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Copernicus: Platonist Astronomer-Philosopher

Cosmic Order, the Movement of the Earth, and the Scientific Revolution

Matjaz Vesel

In 1543, Copernicus publicly defended geokinetic and heliocentric universe. This book examines why and how he became a Copernican and what his affirmation of heliocentrism means in the context of the Scientific Revolution. Close reading of Copernicus’ texts and examination of his sociocultural context reveals his commitment to the Platonist program of True Astronomy, which is to discover the well-proportioned, harmonious universe, hidden beyond visible appearances, but accessible through mathematical reasoning. The principal goal of the work is to show that the hypothesis of Copernicus’ Platonism brings unity and internal coherence to his project and provides historical background of his contributions to the Scientific Revolution.
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Introduction

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To us inhabitants of the earth it seems as though the earth stands still, while the stars make a full circle around it every twenty-four hours. The stars appearing in the east in the evening are closer to the west in early morning; the sun rising in the east in the morning, moves across the sky towards the mountains and sets behind them in the evening; the moon follows a similar path.

Little wonder then that we cannot shake the habit of talking about the ways of the stars in such a manner; of talking about the sun as though it were a tiny lantern that indeed travelled across the skies. Yet, upon closer reflection, reason prevails once again over perception and teaches us: the stars are immeasurably distant; but how are they to circle the earth in twenty-four hours, given this tremendous distance?

On account of such remoteness, it may flash across everyone’s mind that there must be other explanations for the ways of the stars. And it is as follows: The earth, this gigantic orb soaring free in the heavens, makes a full rotation about its axis in twenty-four hours, leading us, its inhabitants, to believe that the stars revolve around us. This appearance is not deceptive in itself, for in the morning the sun is indeed in the east, and in the evening it truly appears where it is seen, in the west. However, the cause of such a change is...

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