Mechanisms: Ancient Sources

Document Type


Publication Date

July 2017

Publication Title

The Routledge Handbook of Mechanisms and Mechanical Philosophy

First Page


Last Page



This chapter analyses recent debates about the essential features of mechanisms and about the relation between mechanisms and laws of nature cannot find, of course, any close antecedents in the texts and theories. It briefly sketches a prehistory of the idea of mechanism. The chapter focuses on the claims and arguments of several philosophers and philosophically minded scientists rather than on more purely scientific studies on mechanics, which might yield less insight into general, theoretical approaches to causation and to what is called mechanisms. The Mechanics has been traditionally included in the Aristotelian corpus. Some treatments of explanatory mechanisms are quite self-conscious and crisply articulated; others are vaguer and fairly tentative. Attitudes concerning the appeal to technological models and analogies meant to represent the mechanisms that were determined, sometimes in complicated ways, by various philosophical doctrines.