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Kepler's Generalization of the Law of Reflection

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Kepler's generalization of the law of reflection depends on two central aspects of his natural philosophy: his theory of light and his theory of bodies. The paper clarifies these two theories and shows how they provided Kepler with a new way to justify the equal-angles law. In particular, the paper argues for the materiality of light and emphasizes the pellucid – rather than the transparent – nature of bodies, which entails an understanding of reflection in terms of forces, collisions, and matter in motion. This interpretation challenges the Neoplatonic reading of Kepler's optics, and places Kepler's optics more on the side of the mechanicist reading of it. The paper also discusses how Kepler's justification is revolutionary for its time and explores some of its scientific and historical consequences.


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