Volume 93, 2019
Ryan Michael Miller
Perennial Symmetry Arguments: Aristotle’s Heavenly Cosmology and Noether’s First Theorem
Attempts to find perennial elements in Aristotle’s cosmology are doomed to failure because his distinction of sub- and supra-lunary realms no longer holds. More fruitful approaches to the contemporary importance of Aristotelian cosmology must focus on parities of reasoning rather than content. This paper highlights the striking parallels between Aristotle’s use of symmetry arguments in cosmology and instances of Noether’s First Theorem in contemporary physics. Both observe simple motion, find symmetries in that motion, argue from those symmetries to notions of conservation, and then conclude to cosmological structure. These parallels reveal an enduring relevance for Aristotelian cosmology that does not depend on positing an enduring content to his cosmological claims.