English 233: Introduction to Western Humanities - Baroque & Enlightenment

Prep Sheet for Exam #2

Exam #2 covers the process and implications of the revolution in astronomy and physics (the so-called "Copernican Revolution," which, as we have seen, involves far more than Copernicus' initial proposal). Read the first part of Chapter 15 in WH, i.e., up through the section on Isaac Newton (2nd Ed., pp. 38-387; 3rd Ed., pp. 381-386).  You'll also want to review your notes on our class discussions, and the notes you took on Bronowski's video on the trial of Galileo. The particular readings from our web site that you should consult are indicated in the links. 

While you must eventually write your answers in your own words, I strongly encourage you to collaborate intensely with your fellow students in preparing for this exam.

On the exam, you will be required to write on eight questions.  The questions on the exam will be as follows.  Note the distribution.  You cannot avoid doing the first (the diagrams).  This question will be worth 30 points.  Each of the remaining questions will be worth 10 points.



I.  The initial rupture.  On the exam, you will be asked to draw and label a map of the Ptolemaic and Copernican hypotheses of the structure of the cosmos. (For the Ptolemaic picture, review the diagram from Peter Apian's Cosmographia [1539] reproduced in Matthews and Platt [WH, p. 382, Figure 15.1]. (You can also download a larger, digital copy here.)  For the Copernican picture, take as a starting point the diagram published in his own De Revolutionibus (which you can find here on the web) or the diagram from Thomas Digges' A Perfit Description of the Celestiall Orbes [1576] also in Matthews and Platt [WH, p. 384, Figure 15.2]. (You can also download a digital copy for yourself here.)  Be sure to get the planets in the correct order. Note, too, that Digges' hypothesis differs in a crucial respect from the picture you are responsible for showing.  An important resource to consult is our page on Astronomy:  the appearances, Ptolemy's theory, Copernicus's theory.

You need not draw epicycles and deferents for all the planets, but you should be able to show separately what an epicycle/deferent system consists of, and to explain why these were invoked.

Let's call this one question with two halves.  You must address this question.

II.  Important episodes in the unfolding of the Copernican Revolution.  You should also be able to do two of the following.  (On the exam you will find all of them, so you need prepare only two.)  Important leads to material eligible to be treated in connection with these (except for the topics in "Galileo 2," below) are in the memos on Developments in Astronomy and Physics, 1543-1687 and (already cited, above) Astronomy:  the appearances, Ptolemy's theory, Copernicus's theory

  1. Explain what Tycho observed concerning the nova of 1572, and what problems it caused for the coherence of the Ptolemaic theory.
  2. Explain what Tycho observed concerning the comets that appeared during his career as an astronomer, and what problems his conclusions from these observations caused for acceptance of the Ptolemaic theory.
  3. Explain why Tycho was reluctant to accept the Copernican theory, and what he proposed as an alternative to both it and the Ptolemaic picture.

In doing this, you should be able to distinguish among:  (1) what he saw [i.e., what the new phenomena were]; (2) what he reasoned to about what these indicated about the nature of the body or bodies these phenomena were taken to be appearances of; and (3) what bearing this had [this, too, is a matter of reasoning] on the relative merits of the two chief competing hypotheses about the overall structure and nature of the cosmos, i.e., the Ptolemaic and Copernican.

III.  The impact of the Copernican Revolution.  Here you will be expected to answer five questions, one in each group (A through E).

A.  One question will require you to explain, on the basis of Bronowski's television essay "The Starry Messenger," what the Inquisition did in response to Galileo, why (in Bronowski's picture) it was forced to do so, and what Galileo was required to do.  You will be able to choose between either of the following alternatives ways of doing this.

A-1.  What issues of honesty and deceit were involved in the trial of Galileo?  What exactly were the propositions that Galileo was forced to deny, and how did the Inquisition get Galileo to deny them?

A-2.  Why did Pope Urban VIII believe that "faith should dominate" and Galileo that "truth should persuade"?

B.  A second will require you to spell out something important about Francis Bacon's Novum Organum.  On the exam, you will be given a choice among three of the following tasks.  (You won't find out until the exam, however, which of the three you will be choosing from.)

B-1.  Aphorism 31 states:  "It is idle to expect any great advancement in science from the superinducing and engrafting of new things upon old. We must begin anew from the very foundation, unless we would revolve forever in a circle with mean and contemptible progress."  What exactly does Bacon propose as a foundation?  Explain how this proposal amounts to a rejection of scholastic philosophy, theological tradition, and Divine Revlation as authoritative from the standpoint of natural science.

B-2.  Sketch out the elements (a chain of means and ends) of what we called "the Baconian project."  With which of these elements is the Novum Organum chiefly concerned?  How is this project inspired by the increasing convincingness, in Bacon's day, of the Copernican astronomy? 

B-3.  What does Bacon mean by the concept of an "Idol of the Mind"?  How does he classify them?  Can you give an example of each?  What is his point in drawing our attention to them? 

B-4.  Explicate the meaning of the parable of the ant, the spider, and the bee in Aphorism 95.  Your explanation should include answers to each of the following:

C.  A third will require you to relate Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason, and Seeking Truth in the Sciences (referred to below as the Discourse on Method) to some aspect of the Copernican Revolution.  You will be offered a choice between two of the following.  (Which two you will discover only upon the exam.)

C-1.  What persuaded Descartes three years earlier to withhold from publication a work that he had prepared announcing the results of some of his studies in natural science?  What eventually persuaded him to go ahead and publish his Discourse on Method?

C-2.  In the Discourse on Method, Descartes explains a project he decided upon as a young man and eventually carried out some years later.  What was this project?  In what ways did this project entail setting aside the authority of scholastic philosophy, theological tradition, and Divine Revlation?  What experiences and reflections led him to undertake this project?

C-3.  Summarize how, in the Discourse on Method, Descartes demonstrates that God has authorized human beings to pursue natural science?

D.  A fourth question will ask you to spell out the disturbing implications, for traditional notions, of one of the features of the new cosmos.  Here you can choose between the following two.

D-1.  What problems does some aspect of the new picture pose for what the Bible (in the traditional interpretation) communicates about Original Sin?

D-2.  What problems does some property of the new picture pose for the traditional understanding about the role of divine advent in the world of time?

E. A fifth will ask you to explain the way of some specific aspect of the method by which the new picture had gained acceptance against the sorts of resistance it provoked led to a cultural crisis for traditional bases of authority within Western culture.  You can choose between either of these:

E-1.  What problems, for example, do some assumptions behind the new method pose for what the Bible (in the traditional interpretation) communicates about Original Sin? 

E-2.  What problems do some assumptions presupposed by the new method pose for the traditional understanding about the role of divine advent in the world of time?

To prepare your answers for parts II.D. and II.E., above, you will want to study thoroughly, and preferably in companionship with fellow students, the document entitled "Ramifications of the Victory of the New Picture."  The observations made there are the ultimate point of our brief coverage of a few key episodes in the "Copernican Revolution."  These are the ideas tie together the beginning and end of our entire course.  They point back (in opposition) to what we studied about the medieval-Renaissance Christian picture of history (time) and the cosmos (space) and about the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation.  And they point forward (as inspiration) to the Enlightenment, which will occupy us after Exam #2.


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  Suggestions, comments and questions are welcome.  Please send them to lyman@ksu.edu .

      Contents copyright 1999 by Lyman A. Baker

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      This page last updated 31 October 1999.