In traditional Chinese cosmology, this pattern could be very well explained in terms of the fluctuation of yin and yang, or as the natural order of Heaven. This cosmological explanation fits natural history well. There are natural phenomena such as floods, draughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, etc., that are beyond human control. These events have their determining factors. Once those factors are present, a natural disaster, however unfavorably viewed by humans, is doomed to take place. The view that natural (...)history is determined by factors outside the human world can be accepted without much controversy. However, when applied to human history, the role of man in human history becomes problematic under this kind of cosmology. How much of our success or failure is due to our larger cosmological environment -- the ongoing development of the chi'? Can a single individual reverse the flow of yin and yang or the emergence of good times and bad times? On a larger scale, is human history predestined? If there is a necessary rotation of prosperity and chaos, then it can be argued that.. (shrink)
This book is a historical account of how natural philosophers and scientists have endeavoured to understand the universe at large, first in a mythical and later in a scientific context. Starting with the creation stories of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, the book covers all the major events in theoretical and observational cosmology, from Aristotle's cosmos over the Copernican revolution to the discovery of the accelerating universe in the late 1990s. It presents cosmology as a subject including scientific as (...) well as non-scientific dimensions, and tells the story of how it developed into a true science of the heavens. Contrary to most other books in the history of cosmology, it offers an integrated account of the development with emphasis on the modern Einsteinian and post-Einsteinian period. Starting in the pre-literary era, it carries the story onwards to the early years of the 21st century. (shrink)
When the ancient Greeks looked up into the heavens, they saw not just sun and moon, stars and planets, but a complete, coherent universe, a model of the Good that could serve as a guide to a better life. How this view of the world came to be, and how we lost it (or turned away from it) on the way to becoming modern, make for a fascinating story, told in a highly accessible manner by Remi Brague in this wide-ranging (...) cultural history. Before the Greeks, people thought human action was required to maintain the order of the universe and so conducted rituals and sacrifices to renew and restore it. But beginning with the Hellenic Age, the universe came to be seen as existing quite apart from human action and possessing, therefore, a kind of wisdom that humanity did not. Wearing his remarkable erudition lightly, Brague traces the many ways this universal wisdom has been interpreted over the centuries, from the time of ancient Egypt to the modern era. Socratic and Muslim philosophers, Christian theologians and Jewish Kabbalists all believed that questions about the workings of the world and the meaning of life were closely intertwined and that an understanding of cosmology was crucial to making sense of human ethics. Exploring the fate of this concept in the modern day, Brague shows how modernity stripped the universe of its sacred and philosophical wisdom, transforming it into an ethically indifferent entity that no longer serves as a model for human morality. Encyclopedic and yet intimate, The Wisdom of the World offers the best sort of history: broad, learned, and completely compelling. Brague opens a window onto systems of thought radically different from our own. (shrink)
We illustrate the crucial role played by decoherence (consistency of quantum histories) in extracting consistent quantum probabilities for alternative histories in quantum cosmology. Specifically, within a Wheeler-DeWitt quantization of a flat Friedmann-Robertson-Walker cosmological model sourced with a free massless scalar field, we calculate the probability that the universe is singular in the sense that it assumes zero volume. Classical solutions of this model are a disjoint set of expanding and contracting singular branches. A naive assessment of the behavior of (...) quantum states which are superpositions of expanding and contracting universes suggests that a “quantum bounce” is possible i.e. that the wave function of the universe may remain peaked on a non-singular classical solution throughout its history. However, a more careful consistent histories analysis shows that for arbitrary states in the physical Hilbert space the probability of this Wheeler-DeWitt quantum universe encountering the big bang/crunch singularity is equal to unity. A quantum Wheeler-DeWitt universe is inevitably singular, and a “quantum bounce” is thus not possible in these models. (shrink)
We have reached the peculiar situation where the advance of mainstream science has required us to dismiss as unreal our own existence as free, creative agents, the very condition of there being science at all. Efforts to free science from this dead-end and to give a place to creative becoming in the world have been hampered by unexamined assumptions about what science should be, assumptions which presuppose that if creative becoming is explained, it will be explained away as an illusion. (...) In this paper it is shown that this problem has permeated the whole of European civilization from the Ancient Greeks onwards, leading to a radical disjunction between cosmology which aims at a grasp of the universe through mathematics and history which aims to comprehend human action through stories. By going back to the Ancient Greeks and tracing the evolution of the denial of creative becoming, I trace the layers of assumptions that must in some way be transcended if we are to develop a truly post-Egyptian science consistent with the forms of understanding and explanation that have evolved within history. (shrink)
Duhem has generally been understood to have maintained that the major Greek astronomers were instrumentalists. This view has emerged mainly from a reading of his 1908 publication To Save the Phenomena. In it he sharply contrasted a sophisticated Greek interpretation of astronomical models (for Duhem this was that they were mathematical contrivances) with a naive insistence of the Arabs on their concrete reality. But in Le Système du monde, which began to appear in 1913, Duhem modified his views on Greek (...) astronomy considerably; his more subtle understanding included the recognition that many Greeks subordinated mathematical astronomy to physical theory. But he could not completely repudiate his earlier views about Greek astronomy in part because his extreme nineteenth century prejudices led him to continue to insist on a clear-cut demarcation between Greek and Arabic astronomy. The inevitable result is a certain unevenness in the Système and some glaring inconsistencies. (shrink)
You Are Here is a dazzling exploration of the universe and our relationship to it, as seen through the lens of today's most cutting-edge scientific thinking. Christopher Potter brilliantly parses the meaning of what we call the universe. He tells the story of how something evolved from nothing and how something became everything. What does a material description of everything and nothing look like? What is it that science does when it describes a reality that is made out of something? (...) In between nothing and everything is where we live. Here, for the first time in a single span, is the life of the universe, from quarks to galaxy superclusters and from slime to Homo sapiens. The universe was once a moment of perfect symmetry and is now 13.7 billion years of history. Clouds of gas were woven into whatever complexity we find in the universe today: the hierarchies of stars or the brains of mammals. Potter writes entertainingly about the history and philosophy of science, and he shows that science advances by continually removing humankind from a position of primacy in the universe, but the universe responds by placing us back there again. With wisdom and wonder, Potter traverses the cosmos from its conception to its eventual end—while exploring everything in between. (shrink)
Exploring the decisive steps taken by Anaximander of Miletus, this book details the transition from the archaic cosmological world-picture of a flat earth with a celestial vault to the Western world-picture of a free floating earth in an ...
This thought-provoking classic investigates how the Renaissance spirit fundamentally questioned and undermined medieval thought. Of value to students of literature, political theory, history of religious and Reformation thought, and the history of science.
Richard Tarnas’s The Passion of the Western Mind —acclaimed by leading voices in philosophy, religion, psychology, and history—sets the stage for this major work, thirty years in the making, that dramatically reframes our understanding of the universe in the light of extraordinary new evidence. Cosmos and Psyche is the first book by a widely respected scholar to demonstrate the existence of a consistent correspondence between planetary movements and the unfolding drama of human history. A vast and impressive body (...) of evidence illuminates patterns of meaning and precise correlations between the universe and the world of human endeavor. With meticulous detail, Richard Tarnas takes us on a journey that begins with the ancient Greeks and culminates in our own era and its transformative potential, putting into perspective these chaotic, tumultuous times—from the sixties to September 11, 2001—and pointing the way towards the future. In terms of planetary cycles, our present moment in history is most comparable to the period five hundred years ago—that era of “extraordinary turbulence and creativity,” the High Renaissance. Not since Copernicus conceived the heliocentric theory has the human community faced such a profound realignment of the way we think. Readers of every persuasion will be impressed by the vast canvas here, the wealth of research and analysis, and the profound conclusions that may be drawn—conclusions that reunite religion and science, and restore a transcendent dimension to the universe. (shrink)
The paper distinguishes three interpretations of Kant’s so called ‘Copernican Revolution’: an epistemological, a hermeneutical and a scientific-theoretical or methodological one. It is argued that the ‘scientific-theoretical reading’ can be based on new historical evidence. Kant borrowed the metaphors ‘army of stars’ (‘Sternenheer’) and ‘spectator’ (‘Zuschauer’) from Johann Heinrich Lambert and used them in a context similar to Lambert’s. This suggests that Kant’s formula “first thoughts of Copernicus” (“den ersten Gedanken des Copernicus”) refers, again following Lambert, to the first 9 (...) chapters of Copernicus’ De revolutionibus, which contain a change from inductive geocentrism to deductive heliocentrism. This interpretation is itself no revolution: Johann Baptist Schad claimed in 1800 that metaphysics must be regarded as a deductive rather than an inductive science. Kant explicitly agreed. (shrink)
Drawing on a half century of scholarship, of Polish studies of Copernicus and Cracow University, and of Copernicus's sources, this book offers a comprehensive re-evaluation of Copernicus's achievement, and explains his commitment to the ...
This paper describes how the entire universe might be considered an eigenstate determined by classical limiting conditions within it. This description is in the context of an approach in which the path of each relativistic particle in spacetime represents a fine-grained history for that particle, and a path integral represents a coarse-grained history as a superposition of paths meeting some criteria. Since spacetime paths are parametrized by an invariant parameter, not time, histories based on such paths do not (...) evolve in time but are rather histories of all spacetime. Measurements can then be represented by orthogonal states that correlate with specific points in such coarse-grained histories, causing them to decohere, allowing a consistent probability interpretation. This conception is applied here to the analysis of the two slit experiment, scattering and, ultimately, the universe as a whole. The decoherence of cosmological states of the universe then provides the eigenstates from which our “real” universe can be selected by the measurements carried out within it. (shrink)
"A discussion of the historical development of our ideas of time as they relate to nature, human nature and society. . . . The excellence of The Discovery of Time is unquestionable."--Martin Lebowitz, The Kenyon Review.
This radical reinterpretation of the formative stages of Chinese culture and history traces the central role played by cosmology in the formation of China's early empires. It crosses the disciplines of history, social anthropology, archaeology, and philosophy to illustrate how cosmological systems, particularly the Five Elements, shaped political culture. By focusing on dynamic change in early cosmology, the book undermines the notion that Chinese cosmology was homogenous and unchanging. By arguing that cosmology was intrinsic (...) to power relations, it also challenges prevailing theories of political and intellectual history. (shrink)
The author, dismissing the feasibility of attaining the real facts of history, proposes to define historical truth as the set of all possible worlds that agree with all the sources available to the historian. He remarks that this conception is very close to that necessairly assumed today by cosmologists, when describing the evolution of the phisical universe.
Part 1. Lecture 1. What is big history? ; Lecture 2. Moving across multiple scales ; Lecture 3. Simplicity and complexity ; Lecture 4. Evidence and the nature of science ; Lecture 5. Threshold 1, Origins of Big Bang cosmology ; Lecture 6. How did everything begin? ; Lecture 7. Threshold 2, The first stars and galaxies ; Lecture 8. Threshold 3, Making chemical elements ; Lecture 9. Threshold 4, The earth and the solar system ; Lecture 10. (...) The early earth, a short history ; Lecture 11. Plate tectonics and the earth's geography ; Lecture 12. Threshold 5, Life -- Part 2. Lecture 13. Darwin and natural selection ; Lecture 14. The evidence for natural selection ; Lecture 15. The origins of life ; Lecture 16. Life on earth, single-celled organisms ; Lecture 17. Life on earth, multi-celled organisms ; Lecture 18. Hominines ; Lecture 19. Evidence on hominine evolution ; Lecture 20. Threshold 6, What makes humans different? ; Lecture 21. Homo sapiens, the first humans ; Lecture 22. Paleolithic lifeways ; Lecture 23. Change in the Paleolithic Era ; Lecture 24. Threshold 7, agriculture -- Part 3. Lecture 25. The origins of agriculture ; Lecture 26. The first agrarian societies ; Lecture 27. Power and its origins ; Lecture 28. Early power structures ; Lecture 29. From villages to cities ; Lecture 30. Sumer, the first agrarian civilization ; Lecture 31. Agrarian civilizations in other regions ; Lecture 32. The world that agrarian civilizations made ; Lecture 33. Long trends, expansion and state power ; Lecture 34. Long trends, rates of innovation ; Lecture 35. Long trends, disease and Malthusian cycles ; Lecture 36. Comparing the world zones -- Part 4. Lecture 37. The Americas in the later Agrarian Era ; Lecture 38. Threshold 8, the modern revolution ; Lecture 39. The Medieval Malthusian Cycle, 500-1350 ; Lecture 40. The Early Modern Cycle, 1350-1700 ; Lecture 41. Breakthrough, the Industrial Revolution ; Lecture 42. Spread of the Industrial Revolution to 1900 ; Lecture 43. The 20th century ; Lecture 44. The world that the modern revolution made ; Lecture 45. Human history and the biosphere ; Lecture 46. The next 100 years ; Lecture 47. The next millennium and the remote future ; Lecture 48. Big history, humans in the cosmos. (shrink)
In this article I am applying the anthropological term of "cosmology" to the study of Christianity in order to place plural Christian settings under a wider methodological perspective. I am drawing on the findings of my fieldwork in Southwestern Ghana, where I met twelve different Christian denominations and five traditional healers operating in one village. I am sketching a concise image of the local Nzema cosmology and then I am launching an attempt to present its Christian equivalent. Informed (...) by the situation in the field, by general history of Christianity, as well as by my personal understanding of it, my cosmological investigation yields three different Christian cosmologies, which all coincide side by side in African contexts. I see, thus, pluralism as inherent to Christianity itself, rather than as an outcome of cultural encounter between Christianity and local pre-Christian religion. (shrink)
The successes scored by the big bang model of cosmic evolution in the 1960’s led to an intensive application of quantum theory to the problem of how the expansion might have begun and what its likely first stages were. It seemed as though an incredibly precise setting of the initial conditions would have been needed in order that a long-lived galactic universe containing heavy elements might develop. One response was to suppose that the fine-tuning could somehow be explained by the (...) presence of humans in the universe. This ran quite counter to the traditional supposition, according to which an initial "chaos" was sufficient. This essay outlines the history of the two principles, argues that the so-called "weak" anthropic principle is banal, distinguishes between two sorts of anthropic explanation, and assesses the prospects of the anthropic turn in cosmology. (edited). (shrink)
This paper follows up a debate as to the consistency of Newtonian cosmology. Whereas Malament (1995) has shown that Newtonian cosmology *is* not inconsistent, to date there has been no analysis of Norton’s claim (1995) that Newtonian cosmology *was* inconsistent prior to certain advances in the 1930s, and in particular prior to Seeliger’s seminal paper of 1895. In this paper I agree that there are assumptions, Newtonian and cosmological in character, and relevant to the real history (...) of science, which are inconsistent. But there are some important corrections to make to Norton’s account. Here I display for the first time the inconsistencies—four in total—in all their detail. Although this extra detail shows there to be several different inconsistencies, it also goes some way towards explaining why they went unnoticed for two hundred years. (shrink)
Philosophical considerations have been essentially involved in the origin and development of the steady-state cosmological theory (SST). These considerations include an explicit uniformitarian methodology and implicit metaphysical views concerning the status of natural laws in a changing universe. I shall examine the foundations of SST by reconstructing its early history. Whereas the strong uniformitarian methodology of SST found no support in the subsequent development of cosmology, the idea of a possible influence the global structure of the universe may (...) have on the laws of physics operative in it has been assimilated by the standard big bang theory as it made its remarkable progress in recent decades. (shrink)