Heliocentrism as Promotion

In what might be one of the best books I’ve ever read, Remi Brague assembles a number of excellent essays regarding the political and intellectual world of the middle ages.  One chapter takes on the supposed psychological effects of the fall of geocentrism, and in it, Brague proceeds to “beat down a door that stands wide open.”  Far from the “central” position of the earth making man the focal point of all things, it demeaned him.  Every pious soul wanted to be, not in the center (between heaven and hell, mind you), but up!  For the earth to actually have been among the heavenly bodies would have been a great compliment.

Brague marshals an array of quotes from pagan, Jewish, and Christian philosophers making this point, but then he finishes the whole thing off with the big dawg himself, Galileo:

As for the earth, we seek rather to ennoble and perfect it when we strive to make it like the celestial bodies, and, as it were, place it in heaven, from which your philosophers have banished it.

~The Legend of the Middle Ages, 219

So once again we are reminded not to draw historical talking point for contemporary political polemics without taking great care.