world” like potatoes, maize - Controlling and domesticating animals: the horse; they used to be wild animals but could now tame them through the horse collar - At this time, also see substitution of horse for ox as draft animal (horses could move faster and for longer periods of time than oxen); horse collar - One major agricultural innovation included development of a 2 field to a 3- field rotation system for planting crops (production went from 33% to 50%) as opposed to 2 field system - 2 field: farmers could cultivate 2 lands at a time, but they had to keep the land foul to keep the nutrients alive, but the 3 field meant there was always an extra one - With development of heavy plow, etc…, there is a rise in communal agriculture as most individuals could not afford to go at it alone - European farmers began to share the land which led to a rise in communal agriculture - With greater travel from the horse was said by Lynn White said the horse stirrup was so significant (what you put your legs in to control a horse) - Chinese invention of stirrup (5 century) came to Europe by about 8 century:th prior to invention, most battles fought on ground; men would dismount from horses to engage in combat - With stirrup, no longer had to get off horse to fight, and they have a new weapon at their disposal (the horse) that they can control - This is problematic because it is deterministic: a common idea and technology changing the face of the world - Medieval villages thus had form of collective ownership, communal agriculture - Use of horses allowed villages to grow; see rise of cathedral building and first universities constructed at this time - Medieval culture consists of lords, ladies, knights, etc… - Along with these agricultural developments there are other important technical innovations - Enthusiasm towards new energy sources also include increased use of waterwheels and windmills; helped power sawmills, flour mills, etc… and this increased agricultural and material production - Machinery could be found in most villages; people became more familiar with the technology - Slavery versus labor saving machines argument - Rise of the black Death in Europe between 1347-48 wiped out 1/3 of population - The plague led to a decrease in the population, if someone was found to have the plague no one was allowed to leave or enter a house - It is significant in terms of attitudes to technology because once the plague passed people had more land and food at their disposal; however labor and workers were lacking - Therefore, Europeans come to see these technologies as important within their overall community th - By 14 century, there is rise in use of military technologies: adoption of gunpowder, manufacturing of guns (musket introduced in 1550s) and cannons meant decline of “knight in shining armor” - Military technology greatly financed by state or royal treasuries; for example, French in latter half of 15 century went from producing 20000 pounds to 500000 pounds of gunpowder - role of military technology and the rise of nation-states IV. The Mechanical Clock - Mechanical clock one of the first technologies to be made entirely out of metal; its importance in our society today cannot be underestimated - It represents mechanized time; the equal keeping of hours of time going against nature - Every hour is standard and equal and regulates our lives - 2 debates surrounding this technology is about where it was invented (in china or europe? And why it becomes so popular around Europe in such a short period of time - examining the origins and spread of mechanical clock allows us to examine some important themes related to this course including the “economic needs” argument as well as cross-cultural comparisons of technological use 1. Origins of the Mechanical Clock a. Uncertain Past - People still care where devices came from because of pride and prestige - difficult to pinpoint exact date of when the mechanical clock was invented or who developed it; 1272-1330 is the general timeframe (no exact date can be given) - one reason for this uncertain past is : language- in medieval times, term “horologia” refers to all time-keeping devices including water clocks (clepsydra), sundials, bells- thus early on no distinguished term for mechanical clock - word “clock”- cloche- meaning bell - these words lead to an uncertain past - many of these devic
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