Theories of the Universe. From Babylonian Myth to Modern Science PDF book

Theories of the Universe. From Babylonian Myth to Modern Science PDF book by Milton K. Munitz 1957

This volume of selections is devoted to the subject of cosmology, the study of the astronomical or physical universe as a whole. It is intended for the general reader. The material is drawn wherever possible from the non-technical writings of those who played an important part in the main lines of development of the subject. The questions that cosmology seeks to answer are perennial ones.

Whoever looks up into the starry heavens is prompted to speculate about the beginning and end of things, about space, time, and creation. The questions as formulated by modern scientific cosmologists, and the methods employed to solve them are refinements upon the same queries raised by every man in his reflective moments. However, if we would understand such progress as has been made by more advanced techniques and the variety of current trends in scientific cosmology which we shall survey in this volume, it is important to see these against the background of earlier efforts and achievements.

For it was out of these earlier gropings and partial advances that the ground was prepared for the present-day surge forward in our knowledge of the subject. Beginning with one of the earliest ventures in the form of myth, I have, accordingly, selected those materials which would exhibit the main stages of progress in cosmological inquiry from antiquity up to the present time.

The student of philosophy and particularly of the philosophy of science will find the selections here included of special interest since they offer a wealth of material for the analysis of concepts and methods in an important area of intellectual concern. The study of the “logic” of cosmology, as distinguished from the pursuit of cosmological inquiry itself, is both a critical examination of the procedures involved in obtaining knowledge of the universe and an analysis of the meaning or meanings of the concept “universe.” It cannot be more profitably conducted than by a close study of texts such as these.

It almost goes without saying that I have not attempted to provide a sourcebook of relevant materials for the study of the entire history of cosmology in all its aspects, including subsidiary ones or offshoots from the main lines of advance, whether in its earlier or contemporary phases. Nor is this intended as a collection of those papers, generally written in the technical language of mathematics as in the recent literature of the subject, that would be of interest primarily to the specialist. In view, however, of the general dearth of books in this area, it is hoped that the present volume at least will do something to satisfy a growing and already widespread interest in the subject.

I wish to thank Dr. Charles A. Muses of The Falcon’s Wing Press and Mr. Jeremiah Kaplan of The Free Press for their splendid co-operation and thoughtful consideration of the many details that went into the production of this book as well as a companion volume Space, Time and Creation. I am most grateful also to Professor Paul Edwards as Editor of The Library of Scientific Thought for his many helpful suggestions, and to my wife, Dr. Lenore B. Munitz, for her valuable assistance in the preparation of this volume.

Author: Milton K. Munitz
 Publication Date: 1957

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