Friday, May 6, 2016

What Cusa Really Said

1) Creation vs. Evolution : In Today's Article on Maxwell, CMI Linked Back to an Oldie · 2) Φιλολoγικά/Philologica : What Cusa Really Said · 3) New blog on the kid : Everything a Giant Miracle? Why, Yes!


Living almost exactly 100 years after Buridan, Nicholas of Cusa wrote eloquently on the subject:

Cusa, quoted by CMI:

It has already become evident to us that the earth is indeed moved, even though we do not perceive this to be the case. For we apprehend motion only through a certain comparison with something fixed. For example, if someone did not know that a body of water was flowing and did not see the shore while he was on a ship in the middle of the water, how would he recognize that the ship was being moved? And because of the fact that it would always seem to each person (whether he were on the earth, the sun, or another star) that he was at the “immovable” center, so to speak, and that all other things were moved: assuredly, it would always be the case that if he were on the sun, he would fix a set of poles in relation to himself; if on the earth, another set; on the moon, another; on Mars, another; and so on. Hence, the world-machine will have its center everywhere and its circumference nowhere, so to speak; for God, who is everywhere and nowhere, is its circumference and center.

CMI concluding therefrom that Cusa was geokinetic:

It is clear here that he believed the earth moved through space, and he clearly understood the principle of frames of reference (discussed in more detail below).

Now, CMI gave a reference for the Cusa quote, and in it I found also:

Moreover, it is no less false that the center of the world is within the earth than that it is outside the earth; nor does the earth or any other sphere even have a center. For since the center is a point equidistant from the circumference and since there cannot exist a sphere or a circle so completely true that a truer one could not be posited, it is obvious that there cannot be posited a center [which is so true and precise] that a still truer and more precise center could not be posited. Precise equidistance to different things cannot be found except in the case of God, because God alone is Infinite Equality. Therefore, He who is the center of the world, viz., the Blessed God, is also the center of the earth, of all spheres, and of all things in the world. Likewise, He is the infinite circumference of all things.

No, it does not seem that Cusa is taking sides between Geokinetism and Geocentrism, he is refuting "absolute Geocentrism" in another sense, namely in saying that Earth as approximate cannot be absolutely a centre or absolutely still or for that matter absolutely moving either, since only God can be absolutely still.

A key phrase is:

Moreover, it is no less false that the center of the world is within the earth than that it is outside the earth;

In other words, is is no more false either. This sentence is a refusal to take sides, not a taking sides for Geokinetism in the popular sense.

And he goes on:

Moreover, in the sky there are not fixed and immovable poles—although the heaven of fixed stars appears to describe by its motion circles of progressively different sizes, colures which are smaller than the equinoctial [colure]. The case is similar for the intermediates. But it is necessary that every part of the sky be moved, even though [the parts are moved] unequally by comparison with the circles described by the motion of the stars. Hence, just as certain stars appear to describe a maximum circle, so certain stars [appear to describe] a minimum [circle]. And there is not a star which fails to describe an [approximate circle]. Therefore, since there is not a fixed pole in the [eighth] sphere, it is evident that we also do not find an exact middle point existing equidistantly, as it were, from the poles. Therefore, in the eighth sphere there is not a star which describes, through its revolution, a maximum circle. (For the star would have to be equidistant from the poles, which do not exist.) And consequently there is not [a star] which describes a minimum circle. Therefore, the poles of the spheres coincide with the center,126 so that the center is not anything except the pole, because the Blessed God [is the center and the pole].

So, very far from saying "Earth is not centre, but Sun is" or "Earth and Sun both revolve around an even more distant centre", he is basically not denying totally that Earth is approximately centre as Geocentrism has it, he is only saying this is inexact, because only God is exact, only God is absolutely centre or absolutely circumference.

That is quite another thing than simply inverting the geometry of the created cosmos as Geokinetism does in terms of humdrum geometry.

And since we can discern motion only in relation to something fixed, viz., either poles or centers, and since we presuppose these [poles or centers] when we measure motions, we find that as we go about conjecturing, we err with regard to all [measurements].

In other words, science is impossible. Unless you go to Einsteinian convolutions of relativity, that is about how Cusa sees science.

And we are surprised when we do not find that the stars are in the right position according to the rules of measurement of the ancients, for we suppose that the ancients rightly conceived of centers and poles and measures.

Ptolemy was inexact. But Cusa is not saying we can be exacter - although his words may have provoked people trying to be, Tycho no less than Copernicus. Cusa is saying the real reason is that everything in creation is somehow inexact, because only God is exact.

From these [foregoing considerations] it is evident that the earth is moved. Now, from the motion of a comet, we learn that the elements of air and of fire are moved; furthermore, [we observe] that the moon [is moved] less from east to west than Mercury or Venus or the sun, and so on progressively. Therefore, the earth is moved even less than all [these] others; but, nevertheless, being a star, it does not describe a minimum circle around a center or a pole. Nor does the eighth sphere describe a maximum [circle], as was just proved.

Key phrase:

Therefore, the earth is moved even less than all [these] others; but, nevertheless, being a star, it does not describe a minimum circle around a center or a pole.

As I know how Cusa has been adulated by the Schiller institute*, I also know that "minimum circle" simply means point, while "maximum circle" means outermost circumference.

He is admitting Earth moves less than any other body in the universe (popularly speaking this equates to Geocentrism and certainly not to Geokinetism), he is just saying Earth cannot be as absolutely still as ... only God is.

Does that make Cusa a Heliocentric? No, of course not!

Therefore, consider carefully the fact that just as in the eighth sphere the stars are [moved] around conjectural poles, so the earth, the moon, and the planets—as stars—are moved at a distance and with a difference around a pole [which] we conjecture to be where the center is believed to be. Hence, although the earth—as star—is nearer to the central pole, nevertheless it is moved and, in its motion, does not describe a minimum circle, as was indicated. Rather (though the matter appears to us to be otherwise), neither the sun nor the moon nor the earth nor any sphere can by its motion describe a true circle, since none of these are moved about a fixed [point]. Moreover, it is not the case that there can be posited a circle so true that a still truer one cannot be posited. And it is never the case that at two different times [a star or a sphere] is moved in precisely equal ways or that [on these two occasions its motion] describes equal approximate-circles—even if the matter does not seem this way to us.

In short : if you want a true circle, you want God and not astronomy, God and not physics. God and not geometry. And so on.

Therefore, if with regard to what has now been said you want truly to understand something about the motion of the universe, you must merge the center and the poles, aiding yourself as best you can by your imagination. For example, if someone were on the earth but beneath the north pole [of the heavens] and someone else were at the north pole [of the heavens], then just as to the one on the earth it would appear that the pole is at the zenith, so to the one at the pole it would appear that the center is at the zenith.127 And just as antipodes have the sky above, as do we, so to those [persons] who are at either pole [of the heavens] the earth would appear to be at the zenith. And at whichever [of these] anyone would be, he would believe himself to be at the center. Therefore, merge these different imaginative pictures so that the center is the zenith and vice versa.128 Thereupon you will see—through the intellect, to which only learned ignorance is of help—that the world and its motion and shape cannot be apprehended.129 For [the world] will appear as a wheel in a wheel and a sphere in a sphere—having its center and circumference nowhere, as was stated.

We cannot have science, we can only have "learned ignorance" about creation, everything that Buddhism has to say about all being relative and each point of view being illusory is quite true - about Creation, just it isn't about its Creator.

That is Cusa for you, and you cannot use that to say "Copernicus had a predecessor". He is no more and no less a predecessor of Copernicus than of Tycho, and he is more of a predecessor of Einstein than of either. Or of C. S. Lewis in the Cosmic Trilogy. Like the passages on the great cosmic dance.

Furthermore, the influence which [the earth] receives is not evidence establishing its imperfection. For being a star, perhaps the earth, too, influences the sun and the solar region, as I said.135 And since we do not experience ourselves in any other way than as being in the center where influences converge, we experience nothing of this counter-influence. For suppose the earth is possibility; and suppose the sun is the soul, or formal actuality, with respect to the possibility; and suppose the moon is the middle link, so that these [three] stars, which are situated within one region, unite their mutual influences (the other stars—viz., Mercury, Venus, and the others—being above, as the ancients and even some moderns said). Then, it is evident that the mutual relationship of influence is such that one influence cannot exist without the other. Therefore, in each alike [viz., earth, sun, moon] the influence will be both one and three in accordance with its [i.e., the influence's] own degrees. Therefore, it is evident that human being cannot know whether with respect to these things [viz., the influences] the region of the earth exists in a less perfect and less noble degree in relation to the regions of the other stars (viz., the sun, the moon, and the others). Nor [can we know this] with respect to space, either. For example, [we cannot rightly claim to know] that our portion of the world is the habitation of men and animals and vegetables which are proportionally less noble [than] the inhabitants in the region of the sun and of the other stars. For although God is the center and circumference of all stellar regions and although natures of different nobility proceed from Him and inhabit each region (lest so many places in the heavens and on the stars be empty and lest only the earth—presumably among the lesser things—be inhabited), nevertheless with regard to the intellectual natures a nobler and more perfect nature cannot, it seems, be given (even if there are inhabitants of another kind on other stars) than the intellectual nature which dwells both here on earth and in its own region. For man does not desire a different nature but only to be perfected in his own nature.

People among Traditional Catholics here in France have been accusing me of this agnosticism or of saying (via Matrix) something rather of Gnosticism. But their accusation points to Nicolas of Cusa, not to me.

I actually disagree.

I think God posed us where we could overview the universe the best so that "from the beginning of Creation, the invisible things of God be known through the visible things" - a Thomistic Aristotelo-Platonism, agreeing with Romans 1:20.

And Cusa is not an intellectual nobody to Catholics. He was the great theological peritus of the Council of Florence. He even was behind the definition of what some have taken as absolute Feeneyism, arguing that as every false religion has a trace of the true Catholic religion, everyone outside it has in his own religion already some reason to convert (at least one step closer) to Catholicism. A principle I also agree on - the question between me and a a Feeneyite only being whether all the steps into reception to the Church are required, or whether someone who lands closer to Catholicism than previously (CSL for instance was in his carreer as a Christian author closer to Catholics than he had been either as an Atheist or in his childhood belief in his Puritan grandpa's religion) might also have some hope (and if he was accused of having Ulsterior Motives for not converting, I have some Inklings of a motive on his behalf for not being absolute Feeneyite, so don't trust me, it is hard for someone to imagine one favourite author damned to Hell).

Hans Georg Lundahl
Bibliothèque Parmentier
St John at Latin Porch in Rome
or Miraculous survival of Boiling in Oil

* Not to be counfounded with Goethe Institute, the Schiller Institute harks to Lyndon LaRouche and Helga Zepp-LaRouche.

No comments: