Kepler’s optics without hypotheses

Synthese 185 (3):501-525 (2012)

This paper argues that Kepler considered his work in optics as part of natural philosophy and that, consequently, he aimed at change within natural philosophy. Back-to-back with John Schuster’s claim that Descartes’ optics should be considered as a natural philosophical appropriation of innovative results in the tradition of practical and mixed mathematics the central claim of my paper is that Kepler’s theory of optical imagery, developed in his Paralipomena ad Vitellionem (1604), was the result of a move similar to Descartes’ by Kepler. My argument consists of three parts. First, Kepler borrowed a geometrical model and experiment of optical imagery from the mélange of mixed and practical mathematics provided in the works of the sixteenth-century mathematicians Ettore Ausonio and Giovanni Battista Della Porta. Second, Kepler criticized the Aristotelian theory of light and he developed his own alternative metaphysics. Third, Kepler used his natural philosophical assumptions about the nature of light to re-interpret the model of image formation taken from Della Porta’s work. Taken together, I portray Kepler’s theory of optical imagery as a natural philosophical appropriation of an innovative model of image formation developed in a sixteenth-century practical and mixed mathematical tradition which was not interested in questioning philosophical assumptions on the nature of light
Keywords Kepler  Natural philosophy  Practical mathematics  Image theory  Seventeenth century
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11229-011-9977-6
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 47,182
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Method and Mathematics: Peter Ramus's Histories of the Sciences.Robert Goulding - 2006 - Journal of the History of Ideas 67 (1):63-85.
Kepler's Geometrical Cosmology.J. V. Field & M. E. Bowden - 1988 - Annals of Science 51 (1):95-97.

View all 19 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Kepler's Relation to the Jesuits—A Study of His Correspondence with Paul Guldin.Georg Schuppener - 1997 - NTM Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Wissenschaften, Technik und Medizin 5 (1):236-244.
Constructing Copernicus.Peter Barker - 2002 - Perspectives on Science 10 (2):208-227.
The Use of Converse Abduction in Kepler.JohanArnt Myrstad - 2004 - Foundations of Science 9 (3):321-338.
Use of Philosophy in Children's Literature.Cynthia Kepler - 2007 - Questions: Philosophy for Young People 7:9-11.
Kepler's Move From.Bernard R. Goldstein & Giora Hon - 2005 - Perspectives on Science 13 (1).
Contingency in Nature.Werner Diederich - 2010 - Axiomathes 20 (2-3):269-277.


Added to PP index

Total views
64 ( #138,914 of 2,289,510 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
5 ( #236,562 of 2,289,510 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature