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In: Kepler’s New Star (1604)

This essay examines the cometary theory of Johannes Kepler and his claim that an “ethereal spirit” could lead a comet to appear at a providential place and time. In his account of the comet of 1607, Kepler suggested that a spirit served as a navigational principle that steered the comet on a particular course. I argue that this principle was an extension of Kepler’s celestial physics and part of his larger conception of causes at work in the heavens. I also explore the critical response Kepler received from the theological faculty at the University of Leipzig, where he planned to publish his account. I explain why Kepler turned to natural philosophy to resolve the opposition of his religious authorities and how this was received as a foreign incursion on Sacred Scripture. In my final analysis, I discuss whether Kepler ultimately abandoned spiritual principles in his cometary theory and arrived at a system of celestial physics that was fully free of animistic ideas.

In: Early Science and Medicine
The cosmology of Johannes Kepler remains a mystery. On the one hand, Kepler’s speculations on spiritual faculties are seen as the remnants of Renaissance philosophy. On the other, his comparison of the cosmos to a clock summons the mechanical metaphor that shaped modern science. This book explores the inseparable connections between Kepler’s vitalistic views and his more enduring accomplishments in astronomy. The key argument is that Kepler’s ‘celestial biology’ served as a bridge between his revolutionary astronomy and other ‘less scientific’ interests, particularly astrology.

Kepler's Cosmological Synthesis sheds new light on one of the foundational figures of the Scientific Revolution. By uncovering a new form of coherence in Kepler’s world picture, it traces the unlikely intersections of mechanism and vitalism that transformed the fabric of the heavens.

Abstract

<title> ABSTRACT </title>In De cometis libelli tres (1619), Johannes Kepler defined comets as ephemeral celestial phenomena originating from an ethereal aura whose essence was in many ways the same as that surrounding the Earth in the form of air. Kepler linked the celestial and terrestrial realms through common physical characteristics, comparing the origins, activities and eventual endpoints of comets with the corresponding attributes of earthly entities such as igneous outbursts and airborne projectiles.More fundamentally, Kepler relied in his 'earthly account' of comets on a common metaphysical foundation, in which phenomena in the celestial and sublunary spheres exemplified the same underlying mathematical principles. By means of these principles, Kepler claimed, the terrestrial realm realised the divine architectonic design originally implemented in the creation of the cosmos as a whole. These principles also explained how the sublunary world, in the form of the facultates animales of the Earth and its inhabitants, discerned and responded to astrological influences from the heavens.Kepler did not, however, intend to make astrological predictions the focal point for De cometis. Instead, he sought a more thorough natural knowledge of comets, in which mathematics, the metaphysical link between the celestial and terrestrial realms, was given a more prominent place in understanding the origins and interactions of earthly and heavenly phenomena.

In: Nuncius
In: Kepler's Cosmological Synthesis
In: Kepler's Cosmological Synthesis