22 Chapters
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Coda: Leonardo’s Legacy

Capra, Fritjof Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

I argued in the Prologue to this book that Leonardo’s greatest legacy to us may be his systemic thinking, together with his deep respect for nature and for life. In his mind, the two were closely connected. To gain knowledge about a natural phenomenon, for him, meant connecting it with other phenomena through a similarity of patterns; and such systemic knowledge he also saw as the basis for love. “For in truth,” he asserted, “great love is born of great knowledge of the thing that is loved.”1

Today, it is becoming increasingly evident that systemic thinking is critical to solve our major global problems; yet our sciences and technologies remain narrow in their focus, unable to understand systemic problems from an interdisciplinary perspective; and our business and political leaders are often incapable of “connecting the dots.” This is exactly what we can learn to do from Leonardo da Vinci’s unique synthesis of art, science, and design.

As we recognize that most of our sciences, technologies, and business activities are not life-enhancing but life-destroying, we urgently need a science that honors and respects the unity of all life, recognizes the fundamental interdependence of all natural phenomena, and reconnects us with the living Earth. Indeed, what we need today is the kind of science Leonardo da Vinci anticipated and outlined five hundred years ago.

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Color Plates after

Capra, Fritjof Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

PLATE 1. Birds in flight, 1505. Codex Sul Volo, folio 8r.

PLATE 2. Andrea del Verrocchio and Leonardo da Vinci, The Baptism of Christ, c. 1470–75. Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

PLATE 3. Study of the rotation of the arm, c. 1509–10. Windsor Collection, Anatomical Studies, folio 135v.

PLATE 4. Rotated views of the muscles of the shoulder and arm, c. 1509–10. Windsor Collection, Anatomical Studies, folio 141v.

PLATE 5. The Vitruvian Man, c. 1490. Galleria dell’Accademia, Venice.

PLATE 6. Star of Bethlehem, c. 1508. Windsor Collection, Landscapes, Plants, and Water Studies, folio 16r.

PLATE 7. Madonna and Child with Saint Anne, c. 1506–15. Musée du Louvre, Paris.

PLATE 8. Virgin of the Rocks, c. 1483–86. Musée du Louvre, Paris.

PLATE 9. The fetus in the womb, c. 1510–12. Windsor Collection, Anatomical Studies, folio 198r.

PLATE 10. The heart and its blood vessels, 1513. Windsor Collection, Anatomical Studies, folio 166v.

PLATE 11. Mona Lisa, also known as La Gioconda, c. 1503–15. Musée du Louvre, Paris.

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Chronology of Leonardo’s Life and Work

Capra, Fritjof Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub
Medium 9781609949891

1. The Movements of Water

Capra, Fritjof Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Among the four classical elements, water held by far the greatest fascination for Leonardo. Throughout his life, he studied its movements and flows, drew and analyzed its waves and vortices, and speculated about its role as the fundamental “vehicle of nature” (vetturale della natura) in the macrocosm of the living Earth and the microcosm of the human body.1

Leonardo’s notes and drawings about his observations and ideas on the movement of water fill several hundred pages in his Notebooks. They include elaborate conceptual schemes and portions of treatises in the Codex Leicester and in Manuscripts F and H, as well as countless drawings and notes scattered throughout the Codex Atlanticus, the Codex Arundel, the Windsor Collection, the Codices Madrid, and Manuscripts A, E, G, I, K, and L.2 The sheer bulk of Leonardo’s writings on water duly impressed his contemporaries and succeeding generations of historians. In fact, water was the only subject, apart from painting, of which an extensive compilation of handwritten transcriptions from the Notebooks was made. This collection of notes, transcribed in the seventeenth century and comprising 230 folios, was published in 1828 in Bologna under the title Della natura, peso, e moto dell’acque (On the Nature, Weight, and Movement of Water).3

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CHAPTER 1 Science and Law

Capra, Fritjof Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

In our broad sweep through Western intellectual history, we shall encounter many great scientists and great jurists—on some occasions even embodied in the same person—whose ideas shaped the coevolution of the concepts of the laws of nature and of human laws. To tell this story clearly we first need to unravel some common misconceptions about the similarities and differences between science and jurisprudence.

Both science and law include a theoretical and an applied component. Applied science produces, among other things, technology—the development of specific technical capabilities. Thus science and technology operate in two strongly connected but quite separate domains, and actually technology often takes on a life of its own.

A similar phenomenon occurs in law. A clear distinction exists between legal theory and legal practice.1 On the one hand, legal theory (also known as jurisprudence, or the philosophy of law) is a theoretical inquiry into legal phenomena. Human laws are the subject matter of jurisprudence just as the laws of nature are the subject matter of science. Legal practice, on the other hand, corresponds to technology in many ways. Like technology, it has a life quite autonomous from legal science, and lawyers sometimes distinguish between “law in books” and “law in action.”2

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