reckoning with matter

matthew l. jones

university of chicago press, 2016

the book is about the development of calculating machines by “philosophers-inventors” (e.g. pascal, leibniz, and babbage). this is particularly interesting for me in regards to the history of craftsmanship and the relationship between the inventor and the artisan.


there are two models to invention: the deterministic, cumulative one (bottom up), and the individual, heroic one (top-down). the third way is that of techne, skilled making, between imitation and originality, the social and the individual, and no absolute split between design and production (agile development!)

the interesting phrase of handy mind and mindful hand (cf. roberts, shaffer, dean, 2017)

the artisanal knowledge involved in making calculating machines are:

artisanal labor has both mimetic and creative aspects. and the financial compensation should take both into account

there was difficulty between leibniz and olliver to accurately communicate theoretically before the age of standardized written and pictorial comunication practices in engineering.

diferent styles of technical drawings and description imply and accompany different conceptions and organizations of intellect and labor. more specified regulate production, less specified imply the need for the discretion and competence of the producers.

leibniz recognized that philosophers had to rely on the “confused” (implicit, tacit) knowledge of artisans; which he also relates to artists (knowing a beautiful painting)

craftsmanship of risk vs. craftsmanship of certainty (pye, 1968 the nature and art of workmanship)