Lecture 6: Technology in the Middle Ages
September 29, 2011
Medieval Attitudes towards Technology
Changing Christian Views
The Christian church originally rejected all ideas of natural philosophy. However,
they soon accepted and used the ideas from Aristotle, which they originally
considered to be heretical.
The way in which these ideas were accepted was by blending Christian ideals
and Aristotle’s ideas.
For example, Aristotle developed what he called “The Natural Chain of Being”.
The Christian church took this and added in their own things so that this chain
would be acceptable.
Aristotle’s Chain: Man, Woman, Animals, Plants ect
Christian Aristotle Chain: God, Angels, Man, Woman, Animals, Plants ect
Acceptance of the Technical Arts
The Christian church also began to support the technical arts, which made them
more popular and accepted also.
Hugh of St. Victor linked the technical arts to religion so that it would be
considered more acceptable.
-He believed that all forms of knowledge and research were valuable
-Claimed that studying different knowledges would solve different problems.
Links to religion
Theoretical knowledge - solve the problem of ignorance
Practical knowledge - solve the problem of human vice
Technical knowledge - solve the problem of physical weakness
He also claimed that studying his type of knowledge would lead the way to
Acceptance of These Ideas Craftsmen and artisans supported these ideas because they were affected by it.
They were happy that their studies would lead them to religious salvation, and
also would be more acceptable in their society.
Natural philosophers strongly rejected these ideas. This was because they
followed Aristotle, and his ideas were greatly altered to fit in with Christian ideas.
The natural philosophers also stood by their belief that the mechanical arts were
lesser because they involved the physical and material, rather than the mind.
Islamic Technology During this Time
Although there was no technological advancements in Europe at the time, in
Islamic countries this was not the case.
The Islamic countries were very progressive in terms of optics, mathematics and
other forms of sciences.
Asian Technology in the Middle Ages
During this time (Sung dynasty), was considered to be the “Golden Age” of
- Also during this time, there was a huge population boom in China
- It is interesting to note that during this time, technical science was still
considered to be inferior. Therefore, this does not explain why it boomed at
Historians believe that state-funded technological enterprises were the cause for
this Golden Age.
- The government would fund enterprises
- They were also very involved in picking people to work for them (ensure
Technology developed in one country, which ultimately creates success
- Some technologies are created that are not fully embraced in the country
they are created
- They have more success elsewhere