The mover from educare to conari

In ways that were partly known and partly tacit, Mathematical physics shifted away from Aristotelian physics by going from an idea of mobile bodies as eductus to being conatus. 

Eductus: The best translation is “to raise”, i.e. to raise a crop, a pet, or a child. “To culture” also works, whether one is talking about practices that civilize or that grow bacteria (and agri-culture simply adds to “culture” the word for “field”).

In Aristotle, motion was seen as reducing to a natural impulse to do something that needed to be directed, channeled, and sometimes supplemented by the work of external agents. Natural things were fundamentally intrinsic tendencies to certain outcomes, though they depended on external agents to supply material, energy, and sometimes information about how to execute their operations. The paradigm natural motion is cultivation, and so the one closest to nature is the farmer or teacher.

Contatus: Here we have the familiar word “forced” with the corresponding noun vis or just “force”. Nature as an intrinsic tendency to some outcome drops entirely away, so much so that there is no word in post Newtonian physics for what receives force. Physical causality is entirely a ergo, and the paradigm natural motion is one billiard ball striking another. Any idea of cultivation has very much dropped away, and the closest person to nature is the engineer.

The point of rupture was our account of change of place. All sides see changes of place as somehow fundamental, and the loss of any meaningful sense of natural place left Newton to conclude that motion was fundamentally without any intrinsic tendency. There can be no intrinsic tendency to something that does not exist even as a limit or ideal, and since nature is fundamentally mobile (which Aristotle would also agree with) there is fundamentally an absence of intrinsic tendency to anything. For Aristotle, change of place was fundamental only among changes while change as such was always subordinate to some term: it is a be-coming that lost all intelligibility and even ontological possibility apart from some stable state either inside or outside of time.


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