Nov. 10, Boqun Zhou

Friday, November 10,  4:30 – 6:30 pm, CWAC 156

The Mechanical Heart: Analogies of the Lever and Leverage in Early China

Boqun Zhou

Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago

This paper explores the use of mechanical metaphors to formulate ethical, political, and military arguments in the Warring States period (475-221 B.C.E.). As the social and intellectual atmosphere became increasingly utilitarian, philosophers took eager interest in the mechanical advantage brought by the lever and used it to explain political and military leverage (controlling/defeating the many with the few). As a result, a group of lever-related metaphors were gradually introduced into the standard terminology of power dynamics. Two ways of using the lever came to have considerable metaphorical significance: as a weighing machine (the scale), it was associated with balanced moral judgment in ethical philosophy; as a weight-lifting machine (the well sweep), it was associated with manipulative strategies of obtaining leverage in political and military thought. The origin and meaning of these metaphors will be examined to demonstrate how ancient machine technology gave rise to new paradigms of social thought.


Friday, November 10,  4:30 – 6:30 pm, CWAC 156

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