Robert S. Westman

in The Copernican Question

Published by University of California Press

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780520254817
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520948167 | DOI:

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Nicolaus Copernicus's problematic involved several major areas of concern—planetary modeling, the ordering of the planets, the consequences of such ordering for natural philosophy, and the prediction of future configurations of the heavens and their influences. Unlike theologically motivated fourteenth-century flirtations with the possibility of the Earth's daily rotation, Copernicus's revision of the planetary order occurred at a juncture with the emergent fifteenth-century cultures of print and prognostication: the mobilization of print in the service of both the theoretical and the practical literature of forecast, the creation of new conditions of prognosticatory authorship, the appropriation of resources of humanist rhetoric and dialectic, and the upsurge in apocalyptic expectation. This chapter discusses the Copernican question, prognostication in astrology and revolution in astronomy, world systems and comparative probability, the emergence of natural philosophy, the via moderna versus the via media at the point of mid-century, the Copernican question after the mid-century, and the works of Robert Hooke and Isaac Newton.

Keywords: Nicolaus Copernicus; planets; planetary order; natural philosophy; Copernican question; astrology; astronomy; world systems; Robert Hooke; Isaac Newton

Chapter.  18157 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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