Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



What kind of questions did the Greeks ask themselves about the physical universe? We can paraphrase Plato: the stars move about the earth in circles, the perfect paths, and they move with uniform motion as befits divine and eternal beings. But five of these stars are planets (Greek for wanderers) which appear to have irregular motion, first moving forward, then actually stopping, and then moving backward for awhile. Since the heavens are incorruptible, the planets too must really be moving in uniform motion in circular paths. How then can we account for the apparently irregular motions? What uniform motions must be hypothesized to account for the observable wanderings? [excerpt]


This is a part of Section VIII: The Development of Modern Science. The Contemporary Civilization page lists all additional sections of Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, as well as the Table of Contents for both volumes.

More About Contemporary Civilization:

From 1947 through 1969, all first-year Gettysburg College students took a two-semester course called Contemporary Civilization. The course was developed at President Henry W.A. Hanson’s request with the goal of “introducing the student to the backgrounds of contemporary social problems through the major concepts, ideals, hopes and motivations of western culture since the Middle Ages.”

Gettysburg College professors from the history, philosophy, and religion departments developed a textbook for the course. The first edition, published in 1955, was called An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization and Its Problems. A second edition, retitled Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, was published in 1958 and 1960. It is this second edition that we include here. The copy we digitized is from the Gary T. Hawbaker ’66 Collection and the marginalia are his.