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A Galilean Approach to the Galileo Affair, 1609–2009
Maurice A. Finocchiaro
Published online: 8 January 2010 Ó Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010
Abstract Galileo’s telescopic discoveries of 1609–1612 provided a crucial, although not conclusive, conﬁrmation of the Copernican hypothesis of the earth’s motion. In Galileo’s approach, the Copernican Revolution required that the geokinetic hypothesis be supported not only with new theoretical arguments but also with new observational evidence; that it be not only supported constructively but also critically defended from objections; and that such objections be not only refuted but also appreciated in all their strength. However, Galileo’s defense of Copernicanism triggered a sequence of events that climaxed in 1633, when the Inquisition tried and condemned him as a suspected heretic. In turn, the repercussions of Galileo’s condemnation have been a deﬁning theme of modern Western culture for the last four centuries. In particular, the 20th century witnessed a curious spectacle: rehabilitation efforts by the Catholic Church and anti-Galilean critiques by secular-minded left-leaning social critics. The controversy shows no signs of abating to date, as may be seen from the episode of Pope Benedict XVI’s attitude toward Paul Feyerabend’s critique of Galileo. Nevertheless, I have devised a framework which should pave the way for eventually resolving this controversy, and which is modeled on Galileo’s own approach to the Copernican Revolution.
To commemorate the quatercentenary of Galileo’s telescopic discoveries, the International Astronomical Union as well as UNESCO proclaimed 2009 the International Year of Astronomy. The many particular symposia, conferences, sessions, and events that were organized to take place during that year provided a unique opportunity for science
This essay is a summary of my book Defending Copernicus and Galileo: Critical Reasoning in the Two Affairs (Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, vol. 280. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer, 2009). Adapted versions of this essay were presented in 2008–2009 at various universities and conferences, in regard to which I thank the hosts and organizers: the universities of Columbia in New York, California in San Diego, Pittsburgh, Padua, Cagliari, ‘‘La Sapienza’’ in Rome, Bari, Catania, Melbourne, and New South Wales; and the American Association for Italian Studies, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. M. A. Finocchiaro (&) University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV, USA e-mail: maurice.ﬁnocchiaro@unlv.edu
Even those of us for whom the concern with Galileo and science education antedated that commemorative year by some decades could hardly neglect the opportunity and fail to attempt to connect our long-standing studies with that commemoration. Methodologically. Moreover. 1 Images of the appearance of the moon through Galileo’s telescope. changed regularly from a full disc. Galilei 2008. To understand the latter point. Finocchiaro education. The planet Jupiter had four moons revolving around it at different distances and with different periods. 3: 63. A. 1 Telescopic Discoveries. The appearance of the planet Venus. Innumerable other stars existed besides those visible with the naked eye. to half a disc. 4). The moon had a rough surface full of mountains and valleys. in the course of its orbital revolution. he was soon able to duplicate the instrument. Within three years Galileo made several startling discoveries. the telescope implied a revolution in astronomy. to 30. 55) 123 . he started using it for systematic observations of the heavens. in a manner analogous to the phases of the moon (see Fig. by the end of the year. and. to learn new truths about the universe. he realized that they provided a crucial. but that while they lasted. 65. Although most of these discoveries were also made independently by others. Substantively. insofar as it was a new instrument for the gathering of a new kind of data. although not conclusive. and back to a half and a full disc. as published in The Sidereal Messenger (Galilei 1890–1909. And the surface of the sun was dotted with dark spots that were generated and dissipated in a very irregular fashion and had highly irregular sizes and shapes. 52. 3.52 M. vastly transcending the previous reliance on naked-eye observation. then to 20. The Milky Way and the nebulas were dense collections of large numbers of individual stars. mostly by trial and error. some background is needed. 2). Fig. 1609–1612 In 1609. conﬁrmation of the Copernican hypothesis of the earth’s motion. What follows may be viewed as my attempt to relate my previous studies of Galileo with that quatercentenary by reﬂecting on some of the repercussions and lessons of the epochmaking discoveries that started in 1609. 1). He was also able to increase its magnifying power ﬁrst to nine. to crescent. no one understood their signiﬁcance as well as Galileo. Galileo heard about an optical instrument invented in Holland the year before. similar to land on the earth (see Fig. rather than merely exploiting the instrument for practical applications on earth. consisting of an arrangement of lenses that magniﬁed images three to four times. these spots moved regularly in such a way as to imply that the sun rotated on its axis with a period of about 1 month (see Figs. like clouds on earth. Without having a prototype in his possession.
110) Fig.A Galilean Approach 53 Fig. 2 Galileo’s observations of the phases of Venus as reconstructed by Palmieri (2001. as 123 . 3 Sunspots as observed by Galileo on 2 June 1612 (Galilei 1890–1909. 5: 145) 2 The Copernican Revolution and Galileo’s Approach In 1543. Nicolaus Copernicus had published a book elaborating a world system whose key idea was that the earth moves by rotating on its own axis daily and by revolving around the sun yearly. This meant that the earth was not standing still at the center of the universe.
as required by Copernicanism. Secondly. The satellites of Jupiter showed that it was physically possible for one body to revolve around another.54 Fig. to be located in the heavenly region. it became possible for the earth to be a planet. Firstly. For example. in ‘‘heaven’’. This refuted the traditional doctrine of the earth-heaven dichotomy. 4 Sunspots as observed by Galileo on 8 July 1612 (Galilei 1890–1909. Copernicus was proposing a heliocentric and geokinetic world view to replace the traditional geocentric and geostatic view. the geokinetic hypothesis had be supported not only with new theoretical arguments. however. and hence it became possible for the earth to revolve around the sun while the moon revolved around the earth. that is the doctrine that the universe was divided into two very different regions. so to speak. in which bodies had different properties and obeyed different laws. In its essentials this Copernican idea turned out to be true. The telescopic discoveries provided such novel evidence. as we know today beyond any reasonable doubt. after ﬁve centuries of accumulating evidence. i. And the phases of Venus proved the heliocentricity of its orbit. However. the Copernican Revolution required much more than this argument. and further that this explanation was more coherent (and also simpler and more elegant) than the geostatic account. the Copernican Revolution required another condition: the thesis of the earth’s motion had to be not only constructively supported with new arguments and 123 . A. Finocchiaro most astronomers and philosophers had always held. while the latter revolved around a third. but also with new observational evidence.e. At the time. 5: 179) M. lunar mountains and sunspots showed that there were signiﬁcant similarities between the earth and the heavenly bodies. Copernicus’s accomplishment was really to give a new argument in support of an old idea that had been considered and almost universally rejected since the ancient Greeks. thus. the knowledge situation was very different. He demonstrated that the known facts about the motions of the heavenly bodies could be explained in quantitative detail if the sun rather than the earth is placed at the center of the universe and the earth is the third planet circling the sun.. thus conﬁrming this particular element of the Copernican system.
Ptolemy (in the second century AD) did say a few words about. And he answered the scriptural objections by arguing that Scripture is not a scientiﬁc authority. but this is obviously not observed. but such intermittent motion was not what the Copernicans claimed: they claimed not that the earth 123 . Moon. God miraculously stopped the motion of the sun to prolong daylight. then terrestrial bodies are moving with circular motion around the center of the earth. if (as Copernicus claims) the terrestrial globe rotates. Galileo was keen on this. let us consider the anti-Copernican argument from the extruding power of whirling. according to Aristotelian physics.A Galilean Approach 55 evidence. In other words. but in his formulation it is unclear whether the phenomenon he had in mind was the extrusion of bodies away from the center of a rotating earth. and Aristotelians typically stated it as follows: rotation or circular motion has the power of generating an extruding force away from the center of rotation. in the valley of Ajalon’. Aristotle himself (in the fourth century BC) was apparently not even aware of this piece of evidence against the earth’s motion. and so in his writings we ﬁnd the anti-Copernican arguments stated more clearly and incisively than in the works of Aristotelians and Ptolemaics advocating the geostatic system. but obviously there are. and a constant force was needed to keep a body in motion. Furthermore. These objections were based on astronomical observation. In Galileo’s time. Before refuting this argument Galileo strengthened it by pointing out that it should be restated as follows: because of the extruding power of whirling. ‘Sun. therefore the earth cannot rotate. but also the appreciative understanding of their strength. then any loose bodies not ﬁrmly attached to the earth’s surface would have been extruded long ago. and he said in the sight of Israel. For example. the greatest being at the equator. where their speed would be about 1. and so scriptural passages should not be used to invalidate astronomical claims that are proved or provable. For example. so that Joshua could lead the Israelites to victory before nightfall: ‘‘Then spake Joshua to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel. on a rotating earth bodies could not fall vertically. until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies’’. thus. as they are seen to do. an effective defense of the geokinetic hypothesis required not only the destructive refutation of those objections. according to the scriptural passage in Joshua 10: 12– 13. or the inability of bodies to follow and share the motion of the earth if it revolved around the sun.000 miles per hour. Aristotelian physics. supposedly. and then at one time it began to rotate. such a circular speed would generate a tremendous force that would extrude away from the earth’s surface and toward the sky all bodies not ﬁrmly attached to it. and the moon staid. and thou. or in more technical and anachronistic terminology. This was one of the many physical mechanical objections to Copernicanism. some progress had been made in the formulation of the objection. although still invisible with the naked eye. stand thou still upon Gibeon. there was another more subtle task needed to bring about the Copernican Revolution. He answered the physical mechanical objections by articulating a new physics centered on the principles of conservation and composition of motion. this argument at best refutes the claim that the earth was motionless for a time. Galileo answered the observational astronomical objections by showing that the empirical consequences implied by Copernicanism were indeed visible with the telescope. That is. but also critically defended from a host of powerful old and new objections and counter-evidence. long enough for loose bodies to form and exist on its surface. Thirdly. if the earth were in rotation. the natural state of bodies was rest. the objection from centrifugal force. And the sun stood still. and traditional epistemology. and so at present there would not be any such bodies on the earth’s surface. scriptural passages. as stated by its proponents.
Finally. What I have been saying is that an essential aspect of his contribution was to elaborate a defense of the geokinetic hypothesis that had the following features (cf. Let me explain. A. or more simply openness. but that it has always been in motion. and forge a judicious balance. then in the course of a year its position in space would change by a considerable amount deﬁned by the size of the earth’s orbit. therefore. which is what enabled him to understand both that there was a problem with terrestrial rotation and that the problem could be overcome. It stressed the need avoid one-sidedness. for example. or. One main reason was that even with the telescope. my own term for this is judicious-mindedness. from the viewpoint of the Copernican system. this may be called fair-mindedness. a fourth crucial point about Galileo’s contribution to the Copernican Revolution is that he realized and appreciated that his case in favor of the geokinetic hypothesis was not absolutely conclusive or decisive. which was a consequence of the earth’s revolution around the sun. Let me summarize this account of Galileo’s approach to the Copernican Revolution. it should be noted that it took another two centuries until stellar parallax was observed by Friedrich Bessel in 1838. the same star should appear as having shifted its position either on the celestial sphere. Finocchiaro had begun to move. we should be able to see stellar parallaxes with a periodic regularity of one year. Then Galileo goes one to refute the revised strengthened objection by arguing that the amount of extrusion from terrestrial rotation would be very small because. a terrestrial observer looking at the same star at six-months intervals would be observing it from very different positions. as compared with a motionless earth. the difference being a distance equal to the diameter of the earth’s orbit. moreover. At its simplest level. consequently. I call this open-mindedness. Now. which in a sense is its position relative to all the other stars (also located on that sphere). and to compare it to other counteracting tendencies. the weight of terrestrial bodies would work against the extrusion and be sufﬁcient to counteract it. 123 . And as an aside. Galileo’s Copernican defense also epitomized the ability and willingness to know and understand the arguments. However. Galileo also goes on to strengthen its premise about the existence of an extruding power of whirling: there would indeed be some extrusion on a rotating earth. But this is just one example of his attitude toward counterarguments and his procedure in refuting objections. Next he points out that it is not enough to say that some extrusion would occur on a rotating earth. 1997). or more simply fairness. none were observed. The term parallax denotes a change in the apparent position of an observed object due to a change in the location of the observer. and observation and evidence on the other. and reasons against one’s own views. but neither with the telescope (see also Fig. and appreciate the strength of. It follows that if Copernicanism were correct. the extruding force increases with the linear speed (which at the equator is 1. if the earth were revolving around the sun. His procedure also exempliﬁed the ability and willingness to learn from. In the process. Finocchiaro 1980. Galileo has to grope his way toward the physics of circular motion. 5). not only with the naked eye. one could not observe the annual parallax of the ﬁxed stars. After this clariﬁcation of the objection. the apparent position of a star may be thought of as its location on the celestial sphere. even when one is attempting to criticize or refute them. arguments and reasons against one’s own view.56 M. it may be conceived as measured by the angular position of the star above the plane of the earth’s orbit (the so-called plane of the ecliptic).000 miles per hours) but decreases with the radius (which is about 4. or more simply judiciousness. evidence. but it is important to determine its magnitude and how it varies. or in terms of its angular distance above the plane of the earth’s orbit.000 miles). between theorizing and argumentation on the one hand.
7: 407. and this angle (HAC) is smaller than the previous one (HBC). As part of this inquiry. he felt he could not remain silent. to make and sign a deposition against Galileo. when observed at 6-months intervals. Galilei 1997. he came increasingly under attack from conservative philosophers and clergymen. ABC a line in the plane of that orbit. Galileo’s letters circulated widely and the conservatives got even more upset. 5 In this ﬁgure (taken from Galilei 1890–1909. but decided to refute the biblical argument against Copernicus. To avoid scandalous publicity. and they reported that the key Copernican theses were absurd and false in natural philosophy and heretical in 123 . when observed from point B. mother of the Cosimo II de’ Medici. may be deﬁned in terms of the angle HBC. reigning grand duke of Tuscany. a committee of eleven Inquisition consultants were asked for an expert opinion. As it became known that Galileo was convinced that the new telescopic evidence rendered the geokinetic theory a serious contender for real physical truth. when star H is observed from point A in the earth’s orbit. That is. Finocchiaro 1989). another Dominican friar made a personal appearance at the Roman Inquisition. Galileo’s defense of Copernicanism was hindered by key institutions of the Catholic Church. And the following month. Thus in February 1615. Let me relate the highlights of that story (cf. by an amount equivalent to angle AHB. as is well known. In fact. line AB a diameter of the earth’s orbit. appearing sometimes higher and sometimes lower above the plane of the ecliptic 3 Trial and Condemnation. Although Galileo was aware of the potentially explosive nature of this issue. However. They quickly focused on the scriptural objection. the star’s position may be deﬁned in terms of angle HAC. let ANBO represent the earth’s orbit. 1613–1633 However. H a ﬁxed star whose position. CEH a portion of the celestial sphere. An investigation was launched that lasted about a year. 268). 6 month later.A Galilean Approach 57 Fig. a Dominican friar ﬁled a written complaint against Galileo with the Inquisition in Rome. the same star H would appear to shift its position. charging that Galileo was a heretic because he believed in the earth’s motion and the earth’s motion contradicted Scripture. the trial of Galileo can be interpreted as a series of ecclesiastic attempts to stop him from defending Copernicus. he wrote his criticism in the form of long private letters. in December 1613 to his disciple Benedetto Castelli and in spring 1615 to the grand duchess dowager Christina.
who in 1621 had gone so far as to write a poem in praise of Galileo. and that it was a hypothetical discussion because the earth’s motion was being presented as a hypothesis postulated to explain observed phenomena. and not merely as a convenient instrument to make mathematical calculations and observational predictions. and fairness (cf. However. Galileo felt freer and decided to write the book on the system of the world which he had conceived at the time of his telescopic discoveries. Galileo kept quiet about the dangerous topic. Galileo must felt that the book did not ‘‘hold’’ the theory of the earth’s motion because it was not claiming that the geokinetic arguments were conclusive. Finocchiaro 1980. These revisions were published in 1620. and philosophical arguments. And in March. characterized by judiciousness. and in that sense Copernicanism is more probable that geostaticism. He was able to talk to many inﬂuential Church ofﬁcials and was received in a friendly manner. From the viewpoint of the ecclesiastic restrictions.58 M. until 1623 when Cardinal Maffeo Barberini became Pope Urban VIII. the thesis is successfully established. and that Copernicus’s 1543 book was banned until appropriately revised. Its key thesis is that the arguments favoring the geokinetic theory are stronger that those favoring the geostatic view. Barberini was an old admirer and patron. They also complained that the 123 . and he may be credited with having prevented the worst. so as to convey the impression that it was merely a convenient hypothesis to make mathematical calculations and observational predictions. whereas his published writings contained neither a categorical assertion of Copernicanism nor a denial of the scientiﬁc authority of Scripture. adapting its form to the new restrictions. without mentioning Galileo. in December 1615 Galileo went to Rome of his own accord to defend his views. In the process. and they amounted to rewording or deleting a dozen passages suggesting that the earth’s motion was or could be physically true. the Congregation of the Index (the cardinals in charge of book censorship) published a decree which. 1997). Galileo himself was given a private warning by Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (in the name of the Inquisition) forbidding him to hold or defend the truth of the earth’s motion. openness. Galileo’s enemies complained that the book treated the hypothesis of the earth’s motion as a real possibility. As a result. Instead two milder consequences followed. as recommended by the consultants. A. Galileo managed to incorporate into the discussion the new telescopic discoveries. and the third one was an intelligent layman willing to listen to both sides. He must have also felt that the book was not ‘‘defending’’ the geokinetic theory because it was essentially a critical examination of the arguments on both sides. Ptolemaic and Copernican. with the title Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems. and various methodological and epistemological principles. However. The Inquisition also interrogated other witnesses. For the next several years. the book exempliﬁes the approach described earlier. Galileo himself was not summoned or interrogated partly because the key witnesses exonerated him and partly because Galileo’s letters had not been published. When so formulated. In short. Galileo wrote the book in the form of a dialogue among three characters engaged in a critical discussion of the cosmological. his conclusions about the physics of moving bodies. In February 1616. physical. that a 1615 book arguing the earth’s motion to be compatible with Scripture was condemned and permanently banned. but determined to avoid the biblical or theological ones. declared that the earth’s motion was physically false and contradicted Scripture. a geokinetic explanation of the tides. This book was published in 1632. Finocchiaro theology. Galileo agreed to comply. One character took the geostatic side of the controversy. astronomical. another one the Copernican side. insofar as the Inquisition did not issue a solemn condemnation of Copernicanism as a formal heresy.
at later hearings. The verdict found him guilty of a category of religious crime labeled ‘‘vehement suspicion of heresy’’. The inquisitors opted for some out-of-court plea-bargaining: they would not press the most serious charge (violation of the special injunction). Galileo also claimed that the book did not defend the earth’s motion. I believe these complexities can be simpliﬁed. A key idea for making sense of the subsequent controversy is to focus on the subsequent criticisms of Galileo and to see how he has been. And he was forced to recite a humiliating ‘‘abjuration’’. or can be. but only discussed hypothetically. and of Pope Urban’s wishes. He attributed his error to wanting to appear clever by making the weaker side look stronger. without oversimpliﬁcation. even though this had not been his intention. which only mentioned the prohibition to hold or defend. defended from them. and so did not violate Bellarmine’s warning. in turn. he stated that the ﬁrst deposition had prompted him to re-read his book. The special injunction must have surprised Galileo as much as Bellarmine’s certiﬁcate must have surprised the inquisitors. the original controversy over the earth’s motion climaxing with Galileo’s condemnation in 1633 and the subsequent dispute over the rightness of Galileo’s condemnation that continues to our own 123 . The trial ended on 22 June 1633 with a harsher sentence than Galileo had been led to believe. He was sorry and ready to make amends. of the Index’s decree. that is. Thus it took 3 weeks before they decided on the next step. and in his defense he introduced a certiﬁcate he had obtained from Bellarmine in May 1616. but rather suggested that the favorable arguments were inconclusive. Thus Galileo was summoned to Rome to stand trial. After various delays. prohibiting him from discussing the earth’s motion in any way whatever. These features allegedly amounted to transgressions of Bellarmine’s warning. complex. the episode in turn generated a much more protracted. but Galileo would have to plead guilty to a lesser charge (transgression of the warning not to defend Copernicanism). He denied receiving a special injunction not to discuss the topic in any way whatever. Thus. This interpretive idea. At the ﬁrst hearing. a document describing this special injunction had been found in the ﬁle of the earlier Inquisition proceedings. he was surprised to ﬁnd that it gave readers the impression that the author was defending the earth’s motion. However. He was condemned to house arrest for the rest of his life. Finocchiaro 2005). suggests a comparison and contrast between the two controversies that enrich our understanding and assessment of both. Galileo was asked about the Dialogue and the events of 1616. Galileo’s suspicious beliefs were allegedly the cosmological thesis that the earth moves and the methodological principle that the Bible is not a scientiﬁc authority. the proceedings began in April 1633. He admitted receiving from Cardinal Bellarmine the warning that the earth’s motion could not be held or defended. 4 The Subsequent Controversy This condemnation was the climax of the Inquisition trial of Galileo.A Galilean Approach 59 book defended the earth’s motion because the geostatic arguments were criticized and the Copernican ones favorably portrayed. in the highly developed and complex taxonomy of the Inquisition. And there was a third charge: that the book violated a special injunction issued by the Inquisition personally and speciﬁcally to Galileo in 1616. The book the Dialogue was banned. this was an offense intermediate between the most serious crime called ‘‘formal heresy’’ and lesser offenses called scandalous and rash beliefs. He requested a few days to devise a digniﬁed way of pleading guilty to the lesser charge. and polarized controversy that is still ongoing (cf.
In 1908. but gradually. although this Galilean reasoning has been the target of many objections. 123 . the existence of such a special injunction is undermined by the record of the trial proceedings. the history of science established incontrovertibly that Galileo had been right on this issue. and this document is highly irregular in several respects. and those (like the Church) who denied. or whether he had been right for the wrong reasons. these proceedings include only one document stating that Galileo was forbidden to even discuss the topic. a bad theologian. which was promulgated in 1893 by Pope Leo XIII in the encyclical Providentissimus Deus. I believe Galileo can be defended from Duhem’s charge that he was a bad epistemologist. before this theological vindication. this is an instructive issue. but the issue reduces to whether such a prohibition was legitimate. so to speak. The resolution of this issue requires that we admit and reﬂect properly on three crucial things: (1) that the original affair embodied a minimal but irreducible historical conﬂict between those (like Galileo) who afﬁrmed. but history vindicated Galileo in this regard too. If this admonition is interpreted as a prohibition on mere discussion. or a bad logician. However. In any case. On the other hand. he started being blamed for other reasons. The criticisms of his defense of Copernicus can be systematized into the following sequence. but Galileo’s reasoning can be defended from this criticism. However. which was ﬁrst published in 1867–1878. on the hermeneutical issue too. Some authors stressed the legal situation. it took the whole nineteenth century before this myth was dispelled. the opposite of what he did). Pierre Duhem blamed Galileo for his epistemological realism and argued that the condemnation could have been avoided if epistemological instrumentalism had prevailed.e. I believe it can be defended from them. In fact. which attempts to attribute to Galileo all kinds of questionable epistemological and methodological principles and practices. there is the issue of whether Galileo is to be credited or blamed for helping us understand that science and religion are in conﬂict or that they are in harmony. various questions were raised about the physical truth of the earth’s motion. questions began to be raised about whether his supporting reasons. that Copernicanism contradicted Scripture. the conﬂict between science and religion is indeed an essential feature of the subsequent controversy. it is important to check the correctness of his arguments to justify that Scripture is not a scientiﬁc authority. he was also criticized for his hermeneutical principle that Scripture is not an astronomical authority. For some time. charging that he had been guilty of disobeying the Church’s admonition regarding Copernicanism.. the content of this admonition is ambiguous. at least this is the case from the viewpoint of the ofﬁcial position of the modern Catholic Church. (2) that the original affair epitomized more the conﬂict between cultural conservation and innovation than the conﬂict between science and religion. Finally. As it became increasingly clear that Galileo could not be validly convicted of being a bad scientist. and (3) that because of how the original affair was subsequently perceived. whether Galileo’s defense was scientiﬁcally and logically fair and valid. At ﬁrst. nobody denies its existence. and if it was. Duhem’s critique spawned a new genre of anti-Galilean criticism.60 M. A. as well as from the charges of Duhem’s many imitators. as the case may be. the occasion arose for the construction and diffusion of the myth that Galileo had been condemned for being a bad theologian. Finocchiaro day. if the admonition is taken to be the latter milder prohibition. and instead speak of the milder prohibition to defend Copernicanism. whereas there are several more reliable relevant documents that say nothing about such a strict prohibition. As this realization emerged. arguments. in the sense of preaching and practicing the use of Scripture to support astronomical claims (i. and evidence had been correct.
whose professional identity is thereby threatened. Several other circumstances add interest and signiﬁcance to such a development. that Galileo was theologically right about scriptural interpretation. who seem not to have learned much from Galileo and to want to turn the clock back to preGalilean days. In 1942. Finocchiaro 2005). he became the target of unprecedented criticism on the part of various representatives of secular culture. the Pontiﬁcal Lateran University in Rome. and intellectual who in 1958 published a book that became an international best-seller. This is obvious from the recent rehabilitation efforts by the Catholic Church and new anti-Galilean critiques by leftleaning social critics. and other statements and actions. At about the same time that Galileo was being rehabilitated by various Catholic ofﬁcials and institutions. then revised into a second version in 1947. ﬁrst published in 1975 and later revised in 1988 and in 1993. novelist. or dogmatically advocated by self-styled progressives. then into a third version in 1955. who advanced his version of social criticism in a book entitled Against Method. Then in 1979. the pope admitted that Galileo’s trial was not merely an error but also an injustice. 123 . this was done by several clergymen who held the top positions at the Pontiﬁcal Academy of Sciences. and the rift between the two cultures. For example. and Feyerabend was an Austrian-born philosophy professor at the University of California. his desire to disseminate novelties was as reasonable as his opponents’ inclination to resist them. These two clusters of developments deserve some comments (again. his ambivalence is emblematic and revealing. These developments have not been properly assimilated yet. the Catholic ‘‘rehabilitations’’ tend to be either unfairly criticized (even by Catholics) or uncritically accepted (even by non-Catholics). 2009).A Galilean Approach 61 5 Ecclesiastic Rehabilitations Versus Leftist Social Critiques: 20th Century The controversy shows no signs of abating to date (A. the current pope seems to have displayed an ambivalent attitude toward this issue. with his erstwhile enemies turning into friends. and that he provides an instructive example of the harmony between science and religion. the tricentennial of Galileo’s death provided the occasion for a ﬁrst partial and informal rehabilitation. they tried to blame Galileo by holding him personally or emblematically responsible for such things as the abuses of the industrial revolution. but continues to polarize and confuse. Moreover. In two speeches to the Pontiﬁcal Academy of Sciences. Pope John Paul II began a further informal rehabilitation of Galileo that was not concluded until 1992.D. as against his ecclesiastical opponents. And the left-leaning social critiques tend to be summarily dismissed by practicing scientists. and his former friends becoming enemies. and Vatican Radio. the social irresponsibility of scientists. This will become clearer presently. the Catholic University of Milan. the atomic bomb. They published accounts of Galileo as a Catholic hero who upheld the harmony between science and religion. In the period 1941–1946. These critics elaborated what might be called social and cultural criticism of Galileo. Arthur Koestler was a Hungarian-born writer. It was almost as if a reversal of roles was occurring. They were mostly writers with backgrounds and sympathies subsumable under the left wing of the political spectrum. who had the courage to advocate the truth in astronomy even against the Catholic authorities of his time. The most outstanding and original examples of such criticism were central-European German-speaking personalities: Bertolt Brecht was a German playwright who authored a play entitled Galileo that was ﬁrst written in 1938. that is. Berkeley. and that became a classic of twentieth-century theater. cf. and who had the religious piety to retract his views outwardly when the 1633 trial proceedings made his obedience necessary. that even from a pastoral point of view. entitled The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe.
180–201). just as scientists constantly gain strength from the opinions of … their own pushy patron saint Galileo’’ (Feyerabend 1985. and the International Year of Astronomy 2009 For reasons that will emerge shortly. including Feyerabend’s. I believe Feyerabend’s criticism is untenable. for analogous critical appreciations. it has become involved in the very latest twist to the controversy that brings the story to our own day.62 M. the principal difﬁculty is that Feyerabend seems to perpetrate a fallacy of equivocation. Feyerabend claims that ‘‘the Church would do well to revive the balance and graceful wisdom of Bellarmine. when Feyerabend attributes this principle to Bellarmine. Finocchiaro 6 Feyerabend. However. Galileo allegedly advocated the uncritical acceptance by society of the views of experts. Feyerabend’s apologia was politely rejected in 1989–1990 by Ratzinger. That is. 129). 1987. whereas the Church advocated the evaluation by society of the views of experts in the light of human and social values. Feyerabend claims that ‘‘the Church at the time of Galileo not only kept closer to reason as deﬁned then and. On the one hand. the difference between Galileo and Bellarmine was not one of principle but of application: for example. For this version of the principle cannot survive the objections (which we have inherited from Galileo) against teleological and anthropomorphic ways of thinking. and historical traditions about. 123 . For the principle in question could mean that social and political leaders should evaluate the use of experts’ views in light of human and social values. In any case. the role of experts. Moreover.1 In part. Feyerabend portrays Galileo’s trial as involving a conﬂict between two philosophical attitudes toward. another disagreement would have been whether the views of theological experts should be subject to the same requirement. Its indictment of Galileo was rational and only opportunism and a lack of perspective can demand a revision’’ (Feyerabend 1988. Feyerabend extracts the latter principle from Cardinal Bellarmine’s writings. it is in fact untenable. in the context of an analysis of the role of faith in the revolutionary geopolitical changes happening in 1989. In fact. but rather would have agreed with it. the documentation is unclear and unconvincing. Under the second interpretation. Cardinal Ratzinger quoted several anti-Galilean critiques. Now under the ﬁrst interpretation. More generally. 247–64). who at the time was the chairman of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the current name of the Inquisition or Holy Ofﬁce). and that it is false because it is useless or harmful. it is useful to examine Feyerabend’s criticism more closely. 81–112). see Thomason (1994) and Farrell (2003). Feyerabend’s criticism is important because of the effects it has had. and who in 2005 became Pope Benedict XVI. whether untenable or not. A. in this regard. particularly his letter to Foscarini. It is found in an essay with the revealing title of ‘‘Galileo and the Tyranny of Truth’’ (Feyerabend 1985. in part. in particular whether theologians should be counted as experts in physics and astronomy. However. such thinking reduces to arguing that something is true in nature because it is socially or humanly useful or beneﬁcial. However. the principle was indeed rejected and criticized by Galileo. even now. 164). In a scholarly essay (Ratzinger 1994. they would have disagreed on who the relevant experts were. it is not supported by the texts to which he refers. it also considered the ethical and social consequences of Galileo’s views. Benedict XVI. However. 1 My criticism here should perhaps be supplemented by my appreciation of Feyerabend (1980. Galileo did not reject the principle. But it could also mean that scientists should evaluate the truth of their own views in light of human and social values.
Feyerabend 1993. and ‘‘Vaticano. But the latest development in this story is that the private donor has withdrawn the offer. by what seems to be a recurrent pattern of thinking or lecturing on the part of Pope Benedict. triggered protests by students and faculty. Sinke ˜ es 2005. without giving any indication that he was quoting and criticizing Feyerabend. there seems to be a very widespread tendency that confuses or conﬂates Feyerabend’s view with Ratzinger’s. they felt offended and humiliated by the pope’s view of Galileo’s condemnation. Now. the pope cancelled his speech. In fact. Pope Benedict had accepted an invitation by the rector of the University of Rome to deliver the keynote address at the formal ceremony inaugurating the new academic year. this appearance may not correspond to reality. Saka 2006) have gone so far as to attribute this claim directly to Ratzinger or Benedict.A Galilean Approach 63 Ratzinger went onto criticize such views as expressions of skepticism and philosophical insecurity. at http://www. at http://www. given the current geopolitical situation. consulted on 2 September 2008. namely ﬂirting with equivocation by means of quoting a controversial view. by his sharing Feyerabend’s view.html?ﬁlter=foglia&nsid. but rather aggravated.it/notizie/articolo/stampa.html. in which he quoted a remark made by Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus in 1391 regarding Islam and holy war (see Ratzinger 2006). Kahn and Higgins (2008). However. Some authors (Socci 1993. 5 March 2008. which wanted to pay for the cost but to remain anonymous. at http://www. 133–34. 62. perhaps afraid of the unwanted publicity and controversy which the idea was generating. 19). in Leiter Reports: A Philosophical Blog. However. consulted on 17 January 2008. 28 August 2008. faith does not grow out of resentment and skepticism with respect to rationality. 2 See Cini (2007) and ‘‘Pope Quotes Feyerabend and Gets in Big Trouble at Leading Italian University’’.notizie. In the light of such opposition.3 Without knowing more. some time afterwards it emerged that the Vatican statue to Galileo had been proposed by a private ﬁrm. one could speculate that such a statue was a gesture to suggest that Cardinal Ratzinger had really meant to criticize Feyerabend and that today’s Church does not really approve the 1633 condemnation of Galileo. as they stated. For example. There have been some attempts to clarify the situation (Accattoli 1990. asserting that ‘‘it would be foolish to construct an impulsive apologetic on the basis of such views. Finocchiaro 2008.com/article. of science and of technology goes today’’ (Ratzinger 1994. a few months later a story surfaced in the global news media that there was a plan to erect a statue to Galileo within the Vatican walls. Other authors (Machamer 2005. however. In fact. 6) have claimed simply that Cardinal Ratzinger or Pope Benedict accepts Guimara Feyerabend’s view. but only out of a fundamental afﬁrmation and a spacious reasonableness … I mention all this only as a symptomatic case that permits us to see how deep the self-doubt of the modern age. 274. that is. especially in the university’s distinguished department of physics. an analogous issue arose as a result of a lecture he delivered at the University of Regensburg on 12 September 2006. But it appears that he has made no such effort regarding the approval of Galileo’s condemnation. but also in part because. 3 123 . On the other hand. This plan.typepad. and the potential for unrest and violence. 20. alice. Catholic News Service. ‘‘Vatican to Erect Statue of Galileo’’. consulted on 2 September 2008.aspx?acid=6123. This controversy is not helped. n.leiterreports. n. but apparently to no avail. They objected primarily on the grounds of the principle of separation of Church and State. 98). See Glatz (2008).cathnews. Benedict has made a sustained effort to clear up the latter misunderstanding.2 A few months earlier.com/blog/2008/01/pope-quotesf-1. Sfuma Progetto Statua di Galileo nei Giardini Vaticani’’. in January 2008 such confusion triggered the following ﬂare-up. expressed some 20 years earlier when the pope was still a cardinal.
html§1. and obvious potential were realized. Besides the usual pieties. and philosophers. Cf. We will have to wait for the published proceedings of this conference to see whether its stated ambition. in fact the great obelisk casts its shadow in a line that runs along the paving stones toward the fountain beneath this window and in these days. The last point is especially signiﬁcant. A. It had been conceived and organized by the Florentine Jesuits. Philosophical and Theological Re-examination’’. Its various announcements indicated that the underlying motivation of the organizers was not only the celebration of the International Year of Astronomy.64 M. On 21 December 2008. but also the continuing and lingering dissatisfaction with some aspects of Pope John Paul II’s attempt at rehabilitation in 1979– 1992. Cf. initial promise. such a brief reference was widely reported. 5 123 . perhaps not everyone knows that in St. The pretext was provided by the fact that the feast of Christmas was originally scheduled to coincide with the winter solstice. and whether there resulted some signiﬁcant intellectual and scholarly substance. as well as the President. The Associated Press compiled and circulated an article entitled ‘‘Good Heavens: Vatican Rehabilitating Galileo’’ (Winﬁeld 2008). and it casts its longest shadow on the winter solstice. This reminds us of the role of astronomy in setting the times of prayer … The fact that the winter solstice occurs exactly today. And many public and private institutions provided funding and ﬁnancial support. Vatican Observatory.stensen. In this regard. Arcetri Astrophysical Observatory. and Culture Ministry of the Italian Republic. according to the Psalmist’s beautiful words. and at this very time. established on the fourth centenary of Galileo’s ﬁrst observations by telescope … If the heavens. the shadow is at its longest of the year. 2009. Peter’s Square there is also a meridian. ‘are telling the glory of God’ (Ps 19:1). and political institutions. and panel discussions by many distinguished scientists.galileo2009.va/news_services/or/or_eng/text. and ampliﬁed. for example: the Lincean Academy. The variety of sponsoring organizations indicated that there was a general desire for fruitful dialogue not only across the divide of science and religion. above and beyond the 4 The relevant passage reads: ‘‘The Christmas festivity is placed within and linked to the winter solstice when.4 As usual. given that in Italy the Galileo affair has an additional signiﬁcant complication which is absent or minor in other national contexts. who had worked on the project for about a year and one-half. Prime Minister. theologians. he exploited the time and place to mention Galileo and the International Year of Astronomy. namely the historical enmity between the Church and the political ideal of a uniﬁed Italian state. Finally on 26–30 May 2009. commented on. Pontiﬁcal Council for Culture. cultural. historians. Peter’s Square. Finocchiaro But the general story continues. last consulted on 2 June 2009. as its mere title suggests. there was a conference in Florence entitled ‘‘The Galileo Affair: A Historical. consulted on 24 December 2008. Then he went onto ‘‘greet all those who will be taking part in various capacities in the initiatives for the World Year of Astronomy. offers me the opportunity to greet all those who will be taking part in various capacities in the initiatives for the World Year of Astronomy. the days begin once again to lengthen. Pontiﬁcal Academy of Sciences. This conference had a very ambitious agenda. in the northern hemisphere. 21 December.it/ and http://www. http://www. presentations. established on the fourth centenary of Galileo’s ﬁrst observations by telescope’’.vatican.5 Its institutional sponsors represented a who’s who of Italian and Vatican academic.org. 2009. The program included keynote addresses. Peter’s Square. And Church critics sprinkled the blogosphere with their share of invective and abuse. the pope delivered the weekly Sunday speech at noon from a window of the Vatican palace to the people assembled in St. the laws of nature which over the course of centuries many men and women of science have enabled us to understand better are a great incentive to contemplate the works of the Lord with gratitude’’. the websites: http://www. but also across the separation of Church and State. and by the fact that there is an obelisk at the center of St. National Research Council.
and even between scholarly disciplines (such as history and philosophy) is easier said than done.A Galilean Approach 65 phenomenon deﬁned in terms of rhetorical appearance. Then one displays toward these arguments the same attitude which Galileo displayed toward the arguments for and against the earth’s motion. to know and understand the arguments against one’s own view. In fact. In any case. Such events have a way of frustrating the aims and expectations of even the most astute planners and efﬁcient organizers. This is in part a historical thesis. my over-arching thesis is that today. Istruzioni per denigrare la scienza. References Accattoli. These are the qualities of mind or cognitive attitudes which I have labeled judicious-mindedness. between Church and State. one interprets the controversy in terms of arguments for and against the rightness of Galileo’s condemnation. Il Sole 24 Ore. 123 . critical. and tourist travel. and fair-minded character which his own defense of Copernicus had (see Finocchiaro 2009). in the sense that it embodies an approach to the Galileo-affair controversy that is modeled on the approach which he followed in the Copernican Revolution. the result is primarily a proliferation of monologues. inasmuch as it provides evaluations of a signiﬁcant series of developments and actions of the past 400 years. I believe I have devised a framework that paves the way for coming to terms with it and eventually resolving it. still trying to come to terms with one key strand of its aftermath—the Galileo affair. Bucciantini. open-mindedness. 38. M. and to appreciate the strength of opposing arguments before refuting them. just 2 weeks before the conference. Galluzzi 2009. And the impression they convey is precisely that little progress is being made. insofar as it provides understanding and interpretations of an important body of documents and evidence in the last 400 years of Western cultural history. If this is right. 7 An Overarching Thesis And so here we are in 2009. (2009). 10 May. 38. (2009). Corriere della sera. judicious. Must this controversy continue forever? Is there not a way of resolving it? I believe this controversy is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. instead of a real dialogue. public relations. I am no less keen to point out that this thesis has a Galilean ﬂavor. Finally. three of its leading participants (Cabibbo 2009. Dialogo nel nome di Stensen. and fair-mindedness. the dialogue between science and religion. the proper defense of Galileo should have the reasoned. L. 10 May. open-minded. It is also in part a philosophical thesis. In short. Bucciantini 2009) published in the popular press what may be regarded as expressions of their positions and previews of their contributions. Il Sole 24 Ore. 15. 30 March. as well as normative prescriptions for our own behavior and thinking today. Too often. Nevertheless. p. The preliminary results and effects of this conference are not promising. 400 years after the invention of the astronomical telescope and the start of its epoch-making astronomical discoveries. Tutti d’accordo su Galileo. Cabibbo. in the context of the Galileo affair and the controversies over science versus religion and over institutional authority versus individual freedom. N. In my approach. p. The key elements of this Galilean attitude are: to avoid any onesided over-stress on either theoretical argumentation or observational evidence. (1990). then I would boast to have provided a Galilean approach to the Galileo affair.
Kahn. Journal for the History of Astronomy. Berkeley: University of California Press. M. 94. (1975). P. 45.htm. vol. Galileo. A. Berkeley: University of California Press. 32. N. A. http://www. A. M.vatican.org/ Sinke Guimara History/A_003_Galileo.it. 347–364. K. at http://www. After four centuries. M. at http://www. Galileo on the world systems: A new abridged translation and guide. Finocchiaro. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. G. (1994). A. Consulted on 6 May. National Edition by A. M. A turning point for Europe? (Trans: Brian McNeil). at Cini. P. pp. A. (1994). Lecture delivered at the University of Regensburg. Feyerabend. consulted on 4 Feb 2008. (Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science.). Socci. London: Verso. il caso e Glatz. (2009). Galileo on the world systems: A new abridged translation and guide (Trans: Finocchiaro. Finocchiaro. Dordrecht: Springer. (2008). G. 255–264. Against method (3rd ed. Galileo to return to the Vatican. (2008). P. Finocchiaro.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/ 2006/September/documents/hf_ben_xvi_spe_20060912_university-regensburg_en. 309. Ratzinger. ` riaperto. (Revised edition). (Trans: Ed. 60–63. 1633–1992. Defending Copernicus and Galileo: Critical reasoning in the two affairs. Finocchiaro ` La Sapienza di Roma (14 November 2007). 58. org/template/BookshelfLetterTypeDetail/assetid/50287. (2008).). K. Good heavens: Vatican rehabilitating Galileo. (2006). and the university: Memories and reﬂections.catholicnews. Dordrecht: Reidel (now Springer). The Galileo affair: A documentary history. at http://www. (2001). M. M. Lettera aperta al Rettore dell’Universita http://www. M. Reprinted in Feyerabend 1987. (2005). 260–282. Ratzinger. Consulted on 15 Jul. Galileo and the tyranny of truth. (1997). (2008). Against method. vol.). The power of ARCHED hypotheses: Feyerabend’s Galileo as a closet rationalist. 20 vols. Science. Winﬁeld. Dordrecht: Springer.washingtonpost. Galluzzi. (2009). Farrell. 12 September. Finocchiaro. 123 . Berkeley: University of California Press. Feyerabend. 11(1). (1993).sinistra-democratica. C. 27 February. Catholic News Service. J. p. 280). (1988). Galilei. Palmieri. Finocchiaro. A12. London: NLB. The Swan’s song of Galileo’s myth. Galilei. London: Verso. Washington Post. N. Farewell to reason. 109–129. (1987). 61). (1993). Galileo and the discovery of the phases of Venus. M. (2008). Galileo and the art of reasoning: Rhetorical foundations of logic and scientiﬁc method. G. at http://www. Against method. (2007). J. Scienza e fede: Accademia o politica? 30 giorni. 235).traditioninaction. American Scientist On Line. R. Feyerabend. P. London: Verso. 10 May. (2003). P. A. (2005). (Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science.). The Catholic Historical Review. A.html. P. (1890–1909). (Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science. (2005).com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/23. Feyerabend and scientiﬁc values: Tightrope-walking rationality. (1997). A. Galilei. A1. K. Wall Street Journal. 38. Reprinted in 1929–1939 and 1968. Thomason. vol. K. & Higgins.66 M. Feyerabend. Feyerabend. A. Berkeley: University of California Press. reason. ˜ es. consulted on 18 Mar 2008. 23 Dec. Galileo still sends Church spinning as statue at the Vatican is considered. (2006). A. P. Retrying Galileo. (1989). (Trans: Ed. P. Faith. Il Sole 24 Ore.html. Le Opere di Galileo Galilei. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. The essential Galileo (Trans: Finocchiaro.com/data/stories/cns/0801299.americanscientist. A. Letter to the editor. The Church and Galileo. Favaro et al. M. (1985).. Florence: Barbera. A. Review of Finocchiaro’s Retrying Galileo. 28 August. P. Indianapolis: Hackett. (1980). G. Saka.). K. Finocchiaro. Machamer. P.
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