Page:A Brief History of Modern Philosophy.djvu/27

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THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE RENAISSANCE

inertia. And the same thing applies even to the determinations of locality: we always regard the objects of the universe from a given place which is, for the time being, the center of the universe for us; the universe as such, however, can have neither center nor circumference, and all motion is relative. The theory that the earth is at the center of the universe is therefore false. However if it is not at the center of the universe, it cannot be at rest; it must be in motion even though we do not perceive it. There is no ground therefore for the assumption that the processes of origin and decay should be confined to the sublunar sphere; we must rather assume that all world bodies are subject to similar conditions to those of the earth. According to Cusanus, therefore, the same principle which precludes our knowledge of Deity likewise demonstrates that the world can neither be limited nor stationary as was hitherto believed.

2. It was characteristic of the ancient, aesthetic conception of nature to emphasize the opposition of Form and Matter. The “Forms” of natural phenomena likewise contained their explanation. Bernardino Telesius (1508-1588) introduces the concept of Force (principium agens) instead of Form (in his work De rerum natura, 1565-1587), as the opposite of Matter. He believes that this conforms more closely with the facts of experience. The “Forms” were mere qualities, which explain nothing. He rejected the traditional theory of the “natural places” and the qualitative distinction of the elements. There are as a matter of fact but two fundamental forces; the one expands (heat), the other contracts (cold), and the various “Forms” which Matter, in itself unchanging and quantitatively constant, assumes must find their explanation by reference to the interaction of these two