Saturday, October 4, 2014

What moves the heavenly bodies?

In his blog today, Tasso devotee and sage translator Dario Rivarossa draws some interesting distinctions:
Do the Sun, stars, etc., move because of physical laws, or because Spirits drive them? The philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend was right when he said, against Popper, that new theories do not provide "better" answers, they simply delete old questions. As to Tasso, he made no clear choice between the two cosmological patterns.
I should observe the laws don't move the planets, rather the laws describe how they move.

Reading through Creation of the World, I have come to feel that Tasso's point is similar. Although he cites Genesis for his cosmogony, his main point is that the system of movements (like the planets, moon, sun and stars themselves) is an artifice. But of course this is hard to prove in the text, which provides all sorts of contradictions. Nevertheless, Tasso's texture seems plain enough. It was up to Milton to more sharply and consciously underscore the mythological nature of the explanations; while the point about artifice remains the same for both poets.

The point is akin to the implication par excellence of Witttgenstein's philosophy: the universe is an artifice. Our science can, in part, help us to understand how this artifice works, but not necessarily why, wherefore, where from, and so on.

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