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The Essential Galileo

The Essential Galileo


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A very interesting historical and scientific study
A very interesting historical and scientific study

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Published by: vasgar18215257 on Aug 20, 2009
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[133] From the things said so far, it seems to me, ifI am not mistaken,
that we can draw several necessary conclusions. Sunspots are contigu-
ous or extremely near to the body ofthe sun. They are not perma-
nent or fixed, but variable with respect to shape and density. They
also undergo to various degrees some small imprecise and irregular
movements. Absolutely all ofthem are produced and dissipated, some
in shorter and others in longer periods. Moreover, it is manifest and
indubitable that they turn around the sun.
However, it remains somewhat doubtful whether their turning
happens because the solar body rotates and turns around itselfthus
carrying them along, or whether while the solar body remains mo-
tionless there is a turning ofthe environment that contains them and
carries them along; it could be either way. It seems to me much more
probable that the motion belongs to the solar body than to the envi-

I am induced to believe this, first, by the certainty that such an en-
vironment is very tenuous, fluid, and flexible. My certainty comes
from seeing the spots contained in it change shape, combine, and sep-
arate so easily, which could not happen in a solid and rigid material
(a proposition that will seem very novel to the common philosophy).
Now, it seems that for a constant and regular movement such as the
one that is shared by all the spots, its root and primary foundation
could not lie in a flexible substance made ofparts that do not cohere
together and are thus subject to the fluctuations and disturbances of
many other accidental movements, but rather must lie in a solid and
rigid body where the motion ofthe whole and the parts is necessar-
ily a single one; and it is reasonable to believe that such is the solar

3. Galileo’s principle ofindifferent motion in this paragraph should be com-
pared and contrasted to the law ofinertia, or Isaac Newton’s first law ofmo-
tion: “Every body perseveres in its state ofbeing at rest or ofmoving
uniformly straight forward, except insofar as it is compelled to change its
state by forces impressed” (Newton 1999, 416). As Drake (1957, 113 n. 8)
notes, this paragraph contains an approximate formulation, as well as two ap-
plications “to the cases of(1) rotating bodies and (2) heavy bodies moving freely
upon smooth spheres concentric with the earth.” Cf. also the discussion in

body, by contrast to its environment. Such a motion could carry the
spots around either by being transmitted to the environment by con-
tact and to the spots through the environment, or by being trans-
ferred directly to the spots, also by contact.
Additionally, ifsomeone wanted to claim [134] that the turning of
the spots around the sun derived from motion belonging to the en-
vironment and not to the sun, I would think that in any case it would
be almost necessary that the same environment transmit the same mo-
tion also to the solar globe by contact. For I have observed that phys-
ical bodies have a natural inclination toward that motion which they
undergo by an intrinsic principle, without the need ofa particular ex-
ternal mover, whenever they are not impeded by some obstacle (as it
happens to heavy bodies moving downwards). Physical bodies also
have repugnance toward other motions, and so they never move in
such ways unless compelled violently by an external mover (as it hap-
pens to heavy bodies with regard to upward motion). Finally, physi-
cal bodies are indifferent toward still other motions—for example,
heavy bodies toward horizontal motion: these bodies have no inclina-
tion toward it because it is not toward the center ofthe earth, and
they have no repugnance for it because it does not make them move
away from the same center. Thus, ifwe remove all external impedi-
ments, a heavy body on a spherical surface concentric with the earth
will be indifferent to rest and to motion toward any part ofthe hori-
zon, and it will remain in that state in which it has been placed; that
is, ifit is placed in a state ofrest, it will remain at rest, and ifit is
placed in motion (e.g., toward the west), it will remain in that mo-
tion. For example, ifa ship [135] on a calm sea were to receive some
impetus just once, it would move continuously around our globe
without ever stopping; and ifit were placed at rest, it would perpet-
ually remain at rest; as long as in the first case all extrinsic impedi-
ments could be removed, and in the second case no external moving
cause came about.3

FromHistory and Demonstrations Concerning Sunspots (1613)


Galileo’s critique ofthe ship analogy argument, in Day II ofthe Dialogue,
below in §8.5 (pp. 229–33).
4. Galilei 1890–1909, 5: 138.24–140.16; newly translated by Finocchiaro.

Ifthis is true, and indeed it is most true, what would a body ofam-
bivalent nature do ifit happened to be constantly surrounded by an en-
vironment that was moving with a motion to which that physical body
was by nature indifferent? I do not think one can doubt that it would
move with the motion ofthe environment. Now the sun, a spherical
body suspended and balanced around its own center, cannot fail to fol-
low the motion ofits environment since it has neither an intrinsic re-
pugnance nor an external impediment to such rotation. It cannot have
an internal repugnance, given that by such rotation the whole is not re-
moved from its location, and the parts are not permuted among them-
selves and do not change their natural constitution; thus, with regard to
the relationship between the whole and the parts, it is as ifsuch a mo-
tion did not exist. As regards the external impediments, it seems that no
obstacle can hinder without contact (except perhaps the attraction ofa
loadstone); but in our case everything that touches the sun, that is to
say, its environment, not only does not hinder the motion which we
are trying to attribute to it, but also moves and transmits that motion as
long as there is no resistance; this resistance cannot come from the sun,
and hence there are no external impediments.
This can be confirmed even more strongly. For besides what I have
already said, it does not seem that a movable body can have repug-
nance to a motion without having a natural propensity to the oppo-
site (for there is no repugnance in indifference). So whoever wants to
attribute to the sun an aversion to the circular motion ofits environ-
ment would thereby attribute to it a natural propensity to circular
motion in the opposite direction to that ofthe environment. This
sounds wrong to any well-balanced intellect.
Therefore, since the apparent rotation ofthe spots must be attrib-
uted to the sun, it is better (for the first reason I gave) to regard solar
rotation as natural rather than as acquired by participation.

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