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Copernican revolution


Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


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M etaphysics, epistemology In opposition to the traditional geocentric, Ptolemaic framework for explaining the appearance of planetary motion, Nicolaus Copernicus established a new mode of thought that claims that the earth is in motion and that the sun is immovable at the center of the planetary system. This hypothesis was confirmed by Kepler and Newton , and represents a fundamental transformation in the development of modern science. In opposition to the traditional metaphysical claim that knowledge must conform to the objects, Kant in his critical philosophy sought to establish that objects must conform to our knowledge and that understanding is the lawgiver of nature. He drew a famous analogy in the preface to the second edition of the first Critique , comparing his new mode of thought in philosophy to what Copernicus did in astronomy. In proposing that objects must conform to our knowledge, he claimed to proceed “precisely on the lines of Copernicus' primary hypothesis.” Apparent features of our experience can be ascribed to ourselves rather than to the objects of our experience. Commentators accordingly take Kant's philosophy to be a Copernican revolution in metaphysics. Moreover, while Copernicus' thesis is only a hypothesis, Kant claimed that he has demonstrated his thesis apodeictically by examining the nature of the forms of intuition and categories. “This indeed ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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