Why Astronomy?

Significance of it All

ASTRONOMICAL speculation raises questions and suggests conclusions that have critical relevance for the broad spectrum of Man’s ideas.

Means of Measurement

Man has used ASTRONOMY to not only measure the passage of time and the course of a voyage, but also to measure his position in the world and universe, his power of knowing and his relationship to his God.

Philosophical Beginnings

Given ASTRONOMY’S importance in man’s perception of himself via his visual observations of the heavens, it is no wonder that its beginnings stem from the study of philosophy (ASTRONOMY is one of the seven true liberal arts) rather than strict quantitative studies.

Plato (in Timeaeus) through Timeaeus proceded to tie together the sense of sight with what was later to become the study of ASTRONOMY:

“God invented and gave us sight to the end that we might behold the courses of intelligence in heaven, and apply them…”

Plato (in Laws) through the Athenian stranger further asserts the intellectual necessity of ASTRONOMICAL study:

– “He who has not contemplated the kind of nature which is said to exist in stars… and seen the connection of music with these things, and harmonized them with laws and institutions, is not able to give a reason for such things to have reason.”

Aristotle (from the opening chapters of Metaphysics) suggests the very sense of sight led to man’s philosophical nature:

– “Apart from usefulness, men delight… in the sense of sight. It is owing to their wonder that men both now begin and at first begin to philosophize.”

Kant, centuries later, would summarize the above argument:

– “ASTRONOMY…annihilates my importance as an animal creature, but elevates my worth as an intelligent creature.”

Intellectual Prerequisite:

Ancient philosophers considered the study of astronomy as prerequisite to intellectual thinking – true life, in their definition.

Spiritual Prerequisite

They also attributed an intelligence, or life, to celestial bodies, both as a way to justify the pursuit of ASTRONOMICAL knowledge in the religious sense and explain the then unexplainable.

The Seven Liberal Arts

“According to Plato and Aristotle, the liberal arts are those subjects suitable for the development of intellectual and moral excellence, as distinguished from those that are merely useful or practical.”[1]

ASTRONOMY was part of the quadrivium (along with arithmetic, geometry and music) – which was considered more advanced than the trivium (grammar, logic and rhetoric).
[1]“Seven Liberal Arts,” Microsoft® Encarta® 98 Encyclopedia. © 1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

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