The Discovery of Kepler's Laws: The Interaction of Science, Philosophy, and Religion

By Job S. J. Kozhamthadam | Go to book overview
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3
KEPLER'S SCIENTIFIC IDEAS

Among the founders of modern science Kepler occupies an immortal place. But he would not have earned this privileged position for himself had he stopped at his religious and philosophical views, insightful and creative though they were. He could go beyond most of his contemporaries and rise above their world infested with mysterious and occult forces, precisely because he demanded that his system should include empirical or scientific thought as well. He enjoyed speculating, he could soar to the heights of speculative ideas, yet he never lost contact with the ground. Time and again he insisted that no idea, however startling and attractive, was any good if it could not agree with experience. This requirement was strikingly evident in his view on astronomy. He declared to Brengger that he was giving "a physics of the heavens in place of a theology of the heavens or a metaphysics of Aristotle."1 For many Aristotelians, cosmology or study of the universe, especially of the heavenly bodies, was a part of metaphysics. Kepler wanted to give a new direction and scope to the study of the heavens. His was a new science, a new physics in which "I teach a new mathematics of computing not from circles but from natural faculties and from the magnetic properties."2 As Small and Koyré point out, the emphasis on physical explanation distinguished Kepler from practically all his predecessors and contemporaries (except Galileo). Emphasis on physical interpretation was perhaps the

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