Copernican principle

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The Copernican principle states that man does not occupy an excellent, special position, but only a typical average position in the cosmos.

Named after Copernicus

The naming of this principle after Nicolaus Copernicus was first introduced in 1960 by the astronomer Hermann Bondi and adopted in 1973 by Stephen Hawking and George FR Ellis in their book The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time . With his work Nicolaus Copernicus made an important contribution to the turning away of European astronomy from the geocentric view of the world and to the turn to the heliocentric view of the world , in which the human being as an observer no longer has a special position. This historical process is called the Copernican turn and is often cited as an example of a paradigm shift , i.e. the shift to a completely new way of looking at a scientific field. The Copernican turn of Kant is his turn of the epistemological view from the empirically given back to the subject .

Versions and interpretation of the Copernican principle

The Copernican principle is closely linked to the cosmological principle , which can be viewed as a concrete special form of the Copernican principle and states that the universe is essentially uniform ( homogeneous and isotropic ) on large scales . These principles play a large role in modern cosmology, where they are particularly supported by observation of the large-scale structure of the universe. In contrast, in older (pre-Copernican) worldviews, the earth was viewed as being in the center of the world, which gave people a special position.

The Copernican principle can be interpreted in several ways. In its strict version it is anti-leological , i. H. the human being does not occupy a special position as an observer within the cosmos, nor is the cosmos otherwise specifically directed towards human beings. In its weakened version, it is limited to the position of man as an observer.

A special form of the Copernican Principle is the "Mediocrity Principle", which states that the human environment (earth, sun) is not special, but typical of the universe.


Concerns about the loss of relation between science and man have been raised since the beginning of philosophy (since Protagoras and the Stoics ), but were regularly overruled by "Copernicans". In modern times, Edmund Husserl pointed out the “crisis of meaning in modernity”, which consists in the fact that science, by eliminating the subject from the field of research, has lost its relation to life (the significance of life) and, as it were, beheaded philosophy have. Referring specifically to the Copernican principle, Peter Sloterdijk pointed out that “the Copernican shock has not subsided to this day”, the exposure of the human senses to a “free fall of thought” into “theoretical bottomlessness”. Against this “Copernican mobilization” to “dizzying…. Truths ”he pleaded for a“ Ptolemaic disarmament ”in which“ the world comes into its own against the worldview ”. A further consideration indicates that the relocation of the rest point from the center of the earth (geocentrism) to the sun center (heliocentrism) is ergonomically advantageous, but also only represents an approximation, because a rotation of the earth and the suns around the common center of gravity (" barycentrism “) Come closer to the physical conditions. The absolutization of approximations without taking into account the effects on people ("Copernicanisms") led to human devastating consequences in the 20th century, which is why people have to be given back their excellent, special position.

Copernican principle and anthropic principle

The Copernican principle is more or less in conflict with some interpretations of the anthropic principle .

Individual evidence

  1. Edmund Husserl: The crisis of European science and the transcendental phenomenology - An introduction to the phenomenological philosophy . Felix Meiner Verlag, Hamburg 1996.
  2. ^ Peter Sloterdijk: Copernican Mobilization and Ptolemaic Disarmament . edition suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1987.
  3. ^ Vittorio Ferretti: Back to Ptolemaism - To Protect the Human Individual from Abuses of Social Constructs . Amazon / Kindle, 2012.