Aristotle on Kosmos and Kosmoi

In Phillip Horky (ed.), Cosmos in the Ancient World. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 74-107 (2019)
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The concept of kosmos did not play the leading role in Aristotle’s physics that it did in Pythagorean, Atomistic, Platonic, or Stoic physics. Although Aristotle greatly influenced the history of cosmology, he does not himself recognize a science of cosmology, a science taking the kosmos itself as the object of study with its own phenomena to be explained and its own principles that explain them. The term kosmos played an important role in two aspects of his predecessor’s accounts that Aristotle rejected: first, cosmogeny and kosmopoiia, generation or creation of the kosmos; second, diakosmêsis, arranging of a plurality of kosmoi. Aristotle was extremely critical of accounts involving kosmopoiia and diakosmêsis and he developed general dialectical strategies against them. In emphatically distinguishing his view from all his predecessors (including Plato), he uses the terms ho ouranos (the heaven), to holon (the whole), and to pan (the totality) in preference to ho kosmos (the kosmos or world). There is usually no harm in speaking loosely of ‘Aristotle’s cosmology’ when referring to his concept of the order of nature and the ouranos. Nevertheless, Aristotle’s theoretical philosophy offers something very different from those of his predecessors for whom kosmos was a keyword.



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