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Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci.

35 (2004) 91114
Aristotle, Copernicus, Bruno: centrality, the
principle of movement and the extension of the
Miguel A. Granada
Department of History of Philosophy, University of Barcelona, Baldiri Reixac s/n, 08029 Barcelona, Spain
Received 9 April 2003; received in revised form 21 July 2003
This paper
studies the dierent conceptions of both centrality and the principle or starting
point of motion in the Universe held by Aristotle and later on by Copernicanism until Kepler
and Bruno. According to Aristotle, the true centre of the Universe is the sphere of the xed
stars. This is also the starting point of motion. From this point of view, the diurnal motion is
the fundamental one. Our analysis gives pride of place to De caelo II, 10, a chapter of Aristotles
text which curiously allows an Alpetragian reading of the transmission of motion.
In Copernicus and the Copernicans, natural centrality is identied with the geometrical centre
and, therefore, the Sun is acknowledged as the body through which the Deity acts on the world
and it also plays the role of the principle and starting point of cosmic motion. This motion, how-
ever, is no longer diurnal motion, but the annual periodical motion of the planets. Within this
context, we pose the question of to what extent it is possible to think that, before Kepler, there is
a tacit attribution of a dynamic or motive role to the Sun by Copernicus, Rheticus, and Digges.
For Bruno, since the Universe is innite and homogeneous and the relationship of the
Deity with it is one of indierent presence everywhere, the Universe has no absolute centre,
E-mail address: (M.A. Granada).
When the article was practically complete, I read Goldstein (2002). Goldstein considers some of the ques-
tions I address here, though he restricts his analysis to Copernicus as regards the determination of the origin
of the heliocentric system. Since he believes that it is likely . . . Copernicus took the distance-period relation-
ship from Aristotle [De caelo II, 10] as interpreted by his commentators (Goldstein, 2002, p. 226), his argu-
ment is similar to mine. Nonetheless, my objective is not to establish the origin of the heliocentric system in
Copernicuss mind, but to consider (regardless of the fact that this may have played a role in the genesis of
heliocentrism) certain problems that I see as important regarding the dierent conceptions of centrality and the
principle and starting point of movement between Aristotelian geocentrism and Copernicanism, until Kepler
and Bruno. Because of this I saw De caelo II, 10 as decisive and broadened the study (above all from the point
where the work of Giordano Bruno is considered) to include the question of the extension of the Universe.
0039-3681/$ - see front matter #2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
for any point is a centre. By the same token, there is no place that enjoys the prerogative of
beingas being the seat of Godthe motionless principle and starting point of motion.
#2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Aristotle; Copernicus; Bruno; Centrality; Principle of movement; Extension of the Universe
Though the authors and themes that will concern me here date from the six-
teenth century, and above all from the second half of the century, it is only right
that my appraisal of the problem or problems I intend to address should begin with
Aristotle. As is well known, until the sixteenth century the treatise De caelo (On the
heavens) constituted the canonical authority in cosmology, natural philosophy, and
heavenly physics. Aristotles work was complemented by Ptolemys Almagest, the
authority in the area of astronomy, the geometrical description of heavenly move-
ments, just asto quote Aristotle in Metaphysics XIIthe Physics of the sensible,
imperishable ousa (the heavens) was complemented by Astronomy, that one of
the mathematical sciences which is most akin to philosophy.
Ignoring for the
moment the tensions and discrepancies with Ptolemaic astronomy, which are reec-
ted historically in Averroes and his philosophical tradition, De caelo is the auth-
ority in the area of cosmology, the general representation of the Universe; that is to
say, De caelo provides the doctrine for the conguration of the Universe inside
which astronomy develops and which astronomy presupposes, and it thus provides
a denition of the theoretical subordination of astronomy to physics or cosmology.
As is also well known, in De caelo I, 2-4 Aristotle establishes the principles of
the theory of movement and in particular the strict correlation or reciprocal impli-
cation between the elements, places, and the behaviour of the elements in terms of
movement and/or rest that determine the conguration of the Universe, speci-
cally: a) the centrality and immobility of the Earth
and b) the existence of ether as
pro ton so ma, the rst element oras the Latins were to saythe quinta essentia,
the only subject of circular motion.
From this theory of movement, which presupposes absolute places and therefore
the niteness of the Universe or world, and specically from the attribution of the
daily motion to etherthat is, to the entire Universethen, as established in Ch. I,
5, the necessary niteness of the Universe follows: if the whole moves in a circular
fashion around its axis (and even more so in a nite time), the circumference trav-
elled cannot be innite: Now the innite cannot be traversed, and if the body is
Metaphysics XII, 8, 1073 b 5, translation by W. D. Ross in Aristotle (1984).
Subsequently, in De caelo II, 3, 286 a 1321 and b 89, the central immobility of the Earth is estab-
lished by the need for a rm physical point on which all the circular motions are performed. As is well
known, this is the basis for Averroess rejection of the Ptolemaic astronomical system of eccentrics and
epicycles and his defence of a physically plausible and possible astronomy, that is, of homocentric
spheres; on this point see Sabra (1994).
M.A. Granada / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 35 (2004) 91114 92
innite the interval between the radii is necessarily innite: circular motion there-
fore is an impossibility. Yet we see that the heavens revolve in a circle.
But it is not my intention to discuss these well known issues here. My interest is
related to the centrality of the nite Universe and its implicationssubjects which
perhaps have not yet received the attention they deserve. When in De caelo II, 13
Aristotle criticizes the Pythagorean doctrine of the circular motion of the Earth out-
side the centre, he declares his clear opposition to the Pythagorean conception of the
geometric centre as the noblest place, and proposes instead a distinction between the
mere centre of the body (or centre of the mathematical gure, in his opinion irrel-
evant, and thus not destined to be the noblest place) and the centre of the thing or the
natural centre, that is the centre of life, lifes starting point, and thus proper to the
noblest body; and this noblest body would be in a way the heart of the cosmic organ-
which does not have to coincide with the geometric centre, but which, for Aris-
totle, coincides more with the limit (periphery) than with what is limited (the geometric
centre) and is the place from which the movement starts. To summarize: the true
centre, the natural or living centre of the Universe is the primum mobile or the sphere
of the xed stars, from where motion is transmitted to the interior of the world.
This will be my starting point. For Aristotle, the true centre, the natural or living
centre of the Universe is the sphere of the xed stars (the limit and the beginning) and
not the geometric centre where that grave and heavy body the Earth is necessarily
found, around which the heavens necessarily revolve. This is so because a) it is from
there, from the sphere of the xed stars, that the movement towards the interior of the
world begins,
creating universal time;
b) it is the point of maximum perfection of
and c) it is the point of contact (that is, metaphysical contact) with divinity,
with the unmoved prime mover that makes this rst heaven move by being desired
On the heavens I, 5, 272 a 36, translation by J. L. Stocks, in Aristotle (1984).
Kepler, in his German translation of Ch. II, 13 of De caelo, makes explicit the idea and speaks of
das selbige Mittere oder Hertzpuncten der gantzen Natur. See Kepler (1937, Vol. XX, 1, p. 151).
On the heavens II, 13, 293b 114: [The Pythagoreans] hold that the most important part of the
world, which is the centre, should be most strictly guarded, and name the re which occupies that place
the Guard-house of Zeus, as if the word centre were quite unequivocal, and the centre of the math-
ematical gure were always the same with that of the thing or the natural centre. But it is better to con-
ceive of the case of the whole heaven as analogous to that of animals, in which the centre of the animal
and that of the body are dierent. For this reason they have no need to be so disturbed about the world,
or to call it in a guard for its centre: rather let them look for the centre in the other sense and tell us
what it is like and where nature has set it. That centre will be something primary and precious; but to
the mere position we should give the last place rather than the rst. For the middle is what is dened,
and what denes it is the limit, and that which contains or limits is more precious than that which is
limited. In the same vein, Thomas Aquinas says in his commentary ad locum: Et haec duo manifestat:
primo quidem ostendens quale sit medium universi quod proportionatur cordi animalis. Et dicit quod
est principium aliorum corporum, et maxime honorabile inter alia corpora: et haec est sphaera stellarum
xarum. See Aquinas (1952, Lib. II, Lect. XX, # 485, p. 241).
See De caelo II, 12, 292 a 2024 and b 2025.
Ibid., II, 4, 287 a 23 . On this point see Granada (2001a, pp. 481492).
De caelo II, 4, 287 b 2021: since with each step away from earth the matter manifestly becomes
ner in the same proportion as water is ner than earth.
93 M.A. Granada / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 35 (2004) 91114
(to` ero menon),
that is to say, teleologically. De caelo I, 9, applies to extracosmic
intelligence (ta` eke , whatever is there) the same formula that Metaphysics XII, 7
applies to divinity as an unmoved mover: if Metaphysics 1072 b 12 says that on such
a principle, then, depend the heavens and the world of nature, De caelo I, 9, 279 a
2930 arms that from it derive the being and life which other things . . . enjoy.
According to Aristotle, it is from this perspective that we should view cosmologi-
cal centrality and dynamics, next to which the physical and geometric centrality of
the Earth is merely a question of material necessity, lacking in any value. The true
centrality is this dynamic and metaphysical centrality which has its perceptible
point in the sphere of the xed stars or primum mobile, and nds its true place in
the extracosmic intelligence-divinity: in the rst absolutely immobile ousa, the ori-
gin of the existence and the movement of the inferior ousai. It is a system that we
can visualize (neo)platonically as the centrality of the One and of the Intelligence
with respect to the rest of what proceeds and advances from them;
a system that
is historically translated into the metaphysics-cosmology of the uxus
and which
astronomically is present in al-Bitrujis proposal (which, as is known, originates in
Greek Antiquity)
of a single heavenly movement from East to West, which issues
from the prime mover and decreases in speed as it moves further from its vital
centre and becomes ontologically poorer, until it ends in the immobile Earth. We
believe that this model devised by al-Bitruji (or Alpetragius, to use his Latin name)
is clearly insinuated (or more accurately, can be perceived as being clearly insi-
nuated) in De caelo II, 10, where Aristotle says: the movements of the several stars
[the planets] depend, as regards the varieties of speed which they exhibit, on their
However, the point or centre with respect to which the proportion
exists between the planets distances and their own movements is not the geometric
centre (the Earth), but the natural centre, the sphere of the xed stars, from where
Metaphysics XII, 7, 1072 b 3.
On the conceptual coincidence of the two passages, see Merlan (1966).
See Plotinus, Enneads V, 1, 67.
On this point, see De Libera (1990, Ch. IV, La metaphysique du ux, pp. 117177).
On the Greek antecedents of this conception (clearly formulated, from a critical position, by Geminus,
Introduction to phenomena XII, 1423), see Duhem (19131959, Vol. II, pp. 156171). BoucheLeclercq
(1976, p. 116), attributed the doctrine to Aristotles disciples, though without mentioning his sources.
BoucheLeclerq is referring to Martianus Capella, De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii VIII, 853, where the
conception is clearly described as the doctrine of the Peripatetics: denique etiam Peripateticorum dogma
contendit non adversum mundum haec sidera [the planets] promoveri, sed celeritate mundi, quam sequi non
poterunt, praeteriri. For the presence of this conception in the high Middle Ages and his attribution to Aris-
totle and his school see Duhem (19131959, Vol. III, Ch. III)Geminus, for his part, says that this opinion
is held by many philosophers (XII, 19). On the presence of this conception in Democritus see Dicks (1970,
pp. 82 ., 139 ., & 215). Lucretius (De rerum natura V, 621636) expounds this doctrine fully in connection
with the theory of the whirlwind (turbo) and its decreasing force as it descends into the centre, attributing
it furthermore to the pre-Socratic philosopher: Nam eri vel cum primis id posse videtur, /Democriti quod
sancta viri sententia ponit,/quanto quaeque magis sint terram sidera propter,/tanto posse minus cum caeli
turbine ferri;/evanescere enim rapidas illius e acris/imminui supter viris, ideoque relinqui/paulatim solem
cum posterioribu signis,/inferior multo quod sit quam fervida signa./Et magis hoc lunam (vv. 621629).
De caelo II, 10, 291 a 3234.
M.A. Granada / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 35 (2004) 91114 94
the cosmic movement issues caused by extracosmic intelligence. This is made very
clear in the next section of the text, which can be read as a presentation of the pla-
nets own movement in al-Bitrujis sense, that is, as a weakening and deceleration
of the daily motion which increases the greater the distance from the living centre:
It is established that the outermost revolution of the heavens is a simple movement
and the swiftest of all [it is obviously the sphere of the xed stars], and that the
movement of all the other bodies [the planets] is composite and relatively slow, for
the reason that each is moving on its own circle with the reverse motion to that of
the heavens. This at once makes it reasonable that the body which is nearest to that
rst simple revolution [Saturn] should take the longest time to complete its circle
[the circle of its own movement, which, since it is governed by the primum mobile,
can be seenand this is al-Bitrujis viewas a simple deceleration of the universal
movement], and that which is farthest from it the shortest, the others taking a longer
time the nearer they are [to the sphere of the xed stars] and a shorter time the far-
ther away they are. For it is the nearest body [to the sphere of the xed stars] which
is most strongly [ma lista kratetai, obviously by the primum mobile], and the most
remote, by reason of its distance, which is least aected, the inuence on the inter-
mediate bodies varying, as the mathematicians [that is to say, the astronomes] show,
with their distance.
Ibid., 291 a 34b 10. Evidently I do not mean to say that Aristotle saw the movement of the planets in the same way as
al-Bitruji was to see it fteen centuries later (see al-Bitruji (1952, VIII, 13, p. 92)). Aristotle recognizes that the planets have
a movement of their own, in the opposite direction to the daily motion, and postulates for each planet the set of the homo-
centric spheres that astronomers attribute to it (adding the compensatory spheres and for each one, its own unmoved
mover). Nonetheless I think it is clear that the point of reference of the planetary movement is not the geometric centre, but
the natural centre, the sphere of the xed stars, from where the power (kra tos) is exerted, which diminishes with distance
and determines the velocity or time of each planets own period. Whether this is seen as a movement proper to the planets,
delayed by the prime mover (this is how Kepler sees it; in his Mysterium cosmographicum (1937, Vol. I, Ch. XX, p. 69),
he speaks of an impedimentum ab occursatione pernicissimi primi mobilis) or as a delay in the only daily motion, caused by
the weakening of the kra tos of the prime mover depending on the distance (Al-Bitrujis view), the important point is the sub-
ordination of the planets own movement to the daily and universal movement, and the premise of all this: the dynamic
centre which with the decreasing diusion of its kra tos determines the heavenly movement is the sphere of the xed stars. The
fact that this brief Aristotelian chapter can be clearly interpreted in the manner of Al-Bitruji is shown by the fact that, at this
point, the commentators frequently inserted references and descriptions of Al-Bitrujis model. See for example Albertus
Magnus (1971, p. 168, ll. 7981 (and cf. p. 136, ll. 112)); Thomas Aquinas, In Aristotelis libros De caelo et mundo . . . exposi-
tio, Bk. II, Lectio XV, # 435 (description of the Alpetragian doctrine attributed to alii) and ## 438 & 440 (his own position,
but in accordance with our thesis) (Aquinas, 1952); Buridan, Quaestiones super libris quattuor De caelo et mundo, Lib. II, Qu.
XX, p. 219, ll. 619 (Buridan, 1942). But Simplicius (in his Commentary on De caelo, written at the end of Antiquity) had
suggested that the Alpetragian interpretation of planetary motion was the most rational in principle, on the basis of the con-
ception of the rst sphere, the subject of the daily motion, as the reference point for the movement of the planets. See Simpli-
cius (1564): Si nam velocissimo motu omnium sphaerarum inerrabilis sphaera movetur, consequens proximiora ipsi citius
moveri remotioribus secundum proportionem distantiae [to the sphere of the xed stars]. Et si terra immobilis secundum nat-
uram est, tardiora oportebit esse quae magis terrae propinquae sunt, quam quae magis distant, & hoc etiam secundum pro-
portionem distantiae (com. 38. p. 166 col. A); velut si omnes sphaeras dicentes eodem motu qui ab oriente moveri
secundum subdecientiam, ut Saturnina quidem sphaera simul restituatur quotidie cum non erratica penes modicum &
sphaera Iovis penes plus, & sic deinceps (com. 38, p. 167, col. B).
Goldstein (2002, pp. 223226) has insisted on the decisive importance of this chapter in De caelo, both intrinsically and due
to its interpretation in the tradition. Goldstein (ibid., p. 225 &n. 10, 11) gives the examples of Averroes (De caelo II, Comm. 58)
and Oresme, who I have not mentioned because their perspective does not consider the centrality of the rst sphere, but the cen-
trality of the Earth in the planets movement. For the connection of this Aristotelian chapter with Platos Timaeus (36 cd, 38 c
d) see Cornford (1935, pp. 7293, 105114).
95 M.A. Granada / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 35 (2004) 91114
In fact this is the system that Dante describes in poetic form at the end of the
Commedia: Ma gia` volgeva il mio disio e il velle,/s `, come rota che igualmente e`
mossa,/lamor che move il sole e laltre stelle.
So the medieval Aristotelian
Universe has two centres of heavenly motion: the geometric, physical centre, the
Earthunimportant, secondary, lacking nobility, the imum of the Universe, the
dwelling-place, according to Christianity, of fallen humanity; and the living, meta-
physical, ontological centre, which isin its visible expressionthe sphere of the
xed stars or primum mobile (on this point the addition of new spheres without
stars beyond the sphere of the xed stars after Aristotle and as a result the dis-
placement of the primum mobile do nothing to modify the situation) and at its
metaphysical root the separate Intelligencethe unmoved moverGod, the start-
ing point and the true centre of heavenly movement caused by it. The basic move-
ment, the reference for all these considerations, is the daily motion of the whole;
the measure of all other movements, universal time.
2. Copernicus and the movement of the Earth
Against the background of this cosmological representation (at once physical and
metaphysical) associated with the dual conception of the centre, the Copernican
innovation represents a decisive break, not only at the astronomical and physical
level, but metaphysically and theologically as well. Consistent with the Copernican
principle of heliocentrism and the triple movement of an Earth converted into a
planet is the recovery of the Pythagorean conception of the centre and the aban-
donment of the Aristotelian conception of dual centrality. The geometric centre of
the cosmos in Copernicus is the vital and natural centre of which Aristotle spoke.
Furthermore, the attribution to the Earth of the daily motion and of all other
stellar movements, which had obliged all astronomers since Ptolemy to introduce
ulterior starless spheres (and had obliged cosmologists and natural philosophers to
accept them, partially at least), has far-reaching consequences. Not only were star-
less spheres rejected as irrelevant and superuous,
returning to the Aristotelian
position of the sphere of the xed stars as the rst sphere, but this rst sphere, the
Paradiso XXXIII, 143145. See also Nardi (1967a). For the presence in Dante of the metaphysics of
the uxus see Nardi (1967a,b) and also De Libera (1991, pp. 268298). Incidentally, the great speed of
the prime mover in his daily motion seems entirely reasonable to Dante, who explains it in the following
terms in the Convivio: E questo e` cagione al Primo Mobile per avere velocissimo movimento; che per lo
ferventissimo apetito che` n ciascuna parte di quello nono cielo, che e` inmediato a quello [the
Empyrean], dessere congiunta con ciascuna parte di quello divinissimo ciel quieto, in quello si rivolve
con tanto desiderio, che la sua velocitade e` quasi incomprensibile (II, [IV], 9, in Dante (1995), with the
commentary ad loc. by C. Vasoli). The geocentrist tradition remained faithful to this view until the
seventeenth century, seeing in it an example of Gods innite power. See Lerner (1980 and 1997,
pp. 101 ).
See Copernicus (1992, Lib. III, Ch. 1, p. 120): As the explanation of these observations some people
excogitated a ninth sphere, and others a tenth, by which they thought that these phenomena are brought
to pass in this way. Yet they could not furnish what they promised. An eleventh sphere too has already
begun to emerge into the light of day, as though so large a number of circles were not enough. By
invoking the motion of the earth, I shall easily refute this number of circles as superuous.
M.A. Granada / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 35 (2004) 91114 96
periphery of the cosmos, is completely immobile, and therefore cannot be the start-
ing point for the cosmic movement nor the basis for a conceptual description of it.
In fact, according to Copernicus, it has the function of the place and receptacle of
the world and of the heavenly spheres or bodies in movement:
The rst and the highest of all is the sphere of the xed stars, which contains itself
and everything, and is therefore immovable. It is unquestionably the place of the
Universe, to which the motion and position of all the other heavenly bodies are com-
pared. Some people think that it also shifts in some way. A dierent explanation of
why this appears to be so will be adduced in my discussion of the earths motion.
The sphere of the xed stars may therefore replace the Empyrean as the place of
the cosmos,
all the more so if we bear in mind its location (as implied by the lack
of observation of an annual stellar parallax due to the annual movement of the
Earth) behind the enormous empty space beyond the sphere of Saturn:
the rst
moving body (Saturn) is found, and initiates its movement, at an enormous dis-
tance from the periphery; so its movement is not governed from or by the periph-
ery, which, furthermore, is motionless.
In addition, the immobility of the stellar sphere allows Copernicus to propose (in
Ch. I, 8) its indenite upward extension and its possible innitude:
If the heaven is innite [si caelum fuerit innitum], however, and nite at its
inner concavity only, there will perhaps be more reason to believe that beyond
the heaven [caelum] there is nothing. For, every single thing, no matter what size
it attains, will be inside it, but the heaven will abide motionless. For, the chief
contention by which it is sought to prove that the Universe is nite is its motion.
Copernicus (1992, I, 10, p. 21). Copernicus attributes the immobility of the sphere of the xed stars
to its role as a continent. Cf. ibid., I, 8, p. 17: It would seem quite absurd to attribute motion to that
which contains and locates [continenti sive locanti] and not, more appropiately, to that which is con-
tained and located, namely, the earth (translation modied). Note that the sphere of the xed stars is, at
the same time, body and place, and so contains itself and everything. The notion of space as a recep-
tacle independent of the matter it contains and previous to this matter is not yet present.
On the notion of the Empyrean and its function as place, see Lerner (1996a, pp. 215236) and the
literature mentioned there. As is well known, Copernicus says nothing at any point during his workin
both astronomy and physicson the notion of the Empyrean, the heaven of theological origin normally
described as the abode of God, the angels and the blessed and whose existence had been denied by the
reformed theologians because of the lack of any reference to it in the Scriptures. On the debate on the
Empyrean in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, see Randles (1999, especially Ch. 6).
An empty space that is absent from the cosmological diagram in Ch. I, 10 though it is present in the
conclusion of this chapter: Yet none of these phenomena appears in the xed stars. This proves their
immense height, which makes even the sphere of the annual motion, or its reection, vanish from before
our eyes, Copernicus (1992, p. 22); see also Ch. I, 5, p. 12: Anyone who denies that the earth occupies
the middle or center of the Universe may nevertheless assert that its distance [therefrom] is insignicant
in comparison with [the distance of] the sphere of the xed stars, but perceptible and noteworthy in
relation to the spheres of the sun and the other planets . . . Perhaps he can [thereby] produce a not inept
explanation of the apparent nonuniform motion. This empty space does appearthough obviously not
to scalein Thomas Diggess famous diagram of 1576 as the empty space in which the properties of the
innite sphere of the xed stars are described. On Digges and his work see below.
97 M.A. Granada / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 35 (2004) 91114
Let us therefore leave the question whether the Universe is nite or innite to be
discussed by the natural philosophers . . . Why then do we still hesitate to grant
it [the earth] the motion appropriate by nature to its form rather than attribute
a movement to the entire Universe, whose limit is unknown and unknowable?
In my view, this (together with the reection on the observational history of the
nova in 1572 in Cassiopeia and with the principle of the convenience and even
necessity of an innite abode for innite God) is the basis for Thomas Diggess
positive armation of the innitude of the sphere of the xed stars (though not of
the Universe) in his A pert description of the celestiall orbes of 1576.
It is also
highly likely that this was the basis for Nicolaus Raymarus Ursuss armation of
the indenite height of the stellar region in Ch. V of his Fundamentum astronom-
icum in 1588,
in which the absence of the principle of plenitude and metaphysics
linked to divine power and goodness may perhaps explain why, unlike Digges, he
did not claim the positive innitude of the stellar region.
For Bruno, the revolutionary or auroral character of Copernicus, his histori-
cal place at the beginning of the recovery of the truth after the long dark night of
error, was that, through the movement of the Earth, the Polish astronomer showed
Aristotles conception of the nite nature of the Universe to be false. Indeed, if the
movement of the whole means that the extension of the whole is nite, then the
immobility of the whole, due to the movement of the Earth, makes it possible to
arm the innitude of the Universe, its necessary innitude even, and thus rectify
Aristotles error. Aristotles error was physical and cosmological, but primarily
theological (even blasphemous), becausefor Brunoto arm the niteness of the
Universe is to make Gods power, His will and His goodness nite, and even to
declare God innitely evil on account of the possibility of the innite good that His
will has not desired to produce.
But we should return to Copernicus.
The innovation of a planetary Earth goeswe said abovewith the recovery of
the Pythagorean conception of the geometric centre as the noblest place. In this
most beautiful temple of the world,
the better position for the Sun to transmit
light is the geometric centre. Furthermore, the Copernican system
proposes the
Copernicus (1992, I, 8, p. 16). Cf. I, 6, p. 24: Yet how far this immensity [of the heaven] extends is
not at all clear.
Digges (1934, pp. 88 .). See also Granada (2002a, p. 95) and the literature mentioned there.
See Ursus (1588, Ch. V, thesis IV, V, & XVIII). See the transcription of this highly important chap-
ter in Granada (2002b, Appendix 5, pp. 265 . & 270); see ibid., Ch. V for a discussion of Ursuss
cosmology and Ro slins criticism of the innitude (sic) of the Universe proposed by Ursus.
It is known that around 1586 Ursus translated De revolutionibus into German for Jost Bu rgi, the clock-
maker of Wilhelm IV of Hesse-Kassel. This was the rst translation of the work, and is sadly still unpub-
lished, except for the selection by Jurgen Hamel in Hamel (1998, pp. 111173). Hamel did not include I, 8.
See Granada (1994, 2002c).
Copernicus (1992, I, 10, p. 22).
The rst use of the term systema to designate the structure, conguration or fabric of the Copernican
world seems to be in Rheticus (1982, Ch. VIII, ll. 55 & 92; Ch. X, l. 103; Ch. XIII, l. 61). I owe this
information to M.-P. Lerner, who kindly allowed me to read his unpublished study Sur lexpression
syste`me du monde , of which a partial rst draft appeared in Lerner (1996b).
M.A. Granada / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 35 (2004) 91114 98
immobility of the periphery and the centre, and the mobility of only the intermedi-
ate bodies, the planets, the reason for whose movement (that is, the duration of the
annual or medium period) is determined by the distance from the Sun, the
centre. In this way, the immobile Sun (compared with the motionless stars, a mere
place or receptacle) seems to have taken on the function of principle of movement
which in the old system was possessed physically by the sphere of the xed stars
and metaphysically by the divine unmoved prime mover. This function, logically,
cannot be attributed to a central and static Earth, for from this point of view it
would be an aberration to think that the Earth (inferior ousa) is capable of legis-
lating and ruling the heavenly bodies, or of granting motion to them. However,
this is now possible because the Sun is at the center and it is the noblest body, the
double dimension of which (physical and metaphysical or theological) is empha-
sized by Copernicus: The Sun is the motionless king that governs the family of
planets revolving around it; it is Gods vicar, Gods visible expression, as mani-
fested in the descriptions of pagans:
At rest, however, in the middle of everything is the sun. For in this most beauti-
ful temple, who would place this lamp in another or better position than that
from which it can light up the whole thing at the same time? For, the sun is not
inappropriately called by some people the lantern of the Universe, its mind by
others, and its ruler by still others. [Hermes] the Thrice Greatest labels it a vis-
ible god, and Sophocles Electra, the all-seeing. Thus indeed, as though seated
on a royal throne, the sun governs the family of planets revolving around it.
It has often been said
that the role of the Sun in Copernicus is not dynamic and physi-
cal, but exclusively a lighting one, and also that in this praise of both the centrality of
the Sun and its ruling of the planetary motion there is only a simple conservation of the
role that the Ptolemaic and geocentric tradition (for instance, Stoicism)
assigned to the
Sun because of its central function in the sky between superior and inferior planets and
its connection with the motions of planets placed beyond the Moon, which all have an
annual motion, inferior planets in their deferents and superior ones in their epicycles.
Such a connection cannot be ruled out, but, in any event, the new location of the
Sun bestows on that language a qualitatively new meaning. Moreover, the solar
relevance in the geocentric astronomy (specically in Ptolemy) has clearly an
Copernicus (1992, I, 10, p. 22). The last sentence in the Latin original reads Ita profecto tanquam in
solio regali Sol residens circumagentem gubernat astrorum familiam; see Copernicus (1984, p. 21).
See for example Koyre (1973, pp. 5965, 120 ., & 154 .). However, some hesitation on the part of
Koyre is detectable. If there was scarcely any dynamic problem for Copernicus (p. 121) because it [the
Sun] gives light to the Universe, and that is all (p. 65), nevertheless the Sun, this lampada pulcherrima,
is placed at the center of the Universe in order to give it light, and hence life and motion (p. 65).
See Cleanthes, fragments 499503, in SVF (1905). Cf. as well Cicero, Somnium Scipionis 4, 17, and
Macrobius (2001, I, 20, 45). See also Duhem (19131959, Vol. III, p. 140) for an evaluation of this inci-
pent dynamics connected with this solar attraction.
See Plinius (1950, II, (6), 1213; (15), 5961; (17), 7276), with his lengthy comment. Cf. also Koyre
(1973, pp. 41 . (with n. 42 & 43 on Regiomontanus and Ptolemy) & 128 .).
99 M.A. Granada / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 35 (2004) 91114
astronomical function lacking any physical standing; its importance works only on
the level of heavenly geometry. The question is whether this physical and dynamic
inactivity of the Sun has been preserved by the heliocentric conception or, on the
contrary, the transference to the Sun of the function of the Deity and of the func-
tion of the sphere of xed stars has also entailed the transference of the motive
eciency of that sphere; and, if the latter is so, the problem raised is how con-
ceptualize the exercise of this dynamic function.
We admit that Copernicus evades this problem in the De revolutionibus.
We con-
sider that the clear-cut dierence in Copernicuss work between mathematical or com-
putational astronomy (the technical Books, in particular IIIVI) and cosmology or
natural philosophy (Bk. I) may help to explain this omission. Certainly, Copernicus
tries to overcome this dierence and to move forward to an unique science, giving to
astronomy a cosmological competence. However, it is also true that he respects the
traditional separation among disciplines and that because of his eagerness to construct
an astronomy capable of replacing eectively Ptolemaic astronomy within the limits
of strict astronomy, he tries to construct geometrical models of planetary motion of a
purely kinematical nature, lacking any physical import. Moreover, his suppression of
the equant and his restoration of the uniform motion about the center suppress also a
dynamic factor that in Kepler will from the outset be endowed with a physical sense.
Thus, the exploration of the question of how the solar ruling is carried out
remains in practice ignored by Copernicus, in spite of the fact that he himself posed
it. Kepler recognized this duality when he described Copernicus as being ignorant
of his own riches and stated sorrowfully that [Copernicus] ever took it upon him-
self to express Ptolemy, not the nature of things, to which, nonetheless, he of all men
came closest.
Kepler distinguished carefully, indeed, between Copernicus the cal-
culator of Bks. IIVI, who considers that there is no body at the center of the
world and that the planetary motions must be calculated with reference to the center
of the motion of the Earth to avoid upsetting the diligent reader by too great a
departure from Ptolemy,
and Copernicus the speculator who considers the Sun
as being both the center of the world and the center of the planetary system.
As it
See Koyre (1973, p. 121).
Koyre (1973, pp. 154 .). See also the important study by Voelkel (2001).
Kepler (1992, Ch. XIV, p. 232) (Copernicus divitiarum suarum ipse ignarus, Ptolemaeum sibi expri-
mendum omnino sumpsit, non rerum naturam, ad quam tamen omnium proximus accesserat: Kepler
(1937, Vol. III [Astronomia nova], p. 141)).
Kepler (1981, Ch. XV, p. 159) (Nam etsi ille [Copernicus] sine dubio centrum totius universi in cor-
pore solari constituit: tamen ut calculum iuvet compendio, et ne nimium a Ptolemaeo recedendo, diligen-
tem eius lectorem turbet . . .: Kepler (1937, Vol. I, p. 50)).
See Kepler (1992, Ch. XXXIII, p. 378): But which body is it that it is at the centre? Is there none, as
for Copernicus when he is computing, and for Tycho in part? Is it the earth, as for Ptolemy and for
Tycho in part? Or nally, is it the sun itself, as I, and Copenicus when he is speculating, would have it?
This question I began to discuss it in physical terms in Part I (Quodnam autem corpus in centro sit;
nullumne, ut apud Copernicum quando computat . . .; an denique Sol ipse, quod mihi, quod et Coper-
nico dum speculatur placet: id parte prima, rationibus Physicis coepi discutere: Kepler (1937, Vol. III,
Ch. XXXIII, p. 237)).
M.A. Granada / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 35 (2004) 91114 100
is well known, Kepler considered that his historical role should be to overcome that
division and, therefore, to construct the physical astronomy or heavenly physics
(the consideration of the physical action of the Sun through which it rules the pla-
nets) that Copernicus had not carried out because he had limited himself to kin-
ematics by imitating Ptolemy and rejecting the equant. And Kepler carried out that
task by reading precisely from a dynamic point of view the Copernican text on the
solar ruling and its enlarged echo in Rheticuss Narratio prima.
Indeed, Rheticus had made the motive power of the Sun more explicit by
remarking that, by reason of the correspondence between the planetary periods
and the distance to the central Sun, the Sun can be described as the principle of
motion and of light: In addition, the larger spheres revolve more slowly, and, as is
proper, those that are nearer to the sun, which may be said to be the source of
motion and light, revolve more swiftly.
As is well known, Copernicuss vision of the Sun is expressed in more detail in
the Narratio prima. Ch. VIII of this work develops his idea of the Suns govern-
ment of planetary movement, substituting the sphere of the xed stars:
Hence the Sun was called by the ancients leader, governor of nature, and king.
But whether it carries on this administration as God rules the entire Universe, a
rule excellently described by Aristotle in the De mundo, or whether, traversing
the entire heaven so often and resting nowhere, it acts as Gods administrator in
nature, seems not yet altogether explained and settled.
Rheticus (1971, p. 146). For the Latin text see Rheticus (1982, Ch. X, p. 60): Adde, quod orbes
maioris ambitus tardius, et propiores Soli, a quo quis principium motus et lucis esse dixerit, velocius, ut
conveniebat, suos circuitus perciunt; cf. the French translation on p. 113 & n. 129. Evidently we are
far from Keplerian dynamics, as it was described in the Mysterium cosmographicum in 1596, with the
notion of unam . . . motricem animam in orbium omnium centro, scilicet in Sole: quae, ut quodlibet cor-
pus est vicinius, ita vehementius incitet: in remotioribus propter elongationem et attenuationem virtutis
quodammodo languescat: Kepler (1937, Vol. I, p. 70). Later in the text, Kepler mentioned Rheticuss
Narratio prima as the clear forerunner of his doctrine; in the second edition in 1621 he added an
important note to this passage, in which the notion of soul is replaced by force (vis) with the
addition this force is corporeal, if not properly, at least equivocally (my translation; Vim hanc esse
corporeum aliquid, si non proprie, saltem aequivoce: Kepler (1937, Vol. VIII, p. 113)). On Kepler and
the Suns dynamic function see Westman (2001). It is true that in Copernicuss work the passage on the
government of the Sun (I, 10) is not developed in any depth, but I think it is interesting to recall the
passage in Commentariolus (quoted in Goldstein (2002, p. 226)) in which, on the subject of the growing
duration of the period of the upper planets, the Polish astronomer said: perinde ac si tales revolutiones
magnitudo orbium remoretur (just as if the size of the spheres slowed down these revolutions, trans-
lation in Swerdlow (1973, p. 465)). This is the exact inversion of the Alpetragian perspective in De
caelo II, 10: the planets movement becomes more delayed the further it is from the vital centre of move-
ment (not the daily motion, but the annual periodic movement). In Aristotle the centre is the sphere
of the xed stars and the delay depends on the weakening or the debilitation of the kra tos or force
which depends in turn on the distance; Copernicus speaks of a delay dependent on the magnitude of
the planetary orb. Can we associate this delay of the orb with the weakening of the Suns govern-
ment of which he speaks later in De revolutionibus I, 10? Swerdlow (1973, p. 466), does not come to a
conclusion on the matter.
Rheticus, 1971, p. 139; Latin text in Rheticus (1982, p. 56, French translation, p. 108).
101 M.A. Granada / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 35 (2004) 91114
It is worth pausing a moment to look at the reference to the Aristotelian treatise,
assumed by Rheticus to be authentic. As the editors state,
Rheticus refers to De
mundo 6, 397 b ., the chapter in which Aristotle states that God [is] dwelling, in
the words of the poet [Iliad, I, 499], on the topmost crest of the whole heaven
(397 b 2627), going on to say that from there Gods power benets all other bod-
ies: and the body which is nearest to him [the sphere of the xed stars] most enjoys
his power, and afterwards the next nearest [Saturn] and so on successively until the
regions wherein we dwell are reached. That is, the eect or action of Gods power
diminishes as we move away from the cosmic periphery towards the geometric
centre. This perspective is similar to the one we found in Ch. II, 10 of De caelo.
But, as we see, it is the very opposite of Copernicuss view, in which the govern-
ment and action of God over the world are exerted from the Sun. So if Rheticus
says that Aristotle spoke excellently (pulcherrime) on the divine government of
the world, it must be for another reason. This reason, as Rheticus himself indi-
cates, is that the world is governed from immobility, as De mundo explains via the
analogy of the King of Persia. Just as the King of Persia governs his immense
empire at Susa or Ecbatana, invisible to all, dwelling in a wondrous palace within
a fence gleaming with gold and amber (398 a 1315), to an even greater extent the
government of the world from immobility corresponds to God (398 b 1 .), so that
it is more worthy of his dignity and more betting that he [God] should be
enthroned in the highest region, and that his power, extending through the whole
Universe, should move the sun and moon and make the whole heaven revolve
(398 b 69). Divine government from extracosmic immobility and from the sphere
of the xed stars
is replaced by Divine government from immobility, the geo-
metric centre, and its administrator the Sun. The Copernican formula that speaks
of the Sun as seated on a royal throne (tanquam in solio regali Sol residens) may
be based on the Aristotelian text and Rheticuss expansion in the Narratio prima
may be, at least in part, the result of Copernicuss teaching and oral communi-
cation. Slightly later, Rheticus again refers to the Divine administration of the
world through the Sun, when in Ch. X (which presents the Universi distributio)
he expands on the Copernican declaration in the following terms: God stationed
in the center of the stage His governor of nature, king of the entire Universe, con-
spicuous by its divine splendor, the sun To whose rhythm the gods move, and the
world / Receives its laws and keeps the pacts ordained [Pontano, Urania I,
It is clear that in this change of perspective the instrument of Divine
government is no longer the daily motion proceeding from the sphere of the xed
stars, but (given that this movement is characteristic of the Earth alone) the
Rheticus (1982, p. 163 n. 95).
Cf. De mundo 6, 398 b 20 .: so too the divine nature, by simple movement of that which is nearest
to it [the rst heaven], imparts its power to that which next succeeds, and thence further and further
until it extends over all things (translation by E. S. Forster, On the Universe, in Aristotle (1984)). For
the Greek text see Reale & Bos (1995). Reale and Bos present solid arguments in favour of the authen-
ticity of this treatise.
Rheticus (1971, p. 143); Rheticus (1982, X, pp. 5859, French translation, p. 111).
M.A. Granada / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 35 (2004) 91114 102
periodic annual movement regulated by the ratio of the distance from the Sun.
The Englishman Thomas Digges repeats Rheticuss considerations in his A pert
description in 1576. Translating into English Copernicuss praise of the Sun in
Ch. I, 10 of De revolutionibus, Digges introduces the quotation from Pontano: for
not vntly it is of some called the lampe or lighte of the worlde, of others the
mynde, of others the Ruler of the worlde. Ad cuius numeros & dij moveantur &
Orbes / Accipiant leges praescriptaque foedera seruent. Trismegistus calleth hym
the visible god.
In his earlier missive Ad lectorem, a text that is highly
developed in both literary and conceptual terms, Digges had followed Rheticus in
insisting on the Suns role as a motor: the Sunne, which like a king in the middest
of all raigneth and geeveth lawes of motion to ye rest, sphaerically dispearsing his
glorious beames of light through al this sacred Coelestiall Temple.
This association of God with the Sun, and the government of the Universe from
the Sun, do not challenge the traditional representation of the peripheral location
of the abode of God, and therefore of Paradise. Digges casts aside Copernicuss
hesitations and states that the sphere of the xed stars is innite, thanks to which
the sphere has assumed the properties of the Empyrean and has become the glor-
iouse court of ye great god, whose vnsercheable worcks inuisible we may partly by
these his visible coniecture, to whose innit power and maiesty such an innit place
surmountinge all other both in quantity and quality only is conueniente.
famous cosmological diagram that accompanied the work said of this innite
region that it was the very court of coelestiall angelles . . . the habitacle for the
So again we nd a bipolarity in Gods relation with the world, of a very
dierent nature to the one present in Aristotelianism, but in which the peripheral
abode (no longer extracosmic, since it coincides with the sphere of the xed stars,
but outside the unique planetary or solar system and separated from this system by
the immense distance between the upper limit of the orb of Saturn and the lower
limit of the orb of stars) is combined with the government by the laws of move-
ment issued by the central Sun. Conceptually we are not far removed from the
Keplerian decision (though of course Kepler conceives the stellar region as rigor-
ously nite) to equate, in the Mysterium cosmographicum of 1596, these two poles
with the two rst members of the Trinity (the Father the solar centre, the Son the
Far from seeing in the daily motion of the world the eect of a divine omnipotence and the vehicle
of the divine government of the cosmos, Copernicans insisted on the irrationality and even the impossi-
bility of this movement because of its inconceivably high velocity. See Lerner (1980, 1997, pp. 117 .).
On the enlightening discussion on the subject between Brahe and Rothmann, see Lerner (1980, pp. 321
.) and Granada (1996, pp. 6275).
Digges (1934, p. 87).
Digges (1934, p. 79; my italics).
Digges (1934, p. 89).
Digges (1934, p. 78).
103 M.A. Granada / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 35 (2004) 91114
stellar periphery) completing the system with the Holy Spirit as the space in
At this point, it is interesting to note that in his Scriptum de cometa of 1586
(unpublished until 1619, but known to have been sent to Brahe in that same year)
the Copernican Christoph Rothmann develops the microcosmos/macrocosmos
analogy, making the Sun play the same role in the macrocosmos as the heart in the
but seeing the presence of the Trinity in the tripartite composition
(ex terrena materia, glutine aqueo & ex aere seu aereo spiritu) of earthly things
and of the Sun itself, which nonetheless produces the quinta essentiathe
purest airand distributes it from the centre by means of these three primary
In his correspondence with Brahe between 1588 and 1590, Rothmann
expounds these themes in his defence of Copernicanism and argues with the
Danish astronomer, defending the vast empty space between Saturn and the xed
stars on the principle of the innite power of God,
but he questions the attempts
to assign to God a precise dwelling-place in the Universe. In the conclusion of Ch.
XXIII of his unpublished manuscript Observationum stellarum xarum liber primus,
where he discusses the relation between Scripture and cosmology, Rothmann con-
siders the problem of ubi erit sedes Dei et beatorum? He begins by asking whe-
ther it is necessary to attribute an abode to God (Et cur Deo sedem necessariam
putas . . .?) and arms that we do not know the dwelling-place of the blessed (ubi
tamen locus determinate sit, ignoramus)who, the Scripture says guratively, are
in the hand of God. If, in spite of everything, we insist on imagining an abode for
the blessed, the stars are a more appropriate place than the Empyrean, the
Cf. Kepler (1937, Vol. I, p. 9): illa pulchra quiescentium harmonia, Solis, xarum et intermedii,
cum Deo Patre, et Filio et S. Spiritu: quam similitudinem ego in Cosmographia persequar amplius. See
the note ad locum added in the second edition of 1621: Kepler (1937, Vol. VIII, p. 28 n. 4). On
Keplers conception of the Sun as principle and ecient cause of planetary movement, home of God
himself, not to say the rst mover (according to the text of an academic disputatio in 1593), see the
important study by Westman (2001) and the literature mentioned there. For Westman, as early as 1593,
he [Kepler] was looking to transfer the primary mover from the outermost sphere to the Sun . . . And,
when joined to the heliocentric periodicities, one got a single power of nearly innite motion at the
centre which steadily weakened as it moved from the closest to the most distant planets (2001, p. 228).
Let us refer to Keplers text, in a passage that Westman does not quote in its entirety: Cum igitur
primum motorem non deceat orbiculariter esse diusum, sed potius ab uno quodam principio et quasi
puncto egredi . . . jure optimo ad Solem itur, qui solus et dignitate et virtute huic motus ocinae videtur
idoneus dignusque, qui vel deum ipsum, nedum primum motorem capiat. Tantis igitur mactum honor-
ibus, tantis onustum Solem muneribus putat Copernicus se obtinere posse, ut in medium mundi collocet
primum, ut motor ipse, sicut per se est immobilis necessario, ita etiam in immobili domicilio haereat,
unde tanquam e centro et corde quodam mundi per EmEqcEiar sese proferat aequalissime ad omnes cir-
cumfusos orbes. Unde postmodum celeritatis ratio in planetis iniri facile potest (Fragmentum orationis
de motu Terrae, in Kepler (1937, Vol. XX, 1, p. 148)). Voelkel (2001) reproduces this text in pp. 2829,
granting it the importance it deserves.
Rothmann (1619, Ch. IX, p. 153; Rothmanns text is on pp. 69156). See Keplers commentary to
De caelo II (1937, Vol. XX, 1, pp. 81 . & n. 6).
Rothmann (1619, Ch. IX, pp. 152 .).
See Granada (1996, pp. 71 .).
M.A. Granada / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 35 (2004) 91114 104
existence of which the Protestant Rothmann appears to challenge.
In the nal
account, Rothmann suspends judgment on the abode of the blessed and of God
Himself, for lack of a scientic and biblical justication: Si quis propterea statuere
velit, Deum primariam Maiestatis suae sedem in Sole habere: id quoque faciat per
me licet. Ipse enim, quoniam expresso Dei verbo et demonstrationibus geometricis
destituor, nihil horum armavero.
But this does not stop the Sun being the
centreheart of the world and the point of issue of the quinta essentia.
3. Giordano Bruno
I will end my study with some considerations (of necessity, brief) on Bruno, and
on two aspects of his cosmology: his relation with astronomy and with Copernicus,
on the one hand; and his conception of the centre, of movement, and of the innite
on the other.
Bruno is neither an astronomer nor a mathematician. He is a philosopher (the
professio that he claimed for himself throughout his work and throughout his life),
with a very strong metaphysical and theological substrate. He is thus a parallel to
Aristotle, but radically opposed to him in that he views Aristotle as the corruptor
of philosophy and the prophet of darkness and error because of his sensualism and
because of what it establishes: the immobility and centrality of the Earth, the
cosmo-ontological hierarchy, the niteness of the Universe. Indeed, Bruno sees
himself as the prophet of the restoration of philosophy, his work being destined to
subvert the Aristotelian subversion of the truth and to re-establish the true image
of the Universe through the criterion of a senso regolato in which the intellect
guides the senses and forms a new experience that establishes the movement of the
Earth and the innitude of the Universe. His inspiration is Copernicus, whom he
describes as ordained by the gods to be the dawn which must precede the rising of
the sun of the ancient and true philosophy, for so many centuries entombed in the
dark caverns of blind, spiteful, arrogant, and envious ignorance.
Brunos cosmological discourse, then, is based on Copernican astronomy: not so
much on his geometric models and mathematical discourse, as on his physical prem-
ises and considerations. Bruno (the only sixteenth-century philosopher to defend
Copernican cosmology) rmly rejects the Wittenberg interpretation in his criti-
cism of Osianders preliminary epistle,
and regrets Copernicuss limitations as a
natural philosopher
and the unilaterally or excessively mathematical development
C. Rothmann, Observationum stellarum xarum liber primus, Ch. XXIII, Quomodo testimonia
Sacrarum literarum, quae soliditatem sphaerarum caelestium introducere videntur, sint intelligenda, tran-
scribed in Granada (2002b, Appendix 3, pp. 225232, text on p. 233): Quod si quis usque adeo pugnax
est, poterit sedem beatorum stellis tribuere. Ibi enim plus loci habebit, quam in caelo Empyreo.
Bruno (1977, p. 87); for the original text see Bruno (1994, p. 41). See also Granada (1990).
See Bruno (1977, pp. 137 .); Italian text in Bruno (1994, pp. 127 .).
Bruno (1977, pp. 8687, 193); Italian text in Bruno (1994, pp. 3941).
105 M.A. Granada / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 35 (2004) 91114
of Copernican thought, in accordance, incidentally, with his rejection of the perfect
sphericity, uniformity, and regularity of circular heavenly movements.
This gives us an idea of Brunos relation to astronomy, of the relation that he
defends between philosophy and astronomy. For him, astronomy, in its observa-
tional and mathematical dimension, is a stimulus for philosophy and, specically,
something that can conrm what philosophical reection and physics (that is,
Bruno himself) have discovered for themselves. As he says in the Oratio vale-
dictoria of 1588 and the De immenso of 1591, the observations of Wilhelm IV of
Hesse-Kassel and his astronomer Christoph Rothmann in Kassel, and those of
Tycho Brahe in Uraniborg, conrm what he has previously discovered on physical
grounds: the uid, aerial character of the heavens, the heavenly character of the
comets and their periodical movement around the Sun, the innitude of the Uni-
verse, and the movement of the sun-stars at the centre of their planetary system.
So, unlike Copernican astronomers, or even anti-Copernican astronomers such
as Brahe, for whom mathematical astronomy uncovers the true structure of the
Universe, Bruno sees the role of astronomy as subordinate, its function being to
conrm and then to develop the cosmological and physical theories established by
philosophy, by Brunotasks that he has neither the time nor the inclination to
In any event, Bruno, intent on re-establishing the true cosmology by
philosophical means, is receptive to the most advanced and most cosmologically
innovative astronomy; he avidly sought information on the most recent cosmologi-
cal and astronomical developments, especially during his years in Germany
(15861590) and also in relation to the heavenly novelties (novae and comets) of
those years.
Bruno assimilates and adapts these events to his innitist cosmology.
For example, the nova of 1572 in Cassiopeia was for him a heavenly comet that
would always be present in the sky (before and after its visible manifestation
between 1572 and 1574) andlike all comets, which, for Bruno, are a type of pla-
netin orbital movement around the Sun, since in his cosmology Bruno cannot
accept the generation and corruption of the stars.
And of course he is always
Bruno (1977, pp. 138, 152); Italian text in Bruno (1994, pp. 131, 159). See also De immenso et innu-
merabilibus, in Bruno (18791891, Vol. I, Pt. I, Bk. III, Ch. 57).
On this last point see De immenso III, 10, in Bruno (18791891, Vol. I, Pt. I, p. 394): Suragatur
huic sententiae quod et reliquas stellas xas (soles nempe alios) similes concere circuitus inveniuntur:
quod physica novi ratione antequam idem audissem observatum mathematicis nostri temporis. On the
other points see Oratio valedictoria, in Bruno (18791891, Vol. I, Pt. I, pp. 1920) and De immenso I, 5,
pp. 218221. For an appraisal of all these points, see Granada (2001b, 2002a, pp. 127146).
See, for example, De immenso III, 10, in Bruno (18791891, Vol. I, Pt. I, p. 395): omnia ejusdem
[Copernicus] dogmata non vacavit perscrutare, nec non piguit, quando tum suos tum aliorum astronom-
icos canones cum natura nihil habere commune optime sciam; p. 398, concerning Brunos theory of the
disposition of the inferior planets: cum vix in rebus ad ut physicum hoc institutum aperiendum multum
nobis adsit ocii: ideo solertioribus Astronomis rei tantae ita monstrasse locum suciat, ut ipsi per se
ipsos, melius quam ego indicare possim, reliqua persequantur.
On this point see Granada (2002a, pp. 127146, 1997a, especially pp. 414435).
See Granada (1997a, pp. 425 .), and on the question of the indissolubility of the stars see Granada
M.A. Granada / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 35 (2004) 91114 106
ready to criticize (at times disdainfully) an astronomy that in his view was excess-
ively anchored in geometric constructions. In the Articuli centum et sexaginta
adversus huius tempestatis mathematicos atque philosophos, published in Prague in
1588 and dedicated to the emperor Rudolf II, a work whose last pages are devoted
to a criticism of astronomers, Bruno concludes his radical review of the commonly-
held representation (both geocentric and heliocentric) of the planetary system with
these words: Therefore, the order of the bodies of the worldly sphere, as these
wretches (the astronomers) imagine it, is non-existent.
Let us move on to a rapid examination of Brunos conception of the centre, the
principle of movement, the innitude of the Universe, and Gods relation to it. The
rst point to make is that Bruno rejects the Copernican principle of ordo or sys-
temathe movement of the only mobile heavenly bodies (the six planets) between
the two immobile reference points, the stellar periphery as the place and the Sun as
the point of departure of the movement. First, there is no sphere of xed stars
because the Universe is innite and the place is the innite and homogeneous space
He criticizes Copernicus for preserving the sphere of the xed stars, after
arming the movement of the Earth and immobilizing the stellar region:
Another thing I would have desired from Copernicus, not indeed as a mathema-
tician, but as a philosopher, is that he had not imagined this eighth sphere as a
receptacle of all the stars equidistant from the centre. However he has acted as
impeccably as could be expected from a man more a mathematician than a
natural philosopher, since in that part he recognizes no movement, and con-
siders that the great variety of poles, tropics and zeniths and all the things that
those others describe, should be explained by the movement of the Earth as its
own principle and subject.
Second, there is no centre either, because in an innite Universe the centre is in all
places and the circumference in none: So it is armed that the centre of innite
space is everywhere.
Previously he had stated, in more detail, that
Articuli adversus mathematicos, in Bruno (18791891, Vol. I, Pt. III, p. 77 (art. 160, # O)): Sphaerae
ergo mundanae corporum ordo, qualem ngunt et pingunt pauperes isti, nusquam est. The translation
of the Latin passages in Bruno is my own.
For Brunos conception of space, see G. Bruno, On the innite Universe and worlds, Dialogue I,
translated in Singer (1950) (Italian text in Bruno (1995)) and above all De immenso I, 8, in Bruno
(18791891, Vol. I, Pt. I, pp. 231 .), where (innite) space is dened in the following terms: Est ergo
spacium, quantitas quaedam continua physica triplici dimensione constans, in qua corporum magnitudo
capiatur, natura ante omnia corpora, et citra omnia corpora consistens, indierenter omnia recipiens,
citra actionis pasionisque conditiones, immiscibile, impenetrabile, non formabile, illocabile, extra et
omnia corpora comprehendens, et incomprehensibiliter omnia continens (p. 231). For a detailed exam-
ination of this denition and of Brunos presentation of its various components see Grant (1981, pp.
De immenso III, 10, in Bruno (18791891, Vol. I, Pt. I, p. 395).
De immenso I, 5, in Bruno (18791891, Vol. I, Pt. I, p. 218): Centrum igitur spacii immensi statuetur
107 M.A. Granada / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 35 (2004) 91114
In one who approaches the limits of the horizon, the senses always make him
the centre of the horizon, his inseparable companion, so that for him any point
of the previous periphery for which he sets out is now the centre. The senses
[senso regolato] show that if we were on any other planet or star, we would
appear to be in the centre and the Earth from there would be no more than part
of the circumference.
Third, in this innite Universe nothing is immobile; there is no immobile centre or
periphery (the Sun or the stars), because everything is in movement, impelled by
the soul itself, the internal principle of movement. Even the Sun and the stars
(which, incidentally, are identical, each one the centre of a planetary system) are in
movement, since they present both a rotational movement around their axis (caus-
ing the stars to twinkle) and a circular movement in the centre of their system: the
force of the soul desires that all things move and that bodies revolve always on
their own orb, for this is the eect of life, it is also the sign of life, the principle of
life; it also accompanies life.
Fourth, in our planetary system (which Bruno terms synodus ex mundis, but one
of the innite systems or synodi)
the geometrical speculations on the number of
planets (seven for geocentrism, or six for heliocentrism, according to Rheticuss
arithmological justications in the Narratio prima or Keplers later geometric argu-
ments in the Mysterium cosmographicum of 1596 in connection with the ve regular
solids) are all in vain. Apart from the fact that the comets are permanent heavenly
bodies with a periodical orbit around the Sun and therefore a type of planet that is
only rarely visible since they do not move on the ecliptic plane,
the upper planets
may also present consort planets which are either rarely visible or totally invis-
ible from the Earth.
For this reason the number of planets is in general innite
De immenso I, 4, in Bruno (18791891, Vol. I, Pt. I, p. 217). See Granada (2002a, pp. 77 .). On Bru-
nos application of the hermetic denition of God (sphaera innita cuius centrum est ubique circumfer-
entia nusquam) to the innite Universe, see De immenso II, 9, in Bruno (18791891, Vol. I, Pt. I, p.
291): Hoc [universum] est quod sphaeram denivit Xenophanes innitam, cuius centrum est ubique, cir-
cumferentia nusquam, and the classic study by Mahnke (1966, pp. 4859).
De immenso I, 5, in Bruno (18791891, Vol. I, Pt. I, pp. 218 .): vult animae vis cuncta moveri, /
Corporaque in proprium semper versarier orbem. / Hic etenim eectus vitae est, vitae hoc quoque
signum, / Vitae hoc principium, vitam hoc quoque concomitatur. The passage refers specically to star-
suns. On Brunos conception of the movement of the Sun and the stars, and on the conrmation that he
believed he had found in the astronomical program and activity in Kassel, and in the discussion of a
stellar movement between Kassel and Uraniborg in 1586, see my studies quoted in n. 57.
See De immenso I, 3, in Bruno (18791891, Vol. I, Pt. I, pp. 209 . & II, 9, pp. 286 .).
See Granada (1997a, pp. 428 ., 2002a, pp. 129141).
Cf. De immenso II, 9, in Bruno (18791891, Vol. I, Pt. I, p. 291): Non aliter fortasse Jovi, Marti, ac
Seniori [Saturn] / Consortes natura dedit, qui tempore certo, / Aut raro, aut oculis nunquam sunt
lumina nostris. See also De immenso I, 3, p. 209, vv. 16.
De immenso II, 9, in Bruno (18791891, Vol. I, Pt. I, p. 291): Non siquidem hos tantum reputabi-
mus esse planetas, / Atqui innitos.
M.A. Granada / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 35 (2004) 91114 108
and the number of planets in our solar system is unknown. The Articuli adversus
mathematicos summarizes the situation:
Comets are indisputably planets . . . for this reason the number of planets that
move around this sun is not yet dened, since it has not been investigated,
because it is not believed that any further planets exist. Now, it is not dicult
for he who investigates to discover it, not totally, but bearing in mind as well as
those that are always visible, those which are occasionally visible, since it may
be that there are others that are never visible to us.
This is a clear condemnation of the geometricist and aprioristic prejudices of
astronomy which obstruct the recognition of what might be, and are thus obstacles
to the development of knowledge. In the same vein, in The Ash Wednesday supper
of 1584, on the subject of the sun-stars own movement in the uid sky, Bruno had
Thus, even if it happens that some of these stars make some sort of
approach, we do not see it, except through the lengthiest observations;
these have not been undertaken, not pursued, because no one has believed
in, or looked for, or presupposed such motions; and we know that the
beginning of inquiry is the knowledge and the understanding that the thing
exists, or is possible and tting, and that one may draw prot from [the
It is only a short step from here to Brunos contemptuous dismissal of mathemat-
ical astronomy, which we mentioned above: Therefore, the order of the bodies of
the worldly sphere, as these wretches (the astronomers) imagine it, is non-
We will conclude with some reections on the relation between divinity
and the Universe, and Gods abode. To the traditional association of God
with the cosmic periphery (upheld, as we have seen, by the Copernican Dig-
ges, who used it as his basis for considering the sphere of the xed stars as
innite) and to the new Copernican equation of God with the immobile
centre (the Sun), Bruno replies with the uniform and homogeneous relation,
association, and immanence of God in the innite Universe, in which every-
thing is in movement. It cannot be otherwise, given the strict homogeneity of
space, matter, and the natural law in the innite Universe.
With His
Articuli adversus mathematicos, Bruno (18791891, Vol. I, Pt. III, p. 77).
Bruno (1977, p. 206); Italian text in Bruno (1994, p. 239).
See n. 62.
See Granada (1997b, 1998).
109 M.A. Granada / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 35 (2004) 91114
uniform and homogeneous presence and immanence in the innite Universe,
God is the principle and ecient cause of an innite movement (in the
extensive and intensive plane) in the innite Universe, for each and every one
of its bodies. In the plane of intensity this innite movement is instantaneous
and coincides (in accordance with Nicholas of Cusa and the coincidentia
oppositorum) with rest. In another study I have analysed how Bruno presents
this problem in the nal pages of the rst dialogue of De linnito universo
inside his exposition of the inexorable course of the innite divine power and
the consequent rejection of the scholastic distinction between the potentia
absoluta and the potentia ordinata of God.
Here I will just quote the
repetition of the doctrine in the Articuli: In the innite sphere movement is
innite in such a way that power is also innite and movement is necessarily
the same as rest; therefore, if its power moves all things, it will move in the
instant, and therefore in it, by it and towards it all things will be at rest.
So there is no privileged place, and no privileged body (neither periphery nor
centre, which in fact are indierent and relative notions; nor sphere of the
xed stars, which is a fantasy; nor Sun, which is one of an innite number
of stars) from which God imprints movement on the world, or His laws on
the planets, specically as movements of nite intensity. Being innite, God
and His innite power produce this innite movement, which is the same as
rest. As the stars (sun-stars and planets) are nite subjects and have their
own movement, these movements are the eect of their own souls as mod-
ications of the universal soul and of the unique substance; so these move-
ments are nite: Therefore, all the stars, which move in time, must be
moved by a nite power.
So we should not be surprised that in accordance with this necessary and
homogeneous presence of God in the innite Universe which is His reection
and necessary expression, Bruno applies a drastic semantic modication to the
concepts of coelum coeli (heaven of heaven) and coelum coelorum (heaven of
heavens) as presented in the Scripture and Christian theology. If coelum
(heaven) is the place of a star and the area in which it moves, the coelum
coeli is the space occupied by a planetary system (a synodus ex mundis) and the
coelum coelorum (the heaven of heavens which the Christian tradition saw as
the abode of God and the redoubt of the Trinity) is nothing but the innite
and homogeneous space lled with the innite Universe and the presence of
God, who is in Himself ineable, and expresses Himself and makes Himself
Cf. Granada (2002c, pp. 181189).
Articuli adversus mathematicos, in Bruno (18791891, Vol. I, Pt. III, p. 77, # K). Cf. ibid., p. 27, # 41.
Ibid., p. 77, # L.
M.A. Granada / Stud. Hist. Phil. Sci. 35 (2004) 91114 110
known in His necessary production, which is none other than the innite Uni-
This study was carried out as part of the research project BFF 20000696
Entre Copernico y Galileo (15431633): La revolucio n cosmolo gica y sus impli-
caciones teolo gico-religiosas. An abridged version was presented to the Inter-
national Symposium Astronomy as a Model for the Sciences in Early Modern
Times, Munich 2123 March 2003, organised by the Munich Center for the
History of Science and Technology. I am most grateful to M.-P. Lerner, J.
Romo, D. Tessicini, and R. S. Westman for their useful comments on an earlier
See De immenso IV, 14, in Bruno (18791891, Vol. I, Pt. II, pp. 79 .): Tot sunt caeli quot astra,
si caelum intelligamus contiguum et circumstans conguratum uniuscuiusque spacium, ut caelum Tell-
uris dicitur non solum spacium in quo est, sed et quantum spacii perambit ipsum distinctum a spacio
perambiente Lunam, et alia (quae circa sunt) corpora mundana. Caelum caeli est spacium unius
synodi sicut in quo hic sol est cum suis planetis. Caelum caelorum et [sic; erratum for est?] maximum
et immensum spacium . . . Sedes vero Dei est universum ubique totum immensum caelum, vacuum
spacium cuius est plenitudo; pater lucis comprendentis tenebras, ineabilis (There are as as many
heavens as there are stars, if by heaven we understand the contiguous, encompassing space of each, as
we call the Earths heaven not only the space in which it is, but also the space itself that surrounds it,
distinct from the space that surrounds the Moon and other neighbouring worldly bodies. The heaven
of heaven is the space of a system, like the one in which this Sun is found along with its planets. The
heaven of heavens et [sic; erratum for est?] the maximum and immense space . . . the abode of God is
the Universe, all in all parts, immense heaven, empty space that He lls, the father of the light that
includes the darkness, ineable). At this point we see a curious combination of coincidence and pro-
found divergence of Bruno and Kepler. Some time before Keplers criticism of Brunos conception of
the innite Universe and innumerable worlds in his De stella nova in 1606 (Kepler, 1937, Vol. I, pp.
253 .), ve years after the Articuli and two years after De immenso, in his disputatio of 1593 on the
movement of the Earth, Kepler sees the Sun as the singular and pre-eminent body of the Universe
(quo nulla major stella, qui solus et unus est: Kepler (1937, Vol. XX, 1, p. 148, l. 21)) and Gods
privileged abode (in quo deus opt. max., si corporeo domicilio delectaretur et capi loco posset, cum
beatis angelis inhabitaret (ibid., ll. 2627; compare this with Diggess conception), the point of an
almost innite movement that can only be perceived as rest: Motor nempe unus . . . in ipso centro
mundi, in quo minimus, hoc est nullus est ambitus, tale quid ecit, quod celerrimo motui simile sit,
quod non potes nisi privatione motus et positione principii moventis intelligi (ibid., p. 148, l. 48p.
149, l. 3). What in Bruno takes place at all points due to Gods homogeneous and indierent localiza-
tion in the innite Universe, and since the centre is ubiquitous, in Kepler takes place only in the Sun;
from there the movement is diused at a velocity that decreases with distance. In Bruno, in contrast,
the stars own soul (as a mode of the universal soul) is the principle of a nite movement. On Kepler,
see Voelkel (2001, pp. 29 .).
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