A moments thought shows there can be no centre of an infinite expanse of space, it has no geometrical sense. When Aristotle places the Earth at the centre, he can surely only mean that its the meaningful centre, the place where anything of any importance can take place. Is this right?

  • Could you share where you came across this in his works?
    – stoicfury
    Sep 21, 2012 at 2:45
  • I can't recall where I read that Aristotle placed the Earth at the centre. As Dorfman points out though he argued for a finite universe as opposed to the Epicurean infinite universe. Sep 21, 2012 at 10:59

2 Answers 2


Why did Aristotle place the earth at the centre of an infinite universe?

He didn't.

He placed the earth at the center of a finite universe. For Aristotle, the universe is decidedly not infinite; he argued that there were potential infinities, but not actual infinities.

  • Not a potentially infinite universe? Sep 19, 2012 at 18:14
  • Nope. He said that nothing could actually be infinite. Infinitely divisible, sure. Sep 20, 2012 at 6:47
  • seems strange to grant infinite divisibility whilst with-holding extensive infinity. Presumably he grants potentially infinite time at least, or am I wrong there as well? Sep 20, 2012 at 19:45
  • He did argue for temporal infinitism; see Book VIII of the Physics. Sep 21, 2012 at 6:31
  • @Dorfman:he does say in Physics IV, 'if everything that exists has a place, place too will have a place, and so on ad infinitum', which sort of argues for an potentially infinite universe if he takes that argument seriously, but of course then the universe would have to be understood in a different sense Sep 22, 2012 at 19:00

Aristotle didn't put the world at the center of the universe per se. Rather, he deduced it from his system of metaphysics and common sense observations of reality.

The world is comprised mostly of the element earth. Earth, being the heaviest of the four classical elements, tends to fall towards the center of the universe (it's natural place) if it is displaced from there. Since the world as a whole including the earthy surface beneath our feet isn't currently falling out from under us, it must already be at rest at the center of universe.

(How people were satisfied with teleological arguments for 2000 years, I'll never understand.)

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