Kepler's Philosophy and the New Astronomy

By Rhonda Martens | Go to book overview

1 Kepler's Life and Times

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Kepler's life was marked by personal misfortune, social instability, and intellectual fertility. He was hounded from all sides by physical illness, political and religious strife, and financial distress. An unrepentant Lutheran, he was threatened by the machinery of the Counter-Reformation; at the same time, he was an unorthodox Lutheran, and so was eventually excluded from Communion in the Lutheran Church. Denied a religious home, Kepler craved a politically stable environment in which to carry out his work, but a refuge was denied to him by the frequent wars that seemed to surround him. In 1621 he lamented this situation and its effect on astronomy:

[T]imorous and unwarlike astronomy is warned by the conditions, dangers, ter-
rors, disasters, and troubles to look round for assistance. She crossed in the year
1600 from Styria into Bohemia, so that just as she had put her first roots under
the shelter of the Austrian house she might also grow to maturity under it. After
being tossed to and fro there by the tempests of both civil and foreign wars …
she returned to Austria. Would that she could have been honored there with the
devoted attention of eminent minds (no less than by myself, who restored her)
as much as she was accepted and favored with goodwill. Yet, alas, of what great
goods do miserable mortals despoil one another, by their shameful itching for
quarrels. (MC, 43; KGW VIII, 11)

Not all of the forces at work during Kepler's life were negative; the period in which he lived was also marked by lively intellectual activity. Kepler himself keenly felt the excitement of the times:

After the birth of printing books became widespread. Hence everyone through-
out Europe devoted himself to the study of literature. Hence many universities
came into existence, and at once many learned men appeared so that the author-
ity of those who clung to barbarism declined. … What shall I say of today's
mechanical arts, countless in number and incomprehensible in subtlety? Do we
not today bring to light by the art of printing every one of the extant ancient
authors? … Through them there has today been created a new theology and a
new jurisprudence; the Paracelsians have created medicine anew and the Coper-

-10-

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Kepler's Philosophy and the New Astronomy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures and Tables ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Abbreviations of Works Frequently Cited xiii
  • Introduction 3
  • 1: Kepler's Life and Times 10
  • 2: The Mysterium Cosmographicum and Kepler's Early Approach to Natural Philosophy 39
  • 3: Kepler's Apologia 57
  • 4: Kepler's Archetypes and the Astronomia Nova 69
  • 5: The Aristotelian Kepler 99
  • 6: Kepler and Ptolemy 112
  • 7: The Epitome Astronomiae Copernicanae 142
  • Conclusion - The Fate of Kepler's Philosophical Thought 169
  • Notes 177
  • Bibliography 191
  • Index 199
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