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Alexandre Koyré and the Traditional Interpretation of the Anthropological Consequences of the Copernican Revolution

Chapter

Abstract

Koyré’s work being situated, chronologically speaking, between the end of the definitive structuring phase (1925) for the traditional interpretation of the Copernican Revolution and the appearance of its first and most accomplished lines of questioning (1969), we felt it appropriate to examine to which extent his work endorses this interpretation or, on the contrary, to which extent it makes way for its reassessment. An analysis of his interpretation of the Copernican Revolution in itself raises a number of issues which, although sparse and often obscure, attest to a certain distancing with respect to the traditional interpretation without, however, leading one to consider the need for an entire reassessment of it. Thus, even though Koyré, being aware of the axiological reversal that occurred between geocentrism and heliocentrism, is able to appreciate all the ambivalence of the geocentric position of our abode (the best and the worst), he however fails to perceive the full importance of the planetary centrality that geocentrism already bestows upon the Sun, just as he overlooks the consequences resulting from this axiological inversion, namely, the availability of various interpretation frameworks for the anthropological consequences arising from the transition from geocentrism to heliocentrism. While his analysis of the Copernican Revolution therefore provides us with ample incentive to question the pertinence of the traditional interpretation, his thesis on “the spiritual revolution of the 17th century” seems, however, inclined to uphold the merits of this interpretation. Nevertheless, given that the first consequence which he draws from it, namely, the divorce between the world of science and the world of life, seems to us to be philosophically plausible albeit of little historical foundation and that the second, the retreat of the Divine, seems, on the contrary, historically sound although neither philosophically nor theologically credible, we thought it more reasonable to conclude that the Koyrean work does not serve to confirm the traditional interpretation in itself but only its suitability with respect to the thinkers of the twentieth century, amongst which Koyré is undoubtedly an emblematic figure.

Keywords

Anthropocentrism Copernican revolution Destruction of the cosmos Divorce between science and life Geocentrism Heliocentrism Retreat of the divine Sun Topography 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I wish to thank Vincent Ligot, Director of the Paramedical Department of Montignies, and the Haute École Louvain–en–Hainaut (HELHa) for their support in the publication of this chapter.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Haute École Louvain en HainautMontignies-sur-SambreBelgium

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