Alexandre Koyré

French philosopher (1892–1964)

Alexandre Koyré (29 August 189228 April 1964) was a French philosopher of Russian origin who wrote on history and the philosophy of science.


  • What the founders of modern science … had to do, was not criticize and to combat certain faulty theories, and to correct or to replace them by better ones. They had to do something quite different. They had to destroy one world and replace it by another. They had to reshape the framework of our intellect itself, to restate and to reform its concepts, to evolve a new approach to Being, a new concept of knowledge, and a new concept of science — and even to replace a pretty natural approach, that of common sense, by another which is not natural at all.
    • "Galileo to Plato" in the Journal of the History of Ideas (1957).
  • The infinite Universe of the New Cosmology, infinite in Duration as well as Extension, in which eternal matter in accordance with eternal and necessary laws moves endlessly and aimlessly in eternal space, inherited all the ontological attributes of Divinity. Yet only those — all the others the departed God took with him... The Divine Artifex had therefore less and less to do in the world. He did not even have to conserve it, as the world, more and more, became able to dispense with this service...
    • From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe (1957).
  • There is something for which Newton — or better to say not Newton alone, but modern science in general — can still be made responsible: it is splitting of our world in two. I have been saying that modern science broke down the barriers that separated the heavens and the earth, and that it united and unified the universe. And that is true. But, as I have said, too, it did this by substituting for our world of quality and sense perception, the world in which we live, and love, and die, another world — the world of quantity, or reified geometry, a world in which, though there is place for everything, there is no place for man. Thus the world of science — the real world — became estranged and utterly divorced from the world of life, which science has been unable to explain — not even to explain away by calling it "subjective".
    True, these worlds are everyday — and even more and more — connected by praxis. Yet for theory they are divided by an abyss.
    Two worlds: this means two truths. Or no truth at all.
    This is the tragedy of the modern mind which "solved the riddle of the universe," but only to replace it by another riddle: the riddle of itself.
    • Newtonian Studies (1965).
  • The belief in creation as the background of empiricomathematical [sic] science–that seems strange. Yet the ways of thought, human thought, in its search for truth are, indeed, very strange.
    • Newtonian Studies (1965), p. 114.

Quotes about Koyré

  • Koyré based his analysis on a narrow definition of science that focuses only on its purely theoretical aspects. He saw the Scientific Revolution as the advent and triumph of what he called the "mathematization of nature." At the same time he downplayed experimentalism as a relatively unimportant aspect of the new science.
  • Koyré's exaltation of the "Platonic and Pythagorean" elements of the Scientific Revolution... was based on a demonstrably false understanding of how Galileo reached his conclusions. ...By avoiding consideration of nonmathematical sciences, Koyré reduced the Scientific Revolution to the ideas of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton.
    • Clifford D. Conner, A People's History of Science (2005).
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