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print from Harmonia Macrocosmica, A. Cellarius (detail) [1660] (Public Domain Image)
print from Harmonia Macrocosmica, A. Cellarius (detail) [1660] (Public Domain Image)

From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe

by Alexandre Koyré


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The infinite Universe of the New Cosmology, infinite in Duration as well as in Extension, in which eternal matter in accordance with eternal and necessary laws moves endlessly and aimlessly in eternal space, inherited all the ontological attributes of Divinity. Yet only those--all the others the departed God took away with Him.--p. 276. Space is the place...--p. 257.

This is a study of the evolution of cosmology from antiquity to mid-20th century. Up to the renaissance the world was thought to be bounded by a distant but finite sphere, the empyrean heaven, beyond which must be the realm of the divine. As science started to discover the true nature of the stars, the planets, and the heavens, natural philosophers came up with new models of the universe. In the process they had to try to explain a number of very obvious everyday phenomena like gravity, force, and mass, and some not so intuitive, such as infinity and relative motion.

That the universe is immense is no longer controversial. The question of whether it is infinite depends on whether space has zero, negative or positive curvature, and that is still being tested. Now scientists are wondering whether there may be an infinity of universes. This is a great book if you are interested in the history of science, astronomy, or the 'big questions' of cosmology or ontology.

Title Page and Front Matter
I. The Sky and the Heavens
II. The New Astronomy and the New Metaphysics
III. The New Astronomy Against the New Metaphysics
IV. Things Never Seen Before and Thoughts Never Thought
V. Indefinite Extension or Infinite Space
VI. God and Space, Spirit and Matter
VII. Absolute Space, Absolute Time and Their Relations to God
VIII. The Divinization of Space
IX. God and the World: Space, Matter, Ether and Spirit
X. Absolute Space and Absolute Time: God's Frame of Action
XI. The Work-Day God and the God of the Sabbath
XII. Conclusion: The Divine Artifex and the Dieu Fainéant