|Pseudo-Aristotle Mechanical Problems 1980, tr. Walter Stanley Hett|
Remarkable things occur in accordance with nature, the cause of which is unknown, and others occur contrary to nature, which are produced by skill for the benefit of mankind. For in many cases nature produces effects against our advantage; for nature always acts consistently and simply, but our advantage changes in many ways. When, then, we have to produce an effect contrary to nature, we are at a loss, because of the difficulty, and require skill. Therefore we call that part of skill which assists such difficulties, a device. For as the poet Antiphon wrote, this is true: "We by skill gain mastery over things in which we are con〈que〉red by nature." Of this kind are those in which the less master the greater, and things possessing little weight move heavy weights, and all similar devices which we term mechanical problems. These are not altogether identical with physical problems, nor are they entirely separate from them, but they have a share in both mathematical and physical speculations, for the method is demonstrated by mathematics, but the practical application belongs to physics.
Among the problems included in this class are included those concerned with the lever. For it is strange that a great weight can be moved by a small force, and that, too, when a greater weight is involved. For the very same weight, which a man cannot move without a lever, he quickly moves by applying the weight of the lever.
Now the original cause of all such phenomena is the circle; and this is natural, for it is in no way strange that something remarkable should result from something more remarkable, and the most remarkable fact is the combination of opposites with each other. The circle is made up of such opposites, for to begin with it is composed both of the moving and of the stationary, which are by nature opposite to each other. So when one reflects on this, it becomes less remarkable that opposites should exist in it. First of all, in the circumference of the circle which has no breadth, an opposition of the kind appears, the concave and the convex. These differ from each other in the same way as the great and small ; for the mean between these latter is the equal, and between the former is the straight line. Therefore, as in the former case, if they were to change into each other they must become equal before they could pass to either of the extremes, so also the line must become straight either when it changes from convex to concave, or by the reverse process becomes a convex curve. This, then, is one peculiarity of the circle, and a second is that it moves simultaneously in opposite directions; for it moves simultaneously forwards and backwards, and the radius which describes it behaves in the same way; for from whatever point it begins, it returns again to the same point; and as it moves continuously the last point again becomes the first in such a way that it is evidently changed from its first position.