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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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Part Two. Argumentation in Favor of The Earth’s Motion


← 112 | 113 → PART TWO


← 114 | 115 → Despite the general consensus that the earth is motionless in the middle of the universe and that terrestial motion is inconceivable,1 the matter is far from settled for Copernicus. He will call into question the concept of the stationary earth despite its support from theology, the sensus communis and almost the entire philosophy of nature until his time. His argument will transpose the inconceivable, absurd and ridiculous concept into a conceivable and scholarly legitimate theory. He believes firmly that the “acute and learned mathematicians” to whom the book is primarily dedicated – mathemata mathematicis scribuntur – will agree with him, “if, as this discipline especially requires, they are willing to examine and consider, not superficially but thoroughly,” what he adduces in De revolutionibus. Let us, then, take a look at what Copernicus offers “in demonstration of these matters.” How can he demonstrate the opposite of what is obvious? In what way does he, as he puts it, dispel “the fog of absurdity” of the thesis of the earth’s motion?

Anna De Pace has recently proposed a very original and appealing thesis regarding Copernicus’ method in the Book I of De revolutionibus. According to her,

Book I of De revolutionibus acquires its sense of unity through a particular method that dictates the development of the argumentation. The chapters do ← 115 | 116 → not follow […] the procedure of a doctrinal exposition,...

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