10-18-07 - Copernicus the humanist o Universities Krakow...

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Copernicus the humanist o Universities, Krakow, bologna, Padua o Commentariolus (1512); De Revolutionisus (1543) o Ancient Precendent for innovation, and “imitation” of Ptolemy (Rheticus; Tycho) o Copernicus produces an elegant ciceronian Latin translation of a Greek poem in 1509 This was a classic humanist thing to do to show your literary credentials and skills to show that you are participating in a literary revival. At the same time humanism wasn’t just about ancient literature and elegant language and rhetoric, more fundamentally humanism was about a restoration of classical culture in all of its aspects not just literature. The “epitome of the almagest” was the prototype for the way that the humanists did astronomy. All the evidence goes to suggest that even by the time Copernicus produced his new simple version he had not yet gotten a copy of ptolemy’s almagest itself and had really gotten all of his info from the epitome. So he is very much working where regimantanus had left off. Copernicus’s humanist relationship with Ptolemy is interesting because he is not interested in simply copying Ptolemy but he wants to be as good of an astronomer as Ptolemy was, he wanted to do better then Ptolemy did at the same enterprise. He wants to in a sense be a rival to Ptolemy. His criticisms of Ptolemy go so far as to criticize him for not following the rules of ancient Greek astronomy. He reckons that he can follow the rules better. Humanism was about figuring out the way that the humanists did what they did and then following their footsteps. Wanted to develop the skills that had allowed the ancients to do the amazing work that they had done. “I therefore took this opportunity and also began to explore the possibility that the earth moved” – he only considers the possibility that the world moved once he made sure that there was some basis for it from some of the classical authors.
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