Copernicus and the Aristotelian Tradition

Education, Reading, and Philosophy in Copernicus's Path to Heliocentrism


Taking into account the most important results of the scholarly literature since 1973 and the best Polish scholarship of the past century, this is the first comprehensive study of Copernicus's achievement in English that examines Copernicus's path to heliocentrism from the perspective of late medieval philosophy, the Renaissance recovery of ancient literature and science, and early-modern editions of books that Copernicus used. The principal goals are to explain his commitment to the existence of celestial spheres, and the logical foundations for his views about hypotheses. In doing so, the work elucidates the logical and philosophical background that contributed to his accomplishments, and explains the limitations of his achievement.

Medieval and Early Modern Science, 12
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EUR €161.00USD $200.00

Biographical Note

André Goddu, Ph.D. (1979) in History, University of California at Los Angeles, is Professor of History and Philosophy of Science, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Stonehill College. He has published a monograph and several articles on late medieval philosophy and early modern astronomy, including The Physics of William of Ockham (Brill, 1984).

Review Quotes

'Goddu manages to integrate a long tradition of approaching Copernicus from the history of ideas in a more recent ‘history-of-reading’ approach. [...] For reasons that may ultimately be unexplainable, Nicholas Copernicus has never failed to stimulate the patience, critical self-awareness and erudite efforts of historians of science. André Goddu’s book is probably the finest example of this to date.' Steven Vanden Broecke, Ghent University
British Journal for the History of Science, 2011, December, 587-588 pp.

Table of contents

List of Illustrations

1. Poland, Toruń, and Cracow in the Fifteenth Century
1. Early Education
2. Cracow University
3. Curriculum and Texts, 1475-1500

2. Two Masters and Students in the 1490s

3. Three The Teaching of Logic
1. Aristotelian Logic
2. Introductory Orientation
3. The Teaching of Logic at Cracow

4. Four Natural Philosophy
1. General Orientation
2. Markowski's Most Important and Relevant Conclusions—
3. Quaestiones cracovienses and John of Glogovia on the Physics of Aristotle
4. Aristotle's De caelo, De generatione, Meteorologica, and Metaphysics
5. Johannes Versoris
6. Albert of Saxony and John of Glogovia

5. Humanism and Astronomy
1. Introduction
2. The Curriculum at Cracow
3. The Criticisms of Ptolemaic Astronomy
4. Copernicus's Teachers at Cracow
5. Albert of Brudzewo’s Commentariolum

6. Copernicus in Italy
1. Introduction
2. Education in Canon and Civil Law
3. Novara
4. Study of Greek
5. Rome
6. Study of Medicine at Padua
7. Degree from Ferrara.

7. Copernicus’s Reading and Progress towards his First Heliocentric Theory
1. Introduction
2. Regiomontanus
3. Bessarion
4. Ficino's Translation of Plato's Works
5. Plutarch, Pseudo-Plutarch, and Giorgio Valla
6. Pliny the Elder and other Ancient Authorities
7. Achillini
8. Commentariolus and the Transfer to Frombork

8. Copernicus as Logician
1. Introduction
2. The Sources of Dialectical Topics, 1490-1550
3. Mereology—Logic and Ontology
4. Logic in the Commentariolus
5. The Use of Topics in the Preface to De revolutionibus
6. The Rhetorical Framework of Book I
7. The Use of Topics in Book I
8. Hypotheses in Copernicus's Method
9. The Logical Issues in the Relation between Mathematics and Natural Philosophy
10. The Logical Issues in his Discovery of the Heliocentric Theory
11. Concluding Remarks on Copernicus's Relation to the Aristotelian Logical Tradition

9. Copernicus as Natural Philosopher
1. Introduction
2. Critique of Geocentrism
3. Motions of Celestial Bodies
4. Impetus and the Motions of Elemental Bodies
5. Infinity and the Finiteness of the Cosmos
6. Summary

10. Copernicus as Mathematical Cosmologist
1. Introduction
2. Hypotheses
3. Spheres and the Nature of Celestial Matter
4. Equants
5. Summary

Conclusion and Epilog
1. Summary
2. Copernicus's Interpretation of Aristotle
3. Epilog: Reception of Copernicus's Interpretation



All interested in Copernicus's achievement in the context of his education and reading. The chapters on philosophy, focusing on his appications of academic philosophy, will be of special interest to historians of medieval and Renaissance philosophy.


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