World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Copernican Revolution (metaphor)

Article Id: WHEBN0021803161
Reproduction Date:

Title: Copernican Revolution (metaphor)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Object-oriented ontology, Copernican Revolution, Kantianism, Scientific revolution, History of philosophy
Collection: Clichés, Copernican Revolution, History of Philosophy, Kantianism, Metaphors Referring to People, Scientific Revolution
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Copernican Revolution (metaphor)

The Copernican Revolution, which in terms of astronomy amounted to the acceptance of heliocentrism as suggested by Nicolaus Copernicus, has also been used widely as a metaphor supporting descriptions of modernity. A particularly prominent case was the selection of this comparison by Immanuel Kant in his Critique of Pure Reason (1787 edition) to explain the effect in epistemology of his new transcendental philosophy.[1]


  • Characteristics of the metaphor 1
  • The "Copernican Revolution in philosophy" 2
  • Usage 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5

Characteristics of the metaphor

David Luban has analysed four different sides of the metaphorical usage, deriving from different aspects of the Copernican Revolution as it is understood in the history of science, and its wider impact on thought:

The "Copernican Revolution in philosophy"

The attribution of the comparison with Copernicus to Kant himself is based on a passage in the Preface to the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason (published in 1787; a heavy revision of the first edition of 1781). In an English translation, it begins:

Much has been said on what Kant meant by referring to his philosophy as ‘proceeding precisely on the lines of Copernicus' primary hypothesis’. There has been a long-standing and still unresolved discussion on the inappropriateness of Kant’s analogy because, as most commentators see it, Kant inverted Copernicus' primary move.[4] This inversion is explained by Victor Cousin:

According to Tom Rockmore,[6] Kant himself never used the "Copernican Revolution" phrase about himself, though it was "routinely" applied to his work by others.

Don Schneier has recently proposed an alternative interpretation. On that interpretation, the Copernican thesis that is relevant to Kant is not the Heliocentric one, but that the Earth rotates on its own axis. The relevance of this example to his doctrine is that it familiarly illustrates how what appears to be a property of an object of perception, e. g. the motion of the Sun in its daily transit across the sky, is actually a condition of the subject of perception, i. e. its rotating around the axis of the Earth. This interpretation is supported by the text, and avoids some of the peculiarities that attach to the standard interpretation.


The phrase is now widely used, particularly in the humanities, for a simple change of perspective, connoting a progressive shift. Examples:

See also


  1. ^ Ermanno Bencivenga (1987), Kant's Copernican Revolution.
  2. ^ David Luban, Legal Modernism (1997), pp. 18–20.
  3. ^ Critique of Pure ReasonPreface to the Second Edition of the
  4. ^ For an overview see Engel, M., Kant’s Copernican Analogy: A Re-examination, Kant-Studien, 54, 1963, p. 243
  5. ^ Cousin, Victor, The Philosophy of Kant. London: John Chapman, 1854, p. 21
  6. ^ Tom Rockmore, Marx After Marxism: The Philosophy of Karl Marx (2002), p. 184.
  7. ^ José Brunner, Freud and the Politics of Psychoanalysis(2001), p. 32.
  8. ^ Ben Highmore, Michel de Certeau: Analysing Culture (2006), p. 64.
  9. ^ Gailyn Van Rheenen, Contextualization and Syncretism: Navigating Cultural Currents (2006), p. 306.
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from School eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.