Kepler's Cosmological Synthesis

Astrology, Mechanism and the Soul


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.

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Patrick J. Boner, Ph.D. in History and Philosophy of Science (2007), is a Visiting Scholar at the Johns Hopkins University. He has published extensively on the history of astrology and astronomy, including the edited volume, Change and Continuity in Early Modern Cosmology (Springer, 2011).
In this important work, historian of science Patrick Boner ably argues against the view of Kepler as an early proponent of the mechanistic universe. The focus on mechanism makes it difficult to understand the place of astrology in Kepler’s thought. Dr. Boner develops the concept of Kepler’s “vitalistic universe,” which describes heavenly bodies in biological terms. This concept becomes the means to integrate Kepler’s astronomical and astrological thought.
Sheila J. Rabin, Saint Peter's College
List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations

Chapter One. Kepler’s Vitalistic View of the Heavens: Some Preliminary Remarks
1. Kepler’s Clockwork Metaphor
2. Spiritual Agency in Kepler’s Astrology
3. Threads of Continuity in Kepler’s Cosmology

Chapter Two. Kepler’s Early Career in Astrology, 1594–1599
1. Not All Astrologers Created Equally: Kepler’s Perception of His Practice
2. Conserving the Kernel: Kepler’s Early Conception of the Astrological Aspects
3. From the Earth to Humanity: Further Effects of the Astrological Aspects
4. The Weight of Proof: Observational Evidence for the Astrological Aspects

Chapter Three. The New Star of 1604
1. The Multiple Purposes of On the New Star
2. The Soul of the Earth: Instinctual Responses to the Astrological Aspects
3. Finding Middle Ground: The Soul of the Earth and the Surrounding Cosmos
4. Philosophical Marvel and Theological Miracle: The Many Meanings of the New Star

Chapter Four. The Comets of 1607 and 1618
1. The Role of Divine Providence in Kepler’s Cometary Theory
2. Clarifying Curvature and the Rectilinear Course of Comets
3. Celestial Sympathy and Earthly Knowledge of Comets

Chapter Five. Kepler’s Apology
1. Situating the Soul of the Earth: Elemental Instruments and their Animate Impetus
2. Configurations and Consonances: The Earthly Orchestra of the Astrological Aspects
3. Differences over Divinity: Kepler’s Final Criticisms of Fludd

Index of Persons
Index of Places
Index of Subjects
All those interested in the history of astrology, astronomy, and natural philosophy, the Republic of Letters and the Holy Roman Empire, as well as celestial novelties such as the 'new star' of 1604.
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