Philosophy 403: Cosmology– Plato to Galileo

Responding to their naked-eye observations of the world and divergent philosophical commitments, ancient Greek philosophers and mathematicians constructed competing theories of the cosmos’ composition and structure.  This course examines the variety of cosmological theories advanced by ancient Greek philosophers and mathematicians as well as their reception from the medieval Islamic tradition to early modern Europe.  Analyzing texts by Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Cleomedes, and Ptolemy in English translation, students will familiarize themselves with the content and range of ancient Greek cosmologies.  They will investigate how different epistemologies—theories of what knowledge is and how one achieves it, by reason and/or perception—result in alternative conceptions of what exists and how much human beings can know about the universe.  In addition, students will examine these cosmologies’ reception by Ibn Tufayl, Copernicus, and Galileo, who responded to earlier cosmologies in light of their own philosophical commitments and, in the case of Galileo, the observation of phenomena inaccessible before the invention of the telescope.

Taught by Jacqueline Feke