Harmony and simplicity: aesthetic virtues and the rise of testability

Copernicus claimed that his system was preferable in part on the grounds of its superior harmony and simplicity, but left very few hints as to what was meant by these terms. Copernicus’s pupil, Rheticus, was more forthcoming. Kepler, influenced by Rheticus, articulated further the nature of the virtues of harmony and simplicity. I argue that these terms are metaphors for the structural features of the Copernican system that make it more able to effectively exploit the available data. So it is a mistake to conclude that early Copernicans could only offer aesthetic or pragmatic arguments; they could and did offer evidential ones as well. Moreover, the evidential arguments they offered parallel current arguments in the philosophical literature.Keywords: Nicolaus Copernicus; Georg Joachim Rheticus; Johannes Kepler; Simplicity; Bayesianism; Hirotsugu Akaike
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DOI 10.1016/j.shpsa.2009.07.006
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References found in this work BETA
Philip Kitcher (1981). Explanatory Unification. Philosophy of Science 48 (4):507-531.
Timothy McGrew (2003). Confirmation, Heuristics, and Explanatory Reasoning. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 54 (4):553-567.

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