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    Teaser Paragraph: Publish Date: 08/17/2005 Article Image:
    By Paul Newall (2005)

    According to lore, Imre Lakatos was an excellent speaker and a highly amusing one. (He would often listen in on Paul Feyerabend's talks from his office and shout rejoinders if the latter got too carried away.) He wrote a series of lectures on scientific method that were collected in Motterlini's For and Against Method, which we consider here as a means of discussing demarcation in science. It covers some of the discussion in his public talk Science and Pseudoscience

    The first lecture dealt with the Demarcation Problem, which Lakatos rendered as "what distinguishes science from pseudoscience?" He then provided four examples of why it is important (and "not an esoteric problem for just armchair philosophers"): the historical debates over Copernicanism; the Lysenko affair in the Soviet Union; the studies done concerning the link, if any, between IQ and race; and finally Velikovsky's ideas. We could add another that most of us are familiar with: the question of creationism in schools, in which it is said that creationism should not be allowed in the science classroom because it is not scientific at all but rather pseudoscience. To make this sort of claim, however, requires – implicitly or otherwise – a demarcation criterion (or criteria) that allows us to specify what is or is not science.

    Lakatos remarked – casually, as it were – that Karl Popper was once a cabinet maker, helping us to imagine Sir Karl constructing a special example of his craft into which we would feed theories and have the thing tell us if they are meaningful or not - a "sausage machine", as it were, heaping theories into piles marked "science" and "pseudoscience". This was not just a subtle dig for the amusement of his students: the demarcation problem can be viewed in this way to make it clearer what the issue is. Given a theory, what formula do we have to run it through before we can say "this is a scientific theory" and (provisionally) accept it as interesting or "this is pseudoscience" and (presumably) dismiss it? Lakatos contrasted Hegel's ideas – those we would now consider obviously pseudoscientific and hence a straightforward example – with Velikovsky's, whose case was not so simple. According to Popper's falsificationism, for instance, Velikovsky’s theories were scientific; and yet they were rejected by most astronomers. Later Lakatos came back to problems with falsification and why we need more, but at this point he hinted that demarcation in the natural sciences would be much easier than in the social sciences. His joking example of burning down the London School of Economics (LSE) shows again how important the demarcation problem is in general: when politicians decide to invade another country, say, they have – like it or not – used a demarcation criterion (or criteria) to decide where the line was and when it was crossed such that they had to act.

    Lakatos went on to explain some of the positions historically taken on the demarcation problem. The militant positivists believed (and still believe) both that we can find demarcation criteria and that we ought to divide up theories into good or bad accordingly. We also have skepticism, to which Lakatos gave other names. This was a (likely deliberate) straw man, but we come back to it later and consider whether it was a fair description of what sceptics like Feyerabend actually said (as well as if there is such a thing as epistemological anarchism). He then spoke of intellectual honesty, or whether it is acceptable morally to propose pseudoscientific theories or try to convince others of them. (For Popper it was - and many commentators today still is - wrong to advocate pseudoscience, however well-intentioned we might be in doing so.)

    Returning to demarcation criteria, Lakatos then talked about elitist authoritarianism (which is somewhat similar to Dickie’s Institutional Theory in the philosophy of art): what is or is not science is demarcated by scientists (just as what is or is not art is decided by artists and museum directors, according to Dickie). This is a method of demarcation (favoured by Polanyi) but does not give - or rely upon - demarcation criteria at all. He gave some justification for this position before bringing it crashing down with two questions:

    How do scientists (or philosophers, or whomever) come to disagree with one another?
    How do scientific revolutions come about?
    In the first instance, it often happens that some scientists hold to one theory while others support another (or even still others). If all the scientists concerned are "good" scientists (whatever that means), how do we decide which theory is scientific and which pseudoscientific? Elitist authoritarianism appears to give us no guidance. For the second, Lakatos gave a brief (and - it must be said - dismissive) introduction to Kuhn and asked an important question for all forms of demarcation criteria: how do we get started in science? That is, suppose we begin over and ask how we decide which theories are scientific and which pseudoscientific. There are no scientists to help us decide, after all. What can be done?

    In his second lecture, Lakatos began by saying a few words about positivism and Popper's determined opposition to it. (The amusing subscripts he used were (as the footnote says) thrown right back at him by Feyerabend later.) Hopefully it is at least clear on reading that Lakatos had a wicked (yet subtle) sense of humour, which he employed often. This was likely one of the qualities that brought about his friendship with Feyerabend. Lakatos explained that he would set out the various possible answers that have been given to the demarcation problem. If we find that they all fail, he said, we have to accept Feyerabend's or Polanyi's alternative. We need not concern ourselves with whether Lakatos was giving a falsely limited choice here (i.e. other suggestions could come along at a later date or the problem itself might need redefining or dispensing with altogether), reading it instead as accompanied by much winking at his audience.

    Talking a little about the so-called Dark Ages, Lakatos noted that in the seventeenth century the standard used for science was a form of justificationism, according to which knowledge is justified by reference to fixed standards. These standards could be experience, holy texts, or even - said Lakatos - the balance of probabilities. He then remarked: "So it is quite clear that these standards have theological origins."

    The idea here is that - in the past - appeal was made to scripture to justify a statement because to utter a false comment on a religious matter could lead to damnation. Some, like Popper (in Lakatos' opinion), believed or believe something very similar about scientific theories - that it is wrong to publish or hold to a pseudoscientific theory. Lest this seem overly dramatic, we can refer back to the examples in the discussion of the first lecture and see that perhaps it is not. In particular, we need only consider the reactions on the part of some members of the scientific community to advocacy of Intelligent Design, so-called, to see a fervour in opposition that could easily be described as "religious" and the envy of many a pious churchman of the Middles Ages.

    Lakatos then talked about inductivism, pointing out that to justify a theory by reference to facts we require two important steps:

    This is, of course, the celebrated problem of induction. Note, however, that Lakatos was distinguishing two difficulties, while we usually only talk about the second. To use his example, the steps are:

    Can these be bridged? Apparently not, since inductive inferences have long be known to be invalid. (Mill's 1843 [2002] system of logic, however, is considered by some to be the best approach to the problem of induction.) The second step is what we usually think of as the inductive inference involved in science, but the first is necessary also. Lakatos concluded that inductivism (or justificationism) will not suffice as a demarcation criterion and hence should be rejected, a position accepted by all.

    Lakatos began lecture three by expanding on his previous remarks about the unbridgeable steps from facts to factual propositions and from the latter to inductive justifications. He then went on to discuss theory formulation, first considering the idea (inductivist and still quite common) that we observe the facts and use them to build theories. In the case of planetary hypotheses, he said, people instead were already sure that planets had to move in circles (due to Aristotle's ideas, and others) and looked for evidence to justify it. This is interesting because it tells us something about the way science proceeds: according to the inductivist, science starts with facts and induces theories from them, but this example from the history of science shows that actually astronomers were convinced already (for mathematical, philosophical and other reasons) that planets move in circles and used their observations to justify this. Another section on the myth that Einstein's theory of special relativity was derived from the famous Michelson-Morley experiment is tackled in more detail by Holton. This is part of a general discussion (Lakatos' other main instance was the notion that Newton's laws were derived from Kepler's) of inductivism giving birth to historical yarns that have little or no foundation. When we note in this way that famous instances of scientific work fail to match the methodology we insist science follows, we either have to give up the methodology or stop calling the work scientific.

    The notion that the probability of a theory is always zero was, as Lakatos noted, derived by Popper and included as an appendix in his The Logic of Scientific Discovery. (A look at the interpretations of probability - emphasing the difficulties - is here. It is important to understand that Lakatos was treating of the assignment of probabilities to scientific theories on the basis of the available evidence, not confidence intervals.) The idea, in brief, is that there are infinitely many theories that may account for the available data set (this is the problem of underdetermination, of course). Following Goodman (1983), a nice way to appreciate the difficulty is to suppose that the data are points on graph paper and then ask how many lines may be drawn between all of them. The answer, trivially, is an infinite number. It would follow that the probability of any one being correct is zero.

    It seems the misunderstanding arises when confusing a theory with an hypothesis. A confidence interval is used to accept or reject a null hypothesis, not a theory. Perhaps Lakatos was guilty of being careless with this distinction? For instance, he says that a "scientific hypothesis says..." and immediately follows his example by remarking that the "information content of such a theory..." The inverse squared law of gravitational attraction (his example) is clearly a law. The possession of a characteristic, on the other hand, is neither a law nor a counter-example. A finite (although large) number of confirming instances makes no difference - a single counterinstance will disprove the hypothesis. The accumulation of confirming observations runs smack into the problem of induction, since the prior results do not make the next any more likely to possess the desired characteristic unless we assume it to be law-like in the first place - thereby begging the question. (See the discussion of confirmation.) As Lakatos also said, however, there have been attempts to develop an inductive logic - by Tarski and more recently by Hintikka and others (see Lakatos, 1968).

    In his fourth lecture, Lakatos used the discussion of verificationism to get in a few choice jibes at the positivists' expense. Beginning with Schlick's version, he explained that it was quickly shown to be untenable because inductive inferences (particularly laws) cannot be meaningful under such a demarcation criterion (that is, to verify a statement like "all swans are white" – the example he used – we would need to see all swans and verify their whiteness individually). A healthy disdain then followed for Ayer's ([1936] 1946) attempts to rescue verificationism, noting that those propositions that the positivists wanted to exclude (like religious or ethical ones) could be made meaningful under Ayer's terms. This was a reductio argument.

    In the next look at "super direct" verificationism, Lakatos' humour came again to the fore:

    Here Lakatos was alluding to Church's proof (1949) that all statements would be verifiable, the reaction to which was, according to Lakatos, an increasing "scholasticism", eventually culminating in a nine-page definition of verification including logical conditions that would have to be satisfied. Although Lakatos had some fun with this, his point was clear: such criteria are no use at all to scientists or anyone else trying to sort theories into good and bad (or deciding which books to burn, alluding to Hume’s famous declaration).

    Moving on to conventionalism, Lakatos discussed in a lengthy aside the rise of instrumentalism via the Ptolemaic astronomical system. Here we see a rare instance of error: contrary to the claims of some philosophers of science, Ptolemy did not accept that his theory was only a tool and instead tried to develop a realistic understanding of it - nor, for that matter, did Copernicus "get in trouble" simply because his theory apparently contradicted certain Scriptural passages (instead his theory was unconvincing for reasons that are explained in the essay on Galileo). In any case, and in spite of Lakatos' mistakes, the point of conventionalism is to use theories as instruments and not worry about whether they are true or not in reality - we call them true by convention.

    This explanation was followed by still more stories, including the realisation in the nineteenth century that any convention could be saved by enough ad hoc hypotheses, so that conventionalism fails to demarcate at all. (This does not address the question raised in Lecture two, however, by pointing to the demise of instrumental theories.) Moreover, the problem for conventionalism is what to do with established theories. Since these are accepted by convention, we seem drawn into the conclusion that experiment can refute a new theory but not an old one - that is, the power (and relevance) of empirical investigation seems to lessen the more science develops and expands. Unfortunately the fifth lecture - entitled The Limits of Conventionalism - was lost, in which Lakatos expanded on this matter.

    In lecture six, Lakatos began his critque of Popper's falsificationism by reiterating that the demarcation problem has typically involved a moral claim; namely, that it is wrong (or irresponsible) to insist upon a theory that is unproven; and since ideas have consequences, we should be careful when speculating. (Sadly Lakatos followed Feyerabend (1987) here by accusing Galileo of not following this advice, saying that "Galileo's crime was to propound Copernicus's system not as a calculating device, but as the truth about the universe." It is explained elsewhere why this interpretation is mistaken.)

    For Popper, there was a failure of intellectual honesty in advocating unfalsifiable propositions. By considering Bohr's theory of the atom at length (and in some depth), alongside his own experiences in Hungary, Lakatos showed how difficult it would be to force the historical process that led to Bohr's theory into the straightjacket of falsificationism. Remarking on another example, Lakatos pointed out that Newton's laws were falsified by the discovery in 1816 of the anomalous perihelion of Mercury; and yet the laws were maintained until the discrepancy could be accounted for in 1916 by Einstein's theory of gravitation. This makes for a century of moral failure on the part of those who refused (or neglected) to do their duty and give up a falsified idea. Such stories are part of the historical approach in the philosophy of science. By demonstrating an inconsitency between a philosophical account of what science is supposed to be and how scientists actually behave, we are forced to admit either that scientists behaved irrationally or to give up the account.

    In the last lecture, Lakatos continued his demolition of Popper by again referring to some of the issues discussed in our look at falsificationism, specifically the question of ceteris paribus clauses:

    We learn that Popper's interest in the demarcation problem grew from a frustration in talking about politics and/or psychoanalysis in his early student years with people who always seemed to be able to find a way out of any difficulty he could bring up, which led to an interest in theories being decidable. What Popper tried to develop thereafter was a demarcation criterion that would call Newton's or Bohr's theories scientific but not Marx's or Adler's. Lakatos was able to show via examples such as those already detailed above that the insistence on falsification would render all theories unscientific. Popper tried to avoid this - desperately, at times - by implicitly claiming for himself the right to decide whether an anomaly is serious or not, even insisting in a television interview that Mercury's perihelion was not. What we see, then, is that Popper's falsificationism degenerates into a version of authoritarian conventionalism, since he could not avoid relying on the judgement of scientists (or, more often, his own...) as to when we should consider a falsifier strong enough to bring to bear all the weight of moral authority in demanding the theory's rejection and when to "wait and see" instead.

    In closing this section, Lakatos remarked as follows:

    Lakatos was writing in 1973. Even today, however, Popper's name is spoken with reverance and his falsificationism appealed to as either the definitive statement on what characterises science ("a theory should be falsifiable if it is to be considered scientific") or an important part thereof. The same moral indignation at refusing to dispense with unfalsifiable ideas can be found wherever science is discussed in vaguely philosophical terms. The strange thing is that - however harsh Lakatos' words may seem - the high regard for falsificationism in one form or another persists in spite of philosophers of science have thoroughly destroyed it as a credible demarcation criterion. The commitment to it is perhaps explained by the political and rhetorical importance of demarcation in the public sphere.

    Given the failure of so many demarcation criteria, is this really a problem at all? There are two main reasons why it is: firstly, we do demarcate (especially given that time and resources are finite, leading to the question "how long is long enough?"); and secondly, this demarcation has consequences. A budding theory on the right end of a demarcation can potentially benefit from funding, further research and the support of the so-called scientific community; while conversely a declaredly pseudoscientific idea can be mocked, vilified in the (scientific and general) press and be unlikely to improve its station due to a lack of financial backing (although this does not always hold), while the layman or - worse - scientist responsible can expect personal and professional attacks. This latter phenomenon, indeed, is the modern-day equivalent of the Popperian moral revulsion at advocating pseudoscience - considered by many to be dishonest at best, if not the very definition of "anti-scientific" behaviour.

    There can be little doubt that demarcation criteria still play an important role in science, finding their way into the debate over climate change and with critiques of creationism and intelligent design repeatedly calling on a form of falsificationism (usually the most simplistic). An increasing number of studies are showing the way in which rhetoric shapes science, too, and particularly the importance of rhetorical dimensions in achieving demarcation (especially implicit or explicit claims of authority). When we take the time to examine these controversies, we find that the philosophical failure of demarcation criteria does not prevent them being employed, even if this may backfire or encourage an uncritical tone throughout. As usual, the possibility of genuine dialogue is the victim.

    What we learn from Lakatos' lectures is that the demarcation problem is alive and well, even if the most frequent usages of demarcation are na�ve and propagate long-dead myths of their efficacy in distinguishing between science and pseudoscience. The importance of going over these failures, however, lies in Mill's principle that a truth unrehearsed and unchallenged becomes a dogma far too easily. That it is so difficult to define what science is shows us not a failing but the very strength of this mode of inquiry in the first place.


    Selected References:

    Ayer, A.J., Language, Truth and Logic (London: Gollancz, 1946).
    Church, A., Review of Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic in Journal of Symbolic Logic, 14(1), pp52-53, 1949.
    Feyerabend, P.K., Farewell to Reason (London: Verso, 1987).
    Goodman, N., Fact, Fiction and Forecast (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983).
    Lakatos, I., The methodology of scientific research programmes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978).
    Lakatos, I., The Problem of Inductive Logic (Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing Company, 1968).
    Mill, J.S., A System of Logic (Honolulu: University Press of the Pacific, 2002).
    Popper, K.R., The Logic of Scientific Discovery (New York: Basic Books, 1959).
    Teaser Paragraph: Publish Date: 07/01/2005 Article Image:
    By Paul Newall (2005)

    The so-called Galileo Affair occurred within a variety of contexts, some – like the invention of the telescope – recent and some with an ancient pedigree. This paper looks at examples of the latter, centring on the issue of interpreting the Bible.

    The Council of Trent

    The immediate context for the events surrounding Galileo's eventual abjuration was provided by the Reformation, beginning in 1517 with Luther's famous nailing of his ninety-five theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg. There followed the Catholic Counter-Reformation, from the pontificate of Pius IV in 1560 to the end of the Thirty Years War in 1648 – roughly the period in which Galileo (1564 - 1642) lived. In 1523 (and later in 1524) a request had been made at the Imperial Diet in Nuernberg for a "free Christian Council" to discuss the issues that were then splitting the Church. This was delayed for so long (cf. Jedin, 1957) that when the Council was finally convened at Trent in 1545, its aims were to clarify Catholicism as a system and no longer to deal with a schism that had already gone too far to stop. The Council itself lasted for eighteen years, interrupted twice between 1547 and 1551 and later for a decade from 1552.

    The Fourth Session, held in 1546, covered the important question of the status to be granted to Scripture and tradition. The issues at hand were to decide which books should be considered authentic and thus included in the Bible, and how to intepret the result. In addition, there was the matter of Catholic tradition, in the form of the writings of the Fathers of the Church – from Basil through to Augustine and Cyril of Alexandria. On these, the Session approved two Decrees. The first concerned tradition and stated the following:

    The main (but not sole) intent of this passage was to counter the Lutheran doctrine of Sola Scriptura; that is, that salvation comes from Scripture alone (thereby rejecting the indulgences and worldly extravagances that Luther decried in the Church). Notice, though, the use of "and" when asserting that the Gospel truths "are contained in the written books and in the unwritten traditions…" This was the result of a great (and unresolved to this day) debate within the Church concerning the revelation and its transmission through Scripture and/or tradition. The question was: which part of the revelation is contained in each? The two possibilities discussed were that the whole was to be found in both, or that a part was in each (Partim in libris scriptis partim sine scripto traditionibus). (The notion that the whole was in one but only partly in the other was seemingly not covered – cf. Jedin, op cit.)

    The consequences of each were significant: if the whole revelation lies in Scripture then tradition tells us nothing additional, which is not far from Sola Scriptura in effect except insofar as it does not reject that tradition includes truths. On the other hand, the alternative suggests that there are truths in tradition that cannot be found in Scripture (the converse holding, too), leading to the placing of an increased importance on the writings of the Church Fathers. What the Council did, however, was dodge the issue by not really asking the question and by simply resorting to this "and".

    More importantly for Galileo subsequently, a second Decree covered Scriptural interpretation:

    A variant of this appeared in the Papal Bull Iniunctum nobis of 1564, including the line "I also accept Sacred Scripture in the sense in which is has been held, and is held, by Holy Mother Church, to whom it belongs to judge the true sense and interpretation of the Sacred Scripture."

    A commentary on the appeal to the authority of the Church Fathers was given by the Dominican Melchior Cano in his De locis theologicis, published in 1563 two years after his death. He gave six degrees of authority to be used in determining the accuracy of any such appeal, of which two are of interest here. The first stated:

    This is the principle that Galileo would later appeal to, as we shall see below, and it is quoted verbatim by the Carmelite father Paolo Antonio Foscarini in his defence of his own letter Concerning the Opinion of the Pythagoreans and Copernicus About the Mobility of the Earth and the Stability of the Sun and the New Pythagorean System of the World of 1615, also discussed below. In his fifth degree, however, Cano wrote that

    This was the understanding relied upon by Bellarmine.

    Another writer of influence who considered these problems was Benito Pereyra, a Jesuit who authored a lengthy commentary on the book of Genesis in which he gave four rules for judging the truth of conflicting Scriptural interpretations. In particular, the last reads as follows:

    This passage was quoted – again verbatim – by Galileo in his Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of 1615 and influenced his thought on Biblical hermeneutics considerably. (Indeed, it is in Pereyra that we find the references to Augustine’s De Genesi ad litteram that would later appear in Galileo's Letter, in support of the very same interpretive principle.)

    This, then, is the context provided by the Council of Trent. An unresolved problem and an injunction on who could meaningfully interpret the Bible left an air of inevitability that a challenge would soon arrive to test the Church. Before we come to this, however, it is necessary to take two short detours.

    The Context of Demonstration

    It is well known that Galileo was not able to prove the Copernican system definitively. Some have subsequently asserted that in fact it was the Church that acted "scientifically" by taking a fallibilist stance, but this myth is mere anachronism – applying current ideas to the past when Galileo was working within a different context of demonstration. In this section we examine the understanding of proof that was employed by Galileo at the time and its consequences.

    Proof and Rhetoric

    Recent work on Galileo's early manuscripts has discerned considerable continuity between his thought and that of his contemporaries, as well as the Aristotelianism prevalent at the time. In particular, three early Latin works – MS 27 consisting in questions on logic and based on Jesuit commentaries on Aristotle's Posterior Analytics; MS 46 being some notes on motion; and MS 71 comprising in tentative versions of his later De Motu – provide a window into how Galileo thought about what we now call science and the justification of scientific theories.

    In the first part of his Posterior Analytics, Aristotle described science as follows:

    Note that this view is considerably distant from the modern fallibilist notion of science, wherein all theories are held provisionally as subject to possible revision or refutation. For Aristotle, the province of science is that "which cannot be other than it is"; i.e. certain knowledge. Wallace has shown (in Coyne et al., 1985) that Galileo was “seriously studying Jesuit course materials on logic and natural philosophy” (op cit, 16) while authoring MS 27, which contains his adaptations of their remarks on Aristotle's treatise.

    His overall concern was to develop demonstrative arguments by which to provide scientific proof of a theory (in particular, the Copernican system). He did this by appealing to the concept of causality and by making a series of distinctions between types of cause. He contrasted true causes (vera causae) with improper ones; the universal with the particular; genuine with accidental; internal with external; instrinsic with extrinsic; and so on. His method, as explained in MS 27 and later explicated in the Sidereus nuncios and the Discourse on Floating Bodies, was that causes could be determined via a regressus demonstrativa. This meant working backwards from effects to causes, only to then attempt to minimise or eliminate those that - although present - would not have an effect on the object of study. An ultimate cause, then, would be something that when present allows us to see the effect but when absent takes it away.

    In addition to this, Galileo made use of suppositions; that is, by making hypothetical suppositions and reasoning from them to a logical demonstration, in accordance with the causal principles discussed above. If these suppositions are not false, he argued, then the theory so demonstrated could be held to be certain (Opere: 5, 357-359). In this way he could combine causes already discovered to achieve conclusive demonstrations elsewhere.

    The question, then, is to what extent Galileo had – or believed he had – necessary demonstrations of the Copernican system. It seems that late in 1615 he thought his argument from the tides was (or rather could be) a conclusive argument (Opere: 5, 377), and wrote his Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina with it in mind. However, in his later Dialogue he places the argument on the fourth day and quite clearly notes that it is not certain proof by allowing Simplicius to critique it as an example of begging the question, to which Salviati provides no rejoinder. This being so, the considerable rhetorical skill with which Galileo advanced Copernicanism (Moss, 1993) must have been intended to serve another purpose.

    Dominicans and Jesuits

    Before we can understand what this aim was, it is helpful to consider still another context in which Galileo lived. In 1607, Pope Paul V had issued a moratorium finally putting an end to a controversy between the Dominicans and Jesuits that had lasted for two decades concerning the reconciliation of Divine Grace with the freedom of the will. In the latter half of the sixteenth century the Domincans had become increasingly conservative in outlook, promulgating a series of Acta (Reichert, 1901) dealing with the necessity of persecuting heretics and taking a dim view of any form of compromise (cf. Feldhay, 1995 – particularly ch. 5-6). This was in marked contrast to the Jesuit approach, which emphasised tolerance and sought to find a middle ground with Protestants, minimising or removing altogether the use of pejoratives terms like heretic.

    Jesuit Obedience

    Following his election as General of the Society of Jesus in 1581, however, Claudio Aquaviva became increasingly concerned that the Jesuits' role after the Council of Trent as defenders of Church orthodoxy was being diluted. Mindful of violating the conditions of the Papal order, moreover, he issued two letters in 1611 and 1613 in which he sought to provide the Jesuits with a greater degree of uniformity of thought (Epistolae, 1911). In the second, he made explicit reference to the forty-first decree of the Fifth General Congregation of the Jesuits, which read in part as follows:

    This had an immediate effect: in 1614, Christopher Grienberger, who had taken over as Professor of Mathematics at the Collegio Romano in Clavius' chair, arranged for Giovanni Bardi to present a lecture and accompanying demonstrations in support of Galileo’s 1612 Discourse on Floating Bodies. Bardi, a friend of Galileo, wrote a letter to the latter giving his account of how well he had been received (Opere: XII, 76), remarking in particular on Grienberger's opinion:

    Bardi also said that Grienberger had added (ibid) that it was no surprise that Bardi’s demonstration should disagree with Aristotle, since Galileo had already shown him to be in error with regard to the rates at which bodies of differing mass fall (the famous experiment at the Leaning Tower of Pisa). Clavius himself had sounded a similar note in 1611 when revising the final edition of his In sphaerum, wherein he reviewed the results Galileo had obtained from telescopic observations (which he had verified for himself) and stated that "ince these things are so, astronomers should consider how the celestial orbs are constituted so that these phenomena can be saved" (Opera mathematica, III, 75). Nevertheless, his suggestion (and the principle behind it) was not heeded and the Jesuits moved in a direction of obedience and fidelity to Aristotelianism (and Thomism) rather than continue with their open-minded approach to Galileo and his work.

    This is no more clearly shown than in the case of Guiseppe Biancani, a Jesuit who in 1614 authored his Aristotelis loca mathematica in which he treated of Aristotle's thought on floating bodies. While undergoing peer review, a custom of the Jesuits, this work was censored and a recommendation made that the discussion of floating bodies, due to Galileo, be replaced with a note pointing to the Florentine's work. (The reviewer, Giovanni Camerota, opined that "It does not seem to be either proper or useful for the books of our members to contain the ideas of Galileo, especially when they are contrary to Aristotle" – cf. Baldini, 1984.) In the revised edition of another work, the Sphaera mundi, seu cosmographia, first written in 1615 but only published in 1619 after the Decree of the Congregation of the Index in 1616, Biancani concluded his discussion of Copernicus and Kepler by saying:

    In his report on this work, Grienberger had lamented the restrictions placed on Biancani, noting that "he was not allowed to think freely about what is required" (Baldini, op cit). Much later, in 1633, Niccolo di Peiresc reported to Pietro Gassendi that in Athanasius Kircher’s opinion, even Christopher Scheiner, Galileo's bitter opponent on the question of sunspots, had been Copernican in outlook, only defending Aristotle because of his obligation as a Jesuit to do so:

    It is important to understand what apparently occurred here: the Jesuits were not bound to oppose Galileo because of what he wrote per se, but because their order had determined to follow Aristotle in philosophy. This, in turn, they had opted to enforce due to their (intellectual) battle with the Dominicans and the Counter-Reformation consequences of the Council of Trent, which had itself laid down the standards that could be accepted on Scriptural interpretation. Thus we come full circle to the Bible and how Galileo would be allowed to read it.

    Reading the Bible and the Book of Nature

    In order to avoid simplistic accounts of Galileo's differences with Bellarmine in interpreting Scripture, it is necessary to first understand the subtlety present in the latter’s views. In particular, we need to look beyond the almost exclusive focus on the last decade of his life when he came to know and interact with Galileo.

    Bellarmine and Astronomy

    An important observation arising from the study of Bellarmine's early works (most notably the Louvain Lectures of 1570-72) is that he held to a non-Aristotelian cosmology from at least the age of 28, if not earlier, and that this did not change significantly throughout the course of his life (cf. his letter to Cesi of 1618 in Blackwell, 1991, and his Letter to Foscarini of 1615) The hermeneutic principle he held to was that since there was disagreement among astronomers as to the make-up of the heavens, we should follow the interpretation that best accords with the Scriptures. This is to take the Bible as a boundary condition, limiting interpretations (this is Feyerabend’s argument in Coyne, et al., 1985, before he lapses into myth).

    Bellarmine's personal opinion remained constant in supposing that the heavens consisted in three parts, the second (the "starry") neither being composed of an Aristotelian quintessence nor incorruptible, but likely composed of fire and stationary. He further explained the motion of the Sun from North to South by its true path being a spiral, while he believed that the fixed stars actually moved independently of one another. (cf. Baldini, 1984 for more details.) Although he was aware of (and struggled with) the weaknesses of this account, which he based on his reading of relevant Biblical passages, it is therefore wholly incorrect to suppose that his opposition to Galileo and Copernicanism was due to his allegiance to Aristotelianism or the Jesuit injunctions of 1581.

    Biblical Hermeneutics

    In 1615, Foscarini published his Letter. This brought matters to a head very quickly. For his part, Foscarini was clear on his reasons for undertaking to show that Scripture could be adapted to Copernicanism:

    The principle that Foscarini was relying on here was that there could not be two truths; that is, the Book of Nature must ultimately agree with the Bible or else two contradictory truths would hold at the same time. Judging that Copernicanism was quite probable, Foscarini therefore set himself the task of showing that Scripture could be interpreted in a manner that agreed with heliocentrism. In doing so, he was following Pereyra's Fourth Rule and the very same advice of Augustine that Galileo would appeal to; namely, that if the Church should fix physical truths on the basis of Scriptural passages and the former should one day be demonstrated to be incorrect, the faith would thereby be grievously injured.

    Bellarmine's response was his carefully considered Letter to Foscarini. After noting that Copernicanism cannot be held to have been demonstrated, and therefore can only be held ex suppositione, Bellarmine hints that Foscarini has not been able to explain all Scriptural passages on the basis of heliocentrism being true. His second point is of paramount importance, however:

    Here Bellarmine insisted on a principle that meant the end of all debate, and indeed neither Foscarini nor Galileo published anything on Biblical hermeneutics subsequently. Since everything in the Scriptures has been authored by the Holy Spirit, it becomes a matter of faith by default. Although Foscarini had anticipated the appeal to the Decree of the Council of Trent, then, by saying that only matters of faith and morals come under the restriction on interpretation, Bellarmine had cut the ground from under him (and anyone else) by rendering the entirety of Scripture under the province of Trent. This also makes the Ptolemaic system "a matter of faith" and hence brought an end to any possibility of debate. (Although Tommaso Campanella published an attempted reconciliation of Copernicanism and Scripture in 1622, there is considerable dispute as to its actual date of creation. Even if we push it back to 1615, the year when he was asked for his opinion by Cardinal Gaetani (the man charged with correcting Copernicus' De revolutionibus orbium celestium), it does not seem to have impacted on the debate between Galileo and Bellarmine (although it is more likely to have had an effect on the trial of 1616). Campanella was not a popular man due to his having been imprisoned in 1599 for heresy and political conspiracy, even though his defence of Galileo’s freedom of inquiry was Scripturally more sound than Bellarmine's thought. cf. Blackwell, 1994 and Langford, 1998)

    Galileo's Reductio

    We will return to Bellarmine’s third point below, but Galileo was able to obtain a copy of the Letter and in due course made his own notes on it. Although he did not – and could not – publish these, he nevertheless developed a simple yet devastating reductio ad absurdum of Bellarmine’s principle that is worth considering.

    Here Galileo was referring to his own quotation of Cardinal Baronius' epigram in the Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, which stated that "the intention of the Holy Spirit is to teach us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go." However, Galileo was able to ally this with a reductio: if it is true that everything in the Scriptures is a "matter of faith" ex parte dicentis, then it follows that denying that Tobias had a dog would be tantamount to heresy. Indeed, while the movement of the Earth may have been denied in the Scriptures, this is not a commonsensical issue and may be a question of accommodating the Biblical passages to the understanding of the lay readers. That Tobias had a dog, on the other hand, is a literal and straightforward interpretation of the Scriptures, and hence to deny it is – on Bellarmine's principle – heretical. This absurd conclusion demonstrates the poverty of Bellarmine’s position but Galileo, of course, did not dare publish it.

    Boundary Conditions

    If we wish to distill meaningful methodological principles from Bellarmine’s and Galileo's thought on interpreting the Scriptures, then, we have to look to their differing employment of boundary conditions. For Bellarmine, the common understanding of the Bible may not be without error but its overall status (containing either a part or the whole of the revelation, as discussed above) meant that it should be treated accordingly with a certain respect. That is, unless a passage could be shown to be contradicted by a certain demonstration to the contrary, we should assume its truth.

    For Galileo, on the contrary, the fact that some aspects of the Scriptures were false when read literally implied that physical arguments should take priority, with the Bible holding the "last place" in the interpretive chain ("if truly demonstrated physical conclusions need not be subordinated to biblical passages, but the latter must rather be shown not to interfere with the former", he writes in the Letter). Only when it speaks of an issue having nothing to do with the Book of Nature should the literal understanding of the Bible be accepted as definitive (cf. the extremely subtle reading of this section of the Lettter given in Fantoli, 2003, 156-159). Moreover, Galileo added that

    When we bear in mind Galileo's methodology of suppositions and the regressive demonstration of causes, we arrive also at the realisation that for him only those physical propositions contained in passages of Scripture that were in agreement with certain proof could be taken as definitive; all others should not be subject to condemnation unless or until the complainant could show that they could not possibly be demonstrated. This is thus Galileo’s Aristotelian conception of what we now call science, still relying on certainty but operating in the opposite direction.

    What we have, then, are two hermeneutic principles. On the one hand, the Bible is to be taken as true (or approximately true) as is unless we can find reason to believe otherwise, whereupon its meaning must be reinterpreted. This is so for physical and theological elements alike (and also historical). On the other, we must start with true (or approximately true) physical propositions and interpret the Bible from within the context they provide. The one sets the Bible as a methodological standard by which to navigate, while the other strips it of all but theological content and sets the Book of Nature in its stead. It is this change in priority that has led to Galileo being called the "father of modern science", while these opposing methodologies inform debates on the priority of Scripture even today.


    Ugo Baldini and George V. Coyne, S.J., The Louvain Lectures (Vatican City: Specola Vaticana, 1984)
    Ugo Baldini, Additamenta Galilaeana, in Annali dell’Instituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza di Firenze (1984)
    Giuseppe Biancani, Aristotelis loca mathematica ex universes ipsius operibus collecta et explicata (Bononiae, 1615)
    Giuseppe Biancani, Sphaera mundi, seu cosmographia demonstrativa, ac facili methodo tradita (Bononiae, 1620)
    Richard Blackwell (trans.), A Defense Of Galileo the Mathematician from Florence (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1994)
    Richard Blackwell, Galileo, Bellarmine and the Bible (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1991)
    Melchior Cano, Opera (Rome: Ex typographia Forzani et Soc., 1890)
    Christopher Clavius, S.J., Opera mathematica (Moguntinae, 1611-12)
    G.V. Coyne, S.J., M. Heller and J. Źyciński, The Galileo Affair: A Meeting of Faith and Science (Vatican City: Specola Vaticana, 1984)
    Decreta, canones, censurae, et praecepta Congregationum Generalium Societas Jesu (Avenione: Ex Typographia Francisci Sequin, 1830)
    Stillman Drake, Cause, Experiment and Science: A Galilean Dialogue Incorporating a New English Translation of Galileo’s "Bodies that Stay atop Water or Move in it" (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981)
    Stillman Drake, Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo (New York: Anchor Books, 1957)
    Epistolae selectae praepositorum generalium ad superiors Societatis (Rome: Typis Polyglottis Vatincanis, 1911)
    Anibale Fantoli, Galileo: For Copernicanism and for the Church (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003)
    Antonio Favaro (ed.) Le Opere di Galileo Galilei, Edizione Nazionale (Florence: G. Barbera, 1890-1901)
    Rivka Feldhay, Galileo and the Church: Political Inquisition or Critical Dialogue? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995)
    Hubert Jedin, Geschichte des Konzils von Trient (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 1957)
    Jerome J. Langford, Galileo, Science and the Church (South Bend: St. Augustine’s Press, 1998)
    Jean Dietz Moss, Novelties in the Heavens: Rhetoric and Science in the Copernican Controversy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993)
    Olaf Pederson, Galileo and the Council of Trent (Vatican City: Specola Vaticana, 1983)
    Benedictus Pereyra, Commentarium et disputationum in Genesim tomi quatuor (Rome: Apud Georgium Ferrarium, 1591-95)
    B.M. Reichert (ed.), Acta Capitulorum Generalium Ordinis Praedicatorum (1558-1628), Monumenta Ordinum Praedicatorum (Rome: 1901)

    Teaser Paragraph: Publish Date: 06/30/2005 Article Image:
    By Paul Newall (2005)

    There are plenty of works in the history and philosophy of science worth studying, but perhaps too many to know where to start. This introduction gives an historical overview, explaining the relevance of some of the better-known tomes.

    Philosophy of Science:

    There are several excellent textbooks at undergraduate or higher level in the philosophy of science. Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues, edited by Curd and Cover, Philosophy of Science, edited by Boyd, Gaspar and Trout, and A Companion to the Philosophy of Science, edited by W.H. Newton-Smith, are standard works and well worth investing in.

    What is this Thing called Science?, by Alan Chalmers, is a nice introductory level work suitable for beginners. In a lively and easily understood style, he covers problems in the philosophy of science in their historical development and some of the more recent controversies. Another excellent introduction for laymen is John Ziman's Real Science.

    The Philosophy of Physics, edited by Roberto Torretti, is a thorough textbook on the philosophical issues of importance within Physics, while The Philosophy of Biology, edited by David L. Hull and Michael Ruse, does likewise for Biology.

    Karl Popper's The Logic of Scientific Discovery has been called one of the most important philosophical works of the twentieth century. Popper discussed the problem of induction (how to justify inductive inferences) and the demarcation problem; that is, the question of how we decide which theories are scientific and which are not. In the early chapters he considers and criticises the idea that science proceeds by using the experimental results of particular tests to make general conclusions about laws (induction), moving on later in the book to propose his alternative (and solution to the demarcation problem); falsification. According to Popper, what makes a theory scientific is that it can be wrong: we can specify an experiment that, if unsuccessful, would lead us to reject the theory.

    In Conjectures and Refutations, a more accessible work for a general audience, several essays by Popper expand upon his thinking. By making bold conjectures - "sticking our necks out" - and in turn trying to refute - "falsify" - them, our knowledge of the world grows. Although these and his other ideas were subject to vigorous criticism from other philosophers of science for years to come, reading Popper can put the issues into context and help gain an appreciation of where he fell short.

    Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is perhaps the best-known work in HPS. One of the first to apply a study of history to problems within the philosophy of science, Kuhn looked at the possibility of giving a rational account of theory change; that is, why have some theories replaced others over time? Some philosophers thought (and think) that we can explain theory change in a progressive way by saying that theories are supplanted by better ones (whether that means more parsimonious, truthlike, instrumentally successful, or any of the other proposed ways to demarcate between theories). Kuhn demonstrated that social factors have an important role to play in analysing the history and philosophy of science, using the term paradigm to refer to the way in which commonly held concepts, theories and practices can become entrenched, such that a theory being "better" than the alternatives is not enough to immediately overturn the investment of time, effort, conviction, and so on, that has been put into the orthodoxy.

    Kuhn's work led to the development of the field of SSK (the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge) and a general broadening of the philosophy of science to include all those factors (aesthetic, social, thematic, political, rhetorical) that had traditionally been ignored or had their importance minimised. It helped that he was already known as the author of The Copernican Revolution, acknowledged as a masterpiece within the history of science. This account of the rise and development of Heliocentrism forever replaced the mythical tale of reason against dogmatism with a sophisticated appreciation of how theory, experiment, theology, society and politics interacted. The significance of Kuhn remains this legacy of the sheer complexity of scientific practice.

    Long recognised as having an importance belied by the comparatively small number of works he produced, Imre Lakatos' The Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes was his contribution to problems of theory change and demarcation criteria considered by Kuhn, Feyerabend and others. A veritable masterpiece of historical scholarship and philosophical theory, he suggested that theories should not be considered via dichotomies like confirmed or refuted, scientific or non-scientific, but instead as part of research programmes that could be thought of as degenerating or advancing as a whole. In this way, he hoped to account for the history of theories like atomism that had been proposed and rejected repeatedly over time. An overview of one aspect of his thought is here.

    One of the least understood and most frequently maligned books in the philosophy of science is Paul Feyerabend's Against Method. Again employing the historical method, Feyerabend showed that all forms of the so-called "scientific method" had been violated - usually on several occasions - by scientists in the past when coming up with and developing their theories. This meant that a rigid insistence on the methods suggested by scientists and philosophers of science alike would have resulted in the early death of many theories we now consider important. He asked the inevitable question: should scientists get rid of the restrictive ideas on scientific method or should the scientists of old have abandoned their theories? The only "method" that could take account of the history of science would be "anything goes", which is no method at all. By means of this reductio ad absurdum, he arrived at the now-standard conclusion that there is no such thing as scientific method. His Philosophical Papers (volumes 1, 2 and 3) expanded on this and other issues within the philosophy of science.

    In Progress and Its Problems, Larry Laudan attempted to build a model of scientific progress while being critical of the relativism he saw in those who he considered to have given up too quickly while trying to account for theory change. In Science and Relativism he offered more objections to "relativists" like Quine, Kuhn and Feyerabend. It is interesting to read these philosophers and compare their actual words to Laudan's readings of them. In particular, the works are useful insofar as they show how widespread the charge of relativism has become in the philosophy of science and how easily is it misapplied.

    The Disunity of Science, edited by Perter Galison and David J. Stump, is concerned with its subtitle: boundaries, contexts and power. Taking as a starting point the idea that science is not a unified enterprise, the contributors explore the consequences in a series of papers covering the philosophy and sociology of science.

    How Experiments End, also by Peter Galison, is the classic study of research and how it is done. Through three different case studies, in which he examines sources previously unavailable to historians and philosophers of science such as notebooks and the minutes of meetings, he develops a fascinating study of the institutional, philosophical and other factors that influence scientists. Galilson also contributed to Buchwald's Scientific Practice, a collection of essays on the subject that again considers boundary conditions and the limitations of researchers and their ostensive objectivity. An illustrative example of the work going on into the sociological influences in science is Andrew Pickering's Constructing Quarks: Sociological History of Particle Physics. For the political dimension of science, The Politics of Pure Science, by Daniel Greenberg, is a famous monograph discussing the myriad political influences exerted by and on science.

    Critical Scientific Realism, by Illka Niiniluoto, explains the problem of realism and critiques many strands of anti-realism while proposing his own solution. He looks at the use of the concept of truth within science and how we can measure the verisimilitude or truthlikeness of a theory. This is a work of great philosophical sophistication.

    Bas van Fraassen's Laws and Symmetry and Nancy Cartwight's The Dappled World are two of the most trenchant and impressive philosophical critiques of the idea of natural laws in science. From differing perspectives they ask whether it is possible or meaningful to speak of laws and if we are ever justified in so doing. Another work by van Frassen is his Images of Science, a collection of responses to his ideas along with his rejoinders which covers many areas of the current debate between realists and anti-realists.

    Arranged by Matteo Motterlini, For and Against Method is a collection of letters and short papers by Lakatos and Feyerabend which gives an introduction to the historical approach. More importantly, perhaps, it grants a valuable insight into the personalities involved in the philosophy of science from roughly the turn of the twentieth century - few of which escape the pair's acid wit or withering critique. An evolutionary perspective is taken in David L. Hull's Science as a Process, which is an interesting blend of philosophy, biology, sociology and psychology. A good introduction to the philosophy of social science is Benton and Craib's.

    History of Science:

    According to Imre Lakatos:

    With that in mind, the following are some general works in the history of science that also involve the philosophy of science and make clear the interdependence of the two.

    The Companion to the History of Modern Science, with various editors, is a massive tome covering many different issues in the history of science. It includes interesting essays also on historiography and the philosophy of science, and how all three relate. Although expensive, its scope is unrivalled.

    The Enterprise of Science in Islam is a volume edited by A.I. Sabra and Jan P. Hogendijk. The former is the leading expert on Islamic science and this collection provides a valuable insight into the development of science within the Islamic Empire and subsequently.

    If any work can suffice on its own to explain the history and development of Chinese science, Joseph Needham's Science and Civilisation in China, of which this is the shorter version, edited by Ronan (volume 2) is it. There is no way to characterise it other than as a masterpiece, the fruit of a lifetime of dedication. The encyclopaedic scope makes the clear the sheer depth of science in China and the magnitude of Chinese achievements.

    Herbert Butterfield's The Origins of Modern Science was a standard textbook for many years and he was keen to emphasise the dangers of anachronism and a Whig interpretation of history. It is useful as a general history or just to see where the history of science has changed in its interpretations of science past.

    David C. Lindberg's The Beginnings of Western Science surveys both ancient and medieval science. He covers strands within the history of science, such as astronomy, mechanics, optics (on which he has written several other works) and medicine, amongst others, as well as looking at the importance of religion and institutions.

    The Construction of Modern Science is Richard S. Westfall's study of the development of science via the consideration of two prevailing themes: the understanding of the universe in geometric terms that began in Ancient Greece, and the Mechanical Philosophy that came and went with the fortunes of atomism until its reinvigoration with Descartes and others. In Westfall's account, the interplay between these two opposing ontologies created a problem that needed to be solved by the Scientific Revolution.

    Like Westfall and Lindberg, Edward Grant is also a highly respected historian of science. His The Foundations of Modern Science covers similar ground but he lays emphasis on the transmission (through translation) of Ancient Greek ideas through Islamic civilisation, as well as the role of the universities. It is interesting to use compare the (discontinuity) thesis that the Scientific Revolution was precisely that - a revolution in the history of ideas�with the (continuity) alternative found in this work (and others) that sees the eventual revolution as the result of a continuous development over the years.

    The Rise of Scientific Europe, edited by Goodman and Russell, is out of print but a good work to search for. It is used as a textbook for undergraduate courses in the UK and covers the development of science from the Ancient Greeks to the Chemical Revolution. It stresses the importance of Islamic and Chinese science, as well as science "on the fringes of Europoe" in places like Sweden and Scotland�areas underrepresented generally within the history of science.

    Stillman Drake is acknowledged as an expert on Galileo, with an encyclopaedic knowledge. His Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo remains the best one-volume consideration of the old master, setting his achievements into their philosophical and historical context. Anyone wishing to understand the role of Galileo in the history and philosophy of science has to work their way through Drake's oeuvre.

    I. Bernard Cohen's The Birth of a New Physics explained the historical development of physics, focusing in particular on Newton and his mechanics. In doing so, he assumed no knowledge of physics in the reader and set out the principles and problems involved in plain language with plenty of figures, illustrations and descriptions in everyday terms. The result was a highly enjoyable study that proved popular with readers at all levels. Another of his works was Revolution in Science, a monumental study of the many revolutions in science, well and less well known, asking and answering the question of whether we are justified in so calling them.

    John Henry's The Scientific Revolution and the Origins of Modern Science is used as an undergraduate university set text and gives a nice overview of current scholarship within the history of science. In particular, he provides a bibliography of literally hundreds of works that are referred to by number in the earlier chapter, giving students a huge resource to work through to expand on any areas of interest.

    Alexandre Koyre's From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe interpreted the Scientific Revolution as a conceptual revolution, the geometer's closed world of concentric circles and fixed stars centred on the Earth giving way to an infinite universe. This is the history of science recast as the history of ideas and benefiting from it.

    The Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics is Max Jammer's magnum opus, covering the quantum theory from an historical perspective. All of Jammer's works are excellent resources, particularly his studies of the development - philosophical and otherwise - of important concepts within physics, such as mass, space and force.

    Thematic Origins of Scientific Thought, by Gerald Holton, is a masterpiece of history and philosophy of science that ushered in a new way of looking at the development of science. Holton was concerned with the role of themata, examples of which include pairs like continuous/discontinuous, simple/complex, uniform/non-uniform - those fundamental presuppositions that scientists (and others) use, both now and in the past, to guide their work. According to Holton, the commitment to these can and does outweigh any allegiance to philosophical theories or experiment. By analysing case studies throughout the history of science, he demonstrated that scientists ignored, wilfully or otherwise, both theoretical and empirical objections to their theories because of an unwavering conviction that the universe just is one way (simple, for example) rather than another. An experiment that shows otherwise, then, could be assumed to be not as important as it would otherwise seem because eventually a mistake would be discovered as the ultimate character of the universe would stand unbowed. The power of this way of looking at the history of science became still clearer over his many subsequent works.
    Teaser Paragraph: Publish Date: 06/30/2005 Article Image:
    By Paul Newall (2005)


    So it was that the trial and its inevitable result established what had already been determined in 1616 by Bellarmine's blinkered approach, wherein he claimed that no Scriptural passage could be challenged by physical arguments because they all came from the Holy Spirit. This opinion, followed to the letter, would kill science before it had even developed.

    As Fantoli put it, "to hold that the provisions of 1616 were only intended to break the untimely zeal of Galileo for Copernicanism without blocking further careful scientific research on the matter appears to me to be completely untenable" (op cit: 481). Although there were other factors, the effect on Copernican astronomy within Italy was catastrophic. Galileo blamed the Jesuits (XIV, 116-117, for example) and there is little doubt that a varied group of opponents was arrayed against him, from jealous academics to furious theologians. Nevertheless, the decisive influence was Urban VIII, convinced that Galileo had betrayed him—without which certainly even the most strident efforts of Galileo's detractors could not have borne fruit.

    The complex tale that is the Galileo affair cautions us not to make simplistic judgements. Nevertheless, it remains the case that the question of whether or not Galileo had any proof for Copernicanism was never at issue—in 1616 or in 1633. The very possibility of any demonstration was excluded in principle by Bellarmine's doctrinal position and its adoption by an authoritarian Church. The trial and abjuration of Galileo thus represented an "institutionalised abuse of power which can never be sufficiently deprecated" (ibid), in which the societal position of the Church was used to dictate the correct understanding of an issue that was never considered on its own terms. Allowing the enmity of some philosophers to provoke a theological confrontation when there was only a physical argument at issue, the machinery of the Holy Office was turned against Galileo and fell into the very error he and Augustine before him had warned against.

    In spite of Galileo not being blameless himself, it is fair to say that history has judged the Church justifiably harshly—most notably, perhaps, Pope John Paul II with his comment on the Galileo affair that "the sons and daughters of the Church must return with a spirit of repentance ... [to] the acquiescence given, especially in certain centuries, to intolerance and even the use of violence in the service of the truth" (1994: 45). The upshot of the affair was characterised by Westfall when he explained that

    For his part, Galileo had seen his attempt to save his Church from this mistake crushed by the authoritarianism he had sought to delimit to theology. Writing in 1633 to his friend Diodati of yet another attack on Copernicanism by Libert Froidmont, he asked

    It seems the question could only be rhetorical.

    Galileo was imprisoned by the Holy Office but his sentence was commuted—first to confinement within the Tuscan Embassy, then to house arrest in the Archbishop of Sienna's residence, and finally to house arrest in his own villa at Arcetri, close to Florence in his native Tuscany (XIX, 389). This circumstance remained in force even when he was completely blind. Using dictation to his students, however, he continued to work despite his disappointment, compiling all the work he had done or intended to do on dynamics. This was published in 1638 in Leiden as the Discourses and Mathematical Demonstrations about two new sciences belonging to Mechanics and local motions.

    The Discourses, leading to Galileo being described as "the father of modern science"

    On the 8th of January, 1641, his health having deteriorated for the last time, Galileo Galilei died with his son Vincenzio and his student Evangelista Torricelli at his bedside. He was buried in the church of Santa Croce in Florence, the Grand Duke resolving immediately to "provide a sumptuous tomb for him comparable to and facing that of Michelangelo Buonarroti" (XVIII, 378). The Tuscan Ambassador was told by Urban VIII in Rome that this could not possibly be allowed (ibid, 378-379), showing that the attitude of the Church to him did not soften following his death. His friends, at least, realised his true stature and how he would be considered by posterity (for example, Holste, ibid).

    Only in 1734 did the Church finally give permission for a mausoleum to be built for Galileo's remains (XIX, 399), which were moved to the completed structure in 1736. The inscription read Galileo Galilei, Florentine Patrician, very great Innovator of Astronomy, of Geometry and of Philosophy. Incomparable to anyone of his time. May he rest here well. The work that Galileo had begun with the Two new sciences had since been completed by Newton in his Principia Mathematica and the Church finally had to come to terms with what Bellarmine supposed there could not be—a justification of Copernicanism.

    The adaptation was still slow, with the 1741 authorised edition of Galileo's works still requiring "corrections". In 1757 the decree of 1616 was quietly dropped from the Index of forbidden books, but the Copernican works proscribed therein remained until 1822 "out of at having finally to take a clear position with respect to the behaviour of the Church" (Fantoli, op cit: 497). In perhaps the ultimate irony, Pius VII released a decree in 1822 stating that no work treating of the motion of the Earth was to be prohibited, on pain of punishment for the person proposing to do so—a complete reversal of the situation in 1616 and 1633.

    Galileo's Tomb in Florence

    The Galileo Affair Today

    In the nineteenth century the rise of anti-clericalism and its antithesis in the combative defenders of the Church led to the myths we began this essay with. For the former, Galileo was a martyr to intellectual freedom, having fought the dragon of implacable hostility to science and free thought. No more convincingly, for the militant supporters of the Church Galileo embodied vanity, pride and ambition, and was responsible for his own sufferings at the hands of a Church that had correctly judged the limits of the available knowledge and acted accordingly. Neither of these can be taken seriously today, as we have seen.

    In 1849 the archives of the Holy Office were opened for the first time for the study of the Galileo affair. Giacomo Manzoni, Minster of Finances of the short-lived Roman Republic, and Silvestro Gherardi, Minister of Public Education, found some of the relevant documents and published them as The Trial of Galileo Reseen through Documents from a New Source in 1870. With the return to power of Pius IX, the Church hastily compiled its own resource to prevent any possible damage, with Prefect of the Secret Vatican Archive Marini's Galileo and the Inquisition issued in 1850. This was—intentionally—nothing approaching a complete record of the affair. Several other scholars were later given the chance to consult the volumes on Galileo, including Henri de L'Espinois, Domenico Berti and Karl von Gebler. In 1880 the Secret Archives were finally opened by Leo XIII and Antonio Favaro began his work on the National Edition of the Works of Galileo. Nevertheless, a resolution of the difficulties posed by the Galileo affair was no closer.

    In 1941 a decision was made by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences to commission a biography of Galileo in time for the 300th anniversary of his death in 1942. The work was entrusted to Monsignor Pio Paschini, professor of Church history in Rome at the Pontifical Lateran University, which he duly completed (slightly late) within three years. The book was rejected, however—some said for the harshness of opinion Paschini demonstrated towards the Jesuits for their part in the affair—and only released some twenty years later, having been corrected for the "inappropriate" way it portrayed the Church (cf. Maccarrone, 1980 for more detail). Thus did the concern to "save face" extend all the way to the Second Vatican Council and beyond.

    On the 10th of November, 1979, Pope John Paul II gave an address at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Einstein, at which he noted that

    This challenge was taken up with the formation in July 1981 of a "Galileo Commission" under the leadership of Cardinals Casaroli and Garrone and split into four areas: exegetical; cultural; scientific and epistemological; and historical and juridical. A series of works were produced, beginning in 1983 and culminating in the Studi Galileiani of the Vatican Observatory.

    On the 31st of October, 1992, the Pope again addressed the Pontifical Academy to draw to a close this period of investigation. Commenting on the whole affair, his talk took a different tack when he said that

    The Pontiff went on to explain that the affair had resulted from a "tragic mutual incomprehension", which consisted in four separate conclusions of the Commission:

    Galileo failed to appreciate that he had no proof of Copernicanism;
    Theologians of that time did not correctly understand Scripture;
    Bellarmine truly understood what was "at stake" in the affair; and
    The Church accepted Copernicanism as soon as proof was available.
    We have seen that the first of these is untenable. The second fails because the methodological principle of Galileo's Letter to the Grand Duchess, while commonplace today, was neither understood nor employed by theologians at that time; and so it is useless to complain that it was not wielded correctly. We have also noted that Bellarmine's position rendered any such accommodation impossible. Following on from this, the third we already know to be in error: Bellarmine's position was not instrumental at all but based on reading all Scriptural passages as literally coming from the Holy Spirit. Finally, the idea that the Church embraced Copernicanism as soon as it was demonstrated is given the lie by the unwillingness to open the Secret Vatican Archives and the fact that the 1744 edition of Galileo's works was not allowed to contain the Letter (although it did include the Dialogue, but only with the sentence of 1633 alongside it) (Coyne, 2002), as we have treated of briefly above.

    Thus we see that the Church had retreated from the boldness of John Paul II's intentions in 1979 to a restatement of the old myths we have considered and rejected throughout. Meanwhile, Galileo studies continue unabated with new perspectives continually casting the affair in a different light. It is perhaps in this desire to consider the case closed that the contemporary Church has erred most seriously, since the continuing relevance of all the issues encompassed by this great human, theological, philosophical, political and personal drama is such that it seems likely to maintain its hold over our imaginations indefinitely. It is as well to leave the last word on a subject that is never final, then, to Fantoli (1996: 511), who suggested that:



    (Note: Links do not necessarily refer to the same edition.)

    Aristotle, Physics, in The Works of Aristotle (Chicago: Great Books, 1952)
    Mario Biagioli, The Social Status of Italian Mathematicians, 1450—1600, in History of Science 27, 1989, 41-95
    Mario Biagioli, Galileo Courtier (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993)
    Berthold Brecht, Galileo (New York: Grove Press, 1966)
    John Hedley Brooke, Science and Religion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991)
    Brenno Bucciarelli, Speech of His Holiness John Paul II, in Einstein Galileo (Vatican City State: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1980)
    I. Bernard Cohen, The Birth of a New Physics (London: Penguin Books, 1992)
    I. Bernard Cohen, Revolution in Science (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2001)
    Nicholas Copernicus, De revolutionibus orbium celestium (Chicago: Great Books, 1953)
    G.V. Coyne, The Church's Attempts to Dispel the Galileo Myth (Galileo and the Church—an International Conference: University of Notre Dame, 18-20 April 2002)
    Peter Dear, Totius in Verba: Rhetoric and Authority in the Early Royal Society (Isis 76, 1985)
    E.J. Dijksterhuis, The Mechanization of the World Picture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969)
    Stillman Drake, Essays on Galileo and the History and Philosophy of Science in three volumes (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999)
    Stillman Drake, Galileo (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001)
    Stillman Drake, Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1957)
    Pierre Duhem, Essai sur la notion de th orie physique de Platton Galil e, translated as To Save the Phenomena by Doland and Maschler (Chicago: University of Schocago Press, 1969)
    William Eamon, Court, academy and printing house: patronage and scientific careers in late-Renaissance Italy, in Bruce Moran (ed.), Patronage and Institutions: Science, Technology and Medicine at the European Court, 1500-1700 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1991)
    Annibale Fantoli, Galileo: For Copernicanism and for the Church (Vatican City: Vatican Observatory Publications, 1996)
    Robert P. Farrell, Feyerabend and Scientific Values (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003)
    Antonio Favaro, Edizione Nazionale delle Opere di Galileo Galilei (Firenze: Giunti Barb ra, 1968)
    Paul K. Feyerabend, Against Method (London: Verso, 1993)
    Paul K. Feyerabend, Farewell to Reason (London: Verso, 2002)
    Maurice A. Finocchiaro, The Galileo Affair: A Documentary History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989)
    Maurice A. Finocchiaro, Galileo on the World Systems (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997)
    Galileo Galilei, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, trans. Stillman Drake (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1953)
    George Ganss (trans.), The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus (St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1970)
    Eugenio Garin, Alle origini della polemica Copernicana, in Colloquia Copernicana, volume 2, Studia Copernicana, volume 6 (Wroclaw: Ossolineum, 1975)
    Ludovico Geymonat, Galileo Galilei: A Biography and Inquiry into His Philosophy of Science (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1965)
    Owen Gingerich, The Censorship of Copernicus' De Revolutionibus (Annali dell'Instituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza di Firenze 7, 1981)
    Gerald Holton, Thematic Origins of Scientific Thought (revised edition) (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988)
    Max Jammer, Concepts of Space (New York: Dover, 1993)
    John Paul II, Discorsi dei Papi alla Pontificia Accademia delle Scienza (Vatican City State: Pontificia Academia Scientiarum, 1992)
    John Paul II, Apostolic Letter to "Tertio Millenio Adveniente" (Vatican City State: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1994)
    Arthur Koestler, The Sleepwalkers (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1959)
    Alexandre Koyr , Galileo Studies (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1978)
    Thomas S. Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1971)
    Jerome J. Langford, Galileo, Science and the Church (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1966)
    Michele Maccarrone, Mons. Paschini e la Roma ecclesiastica, 49-93 in Atti del convegno di studio su Pio Paschini nel centenario della nascita: 1878-1978 (Udine: Pubblicazioni della Deputazione di Storia Patria del Friuli, 1980)
    James J. Martin, A Beginner's Manual for Apprentice Book Burners, in The Amateur Book Collector, volume V, number 4, 1954.
    Guido Morpurgo-Tagliabue, I processi di Galileo e l'epistemologia (Milan: Edizione di Comunit , 1963)
    Alan Musgrave, The Myth of Astronomical Instrumentalism, in Mun var (ed.), Beyond Reason (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1991)
    Pio Paschini, Vita e Opere di Galileo Galilei (Rome: Herder, 1965)
    Pietro Redondi, Galileo Heretic (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987)
    Colin A. Russell and David Goodman, The Rise of Scientific Europe 1500-1800 (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1991)
    Giorgio de Santillana, The Crime of Galileo (London: Heinemann, 1958)
    H.J. Schroeder (ed. and trans), Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent (Rockford: Tan Books, 1978)
    Steven Shapin and Simon Schafer, Leviathan and the Air Pump (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985)
    Steven Shapin, A Social History of Truth (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995)
    William R. Shea and Mariano Artigas, Galileo in Rome (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003)
    William A. Wallace, Galileo's Early Notebooks (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 1977)
    Richard S. Westfall, Essays on the Trial of Galileo (Vatican City: Vatican Observatory Publications, 1989)
    Robert S. Westman, The Astronomer's Role in the Sixteenth Century: A Preliminary Study, in History of Science 18, 1980, 105-147
    Publish Date: 06/28/2005 Article Image:
    By Paul Newall (2005)
    The Trial and its Development
    Urban VIII and Politics
    The reception of the Dialogue among Galileo's friends was enthusiastic (XIV, 357), as could have been expected. Riccardi received a copy and made no complaint (Paschini, 1965: 501), which will prove relevant later. Meanwhile, political events were overtaking all other aspects to the affair.
    Urban VIII's attempts to sail a course between the French and the Hapsburgs during the Thirty Years War had come unstuck when he was accused by the Spanish of favouring the French. Galileo's friend Ciampoli became mixed up in the affair, having been befriended by Cardinal Gaspare Borgia, Ambassador to Spain, and the Spanish group in general. In March of 1632 Borgia, backed by another seven Cardinals, publicly criticised the Pope at a consistory, accusing him of favouring heretics and lacking apostolic zeal, leading almost to a brawl when the Pontiff's brother, Cardinal Antonio Barberini, took exception. (See Redondi, 1987: 227-232 for a full account of these events.) Stung by these and other accusations and unable to do anything against Borgia himself, Urban VIII acted against the group around him, expelling Cardinal Ludovisi for his support for Borgia and his threats to depose the Pope. Ciampoli, who had had Ludovisi as a patron and who was close to Cardinals Ubaldini and Aldobrandi, other members of the group, was dismissed for his association with the Spanish party. (Some, including Ambassador Niccolini, gave another reason for Ciampoli's fall: overconfident in his own abilities, he had taken a letter of the Pontiff's written in Latin and rewritten it, showing the result to friends. The Pope, being a man of letters and deeply proud of his own abilities, was stung to the quick. (Fantoli, 1996: 457-458))
    Pope Urban VIII, Galileo’s friend and patron
    In April, the Protestant army of Adolphus reached Bavaria and began to loot the Jesuit Colleges. Urban VIII was caught between the demands of Philip IV and Ferdinand II to act against Adolphus and Cardinal Richelieu's suggestions to split with Spain. His indecision did not last long, however, because Adolphus reached the Alps in May and threatened to head for Rome. The Pope was forced to capitulate to the Spanish demands completely. With this political upheaval came a sea change in outlook, with many artists leaving Rome and the culture of patronage being stunted. Urban VIII took to sealing himself within Castel Gandolfo, suspecting everyone (Biagioli, 1993: 336).
    The Dialogue is a massive tome, running to 465 pages in Drake's 1953 translation. Copies began to arrive in Rome in July and August, but it is unlikely that the Pope had had the time or inclination to read it, with other problems on his mind. Nevertheless, it is likely that Galileo's enemies had succeeded in informing the Pontiff of its contents by July and he eventually saw for himself that his argument against interpreting astronomical theories as real put into the mouth of Simplicio, the simpleton (Fantoli, 1996: 459). Deeply upset at what he saw as his betrayal by Galileo, Urban VIII immediately ordered the book suspended, as Riccardi explained:
    In the same letter, Riccardi asked about the picture of three dolphins found on the frontispiece. This was merely the logo of the publisher, Landini, but the Pope suspected it was an insinuation about the way in which he was perceived to protect his nephews. Everything was piling up around him and the Dialogue was but the last straw. "Something had burned out in Urban VIII's heart: the admiration he had for Galileo..." (Fantoli, op cit: 394).
    In a long letter to Guidicci from Filippo Magaloti, a Florentine and relative of the Pontiff, the latter explained that the work was being recalled only to add the arguments that Urban VIII had used to convince Galileo "of the falsity of the Copernican theory". Having said this, he became more candid:
    Galileo protested the blocking of the distribution of the Dialogue in the strongest terms, but Ambassador Niccolini described the difficulties in a letter of August 1632:
    Secretary of State Cioli replied that the Grand Duke would "take it badly if persecution of his works by those who are envious of his learning continues" (XIV, 373). Unfortunately Galileo's enemies had succeeded in allying the Pope to their cause and it was too late, in spite of Cioli's and Niccolini's best efforts. The latter remarked on this when he wrote that "when his Holiness becomes obstinate, it is a lost cause, especially so if one has intentions of opposing or threatening or asserting oneself, because under those conditions he is hard to deal with and shows respect for no one" (XIV, 385). Nevertheless, we can see plainly that the machinations of these "envious" people had very little (if at all, even at the beginning) to do with religion or its purported conflict with science and everything to do with politics, jealousy and misunderstandings—in short, too many factors to make any generalised (mythical) account tenable.
    On the 5th of September, Niccolini again wrote to Cioli to give his account of the meeting he had had with Urban VIII the day before. It does not make for pleasant reading, except for the principled and dedicated way Niccolini stuck to his assignment and tried to defend Galileo in a situation he knew he could not hope to save. After stating his agreement with the Grand Duke that "the sky is about to fall", he went on to describe how things had gone from bad to worse:
    Thus did the Pope associate Galileo with Ciampoli and allege a joint ruse, a charge he would repeat ("his complaint was to have been deceived by Galileo and Ciampoli"). When Niccolini begged for Galileo to have the chance to explain himself before a fair panel, the Pontiff declared that "in these matters of the Holy Office the procedure was simply to arrive at a censure and then call the defendant to recant". Urban VIII's responses became increasingly violent as the Ambassador pressed the issue, the latter summarising their discussion by remarking that "I feel the Pope could not have a worse disposition toward our poor Mr. Galilei" (op cit).
    Although Riccardi tried to assure the Ambassador that all that was required were some adjustments to the text (XIV, 389), matters came to a head when a document was discovered in the files of the Holy Office which apparently showed Galileo have been ordered not to "hold, teach or defend" Copernicanism "in any way". Since this injunction is so important to the subsequent trial, we shall quote it in full:
    Since it was plain to anyone who had read the Dialogue that Galileo had broken these terms, it seemed he was finished. Urban VIII's Commission inevitably decided that the Holy Office should investigate the work (XIV, 398) and on the 23rd of September the Congregation met to discuss the Commission's report. There he was charged with having "been deceitfully silent about the command laid upon him by the Holy Office, in the year 1616" (XIX, 279-280) and the Pope ordered that Galileo be brought to Rome by October to appear before the Commissary general.
    Galileo received this command from the Florentine Inquisitor on the 1st of October and agreed to follow it (XIX, 331-332). He could do little else. Even so, he wrote to Cardinal Francesco Barberini to ask for his help, suggesting that an alternative to the long journey to Rome would be to appear before the Inquisitor in Florence (XIV, 410). Galileo was seventy years old at this stage and did not think he had any significant amount of his life remaining. Meanwhile, Galileo's friends tried to assist him as best they could, with Castelli talking to Riccardi and Vincenzo Maculano, the Commissary of the Holy Office. The Grand Duke himself became involved, instructing Niccolini to do "everything that might ever be possible to help him" (XIV, 413). The Ambassador met with Urban VIII in November and attempted to appeal to Galileo's age and ill health, but the Pope could not be swayed. The latter did, however, grant that the conditions of Galileo's quarantine would be eased as far as possible. Cardinal Francesco Barberini apologised for not being able to offer an opinion other than that of his uncle, the Pontiff, but he also pledged to do whatever he could to see that Galileo did not suffer (XIV, 427). Nevertheless, the Pope insisted that Galileo be forced to come to Rome (XIX, 280) in spite of the latter being so sick that he was confined to his bed. It was clear that Urban VIII was still bitter at having been deceived, as he put it (XIV, 428-429). When Galileo at last sent word of his poor health, certified by three doctors, the Pope "commanded that we [the Holy Office] write to the inquisitor that his Holiness and the Sacred Congregation cannot and absolutely must not tolerate subterfuges of this sort" (XIX, 281-282). Eventually it was decided that doctors from Rome would visit Galileo at his own expense to determine the extent of his illness, particular since "he is the one who has reduced himself to this state of affairs" (ibid).
    Thus it was that Galileo finally left for Rome in January of 1633, the Grand Duke having offered him a carriage to travel in and accommodation with Ambassador Niccolini, who treated him with "indescribable kindness" from his arrival in February. The wheels of the Holy Office moved slowly, however, and Galileo struggled to find out what was going on, still supposing that his honesty and faith could save him. He remained ignorant of the sheer extent of the forces arrayed against him, even as others were very clear that he "suffer[ed] from the envy of those who s[aw] in him the only obstacle to their having the reputation of the highest mathematicians" (Holste to de Peiresc, XV, 62). Niccolini spoke again with the Pope in March, finding this time that Urban VIII made specific reference to his own argument of the omnipotence of God and His power to make the world in any way He chose. When the Pontiff began to lose his temper in response to the Ambassador's objections, the matter had to be dropped (XV, 68). At last, in April, Galileo was called before the Congregation of the Holy Office to be interrogated.
    The Trial and Verdict
    Galileo appeared before Commissary Maculano on the 12th of April and was interviewed on the same day (XIX, 336-342 and Finocchiaro, 1989: 256-262). After some preliminaries, Maculano focused on what Galileo had been told by Bellarmine in 1616, the former knowing of the document quoted above. Galileo replied that
    Galileo’s Trial
    Then came the decisive issue: asked what he had been told by Bellarmine in 1616 at the time of being informed of the decree of the Index, Galileo said that "Lord Cardinal Bellarmine told me that since Copernicus's opinion, taken absolutely, was contrary to Holy Scripture, it could neither be held nor defended, but it could be taken and used suppositionally" (ibid). He then produced a copy of a signed note from Bellarmine, stating to this effect. This was obviously a surprise to Maculano, but he pressed the main issue of whether Galileo had been enjoined upon not to "teach, hold or defend in any way". Galileo answered that
    The discrepancy between the document of the Holy Office and the one signed by Bellarmine was such that Maculano had to ask Galileo for more detail on who was present at the 1616 meeting at Bellarmine's residence. Using the former piece of evidence, the Commissary tried to jog Galileo's memory but was told the same thing: Bellarmine had said that he could not hold or defend Copernicanism, but Galileo did not recall any additional remarks about not teaching in any way whatever. Notwithstanding the context of Bellarmine's certificate, Galileo was stood over while the Holy Office appointed three theologians, Oreggi, Inchofer and Pasqualigo, to examine the Dialogue (again, in the case of the first two) in order to determine if Galileo had transgressed the order he was given in the first formulation. The result (op cit, 262-276) was a foregone conclusion, of course, and thus constituted (at this time) an aggravating circumstance—that is, Galileo's apparent dishonesty on this matter.
    Many Galileo scholars have attempted to explain the existence of these two—seemingly contradictory—pieces of written evidence. Perhaps the most interesting were Stillman Drake's (1999, 1:142-152) and Guido Morpurgo-Tagliabue's (1963: 14-25; they are similar in almost all respects), which suggested that Michael Seghizzi, then Commissary General, was present when Galileo went to visit Bellarmine to receive his injunction in 1616. As a Dominican, Seghizzi may not have trusted Bellarmine to explain Galileo's error in strict terms. According to Drake, "by the time the Cardinal had finished his admonition, the Commissary was ready. Without allowing Galileo time for any reply, he proceeded to deliver his own stringent precept not to hold, defend, or teach Copernicanism in any way, orally or in writing, on pain of imprisonment" (ibid: 145). This was duly recorded by a notary and became the (unsigned) document that Maculano questioned Galileo about. Upset with the way Seghizzi had behaved, Bellarmine then met with Galileo subsequently following the latter's complaints that people were gossiping about his having been silenced. Telling him to discount what he had been told by Seghizzi, who had overstepped his bounds (although Fantoli, 1996: 260 disagreed on this point), Bellarmine wrote a certificate of exactly what he had said to Galileo and then signed it (XIX, 348). This is the second document, which Galileo produced at his interrogation and which no one but he knew of until that time.
    On this version of events, Galileo had indeed been ordered not to "hold, teach, or defend [Copernicanism] in any whatever, either orally or in writing", but in an extrajudicial manner. His instructions from Bellarmine, on the other hand, did allow him to treat of Copernicanism in a suppositional way. In any case, the coexistence of these two statements caused a great deal of consternation for Maculano and the Commission. It was easy to see that the signed certificate from Bellarmine outweighed the unsigned notary's paper but it was simply not possible to leave Galileo unpunished because the "Holy Office had itself brought the charges, and in theory at least, a false charge of heresy carried the same penalty as heresy itself" (ibid: 149). There was also the matter of whether Galileo had transgressed the instructions given to him by Bellarmine, irrespective of which of the papers was an accurate record of what had occurred on that day in 1616. In spite of Galileo's protestations of innocence, which he later dropped (XIX, 361-362), it was obvious that he had written the Dialogue in such as way as to leave the reader in no doubt as to which was the more reasonable worldview. There was a case to answer.
    Maculano explained the dilemma the Congregation was faced with late in April:
    He was alluding here to the difficulty caused by the two conflicting documents and the fact that Galileo's denial of defending Copernicanism would have to lead to his trial focusing on this apparent lie to the exclusion of the matter of publishing without permission (according to Urban VIII, at any rate). However, Maculano proposed an alternative:
    Such an out-of-court settlement would allow the Church to save face in the light of Galileo's certificate from Bellarmine while Galileo himself would be let off with a lesser sentence. Since Galileo was one of the most famous people in Europe and Philosopher and Mathematician to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, it would also be a prudent way to deal with the issue. The latter was pleased with the idea, as Maculano explained:
    As a result of this discussion, Galileo was interrogated for a second time on the 30th of April. Having reconsidered the matter, he said, he had re-read his Dialogue, checking whether "against my purest intention, through my oversight, there might have fallen from my pen not only something enabling readers or superiors to infer a defect of disobedience on my part, but also other details through which one might think of me as a transgressor of the orders of the Holy Church" (quoted by Finocchiaro, 1989: 277-279). Of course, it turned out that "it appeared to me in several places to be written in such a way that a reader, not aware of my intention, would have reason to form the opinion that the arguments for the false side, which I intended to confute, were so stated as to be capable of convincing because of their strength, rather than being easy to answer" (ibid). Galileo's explanation for this conduct was that he had "resorted to that of the natural gratification everyone feels for his own subtleties and for showing himself to be cleverer than the average man, by finding ingenious and apparent considerations of probability even in favour of false propositions" (ibid). Shortly thereafter he added that he would gladly write a sequel to the Dialogue in which he would confute Copernicanism thoroughly.
    This was not what Maculano had hoped for and certainly not enough to satisfy the Congregation. Nevertheless, Galileo was given leave to return to the Tuscan Ambassador's residence owing to his ill health, where he would prepare his defence for the eventual trial at which his plea bargain would be entered. Declining the eight days he was allowed for this purpose, he presented the story of his discussions with Bellarmine and the events leading to the presentation of his signed certificate.
    Nothing seemed to happen for many days thereafter, but behind the scenes the situation was deteriorating rapidly. On the 16th of June a document was provided to the Congregation called Contra Galileo Galilei (XIX, 293-295). It contained the accusations of Lorini and Caccini of 1615 and 1616 respectively, together with "grossly inexact" (Fantoli, op cit: 438) details of many of the important events we have covered. It is doubtful that the trial could have been concluded any other way, however, even without these deceitful tactics on the part of some unknown persons. At the meeting of the Congregation on the same day the Pope's decree was
    Niccolini again met with Urban VIII to try to achieve some form of compromise but was told that the decision had been made. Maculano's attempt at a plea bargain had extracted a "confession" that was not considered adequate, so the only concession that Niccolini could win was a promise that the Pontiff would discuss later how to minimise the suffering Galileo would have to endure (XV, 160).
    On the 21st of June Galileo arrived again at the Holy Office for his final interrogation. He repeated that he did not hold the Copernican opinion and that he had "not held it since the decision of the authorities" (XIX, 361-362). When it was pointed out to him, again, that his Dialogue gave a contrary impression, he repeated his disavowal. Finally, warned that if he did not speak the truth then recourse might be made to torture, Galileo stated once more that he had not "held this opinion of Copernicus since the command was intimated to me that I must abandon it; for the rest, I am here in your hands—do with me what you please" (ibid).
    An excerpt from the abjuration of Galileo Galilei
    The next day, Galileo was led to the convent of Minvera to another plenary session of the Holy Office, clad in penitential clothes. After reviewing the circumstances of the case, the closing section of the condemnation read thus:
    His hopes crushed completely, Galileo could do no more than read the required abjuration:
    Fantoli (op cit: 446-450) has shown that the juridical position taken against Galileo "can be viewed as fully justified according to the regular practice of the Inquisition at that time, on the basis of the doctrinal and disciplinary decisions of 1616" (ibid: 450). He had denied that he wished to defend Copernicanism when it was plain that he had done so, even if only showing it to be probable; he had defended in the Dialogue a theory that had been declared contrary to Holy Scripture by the decree of 1616; and he had disobeyed the orders given to him by both Bellarmine and Segizzi. "Vehemently suspected of heresy" (but not heretical, a considerably worse charge that, quite correctly, was not brought because it could not be sustained), the only option for the Congregation was to impose an abjuration.
    Teaser Paragraph: Publish Date: 06/28/2005 Article Image:
    By Paul Newall (2005)

    There can seem no end to the philosophers and their works. This reading list gives some suggestions for places to start and resources to help you.

    The sheer number of philosophers and works of philosophy, together with commentaries on and critiques of both, make it an impossible task to recommend which volumes are the most important. Perhaps the best approach for a beginner is to tackle a history of philosophy, putting the development of ideas into historical context and seeing how different philosophers have taken the same age-old questions and tried to consider them from new angles. Richard H. Popkin's The Columbia History of Western Philosophy, Bertrand Russell's The History of Western Philosophy or Anthony Gottlieb's The Dream of Reason: A History of Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance are all excellent, extensive tomes, going into detail on philosophies and philosophers alike. Objections were raised to Russell's account due to his dismissive treatment of ideas he did not agree with, but it is unlikely that any unbiased history can be written (of which more below). More recent histories include Roger Scruton's Modern Philosophy and Christian Delacampagne's A History Of Philosophy In The Twentieth Century.

    To move beyond these, it makes sense to start with the Greeks. Kenneth Guthrie's The Greek Philosophers is a highly regarded coverage, but copies of the writings of Plato and Aristotle are almost essential. The Collected Dialogues of Plato, edited by Hamilton, Cooper and Lane, at 1776 pages, and The Basic Works of Aristotle, edited by Reeve and McKeon, at 1436, are gargantuan resources. Moving on, Medieval Philosophy is covered by The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Philosophy, edited by A.S. McGrade.

    A discussion of which philosophers ought to be required reading could probably go on for a lifetime. Nevertheless, anyone wishing to pursue philosophy in any depth has to sooner or later make their way through Descartes' A Discourse on Method, Berkeley's A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, Hume's Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Morals, Kant's Basic Writings, the Basic Writings of John Stuart Mill and The Basic Writings of Nietzsche. Two other exceptional books of note are John Rawl's Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy and Jerome B. Schneewind's The Invention of Autonomy: A History of Modern Moral Philosophy.

    A resource available in the Manuscripts section of The Galilean Library is the ongoing Introductory Series, looking at the various areas of philosophy from a beginner's perspective and developing a basic grounding in the subject by building from the bottom up. A good way to expand on these, whether specific discussions or the whole thing, is to move on to a textbook - still at the introductory level but adding to the embryonic understanding already gained. The following list gives some suggestions:

    Metaphysics: Michael J. Loux's Metaphysics
    Logic: Harry J. Gensler's Introduction to Logic
    Epistemology: Robert Audi's Epistemology
    Philosophy of Science: Alex Rosenberg's Philosophy of Science
    Aesthetics: Noel Carroll's Philosophy of Art
    Political Philosophy: Jonathan Wolff's An Introduction to Political Philosophy
    Truth: Richard L. Kirkham's Theories of Truth
    Ethics: Harry J. Gessler's Ethics
    Postmodernism: Andrew Cutrofello's Continental Philosophy
    Philosophy of Mind: John Heil's Philosophy of Mind
    Philosophy of Religion: Keith E. Yandell's Philosophy of Religion
    Analytic Philosophy: Avrum Stroll's Twentieth Century Analytic Philosophy
    Philosophy of History: Mark T. Gilderhus' History and Historians: A Historiographical Introduction
    Rhetoric: Silva Rhetoricae
    Another aid for the novice or expert alike is a thorough dictionary to help with philosophical terms or ideas. Robert Audi's The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, Simon Blackburn's The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy and Thomas Mautner's The Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy are all excellent choices.
    Teaser Paragraph: Publish Date: 06/28/2005 Article Image:
    By Paul Newall (2005)

    As we shall see, the Assayer was not just a polemic, in spite of the declarations to that effect on the part of several writers on Galileo (cf. de Santillana, 1958; Geymonat, op cit). Commenting on the fact that the myriad areas touched upon and arguments used have confused some scholars, Biagioli became befuddled himself when he referred to so-called Feyerabendian opportunism as an explanation for Galileo's employment of "ad hoc hypotheses, internal contradictions, and unjustified attacks" (1993: 268). Preferring to see Galileo's response within the context of patronage and as an attempt to reinforce his belief that he, and not Brah , was the pre-eminent post-Copernican astronomer, Biagioli failed to consider the possibility that Galileo was employing a reductio, a far more accurate "Feyerabendian" reading of the problematic existence of inconsistencies (cf. Farrell, 2003: 12-17 and further). This is part of a general trend among Galileo scholars that praises him for his genius as a rhetorician at one moment and ignores the most potent tool in any polemic the next in seeking to explain why the text does not form a cogent whole. Drake, at least, had noticed this (1999, 1: 30).

    Before moving on to consider the other aspects of the Assayer, it is illuminating to compare Galileo's situation at this time—and hence—with that of John Wilkins in England. A vociferous defender of Copernicanism, he faced little opposition and was able to publish his Discovery of a world in the moon (1638) and Discourse concerning a new planet (1640) with ease. Although his career as an academic was put at risk by his alleged sympathies with the Royalist cause, his "survival as warden of Wadham [the Oxford College], his move to the mastership of Trinity College Cambridge in 1659, his becoming bishop of Chester in 1668, and his appointment as Lent preacher to the king suggest that there was nothing particularly hazardous in being England's most conspicuous Copernican" (Brooke, 1991: 107-108). To explain the Galileo affair simplistically as an instance of the supposed conflict between science and religion, then, is to invite the question as to why the reaction to Copernicanism differed between countries that were all religious (cf. Russell, 1991: 83-88).

    Intellectual Contexts

    Galileo's work and the criticism it faced were not just rhetoric, politics and patronage. In this second section we shall look at Galileo's science and its development, along with the philosophical aspects to the affair. In particular, we shall look again at the objections raised against his ideas.

    Galileo and Science

    Many pages have been authored on the subject of Galileo's scientific personality, a significant proportion of them concerned with "de-mythologising" Galileo and the view within the history of science that science proceeded (and proceeds) according to leaps of genius by greats like Galileo, Newton or Einstein. Some historians, however, have gone so far as to attribute to Galileo the character of a Copernican zealot who went far beyond reasonable scientific behaviour in seeking to convince others to accept conclusions for which there were insufficient grounds (for example, Koestler, 1959; Feyerabend, 1993; Shea and Artigas, 2003). This is the second myth we began with.

    Johannes Kepler, Galileo’s correspondent and fellow astronomer

    As we have noted above, Galileo regularly declined to publish his ideas when he felt they needed more work, whether his theories on motion or Copernicanism. He had preferred the second since the late 1590s but, lacking the telescopic observations that would show the Ptolemaic system to be false, he did not publicly support it until 1610. During his student days Galileo had rejected Copernicanism, setting out his reasons for so doing (Wallace, 1977: 71-74). Later, in a letter of 1597 to Kepler, he had written that

    Until his telescopic observations of the phases of Venus in late 1610, Galileo had no conclusive proof of the falsity of the Ptolemaic system, although he had come to believe the reality of the Copernican system. This is quite in accordance with a gradual development in both his thought and arguments (a full account of which was given by Drake (1999, 1: 351-363)) and the general principle he would later famously state in the following terms:

    In spite of passages like this and the principles enunciated in the Letter to Christina, some Galileo scholars have insisted that he was a convinced Copernican who was determined to battle dishonestly for a doctrine he knew to be unproven and for which he had no proof. When we understand these issues from the perspective of his wish to bring about the separation of science and religion, however, there are no such problematic excerpts to explain away as deliberately disingenuous or still more rhetoric: the telescope had sounded the death-knell for both the Ptolemaic and Tychonic systems and, even if this did not imply the truth of the Copernican alternative, it at least showed that the wedding of astronomical fact to Scriptural exegesis could not be maintained.

    Much has been made of Galileo's writing in Italian, rather than the Latin then employed by most philosophers, theologians and the like. According to Feyerabend (1993), this was a rhetorical strategy on the part of Galileo, helping him to bypass the theologians and scholastics and appeal directly to the public; but it is hard to see how common opinion could have aided a zealous Copernican, even one of Galileo's stature, in swaying the decisions of the authoritarian Church. A far simpler explanation was given by Galileo himself in a letter of 1612:

    This gives us an insight into Galileo's mentality: opposed to the idea that knowledge was exclusively the province of experts, he held that the book of Nature was open to all who would look rather than rely on the authority of Aristotle. Indeed, Galileo insisted that if Aristotle were somehow to return, he would be the first to oppose the doctrines justified in his name. In a very famous passage in the Assayer in which he was critical of this tendency, he laid out its failings:

    Many scholars have read this as indicative of Platonism in Galileo (Dijksterhuis makes this mistake, 1969: 337), but Drake explained (1999, 1: 53-54) that such a narrow reading misses the tripartite distinction Galileo was making between the universe, our attempts to understand it, and mathematics as a tool to aid us in so doing. This is very different from supposing mathematics to be the ultimate reality. Indeed, that Galileo did not even intend that philosophy had to be written in mathematical terms is immediate from the masterful way in which he used everyday metaphors, analogies and examples to explain his ideas. As an indicative instance, we may consider another excerpt from the Assayer that was beloved of Urban VIII. It concerns the story of a man who becomes fascinated by music and determines to seek out all possible sources of sound until he finds a cicada and becomes confused:

    Urban VIII was so pleased with the Assayer that he had it read to him while he ate (XIII, 141). This passage in particular embodied his own conviction that, since God could have created the universe in an infinity of ways, it was better to delight in that small part of it we may come to know than suppose useful hypotheses to be the whole truth on an issue.

    Aside from attaching importance to mathematics as an instrumental language, Galileo also made a distinction between primary and secondary qualities (although he was not the first to do so) that would be taken up by Locke years later and which hinted at the mechanistic philosophy that would prove so important in the development of science (cf. Dijksterhuis, op cit: 333-359). When, in 1626, Grassi finally replied to the Assayer with his Ratio ponderum Librae et Simbellae, he took exception to the former, and specifically a passage in which Galileo had suggested that natural philosophy should be the study of "figures, numbers and local motion" (Fantoli, 1996: 293), not mere "names":

    This idea, still current in philosophy today and according to which eyes, light and wavelengths exist but "redness", say, does not, was seized upon by Grassi because he claimed that it had implications for the Catholic Eucharist, wherein bread is literally transformed into the body of Christ while maintaining its secondary qualities like taste and colour. If what was preserved as part of this miracle was nothing but "names", then nothing was preserved in reality and there is no miracle. Galileo was sufficiently worried by this accusation to ask Castelli to look into it (XIII, 389) and one Galileo scholar takes it as the basis of his interpretation of Galileo's subsequent trial (Redondi, 1987).

    With Maffeo Barberini having ascended to the Papacy, Galileo again journeyed to Rome to pay his respects and to attempt to divine the attitude of the new Pope to his ideas and goals (XIII, 135). He arrived on the 23rd of April, 1624, and was granted no less than six audiences. He also met with Cardinals Antonio and Francesco Barberini, the brother and nephew of Urban VIII respectively (XIII, 175). On his departure in June, the Pontiff presented Galileo with a painting, a gold and a silver medal and several Agnus Dei. He was no closer to attaining his aim, however, and conceded that his discussions with Urban VIII had taught him that a prudent approach would be best (XIII, 179).

    It is interesting to note the attitude that the Pope displayed toward the Copernican issue, considering more fully the instrumentalist thinking alluded to above. In an undated record of a conversation between Galileo and Urban VIII, the latter's Papal theologian, Agostino Oregio, explained that, having allowed all the arguments that Galileo had brought to bear on the question, the Pope

    In response, said Oregio, "that most learned man [Galileo] remained silent." According to Urban VIII, then, astronomy must remain an instrumental science: if more than one system can save the appearances, or if there is no reason why other, currently unknown systems may not do likewise, we should view them as calculating devices or tools of prediction and not speak of their truth. This conception of theory evaluation will become important later.

    Tommaso Campanella, a Dominican and one of Galileo’s supporters

    Nevertheless, Galileo returned to Florence feeling that he could broach the issue of Copernicanism so long as he did so only in a hypothetical way. He decided to pursue a gradual course of action and devoted himself firstly to a paper that had been published back in 1616 by Francesco Ingoli, now secretary of the Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith. This pamphlet had disputed the Copernican system but, owing to the timing of events, Galileo had not felt that he could offer any rejoinder at that time. Kepler had already tackled Ingoli in 1618 and received a reply in turn. Galileo had been told by Tommaso Campanella (a Dominican who was imprisoned in Naples by the Inquisition for many years, largely for his political opinions, before his release by Urban VIII in 1629) in 1616 that he would author a criticism of Ingoli on his behalf (XII, 287), which Galileo declined—hardly the behaviour of a Copernican zealot but very much in keeping with a more accurate conception of Galileo as cautious and considered.

    In his Letter to Ingoli, Galileo disavowed any theological argument and instead focused purely on the scientific areas of Ingoli's Disputio. Showing that the Copernican system was more in accordance with observation and reason, he explained that as a good Catholic he did not deny Copernicanism out of ignorance but instead because of the "reverence we have toward the writings of our Fathers" (VI, 511); that is, that Catholics were well aware of the support for Copernicus but, having understood it, placed their faith higher in import than interpreting astronomical theories as true representations. In part, this was in response to the suggestion in Protestant countries that the Church had banned all discussion of Copernicanism. This was referred to by Cardinal Zollern, Bishop of Osnabruck, who had reported to the Pope that "all heretics accept [Copernicus'] opinion and hold it as most certain" (XIII, 182). Attempts to convert Protestants in the German states were thus failing, he said, because of the perception there of the decree of 1616. Urban VIII had replied, according to Zollern, by saying that

    Much later, in 1630, Urban VIII would state that the decree "was never our intention; and if he had been left to us, that decree [of 1616] would not have been made" (XIV, 88).

    Galileo's Letter took a long time to be published because the Church was investigating a complaint to the Holy Office concerning the Assayer. His friend Guidicci explained that a "pious person had proposed to prohibit or correct" the work (XIII, 265). According to a document discovered by Redondi in the archives of the Holy Office, the grievance also spoke of the atomism allegedly found in the Assayer as heretical (cf. Redondi, 1987: 137-202 for a discussion of this document and its anonymous author, together with 203-226 for more on the dispute on the Eucharist). The author objected that "if this philosophy of qualities is admitted to be true, it seems to me there follows a great difficulty in regard to the existence of the qualities of bread and wine which in the Holy Sacrament are separated from their own substance..." (in Finocchiaro, 1989: 203). Galileo's friends in Rome were understandably concerned.

    Meanwhile Galileo returned to an idea that he first had when he moved to Padua (see Fantoli, op cit: 68), probably because it was more noticeable there: the phenomenon of the tides and their use as a possible argument against the fixed Earth. He wrote about it in several letters to friends in 1624 and still more in 1625 (XIII, 209 and 236, for example). This was to be the Discourse on the ebb and flow of the sea, in which he would consider the "two chief world systems" and the arguments for and against them, along with his thoughts on the tides and what they implied for the motion of the Earth. Although originally intending to finish the book swiftly (XIII, 295 suggests as much), family issues and health problems held him back. More importantly, it seems, the sheer scope of what he was attempting to achieve forced him to delay the writing as he sought more data and had to reconsider the direction he was taking in the light of objections (cf. XIV, 60).

    After much work, Scheiner's response to Galileo was published in 1630 as Rosa Ursina, originally De Maculis Solis (or On Sunspots), Book One of which was largely a polemic against Galileo that took issue with his claims of plagiarism and reasserted Scheiner's priority (and independence) in the discovery of sunspots. Galileo's supporters replied in kind, but the far greater remainder of Scheiner's work was in fact a detailed critique of the incorruptibility of the heavens and other Aristotelian assumptions, coupled with "the most valuable treatise on solar physics of that epoch" (Fantoli, op cit: 332). Warned by Ciampoli via Castelli not to offer any comment (XIV, 330), perhaps to avoid any further deterioration in relations with the Jesuits, Galileo remained silent and continued with his own writing.

    Late in 1629, Galileo was finally nearing the end of his work on the tides, completing it in April of the next year and writing to his French correspondent Elia Diodati that

    It is easy to read this as indicative of Galileo's zealous certainty of the truth of Copernicanism, but confirmation is not proof. We shall have occasion to discuss this distinction again below, but another letter to Buonamici gave a clear enough picture:

    We see here that Galileo believed and estimated the Copernican system to explain the tides, but that is a very long way from holding it to be certain and dedicating his life (or the greater part of it) to convincing others that it was so with all the rhetoric he could muster. (Indeed, at the close of his life Galileo apparently came to doubt the argument from the tides (XVII, 215)).

    The Publication of the Dialogue

    It was agreed late in 1629 that the Dialogue would be published in Rome, so Galileo again prepared to travel there to aid with the arrangements. Ill health intervened as usual, however, and it was May, 1630 before he arrived. He lodged with Francesco Niccolini, the Tuscan Ambassador since 1621, and his wife Caterina Riccardi (who was related to Niccol Riccardi, the Domincan who had cleared the Assayer for publication and written so highly of it). Galileo was again received by the Pope, the positive result of their discussions (XIV,105) apparently leaving him feeling he was free to publish his work.

    At the same time, Galileo's enemies were just as busy, attributing to him a horoscope that foretold the death of Urban VIII and his nephew. The Pontiff, who was deeply superstitious, imprisoned the actual author, Orazio Morandi (who subsequently died in prison) and let it be known that Galileo "had no better friend than [Cardinal Francesco Barberini] and the Pope himself, and that he knew who he was and he knew that he did not have these kinds of matters in his head" (XIV, 111). Nevertheless, Urban VIII was under increasing political pressure as a result of the Thirty Years War and the strength of Cardinal Richelieu within France, such that Riccardi knew the publication of the Dialogue would have to be a delicate process.

    Having realised that the Dialogue would be read as sympathetic to Copernicanism, the first thing Riccardi did was to insist that a preface and conclusion should be added, emphasising the hypothetical nature of the study and hence showing "that the Holy Congregation in reproving Copernicus had acted in an entirely reasonable way" (XIX, 325). He then passed the manuscript to Raffaele Visconti, Master of the Sacred Palace and also a professor of mathematics, who approved it. Riccardi was still not happy, though, possibly because he learned that Urban VIII had stated his annoyance at Galileo's claim that the tides depended on the motion of the Earth (XIV, 113—we can refer back to the Pontiff's instrumentalism to understand why). Riccardi decided to review it himself and discussed it with the Pope, who insisted that the title show no reference to the ebb and flow of the sea but instead should speak of the "Chief World Systems", or something similar. Satisfied that the imprimatur would be granted, Galileo returned to Florence after yet another visit to Urban VIII.

    It had been agreed that the Dialogue would, as usual, be printed by the Accademia dei Lincei, but on the 1st of August 1630 Prince Cesi died, leaving neither will nor successor at the Academy. Following this deeply saddening event for Galileo, Castelli suggested that he perhaps look to publish in Florence instead (XIV, 135). When Riccardi was asked if he would agree to this arrangement, he declared that he would need a copy first in order to correct it, after which Galileo could publish it wherever he liked (XIV, 150). The plague then raging throughout Italy prevented both travel and post, however, so Galileo requested to be able to amend the work in Florence while leaving only the preface and conclusion to be eventually forwarded to Riccardi in Rome for his consideration. After a diplomatic battle, in which Ambassador Niccolini's wife leant heavily on her relative, Riccardi agreed, with the caveat that the final draft be reviewed locally. This task was entrusted, at Galileo's application, to Father Jacinto Stefani, a Dominican.

    The Dialogue

    Riccardi received the preface and conclusion in accordance with this agreement but still stalled, causing Galileo to finally lose patience and refer the matter to the Tuscan Secretary of State (XIV, 217), who brought it to the attention of the Grand Duke. The latter instructed his Ambassador, Niccolini, to move on his behalf, but Riccardi again refused to be rushed. Still more pressure from the Ambassador and his wife resulted in Riccardi proposing much the same compromise as before, except that this time he would send instructions (XIX, 327) to the Florentine Inquisitor, Clemente Egidi, having checked the opening and closing sections himself. Galileo remained deeply frustrated at this performance (XIV, 254) but eventually sent the required passages to Riccardi. Ultimately, Riccardi absolved himself of all responsibility by devolving the decision of whether or not to grant the imprimatur to Egidi. This final permission having at last been gained, printing began and early in 1632 the first copies were ready for sale.

    There is no question that Galileo had every right to be annoyed at Riccardi's behaviour, particularly the unprecedented decision to insist on a second revision. Even so, Riccardi—like Niccolini—was aware of the political climate in Rome and how sensitive the publication was likely to be, Niccolini remarking that "the truth is that these opinions are not received well here, especially by superiors" (XIV, 251).

    The full title of the work, as insisted upon by Urban VIII, was

    abbreviated ever since the 1744 edition as the Dialogue on the two Chief World Systems. The action unfolded over this period of four days as a conversation between Salviati, Galileo's spokesman and (late) great friend Filipo, and Simplicio, named for the sixth century commentator on Aristotle and very much the defender of Aristotelian orthodoxy. The two are joined by Sagredo, the "educated layman between two experts", called after Galileo's best friend during his time in Padua who had died in 1620. A (deliberate) circumstance that would later lead to more trouble for Galileo was the added fact that Simplicio in Italian gives the sense of "simple" or simpleton", and this is indeed descriptive of how he behaved throughout the text.

    In his preface, Galileo began by stating that he would show that the decree of 1616 had not had the effect supposed by others (that is, Protestants) and thus proposed "to show to foreign nations that as much is understood of this matter in Italy, and particularly in Rome, as transalpine diligence can ever have imagined" (VII, 29). He went on to say that it would be demonstrated that "all experiments practicable upon the earth are insufficient measures for proving its mobility, since they are indifferently adaptable to a earth in motion or at rest", followed by an examination of "celestial phenomena... strengthening the Copernican hypothesis until it might seem that this must triumph absolutely" and then a look at the tides "from assuming the motion of the earth". All this was ostensibly to illustrate the rationality of the Catholic position as having come about "not from failing to take count of what others have thought" but "for those reasons that are supplied by piety, religion, the knowledge of Divine Omnipotence, and a consciousness of the limitations of the human mind" (ibid, 30); that is, the position of Urban VIII. As we shall see, some of his more important readers were unfortunately not convinced of his sincerity in holding it.

    The Arguments Against Galileo (2)

    Political issues aside, there remained an excellent and straightforward reason why Galileo had struggled to convince people that the Earth moves: it plainly does no such thing. At that time, common sense gave the lie to Copernicanism in ways that anyone could understand: if the Earth moves, why do birds flying not get left behind? If an arrow is fired straight up into the air, with the Earth spinning at countless miles per hour, why does it fall at (or near) the feet of the firer? Likewise, why does a stone dropped from a tower land at the base, instead of some distance away? This last is the famous tower argument that was considered a total refutation of the motion of the Earth and which Galileo later treated of in the eighth part of the Second Day in his Dialogue, along with its equivalents that involved either dropping a lead ball from the masts of stationary and moving ship and comparing the different landing positions or firing cannons East and West and doing similarly.

    In keeping with these common sense objections, a more philosophical counter-argument suggested that reasoning in support of Copernicanism committed the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent. Consider, for example, Galileo's intention to look at the tides on the assumption that the Earth moves. In the course of his discussion, critics said, he proceeded in this fashion:

    The Copernican Planetary System

    First Premise: If the Earth moves, we would observe phenomenon x (the tides, say);
    Second Premise: We observe phenomenon x;
    Conclusion: Therefore, the Earth moves.
    This is the formal fallacy of affirming the consequent (the basic form being "if P then Q; Q; therefore, P"). In layman's terms, that an hypothesis such as the Earth moving could explain the observations did not imply that it was therefore a true hypothesis, not least because there might be others that could do likewise (as indeed there were, according to those who held to the Tychonic system). A fallacious argument seemed to give no reason to abandon either common sense or the instrumental interpretation of theories.

    It was also said that Copernicanism was simpler as a mathematical construct and ought to be preferred on that basis alone. This, of course, is in keeping with the general preference for parsimony or simplicity in theories that has characterised much (but not all) science for very many years (cf. Holton, 1988). Since Copernicus could explain on the basis of geokineticism what the Ptolemaic system could only manage with the addition of a complicated structure of eccentrics, epicycles, deferents and equants, his ideas must be closer to the true picture (if indeed they were to be read realistically) or easy to use. However, Copernicus actually introduced epicycles of his own, and even epicycles on top of these, leading Cohen to exclaim that the notion of Copernicus's system being the simpler should be taken "cum grano salis, in fact, with the whole cellar" (2001: 111). This, in any case, is a modern argument, one that Galileo did not face. In his time, the question of which system was simpler does not appear to have been asked (Cohen, op cit: 116).

    Galileo's use of the telescope has caused much discussion, too. As we noted above, many people refused to look through the telescope or, having done so, refused to believe what they saw. Although we may regard the former position as ridiculous, the latter was rather more justified. The telescope was a new invention and to some it must have seemed like magic. How, Clavius asked, could it be known that what was seen was actually there, rather than a trick of the lenses? As Feyerabend (op cit) and Kuhn (1975: 224) have remarked, Galileo had no theory of optics to answer this criticism, so he relied instead on demonstrations. By pointing his telescope at something terrestrial in the distance, observers could verify for themselves that it had shown a true representation of what was there. There was no guarantee, however, that this should hold when the telescope was raised to the heavens. The situation changed somewhat when the Jesuits announced that they had confirmed Galileo's studies with the telescope, but this, too, was merely a useful (albeit powerful) aid and not a proof. The effect of Galileo's public shows was nevertheless such that this objection remains a recent (and philosophical) one, particularly in the reductio form employed by Feyerabend.

    Another relatively recent argument frequently used to justify the second of the myths we began with concerns the tides. It is said that Galileo was wrong about what caused them (as we saw above, he eventually agreed that the moon was responsible, although, as we shall see, this is not quite accurate) and his use of them to prove Copernicanism was flawed. That the error lies in the other direction will become apparent shortly but since, in his Dialogue, the first thing Galileo had to do was tackle the appeal to common sense, that is where we shall begin.

    Philosophy of Science and the Galileo Affair

    On the second day of discussion, Galileo has Salviati remark on another author (Chiaramonti) who had suggested that those who would disagree with the tower argument must see a stone dropped from the top falling not straight down but in an arc:

    Note that Galileo's strategy here was to agree with the common sense view of what happens when a stone is dropped from a tower but to challenge its interpretation; that is, to challenge the "basic epistemological principle ... that under normal conditions the human sense are reliable, that they tell us what is really happening, that normal observation reveals reality to us" (Finicchiaro, 1997: 56). Although circumstances opposing this principle were not new (observing a stick in water to be bent when its removal reveals it to be straight, for example, or the one given by Galileo immediately after the tower argument—that of the moon following us as we walk.), Galileo apparently proposed here to put aside the appearances and place reason as the highest court of appeal. This brought (and brings) up many associated questions: when are our senses reliable? When should the evidence of common observation be rejected? Should we always appeal to reason over observation, or only when there is controversy? How do we demarcate between controversial and non-controversial issues? And so on.

    When we read on, we find that Galileo did not in fact propose to supplant one principle with another, instead calling for the use of the senses "accompanied by reasoning" (op cit: 255, italics added). In general, philosophers and historians of science have seemed determined to characterise Galileo's science in one way or another while at the same time contriving to overlook the subtlety in his works. Still on the second day, Galileo sketched the scene of two friends in a ship's cabin, throwing a ball to each other and taking note of the movements of fish, butterflies and the like that happen to be with them. On the first occasion this situation plays out while the ship is at rest alongside; on the second, it is underway. The friends in the former notice no difference in the force needed to throw the ball in one direction rather than another and observe no similar difficulty in the animal sharing the cabin with them. This remains the case, according to Galileo, for the latter, too.

    This is the introduction of Galilean relativity, which was relied on much later by Einstein. From the perspective of the friends in the cabin, the motion of the ship relative to land has no effect on the motion of the ball relative to the cabin, since the additional motion imparted to the ball by the motion of the ship is also granted to the cabin. This implied that the stone dropped from the mast of a moving ship appears to fall straight down because its motion in any other direction is shared by the ship—or the inertial frame in modern parlance—so that the observer sees only a straight descent. Likewise, the stone dropped from a tower on a moving Earth is not viewed from an absolute point of reference but relative to the tower and its immediate surroundings, which are (according to the assumption of geokineticism) also moving.

    The importance of relativity can scarcely be overstated, but what Galileo was able to do was take an observation that refuted geokineticism, re-describe it, and so turn it into a confirmation of the Earth's movement. This is an example of meaning variance between theories, a concept that would later form the basis of the notion of incommensurability. It shows Galileo not to be rejecting observation on the basis of theory, or vice versa, but using reasoning to invite his readers to consider the evidence of their senses in a new way in support of a different worldview. Any effort to cast him solely as an empiricist or a rationalist, then, is bound to fail.

    Another fascinating approach to the motion of the Earth that was discussed by Copernicus and which involved the Aristotelian theory of place, which Aristotle himself had defined as "what contains that of which it is the place" (Physics, IV, 211a). Although Finocchiaro (1997:14) remarked that natural motion "has always been regarded as an essential or defining characteristic of a physical body. This seems to have remained unchanged even by the Copernican Revolution", he failed to realise the importance this held for Copernicus. In the Aristotelian system, the outermost sphere of the heavens was supposed to have a natural motion but it could have no place, since, being uncontained in any further sphere, no place could be granted to it under Aristotle's conception above. Thus Aristotle was left with the unfortunate situation in which the outer sphere had natural motion but no place; and since it had no place it could have no motion, which was defined as a change in place. Max Jammer explained that one consequence was that

    Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus Orbium Celestium

    In his De revolutionibus orbium celestium, Copernicus drew attention to this difficulty by saying that "since it is the heavens which contain and embrace all things as the place common to the universe, it will not be clear at once why movement should not be assigned to the contained rather than to the container" (1953: 515), later calling the latter option "absurd" (op cit: 520). That there was no way around this issue was clear to Copernicus in the late sixteenth century but not to philosophers of science in the twentieth, it seems. Whether the Aristotelian concept of place or the fixed Earth had to be rejected, his authority and infallibility could no longer be maintained.

    It is well known that Copernicanism was slow to gain a following, with only ten Copernicans noted between 1543 and 1600 (those being Rheticus; Maestlin; Rothmann; Kepler; Bruno; Galileo himself; Digges, Harriot; de Zu iga; and Stevin) (Westman, 1986:85). One of the main (logical) objections to it was that it engaged in circular reasoning. That is, the motion of the Earth was assumed in order to explain phenomena; whereupon the excellence of the explanations was taken to imply the motion of the Earth (more strictly, this is affirming the consequent as before). In the Dialogue, Galileo had Simplicio voice this concern:

    This philosophical criticism is enough to end all possibility of definitively proving Copernicanism. Nevertheless, some philosophers of science have chosen to portray Galileo as a Copernican zealot in spite of his stating plainly—rather than excluding—an objection at the close of his work that would have demonstrated to any philosophically-inclined reader than no such proof was to be found in the book (nor, in principle, could there be). Why would a determined Copernican desperate to convince others of his certainty offer such a decisive refutation of his own position? The question can only be rhetorical. It is hard to see why we should not instead read Galileo as having honestly confronted what he knew would be the main focus of philosophical disapproval, not least because he leaves this criticism unanswered. Indeed, given the contexts already established above, it would seem that his argument was to be a probabilistic one which showed both that the Ptolemaic system was untenable and that the Copernican was at least plausible, if not likely on the balance of the observations and reasoning available. Once again, Galileo the passionate advocate of Copernicanism gives ways to Galileo the prudent defender of his Church.

    Supporters of the second myth we began with have looked elsewhere for justification of their reading of the Galileo affair. Another strand has focused on the idea that Bellarmine and the Church correctly rejected Copernicanism as unscientific (cf. Feyerabend, 1993: 126-129—his 2002: 247-264 is a distinct approach to the same question—and Duhem, 1908), with Duhem (op cit, quoted in de Santillana, 1958: 107) asserting that "[l]ogic was on the side of Osiander and Bellarmine and not on that of Kepler and Galileo". Bellarmine's letter to Foscarini of 1615 (XII, 171-172), quoted previously, is typically offered as indicative of his scientific bent, the charge being that while Galileo supposedly wanted unproven theories to be accepted as true, Bellarmine was far more reasonable in stating that Scriptural interpretations should not be changed on this faulty basis and that merely saving the appearances is not enough to render a theory true. This is the third point of the letter, however, and in emphasising it we lose sight of the second:

    Here Bellarmine had given a very different principle, according to which all Scriptural passages were to be taken as coming through the writer directly from the Holy Spirit. Supposing, then, with Galileo, that the motion of the Earth is not a matter of faith because it is an astronomical issue is thus rejected by Bellarmine because the source of the Biblical statements on geostaticism and geocentrism is the Holy Spirit. Any dissent is thus straightforwardly heretical. We see at once that this approach renders Bellarmine's "scientific" remarks in the rest of his letter moot: "If Scripture statements on the motion of the Sun are 'matters of faith' in the sense indicated by Bellarmine, they constituted truths which could not be doubted and which could never be overturned by whatever progress science might make" (Fantoli, op cit: 187). No amount of subsequent investigation could over-rule the fact that the Holy Spirit had declared in Scripture that the Earth did not move—precisely the stance that Galileo was trying to remove because he thought that it would place his Church in a very difficult position (and subject to ridicule) if, as it seemed, Copernianism should be true or, at any rate and with the same consequence, the Ptolemaic system false. To call Bellarmine's position scientific when its rigorous application would have killed science completely is, to be blunt, quite absurd.

    Another criticism of Galileo states that he was condemned by his own opinions from his Letter to Christina (for example, Shea, 2003:73-74):

    The lesson here is supposed to be clear: if a proposition is not demonstrated as necessarily true, the Church was quite correct to assert their falsity and use "every possible means" to ensure that this is known to be the case. Galileo, then, could have no complaint. Nevertheless, we need only consider the very next lines of the Letter to see what Galileo had meant:

    This is the eminently sensible idea that a proposition should not be condemned as heretical unless it has been shown to not be demonstrated, thus preventing people from merely declaring Copernicanism to be false in order to have it condemned by the authorities. Moreover, those who would wish to have it condemned should have the burden of proof associated with that claim. This would require that any theologian who wished to see a scientific proposition condemned would have to show that it ought to be, and hence would have to understand it sufficiently to justify his claim that it was not demonstrated to a degree that would imply changing the interpretation of Scripture accordingly. Given the fate that could await the heretic, this is both reasonable and—at the very least—just. Once again, we see that the effort to sustain the second myth can lead to illiteracy.

    When Galileo finally came to discuss the ebb and flow of the sea on the fourth day (although this ordering is open to doubt), he was disdainful of the idea that the Moon had a significant influence on the tides. He rejected the supposed attraction between the Moon and Earth as part of his general objection to "occult properties" (VII, 486) and sought a terrestrial, mechanical explanation. Since there was no proof or theory of gravitational attraction at that time, we might expect Galileo to be lauded by mythicists in the second sense for his (Bellarminean) scientific rejection of gravitational explanations of the tides. Instead, he is criticised for having held the incorrect opinion. In fact, there is an effect on the tides caused by the diurnal rotation of the Earth. Moreover, Galileo was well aware of the sheer complexity of the phenomenon and gave many factors that played a part in his theory (Dialogue, 457-462). Thus did Drake observe that "the departure of presentations of Galileo's theory from what he wrote goes ever widening" (1999, 2: 111). That Galileo did not consider his argument a proof of Copernicanism has already been established, but this attempt to justify the second myth remains popular. In short, Galileo's theory was "incorrect but scientific" (Drake, 2001: 93) and modern tidal theories retain a degree of intricacy that renders any attempt to speak of Galileo's as "inadequate" little more than anachronism (cf. Drake, 1999, 2: 107).

    Galileo's stated purpose in the Letter, his correspondence and in the Dialogue itself was in any case already being practised by the Church. As is well known, there are Biblical passages suggesting a flat Earth (Daniel 4:11, for instance) that were not interpreted realistically (although Bellarmine's principle would have meant otherwise) and for the Church to insist on a literal reading would have been thought ridiculous, particularly by the Protestants. What Galileo was asking for, then, was neither new nor controversial. This should lead us to a rejection of the first myth, of course, because Galileo did get into trouble all the same.

    Teaser Paragraph: Publish Date: 06/27/2005 Article Image:
    By Paul Newall (2005)

    Non-Intellectual Contexts

    From his time as a student (Drake, 2001: 17), Galileo had been known as someone who willingly opposed orthodoxy. Even so, the social environment in which he found himself presented him with other obstacles to navigate, including the political climate, the patronage system and the rivalries engendered by those envious of his position or angered by his ideas.

    The Political Setting of the Galileo Affair

    The Protestant Reformation had begun in 1517 with Luther's theses nailed to the door of the Wittenberg cathedral, followed swiftly by the Council of Trent from 1545 to 1563 and the Catholic Counter-Reformation. In the wake of Protestant calls for greater interpretive leniency in reading the Bible, the Council had decreed that

    Ostensibly, then, we would expect this to have given Galileo pause insofar as his work might call for a re-evaluation of those passages that appeared to straightforwardly speak of a Earth that does not move (for example, Proverbs 8:25 and 27:3, Job 26:7, Ecclesiastes 1:5, 1 Chronicles 16:30 and Psalm 104:5). As we shall see later, Galileo indeed had the "teaching of the Fathers" in mind. In this Reformation context, however, the Church was perhaps understandably wary of allowing any further adjustment or latitude in determining the meaning of Scripture; after all, if one reinterpretation was possible, why not others?

    Shortly after Galileo's telescopic discoveries, in 1618, the Thirty Years War began. Partly religious and partly political in character, it placed successive Popes in difficult positions—none more so that Urban VIII, who occupied the Papacy at the time of Galileo's trial. Under pressure to provide troops and funds to the King of Spain and the Holy Roman Emperor, he had tried to play the two sides against one another to limit the power of the Hapsburgs and to repay a debt to the French who had aided considerably in his election as Pontiff. Galileo, as we know, was a Tuscan and representative of the Grand Duke, who was allied with Spain. When Urban chose, on the 8th of March 1632, to rid his staff of all Spaniards in response to public criticism from the Spanish Cardinal Gaspare Borgia, one of those exiled was Giovanni Ciampoli, correspondence secretary to the Pope and a man who proved instrumental in arranging the publication of Galileo's Dialogue. The significance of this will become clear later.

    Lastly, since its creation in 1540, Loyola's Society of Jesus had been immensely successful in its intellectual and pedagogical battle with Protestantism and the Jesuits enjoyed an unrivalled reputation within the Catholic world. This had irked their Dominican brothers and it is interesting to study from which side and which times the support for Galileo from these two came. We have already seen that the Jesuits lauded Galileo's telescopic achievements in 1611; a response from some of the Dominicans was not long in coming.

    Galileo and Personal Rivalries

    Galileo did not dignify Colombe's critique of his Sidereus nuncios with a reply, but in 1611 he became involved in a discussion with two of the (Aristotelian) professors of philosophy at Pisa on the question of ice floating on water. Following Aristotle, the latter pair concluded that ice floated because of its flat shape that opposed its sinking; Galileo, on the other hand, referred to a theory of Archimedes and held that it is the respective densities of the ice compared to water that leads to sink or float. Colombe, never too far away, seized on this disagreement and proposed a public debate in which he would take on Galileo.

    Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncios

    Advised otherwise by the Grand Duke, Galileo wrote some notes on the issue that he expanded into booklet form after a dinner attended by Cardinals Ferdinando Gonzaga and Maffeo Barberini in which he opposed a defence of the Aristotelian position given by Flaminio Papazzoni, another professor of philosophy at Pisa. Published as a Discourse on objects which rest on water or which move in it, it explained experiments that could be carried out by anyone interested in seeing for themselves rather than relying on the authority of Aristotle. Colombe responded with An apologetic discourse concerning the discourse of Galileo but Galileo preferred to avoid any further controversy and allowed his friend and former student, Benedetto Castelli, who had replaced him at Pisa as professor of mathematics, to reply in his stead. Unfortunately this course of action was unsuccessful and Galileo learned of the existence of a letter (XI, 241-242) of the 22nd of September, 1612, addressed to Alessandro Marzimedici (Archbishop of Florence and well-disposed to Galileo) who had ensured that a copy would find its way to his friends. This correspondence spoke of the formation of an organised group of Florentines in opposition to Galileo, lead by Colombe and meeting at Marzimedici's home. There they conspired to bring about a controversy on the question of the Earth's motion and had hopes to incite one of their number to preach against Galileo from the pulpit. This group was called by Galileo's friends the League of Pigeons ("Colombe" being Italian for "dove"). One member of the League, Niccol Lorini, attacked Galileo in private in 1612 for his ideas that—according to Lorini—verged on the heretical but later wrote to him in apology. Another letter was sent to Galileo himself by the painter Cigoli in December of 1611, which explained in more detail:

    Federico Cesi, Galileo’s great friend, supporter and patron

    Also in 1612, another line of disagreement with Galileo arose. A Jesuit professor of mathematics at Ingolstadt, Christoph Scheiner, had announced his observations of sunspots in a letter of 1611 to Mark Welser, a banker and an amateur scientist in Augsburg. Although sunspots had already been seen by the Dutchman Johann Fabricius who had published a treatise on them at Wittenberg, Welser wrote to his friend Johannes Faber in Rome asking if similar studies had been performed there. Faber was a member of the Accademia dei Lincei and Cesi (and subsequently Faber) soon came to know of the letter, passing on the news to Galileo (XV, 236 and 238-239). Meanwhile, Scheiner continued his work and sent a further two letters to Welser, affirming that the sunspots were, in his opinion, wandering stars (i.e small planets). These letters were published under a pseudonym.

    Galileo received a copy of this collection in January of 1612 and wrote a letter to Welser in response, stating that he had not dared to reply without making some further observations of his own because he feared that any minor error on his part would be seized upon "by the enemies of truth whose number was infinite" (V, 94-113). Nevertheless, he argued that the sunspots were not planets but were actually on or very near the surface. Scheiner had continued his own work and sent a further three letters to Welser under the title A more accurate discourse, in which he appeared to dispute Galileo's priority in noticing the sunspots (V, 46)—in spite of their having been known since antiquity and often being visible to the naked eye. Galileo sent a second letter of his own, without having seen the booklet by Scheiner, which he received from Welser in September. Galileo's friends, including Cesi, were insistent that he respond in print to this question of priority (for example, XI, 418) and Galileo resolved "to make it clear how foolishly this matter has been dealt with" by his opponent, whom he now knew to be a Jesuit (XI, 426). In his third letter, Galileo tackled Scheiner's arguments and rejected the latter's attempts to demonstrate the Tychonian system (proposed by the Dane Tycho Brah , in which the Earth is at the centre of the system with the Sun revolving round it and the planets orbiting the Sun).

    The Tychonian system of Brahe

    The collection of Galileo's three letters were published in 1613 by the Accademia dei Lincei with a preface by Angelo de Fillis, their librarian, in which he attacked Scheiner and claimed priority for Galileo in the matter of the discovery of the sunspots. Galileo himself was wary of this addition and the harm it could do to his standing with the Jesuits. Unfortunately the polemical remarks by Scheiner and Galileo's friends alike had left the former particularly bitter, as would later comments by Galileo in his Assayer. Bound by their adherence to Aristotelian ideas (Constitutiones Societas Jesu, Ganss, 1970: 220), the Jesuits Giuseppe Biancani and Fran ois D'Aguilon also continued to state Scheiner's priority, while Galileo's friends rebutted them with zeal. The damage had been done.

    Galileo's Motivations

    These conflicts and squabbles form one of the subtexts to the Galileo affair and it was not long before his antagonists had another opportunity. In July of 1612, Galileo had written to Cardinal Carlo Conti about sunspots and the questions raised by them. In reply, Conti "stated that Scripture did not support the Aristotelian theory of the incorruptibility of the heavens but that, on the contrary, the common opinion of the Fathers of the Church was that the heavens were corruptible" (Fantoli, 1996: 141). Conti further remarked that the motion of the Earth could be accommodated with the Biblical passages if it was supposed that Scripture was written according to the understanding of ordinary persons, not as consisting in exact astronomical information. This, he added, "should not be admitted unless it is really necessary" (XI, 355). As a result, Galileo had noted in his second letter to Welser that the incorruptibility of the heavens was "not only false but repugnant to those truths of Sacred Scripture about which there could be no doubt" (V, 138-139)—a phrase which was removed by the censor before publication in spite of protests and referrals to Conti's opinion. Even so, a marginal statement on Copernicus (discussing "the truth of the rest of his system" following from a correct—astronomical—understanding of his De revolutionibus orbium celestium(V, 195)) was left alone, encouraging Galileo, according to Fantoli (1996: 170), to believe that he could broach the subject in more depth and detail.

    On the 12th of December, 1613, Galileo's friend Castelli attended a lunch with the Grand Duke. Also present were the Grand Duchess Dowager, Christina of Lorraine, and Cosimo Boscaglia, special professor of philosophy at Pisa and an expert on Platonism. Prompted by Boscaglia whispering in her ear, the Grand Duchess asked Castelli whether the motion of the Earth was contrary to Scripture. Over the course of the meal, Castelli won an admission from Boscaglia that Galileo's discoveries were true and reduced the theological objections to silence, "carr[ying] things off like a paladin" by his own account in a letter describing the events that he sent to Galileo (XI, 605-606). Concerned at this development and the recourse to Scripture when the denial of his observations had proven impossible, Galileo wrote a lengthy reply to Castelli explaining his view of the relationship between the Bible and science (V, 281-288).

    Either intentionally or without considering the consequences, Castelli made copies of this letter and some found their way to Galileo's opponents. Matters came to a head when, on the 21st of December 1614, the Dominican Tommaso Caccini preached against Galileo in the church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, telling his audience that mathematicians, being spreaders of heretical ideas, should be banished from the Italian states (XII, 130). Caccini was associated with the League of Pigeons and this was a calculated attack. Although Luigi Maraffi, another Dominican and a friend of Galileo, wrote to him apologising for such "madness and ignorance" (XII, 127), Galileo was advised against responding by Cesi, who told him that Cardinal Roberto Bellarmine was of the opinion that "the motion of the Earth is without any doubt against Scripture" (XII, 129-130). Galileo decided to leave Caccini unanswered, the latter having already been rebuked by his own brother.

    Cardinal Bellarmine, the influential Jesuit

    Hearing about the controversy and expressing his displeasure at Caccini's behaviour, Lorini was given a copy of Galileo's original letter by Castelli. On reading this, Lorini, aware of the restrictions on interpretation dictated at the Council of Trent (quoted above), considered Galileo to have overstepped the mark and, believing it to be his duty to do so, sent a copy of the letter to Cardinal Paolo Sfondrati for examination (XIX, 297-298). The latter was Prefect of the Congregation of the Index, created in 1571 by Pius V to halt the dissemination in print of heretical ideas. Since the letter was not in print, however, he passed it on to his colleague Cardinal Giovanni Millini, Secretary of the Holy Office (more commonly known as the Inquisition). Although generally favourable to Galileo, this organisation decided to pursue the matter further and requested a copy of his original letter. Having discussed the matter with their mutual friend Piero Dini and Maffeo Barberini, Ciampoli passed on the latter's advice to Galileo in a letter, stating that he ought to be careful because "not everyone has the dispassionate faculty... [o]ne man amplifies, the next one alters, and what came from the author's own mouth becomes so transformed in spreading that he will no longer recognise it as his own" (XII, 146); in short, to be careful what he said or wrote because others were want to twist his meaning. Meanwhile, Galileo was increasingly worried that events were overtaking the importance of his work and concentrating instead on Scripture, such that his enemies had "in short, opened a new front to tear me to pieces" (V, 292-293). He was also wary of the possibility that Lorini had not copied his letter faithfully, remarking that "because I have not received the least sign of scruples from anyone else who has seen the letter, I suspect that perhaps whoever transcribed it may have inadvertently changed some word..." Galileo forwarded an accurate copy to Dini, asking him to see to it that Bellarmine should read it (ibid).

    Dini did as he was asked, also forwarding a copy to Christopher Grienberger, the Jesuit professor of mathematics who had succeeded Clavius. Both recommended caution, suggesting that Galileo should attend to his investigations and leave Scripture alone, at least for the time being. Galileo responded by hinting at a work in progress and stating unequivocally that he had "no other aim but the honour of the Holy Church" and that he did not direct his labours "to any other goal..." (V, 299-300). Galileo, however, was encouraged by the news that Paolo Antonio Foscarini, a Carmelite professor of theology at the university of Messina in Calabria, had published his Letter on the opinion of the Pythagoreans and of Copernicus in 1615. Cesi brought it to Galileo's attention, stating that it "certainly could not have appeared at a better time, unless to increase the fury of our adversaries is damaging, which I do not believe" (XII, 150)—a misplaced hope, as it would later turn out. Foscarini sent a copy of his work to Bellarmine, asking for his views on the subject. The latter replied graciously in a letter that has been subject to much analysis and disagreement (as we shall see below), giving as his opinion that he knew of no "true demonstration that the sun is at the centre of the world...", and further that he would

    Leaving aside for now the question of how Bellarmine's position as described in the complete letter to Foscarini should be understood, we may note that reference was made to the philosophical concept of saving the appearances, or astronomical instrumentalism. This was the widespread (although some scholars have disagreed: cf. Musgrave, 1991) notion that astronomers were not concerned with giving a true description of the heavens but only a model that would fit the observations (hence "saving the appearances") and provide an instrument of prediction. To assert that Copernicanism saved the appearances better than the Ptolemaic or Tychonic systems, then, was only to say that it gave more accurate predictions or fitted the available data more simply. (A preface written by Andreas Osiander, a Lutheran theologian, was inserted into De revolutionibus orbium celestium for just this reason.) Bellarmine, like most of his contemporaries, had no complaint at instrumental claims for the superiority of the Copernican system, but considered that it would be a grave error to conclude that it represented the truth about what was in the heavens.

    To respond to this and the other criticisms he had faced since the circulation of his letter to Castelli, Galileo re-wrote and expanded it substantially, addressing it as a Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina (V, 309-386). In this famous work, Galileo set out his aims and motivations; namely, to separate science from religion and to save the Church from falling into the error advised against by Augustine centuries before ("... we do not read in the Gospel that the Lord said: I will send you the Paraclete to teach you how the Sun and the Moon move. Because he wished to make them Christians, not mathematicians." (De Actis cum Felice Manichaeo, I, 2)). This second point was to note that since a heretic might know more astronomy than a Christian, it would be foolish to fix the truth via the Scriptures lest an infidel show them to be in error. We shall look at both these ideas in more detail.

    The Letters on Sunspots

    Realising that his opponents, unable to debate him on scientific grounds, wanted to fight him behind the shield of Scripture, one of the first tasks Galileo set himself in the letter was to call attention to the precedent for non-literal interpretations of Biblical passages:

    Faced with a Biblical statement that appeared to make no sense, then, the Fathers of the Church would try to discover the correct, non-literal interpretation of it. They were bound to do so since the Bible, being the Word of God, could not err. Galileo did little more than conclude "that in disputes about natural phenomena one must begin not with the authority of Scriptural passages but with sensory experience and necessary demonstrations" (op cit). Going further, Galileo wrote that

    Here Galileo was hoping to establish the separation of science and religion: where there is no way to establish by science the truth or otherwise of a theory, it is proper to resort to a literal reading of the relevant Biblical opinions; but where science can be used, we should interpret the Scripture in light of what science tells us can or cannot be so. In the case of Copernicanism, specifically, Galileo's discoveries should be employed to help understand what the problematic Biblical passages actually entail. To insist that the literal meaning should be adhered to when scientific investigation shows otherwise is to fall into error, since there cannot be two conflicting truths.

    A possible rejoinder to Galileo's arguments here was made both then by Bellarmine in the excerpt quoted above and more recently by Galileo scholars; namely, that Galileo did not have anything approaching "complete certainty" with regard to the Copernican hypothesis. He quite clearly stated, however, that where "one may firmly believe that it is possible to have" scientific justification to the contrary of a literal reading, we should defer to science and allow it to guide our interpretation. In more modern parlance, perhaps, we might say that where it is possible in principle that a literal Scriptural passage may be contradicted by scientific investigation, we should be careful in attributing the same. This is the approach taken by the Church today.

    Commenting on the fact that the Pope had the power to condemn any opinion at any time as heretical, Galileo explained another aspect to the separation of science and religion. It was, he said,

    The principle invoked here is one holding that since no one (from the Pope to a layman) would consider heretical a statement that could in fact be true, they could similarly not declare Copernicanism heretical unless they have already demonstrated its impossibility. In conjunction with the earlier remarks, we have a separation that allows science to pursue any matter that we have reason to believe may be resolved by investigation, a pursuit that may not be hindered by an apparent conflict with Scripture because Biblical passages are not always interpreted literally and cannot speak definitively of heresy unless the scientific question has been shown to be false. What this did, of course, was to place Scripture as the final (as in last) authority, not the first or pre-eminent one—a move that would incite his enemies yet again.

    The impact of the Letter at the time was minimal, since it circulated solely within Galileo's circle of friends and was not published until late in his life. We can see, though, that when Galileo protested that he had "no other aim but the honour of the Holy Church" (ibid), he was seeking to separate science and religion in order that the Church not come to dishonour by fixing on interpretations of Scripture that could later be shown false. This in turn would raise the possibility that the Church could be left behind by science, perhaps rendering it irrelevant or at least suggesting to those so inclined that if it was in error in one area then why not another? This is an important point to realise: Galileo was a devout Catholic and there is no question he sought to save his Church, not to criticise or call it into question.

    The Arguments Against Galileo (1)

    While Galileo was at work on the Letter, Caccini was in front of the Holy Office in March of 1615, testifying on his own initiative in support of his allegation that Galileo was holding opinions "repugnant to the Divine Scripture" (XIX, 308-309). Caccini remarked that Galileo was "suspected in matter of Faith" by others and in correspondence with Germans (i.e. Protestants) by virtue of his membership of the Accademia dei Lincei (ibid). Ultimately, all of Caccini's accusations were dismissed, with the exception of one concerning Galileo's Copernicanism. In November of that year, an order was given that his Letters on the sunspots should be examined (XIX, 278).

    Understandably concerned by this latest attack by his opponents, Galileo resolved to journey to Rome to make his case in person, "in the hope of at least showing [his] affection for the Holy Church" (XII, 184). In particular, he was opposed to any declaration that Copernicus had himself merely hoped to save the appearances, rather than believing that the Earth truly moves (ibid). His problems were exacerbated, however, by Foscarini's book and the conservative backlash it had engendered in at atmosphere already tense because of Galileo's writings. He requested and was granted permission to travel to Rome "to defend himself against the accusations of his rivals", as the Grand Duke wrote to his ambassador (XII, 203).

    Arriving on the 10th of December, 1615, Galileo was determined to defend himself from the suggestion that he was a secret heretic, when—as we have seen—he thought himself a devout Catholic, dedicated to his Church. He embarked on an intense period of letter writing and visits, gradually realising the depth of feeling against him in some quarters. This was due, in no small part, to a tendency he had in debate that was explained by Antonio Querengo in a letter to Cardinal d'Este in January:

    This was by no means an isolated instance of the power (and effect) of Galileo's rhetoric, as we shall see in more detail below. Nevertheless, his activity and Foscarini's work had forced the Church to look at the matter in more detail and so two propositions were submitted for the consideration of the qualificators of the Holy Office:

    The Sun is the centre of the world and hence immovable of local motion.
    The Earth is not the centre of the world, nor immovable, but moves according to the whole of itself, also with a diurnal motion. (XIX, 320)
    These were examined by theologians, not scientists or those skilled in scientific areas. This, of course, was Galileo's complaint against his adversaries to begin with—that they did not know enough about the ideas they presumed to dismiss. In spite of this handicap, a decision was reached within four days. The Tuscan Ambassador, Piero Guicciardini, attributed this to the fact that "Galileo has monks and who hate and persecute him" (XII, 242), asserting that "certain friars of St. Dominic, who play a major role in the Holy Office, and others are ill disposed toward him" (XII, 207). Guicciardini had already warned that nothing good could come of the trip and had strongly advised against it (ibid).

    On the 23rd of February, 1616, the opinion of the qualificators was agreed and presented the next day in the plenary session of the consultors of the Holy Office. On the first proposition, the qualification was that

    For the second, the decision was that

    It is important to appreciate fully what the key terms in these qualifications meant. "Formally heretical" implies that the first proposition was diametrically opposed to a doctrine of faith; that is, the opinion of the plenary session was that the words of the Holy Fathers and the literal interpretation of the Scriptures were to be understood as a statement of faith. (Note that this is precisely the position Galileo had warned of and tried to have his Church avoid, and Augustine before him—that of allowing faith to dictate a physical truth.) This charge was the most serious possible. "Erroneous in faith", however, is a lesser complaint, according to which the Scriptures do not give a clear indication on the issue but, given the falsity of the first proposition, it would be an error to suppose that the Earth moves when it had already been declared a matter of faith that the Sun circles the Earth. As for "foolish and absurd in philosophy", note that theologians were pronouncing a physical theory philosophically unsound. We have already seen, from Guicciardini's letters, why these men should have taken such a short period of time (four days) to decide a question entirely beyond their ken on the basis of Scripture. Neither physical nor philosophical arguments were given.

    On the next day, in the weekly meeting of Cardinals, Millini notified those present that "after the reporting of the judgement by the Father Theologians against the propositions of the mathematician Galileo, to the effect that the sun stands still at the centre of the world and the earth moves even with the diurnal motion, His Holiness ordered the Most Illustrious Cardinal Bellarmine to call Galileo before himself and warn him to abandon these opinions; and if he should refuse to obey, the Father Commissary, in the presence of notary and witnesses, is to issue him an injunction to abstain completely from teaching or defending this doctrine and opinion or from discussing it; and further, if he should not acquiesce, he is to be imprisoned" (XI, 321). Although this may seem harsh, it expresses a careful degree of tact: the two propositions had been condemned, not Galileo, and the Church sought a way to entreat him to give up his ideas without embarrassing the Grand Duke (of whose court Galileo was an official part) or Rome (on account of Galileo's fame throughout Europe). Fantoli (1996: 259) remarks that neither Paul V nor Bellarmine bore Galileo any ill will, the former evidenced by the audience that he was granted with the Pope shortly thereafter.

    We shall discuss the physical and other arguments against the two propositions below but there was also a specific objection to Galileo's ideas that worried the Church. In his letter of advice to Galileo sent via Ciampoli, already quoted from above, Cardinal Barberini explained:

    Barberini's solution to this difficulty was to "declare frequently that one places oneself under the authority of those who have jurisdiction over the minds of people in the interpretation of Scripture is to remove this pretext for malice" (op cit). The problem suggested here was a very real one, however: for some people it was a short step from displacing the Earth from the centre of the world to it being just another planet like any other, some of which might contain life. This would be far more than allowing that the Earth moves, extending to the possibility that people might live elsewhere in the universe and raising all kinds of theological questions: would these people have known the revelation of Christ? How could they be saved if it were otherwise? Had they then received the Scriptures? How? If Christ had ascended to heaven following His resurrection, when did he visit these other worlds? The redemption was supposed to be a unique event, and so on. For the farsighted clergy, Copernicanism was not just a matter of the moving Earth, and Barberini's warning was that Galileo's enemies could take advantage of his silence on these issues to assert that he would imply them all unless stopped. A good example of the concerns was given by Brecht's simplistic rendering of the affair in his play:

    For some, the case of Giordano Bruno was still fresh in their minds. Bellarmine, in particular, had worked as a consultor on it before his election as Cardinal. Basing his ideas on Copernicus' heliocentrism, as well as Neo-Platonism, Bruno held that the universe was infinite (something Copernicus had refused to countenance—cf. Book I, Chapter VIII of De revolutionibus orbium celestium) with a correspondingly infinite number of systems like our own, drawing the obvious conclusion that beings similar to us probably lived on some of these and bringing to bear all the above questions. Accused of heresy, Bruno was tried by the Holy Office and, although none of the charges were proven and he was repeatedly denied his legal right to appeal all questions of heresy to the Pope (cf. Fantoli, 1994: 43 and Drake, 2001: 26), he was publicly burned at the stake in 1600.

    Galileo and Patronage

    Galileo was not treated in a similar fashion at this stage, however. In accordance with the order quoted above and his position both as the pre-eminent intellectual in Europe and as a member of the Tuscan Court, he visited Bellarmine and was given a private injunction. Exactly what happened at this meeting has been subject to much discussion and scrutiny, particularly given its import at Galileo's later trial. We shall return to it below.

    On the 5th of March, the Congregation of the Index published its decree announcing the prohibition of certain works. After describing the intent of the "Pythagorean doctrine", it declared that

    We need not be apologists to note that the contemporary era lacks any moral high ground from which to lament the banning of books (cf. Martin, 1954), which is the exclusive domain of neither religion nor medieval contexts. Moreover, it is known that only eight percent of copies of Copernicus' work were ever censored (Gingerich, 1981: 45-61), the decree being difficult to enforce. Nevertheless, for our purposes the important point on which to remark is that there was no mention of heresy in the decree of the Index, nor Galileo. Although Foscarini's book was to be banned entirely, Copernicus' and Zu iga's merely required minor corrections. This was due, it seems, to Foscarini's work being devoted to showing the compatibility of Copernicanism with Scripture, while the others only mentioned it in passing.

    The obvious questions to ask, then, are why, if Galileo's expositions of the first proposition were judged to be "formally heretical", was he not mentioned by name, and why was there no suggestion that the decree was due to the heretical nature of the works? The answers may be found in a diary entry of Gianfrancesco Buonamici, recalling these events many years later:

    The reference to Galileo's Letter was described by Fantoli (1996, 262) as "completely unlikely", since it was not published at that time (1616) and hence not available to the Pope in his deliberations. Nevertheless, we see here an important factor in the Galileo affair that has been noted by many scholars (in particular, Biagioli, 1993); namely, the relevance (or even decisive influence) of patronage. This was (and in some places still is) a social dimension that was impossible to avoid (indeed, Biagoli remarks that it was "a voluntary activity only in the narrow sense that by not engaging in it one would commit social suicide" (1993: 16). Not only was the social status of an author correlated with the credibility of their ideas and, in particular, their reports of observation and experiment (cf. Shapin, 1985 (with Schafer) and 1995, and Dear, 1985), just as today, but also individual disciplines were accorded a place in a hierarchy, theology, as queen, at the top. The rigidity of this particular structure is one of the reasons why Galileo's challenge was so unwelcome. Indeed, already in the 1540s Tolosani had written a critique of Copernicus from this perspective, stating that the "lower science receives principles provided by the superior" and that the latter had violated this order by neglecting to ascribe to mathematics and astronomy their proper places (quoted in Garin, 1975: 31-42).

    Cosimo II de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany

    As we have seen, Galileo's early career depended on the patronage of men like Guidobaldo and Clavius. Aside from his obvious talents, he relied on the patronage connections already established by his father, Vincenzio (Biagioli, op cit: 22). At this stage Galileo was not able to contact the Grand Duke directly, having to negotiate his way via satellite personalities that functioned as brokers. An example of the manner of writing and speech that was required to navigate the system of patronage is given by his first letter written directly to Cosimo in 1605, his former student with whom he had cultivated the client/patron relationship for several years:

    It is important to place Galileo and the entire Galileo affair within this context of patronage. The system functioned in two directions: on the one hand, the client hoped to use his patrons to secure social advance and economic success; on the other, the patron intended his clients to shower him in reflected glory, as it were—a testament to his enlightened court and his wide ranging interests. "A patron demonstrated his magnificence by supporting the best." (Westfall, 1989: 65) The image of early science as a venatio or "hunt" beyond the realm of mere appearances was a product of the courts, "develop[ing] outside of the universities" and "in opposition to the methodological assumptions of official academic culture" (Eamon, 1991: 74). Courts at this time were a magnet for all types of new ideas and Galileo was not the only one seeking to make a name and find a place for himself, Machiavelli having declared that "a prince ought to show himself a lover of ability, giving employment to able men and honouring those who excel in a particular field", thereby gaining "the reputation of being a great man of outstanding ability". Many Renaissance courts kept wunderkammern to house and publicly display curiosities, thereby demonstrating the power of the prince and the extent of his dominion, even unto the weird and wonderful. The de' Medicis kept a studioli in like fashion, Francesco I eventually transferring most of the contents of his to the Uffizi gallery in 1584. Perhaps the most famous example of patronage and its import is the court of Rudolf II in Prague and its Kunstkammer, a part of his attempt to establish himself as a contemporary Maecenas, acting as a patron to Brahe and Kepler, amongst others.

    Intermediaries were used because patrons did not want to take the risk associated with direct communication or offering support to a client who might subsequently embarrass them. Having invested many years in his association with Cosimo, Galileo was able to use his telescopic discoveries to finally give himself the importance he felt he had, although prior to that time he had little value to the court. "Without these carefully forged relationships, the Medicean Stars would not have projected him into prominence" (Biagioli. ibid: 24). A network of brokers supported this system and it is easy to see parallels in some aspects of contemporary society.

    The ritualised conduct inherent in the patronage system was not an archaic irrelevancy that Galileo had to struggle against, then, but one in which he fully immersed himself as he had to. This was vital because the hierarchical status of Galileo's discipline (mathematics) and his methodology was so low in comparison with others (cf. Westman, 1980 and Biagioli, 1989). In order to improve its epistemological standing, it was first necessary for Galileo to gain in social standing; and the only way to do that was to seek out a patron—the higher in society the better. As a consequence, we have to appreciate that Galileo's social activities were not ancillary to his scientific work but an unavoidable and interdependent part of it: the more he gained in importance by his association with patrons, the more his ideas gained a hearing; while, conversely, the more famous he became from his scientific work, the more desirable he was as a client to patrons of increasing prestige and influence. Inevitably, of course, Galileo would come into conflict with others seeking patronage in much the same way, whether those seeking similar positions or those resentful of the proposed reordering of the disciplines that he was working towards. Then, as now, fame and reward brought with them jealously and envy.

    To return to our story, an obvious question to ask is why the Church—if it was indeed opposed to Galileo's ideas and to science in general—allowed him to publish at all, either up to 1616 or later? As we have seen, his position in the court of the Grand Duke of Tuscany was in no small part responsible for the private injunction he received from Bellarmine and his absence from the decree of the Index, along with the relatively minor role of the asides on Copernicanism in his writings to that date. The letter from Buonamici, quoted above, together with one from the much later Tuscan Ambassador Francesco Niccolini (XIV, 428), both spoke of Maffeo Barberini having "preserved" Galileo (cf. also Westfall, 1989: 21). Speaking directly of his intervention, Barberini remarked in 1630 that prohibiting Copernicanism "was never our intention, and if he had been left to us, that decree would not have been made" (XIV, 88). If Galileo's patrons had saved him, however, others were suggesting that he was himself unintentionally doing all he could to ruin his good fortune.

    Galileo and Rhetoric

    When he wrote to Tuscan court to inform them of the outcome of the events of early 1616, Ambassador Giucciardini explained what he held to be Galileo's significant part:

    He went on to add that Galileo was

    It is this kind of description of Galileo as a Copernican zealot, utterly convinced of the truth of his ideas and determined to spread them, that forms the basis of the second myth of the Galileo affair (cf. Duhem, 1969; Koestler, 1959; Feyerabend, 1993; Langford, 1966; Shea and Artigas, 2003). Giucciardini was not alone in his view of events, with even Kepler blaming the prohibition of part of his own 1618 work Epitome Astronomiae Copernicanae on the "inappropriateness of some who have treated of astronomical truths in places where they should not be treated and with improper methods" (V, 633).

    This thesis, however, overlooks several important points that—at this stage, at any rate—give the lie to it. Guicciardini did not know the content of Bellarmine's injunction to Galileo, sending his report to the Grand Duke before the adoption of the decree of the Index and incorrectly asserting that Galileo's opinion had been found "erroneous and heretical" (op cit). He spoke, therefore, only of "rumours that were circulating among the circles of the Papal Curia" (Fantoli, 1996: 258). More importantly, perhaps, and in spite of the Ambassador's insistence that the Pope would not tolerate such things, Galileo was granted an audience with the Pontiff less than two weeks later. According to Galileo's testimony,

    Galileo did not return immediately to Tuscany with this assurance, since he heard from several of his friends (for instance, XII, 246) that rumours were circulating to the effect that he had been ordered by Bellarmine to adjure his heresy. Having complained to the latter in this connexion, Galileo received on May the 26th a signed statement from the Cardinal describing what had occurred at their meeting (XIX, 348). (This document would prove important for his later trial and all subsequent scholarship, and we shall return to it later.) Although his attempt to separate science and religion had failed for the time being, Galileo was content to travel back to Florence and wait for a more opportune moment. In spite of the judgement of the theologians, the Church had not condemned Copernicanism but only mandated that it be treated as a hypothesis.

    In the meantime, Galileo returned to his studies and observations, working on his Discourse on the ebb and flow of the sea and the eclipses of the satellites of Jupiter. This latter endeavour was being used to compile tables that Galileo believed could help address the problem of determining longitude at sea, a famous problem for navigators (cf. V, 419-425). Negotiations had been opened with the Spanish King to this end, although they would eventually (in 1632) grind to a halt.

    Christoph Scheiner, Galileo’s Jesuit opponent on the question of sunspots

    Late in 1618, three comets were seen in quick succession, beginning another round of speculation on their implications—whether for astronomical systems or as harbingers of upheavals to come. Galileo was unable to offer any comment himself due to illness (a susceptibility to which had plagued him throughout his life and would continue to do so), later stating so explicitly (VI, 225), and refused to rely on guesswork when he had made no observations of his own.

    Nevertheless, the Jesuits were not so constrained and in 1619 their professor of mathematics at the Roman College, Orazio Grassi, who would later take over from Grienberger, wrote De tribus cometis anni MDCXVIII disputatio astronomica ("An astronomical discussion on the three comets of 1618"), otherwise known as the Disputatio. Although released under a pseudonym, much like Scheiner's booklet, Grassi defended the Tychonian system and word reached Galileo that "the Jesuits have spread it around that this thing overthrows the Copernican system, against which there is no surer argument than this" (XII, 443—although Biagioli claimed that this is a mistranslation (1993: 282, n49) and, more accurately, states that some outside the Jesuit order were spreading the rumour).

    This tactic of composing texts without giving a real name was part of the precautions used in the patronage system, according to Biagioli (1993: 63): to avoid tarnishing the image of his order or patron, an author would not give his name. Galileo quickly found out, however, and took exception—wrongly (Fantoli, 1996: 303)—to a remark he felt was directed at him. Replying through his friend and former student, Mario Guidicci (although it is known that Galileo wrote almost the entirety of the work attributed to Guidicci (XII, 457)), Galileo and his friends were thereby responsible for the rapid destruction of his good relations with the Jesuits, the consequences of which concerned Ciampoli who said that the Jesuits were "much offended" (XII, 466). It was too late, however, as Grienberger observed:

    So began the cycle that demonstrates Galileo's brutal rhetoric and its effects decisively. A master of satire and wit, possessed of the sharpest of tongues, Galileo opened the Discourse on the comets by explicitly accusing Scheiner of plagiarism during their earlier interaction on the subject of sunspots, a charge "deliberately couched in the most insulting terms" (Westfall, 1989: 51), before moving on to "rip Grassi apart" (ibid). In spite of some scholars incorrectly portraying Galileo's arguments as "decadent Aristotelianism" (Shea, 1972: 85) when they could not be reconciled with Aristotle (Fantoli, 1996: 278), or the barely disguised glee at the "demythologiz[ing of] the heroes of the scientific revolution" (Shea, 2003: 100), he had shown the inability of the Tychonic system to account for the observations of the comets rather than attempted to replace it—that is, to show that the purported refutation of Copernicanism was no such thing. Grassi's response was not long in coming, published as the Libra astronomica ac philosophica also in 1619 but under a different pseudonym, "Sarsi", allegedly a disciple of Grassi and keen to show him in a better light. This reply was also not free of rhetoric but nothing on the scale that Galileo would unleash in his rejoinder.

    While the Jesuits were speaking of having "annihilated" Galileo (XII, 498-499), he himself was cautiously composing what would become The Assayer. Since his patron Cosimo II had died, along with Paul V earlier in 1621, he was keen to avoid controversy at home. As time passed, his friends became increasingly concerned that silence on his part was as good as admitting defeat, although—as usual—Galileo had again been very ill. He eventually completed the work in 1622 and his friends Cesi and Cesarini set about obtaining permission for its publication in Rome by the Accademia dei Lincei, some its members suggesting slight modifications. Examined and accepted by the Dominican Niccol Riccardi, the manuscript was with the printers in 1623 when the new Pope, Gregory XV, died suddenly only two years into his tenure. After much argument among the Cardinals, Maffeo Barberini, Galileo's friend and great defender, was elected to the Pontificate, taking the name Urban VIII. Galileo immediately wrote to Cesi of this mirabil congiuntura ("marvellous conjuncture"), saying that if they could not achieve their aims now then "they will never come about because—as far as I am concerned—there is no point hoping that a similar situation will come around again" (XIII, 135).

    Giovanni Ciampoli, Galileo’s friend

    Galileo had good reason to continue to delight in this fortuitous occasion: his friends Cesarini and Ciampoli were appointed as Master of the Chambers and Secretary of the Briefs to the Princes respectively—both already members of the Accademia dei Lincei. To take advantage of the circumstances, the Accademia decided to dedicate the Assayer to the new Pontiff (XIII, 129). Thus was born a work that has been described as "a stupendous masterpiece of polemical literature" (Geymonat, 1965: 101), in which Galileo's command of rhetoric was given free reign. Having told Colombe previously that "there is no point in undertaking to refute someone who is so ignorant that it would require a huge volume to refute his stupidities (which number more than the lines of his essay)" (IV, 443), he was simply brutal to Grassi and his appeals to the authority of others:

    In another famous passage, he expressed his contempt for those who attacked him:

    Little wonder, then, that Galileo aroused such vehement opposition in his enemies through a combination of a gargantuan ego and ruthless tongue. As Westfall remarked, "[n]ot even a saint would have received Il Saggiatore without hostility, and Grassi has not been nominated for sainthood" (1989: 51). Nevertheless, Galileo was caught up in the patronage system and ignoring Grassi and others was not an option: defeat would reflect on his patrons as surely as his successes and there were continual calls for "some further new invention of [his] genius" (XIII, 146-147). In spite of the risks, then, Galileo had to "publish or perish"; showing, once more, that it is simply not possible to break up the Galileo affair into distinct spheres of influence. Galileo's ego and his rhetoric, as well as his p
    Teaser Paragraph: Publish Date: 06/26/2005 Article Image:
    By Paul Newall (2005)

    The trial and resulting abjuration of Galileo before the Holy Congregation of the Catholic Church, which occurred at the convent of Minerva on the 22nd of June, 1633, has been studied by scholars and laymen alike for several hundred years. Not surprisingly, the sheer number of personalities involved, together with the many aspects playing a part in political, religious, philosophical and scientific affairs over the course of Galileo's life, have given rise to a great many interpretations of what happened and—perhaps more importantly—why.


    What happened to Galileo has been examined at length as an historical event that can shed light on a few specific questions:

    What is the relationship between science and religion?
    How did modern science develop and why?
    What is the relationship between science and society?
    Although it has also been viewed as a human tragedy (Brecht, 1966), the first of these has tended to be paramount. Some perspectives seemed well-supported by a cursory glance and the trial has since come to be known as a paradigmatic example of the inherent conflict between science and religion.

    The Myths

    According to one such interpretation, Galileo knew the Earth to go round the Sun (as Copernicus had written) rather than the converse (as implied in several Biblical passages). The Church would not allow science to disprove the revealed truth of Scripture, however, and hence threw Galileo to the Inquisition where he was forced under threat of torture to disclaim this opinion and never speak of it again. He was then imprisoned under house arrest for the remainder of his life, a clear example of the conflict between scientific investigation of the world around us and the presumed infallible authority of the Bible.

    Another, less well-known myth states instead that the Church had been correct to deal with Galileo as it did. Having seen no convincing scientific evidence or reasons to abandon the Ptolemaic Earth-centred system, the Church ignored Galileo's skilful rhetoric and held to the eminently reasonable approach of not abandoning an idea that was supported both by common sense and Scripture for an alternative that was unproven and had more than enough problems of its own. Galileo was trying to force society and religion to adjust to ideas that were either disputed or inconclusive, and he was rightly rebuffed and his objections dismissed.

    In this essay we shall look at Galileo's early life before considering in more detail the events that became known as The Galileo Affair. Following Finocchiaro (1989, 10), we shall distinguish between non-intellectual (political, personal and social) and intellectual (theological, philosophical and scientific) factors before looking at the trial and its consequences. We shall also consider the recent position taken by the Church under John Paul II and the new fictions introduced thereby. Under the weight of all these diverse aspects, these myths will hopefully give way to a deeper appreciation of the whole affair. Initially, however, we shall reflect on the astronomical problem that provides the overall context for what is to come.

    Unless otherwise noted, all references are to Antonio Favaro's Edizione Nazionale delle Opere di Galileo Galilei, with the volume and page numbers given by Roman and Arabic numerals respectively. This is the standard collection of works and correspondence in Galileo studies.

    Astronomical Systems

    In order to understand the debate that had been ongoing in European religious, philosophical and scientific circles since the publication of Copernicus's De revolutionibus orbium celestium in 1543, we first need to understand the different terms and world systems involved. From the time of Aristotle (384-321 B.C.E.) it had been thought that the Earth stood still (which we call geostaticism) at the centre of the universe (and hence geocentrism). Everything in the universe was part of one of two distinct worlds: that made up by the sublunar and that of the heavenly bodies. The former were made up of earth, fire, air and water, each of which had its natural motion: earth and water, being heavy, moved from high to low; while fire and air, being light, moved from low to high. Once something reached its natural place it no longer moved—much like a pendulum slowing down until it reaches an equilibrium. This meant that the sublunar world must consist in a core of earth with the other elements arranged in "shells" around it—water, air and fire. Since the Earth was mostly earth, it sat at the centre of the universe and did not move.

    The simplified Ptolemaic system, sometimes called Aristotelian

    The heavenly bodies, being separate, could not be composed of the four elements, so Aristotle invoked a fifth—the ether. They could not move toward the centre, since that was occupied by the Earth, so their natural motion had to be circular, becoming neither closer nor farther away as they moved. A circular motion, however, could continue indefinitely in one direction, hence there would be no opposition and so no change. The heavenly bodies, then, were immutable. All this was set in motion by God, the final mover, the result being much like an onion: a central Earth surrounded by concentric spheres, just as the onion is made up of a centre around which the layers are arranged one on top of each other.

    Although much of this model seemed confirmed by observation and common sense, it struggled to explain phenomena that became increasingly familiar to early astronomers. Why did the brightness of the planets vary? What of retrograde motion, where a planet appeared to move eastward for most of the year but then to go back on itself, westward, before heading east again—tracking a loop across the heavens, as it were? These difficulties made it hard to claim that the Aristotelian representation could be an accurate picture of the universe.

    This situation changed significantly with the work of Ptolemy, who is estimated to have lived circa 100-178 C.E. His Almagest (a name given to it by the Arabs, from al—the Arabic "the"—and megiste—the Greek "greatest"—to set it apart from another textbook called The Little Astronomer) was based on observations from 127 to 151 and gave a mathematical account of the movements in the heavens. In particular, he affirms in chapters five and seven of Book One that the Earth is central and does not move. His explanations were based on three principles:

    The eccentric, according to which the Earth is not at the centre of planetary orbits but slight off.
    The epicycles, according to which a planet revolved around a circle (an epicycle) which, in turn, was centred on a deferent. The deferent could itself be on another deferent, and so on, allowing Ptolemy to account for retrograde motion.
    The equant, according to which the angular velocity (or speed of revolution) of a deferent was not constant with respect to its centre but instead off-set slightly at an equant point, so that the angular velocity would be greater the farther away from the equant, and vice versa. This would help explain the speeding up of the planets at various times of the year.

    Diagram reproduced with permission from Nick Strobel's Astronomy Notes site.

    With these mathematical devices, Ptolemy was able to describe the motions of the planets in mathematical terms so successfully that his account was still in use some 1400 years later. Although he himself tried to interpret his work realistically in his Hypothesis on the Planets, a lasting consequence of his treatment was the separation of astronomy and natural philosophy (or what we would now call science): on this view, the task of the astronomer was not to give a true explanation of the structure of the universe and how it functions, but merely to offer a tool or instrument of prediction to help in calculating positions when required.

    The first geokinetic ("moving Earth") system was implicit in that of Philolaus in approximately 475 B.C.E., which, though now lost, was referred to by Archimedes and others. A true heliocentric ("sun centred") approach was devised by Aristarchus of Samos in the fourth century B.C.E. This was not heliostatic (i.e. the Sun standing still) since the Sun rotated on its own axis. His account was rejected by Aristotle and others because of the theory of natural place (explained above), the lack of any common experience that suggested its truth, and—most importantly—because the phenomenon of stellar parallax was not noted.

    Diagram reproduced with permission from Nick Strobel's Astronomy Notes site.

    This was an argument that noted that, on the assumption of a moving Earth, the line of sight from an observer to a star would not remain parallel over the course of a year but would vary. Aristarchus thought that this was because the universe is so vast in extent that the change would be negligible, but, with his system not coming close to the mathematical sophistication of Ptolemy's, this idea was rejected along with the motion and rotation of the Earth.

    Copernicus, the heliocentrist.

    With some other minor developments that are beyond the scope of this essay, this was how matters remained until the publication, on his deathbed (literally), of Nicholas Copernicus's (1473-1543) De revolutionibus orbium celestium. In this work he gave a mathematical account of a universe centred on the Sun, in which all the planets (and the Sun itself) rotated on their axes and around the Sun.

    Although Copernicus interpreted his model not as an instrument but as a description of reality, a preface was added to his work by Andreas Osiander that asserted to the contrary in order to avoid the censure of the Church. The reception given to Copernicanism varied between countries and over time, but one of the most important responses was given by the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe who developed an alternative system, according to which the planets orbited the Sun and the Sun, in turn, orbited the Earth. This Tychonic view retained geocentrism and geostaticism, winning the support of astronomers in the instrumental tradition. Others, however, complained that it was merely a mathematical concession that did not address the physical difficulties with the Ptolemaic system, which were raised anew by the appearance of many comets between 1577 and 1596. Aware of these issues, Brahe could not bring himself to accept Copernicanism. A more detailed account of the background may be found in a study of the history of astronomy (cf. Kuhn, 1971 and Fantoli, 1996 for recent examples), but this was the situation when Galileo arrived on the scene.

    Galileo the Man

    Galileo Galilei was born in the environs of Pisa on the 15th of February, 1564, the son of Vincenzio Galilei, a musician and teacher of music who emphasised the use of experiment and was scornful of any deference to authority. His mother was Giulia Ammanati, known from her letters to have been a difficult woman. He was schooled initially by the monks at Vallombroso until his removal by his father due to problems with his eyesight, and was later enrolled at the University of Pisa in 1581 to study medicine. In 1583 he began to take private lessons in mathematics from Ostilio Ricci, a tutor associated with the Tuscan court. His father's disagreement with this change of direction was assuaged somewhat by Ricci's intervention. Galileo left the university without graduating, intending to devote his efforts to mathematics, but unable to win a scholarship from the Grand Duke.


    Some work on the centres of gravity of solids won Galileo the admiration of Christopher Clavius, a famous Jesuit mathematician whom he visited in Rome in 1587, together with the patronage of the Marquis Guidobaldo del Monte. Both were able to use their influence to help Galileo gain the chair of mathematics at his old university in 1589, having failed the year previously to win the same position at the University of Bologna. It was in Pisa that he was reputed to have carried out his famous experiments, dropping weights from the leaning tower.

    More accurately, these were demonstrations, not experiments, because Galileo already knew what to expect from his childhood experience of watching falling hailstones of different sizes striking the ground at the same time and the prior suggestion and testing by others of this result—contrary to Aristotelian teaching (Giambattista in 1553 and Stevin in 1586; cf. Drake, 1999, 1: 8). (According to Aristotle's ideas on impetus and place, a heavy stone should fall proportionately quicker, attempting to regain its natural place.) Although some historians of science have doubted whether this celebrated incident ever occurred (Koyre, 1978 and Dijksterhuis, 1969: 336, for example), the matter was settled by Thomas B. Settle's repetition, observation and explanation of the curious fact that the heavier ball descends slightly behind the lighter—a puzzling circumstance noted by Galileo and found by Settle to be due to differential muscular fatigue, leading to the early release of the lighter ball even though the holder believes the release to be simultaneous (Cohen, 1992: 195; see also Drake, 1999, 1: 309 for how Settle's work ousted the Koyrean programme within Galileo studies).

    Soon after his arrival at Pisa, Galileo had written a paper on mechanics that would perhaps have been sufficient to displace Aristotelianism and certainly win him a reputation in the wider world (Drake, op cit, 28). He preferred instead to continue working and ultimately never published it. We should bear this in mind when considering the later suggestion that he lacked prudence or defended ideas he knew to be untenable.

    Disappointed with his prospects of advancement, Galileo resigned from his position in 1592 and, again with the aid of Guidobaldo, took up the chair of mathematics at the University of Padua, then part of the Venetian Republic. The intellectual climate there was more to his liking, the government in Venice being easily the most tolerant of the Italian states while the great Vesalius had taught at the university. There Galileo met and befriended Giovanfrancesco Sagredo, who would later take the third role in Galileo's Dialogue. In his time at Padua he invented several devices that found medical applications after their adaptation by Sanctorio Santorius, the professor of medicine. It was here also that Galileo first met Roberto Cardinal Saint Bellarmine, who would play such an important role in later events. Galileo lodged for a time with G.V. Pinelli and it is reckoned that a later meeting there, involving Bellarmine and Cesare Baronius—the latter a cardinal, too—was the source of a maxim attributed to Baronius by Galileo some years hence, according to which "the Bible tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go." (Drake, op cit.)

    In 1597 Galileo was given a copy of Johannes Kepler's Precursor of the Cosmographic Dissertations or the Cosmographic Mystery and struck up a correspondence with the author. They discussed Copernicanism and Galileo mentioned his concern at the fate of Copernicus's ideas (X, 68). Also in 1597, Galileo invented a "geometric and military compass", or what we would today call a sector. In 1599 he began to manufacture these commercially by taking on a craftsman, such was their utility. Over the next few years he was able to prove several theorems concerning motion on inclined planes and discovered the law of falling bodies.

    Although he never married, Galileo formed a relationship with Marina Gamba and had two daughters, in 1600 and 1602, followed by a son in 1606. He was utterly devoted to his eldest daughter, Virginia, who wrote many letters to him and maintained his spirits during his later difficulties with unwavering faith in him. When she died in 1634, he was inconsolable and probably never recovered from his loss.

    In 1604 an event occurred that perhaps marked the beginning of his troubles with the philosophers. A supernova was observed in the night sky and Galileo was called upon to give lectures on it. These were so popular that no spare seats could be found and Galileo pointed to what had occurred in the heavens as evidence that Aristotle had been incorrect in supposing that the sphere beyond the planets was composed of a perfect and immutable quintessence that could not be altered.

    The Paduan professor of philosophy, Cesare Cremonini, replied to Galileo in a small booklet, to which the latter responded in turn—probably in collaboration with his friend Antonio Querengo—by composing a dialogue in rustic Paduan dialect between two peasants (Drake, op cit). In this work the peasants made a mockery of the Aristotelians and, although published under a pseudonym, it was widely known to have been Galileo's creation. A student in Padua called Baldessar Capra criticised this work in a pamphlet of his own, in addition to plagiarising the handbook that Galileo had written for the use of his military compass. In 1607, Galileo published his Defence against the calumnies and impostures of Baldessar Capra, in which he answered these objections alongside an account of bringing the theft of his ideas to the attention of the authorities. During the resulting trial he had demonstrated that Capra did not sufficiently understand either the instrument or the principles behind it. Capra's work was prohibited and he was expelled, while Galileo was never again so open with his ideas.

    Hard at work on theorems concerning materials and motion, Galileo discovered that projectiles follow parabolic paths but did not publish his thoughts until late in his life. The event that compelled him to put these inquiries aside was to have a profound influence on his work: the invention of the telescope. In 1608 the Dutch optician Hans Lippershey had built the first example and tried to patent his invention. Hearing about it from his friend Paolo Sarpi, Galileo realised that he could manufacture his own from convex and concave lenses placed at the objective and eyepiece ends of a tube respectively. Able to achieve a nine-fold magnification, he presented his telescope to the Venetian government and was offered an appointment for life together with an increased salary. On further examination, however, it transpired that no new raises would be permitted. Galileo was hoping for a better deal, so he continued to develop his telescope and looked to the Tuscan Court instead.

    Galileo's Telescope.

    By 1610, Galileo's telescope could magnify thirty times and he did something that very few had thought to do (although there is evidence that Thomas Harriot had already been observing the moon—cf. Cohen, 1992: 185): armed with this new tool, he turned his augmented attention upwards to gaze deeper into the heavens than anyone before him. Close attention to and sketches of what he saw over a period of many nights revealed to him that the moon was not smooth at all but mountainous. He also discovered vast numbers of stars and the four satellites of Jupiter. Publishing the results of these investigations in his Sidereus nuncios (or Starry Messenger), he dedicated the work to Cosimo II de' Medici, his former student and now Grand Duke of Tuscany. Christening the four moons the "Medicean Stars" in a shrewd move, Galileo applied for and was granted the position of Chief Mathematician and Philosopher to the Grand Duke, as well as Chief Mathematician of the University of Pisa with no requirement to either teach or live there. He was also granted a salary of 1000 scudi, a large amount of money at that time and which was soon to rouse the envy of other ducal courtiers (although it was nothing like the pay of a professor of philosophy—a circumstance that would bother him throughout his later life).

    In Florence, Galileo observed the phases of Venus and the strange form of Saturn. He received Kepler's Conversation with the Starry Messenger, offering the latter's support for his discoveries. Nevertheless, there were plenty of hostile reactions: a gathering led by Giovanni Magini, professor of mathematics at Bologna, had been unable to see the Medicean Stars through the telescope, even with Galileo present to help them; Martin Horky, a student of Magini's, published A Very Short Excursion Against The Starry Messenger; and Ludovico delle Colombe wrote Against the Earth's Motion, in which he marshalled religious criticisms of Galileo's ideas. Cesare Cremonini and Giulio Libri, professors of philosophy at the universities of Padua and Pisa respectively, refused even to look through the telescope. Christopher Clavius in Rome stated that the satellites were a trick of the lenses, not real objects in the heavens.

    In spite of these difficulties, Galileo gave three public lectures in Padua and the Jesuits in Rome, including Clavius, verified his observations as soon as they obtained a suitably powerful telescope. Finally, on the 20th of March, 1611, Galileo arrived in Rome where he was feted as a hero, welcomed by Cardinals and provided with opportunities to give demonstrations in the gardens of the rich and powerful. He was granted an audience with Pope Paul V, inducted into Marquis (later Prince) Federico Cesi's Accademia dei Lincei (the Academy of the Lynx-Eyed, the first scientific academy) on the 25th of April, and was received with much ceremony by the Jesuits at the Roman College on the 13th of May where an address entitled The Sidereal Message was read in his honour in the presence of the entire College and many Cardinals.

    At this point, then, Galileo was at the apex of his fame. However, there were plenty waiting in the wings to attack him and those who already had, for a variety of reasons. It is to these reasons that we shall now turn.

    Teaser Paragraph: Publish Date: 06/25/2005 Article Image:
    By Paul Newall (2005)

    As explained in the extended essay, the Galileo Affair is well known for giving rise to mythical interpretations. Although the reading that portrays Galileo as a martyr to science or rationality persists in many circles, there are two others.

    The first perhaps had its origin in the work of Koyre and others and holds that the Church acted correctly in censuring Galileo, since in advocating Copernicanism without proof it was his that was the unscientific position. This relies on the view of Galileo as a Copernican zealot, keen to promote heliocentrism at all costs even though he knew he did not have anything approaching a convincing demonstration. Apart from being wholly anachronistic (there were no demarcation criteria to decide what was or was not science at that time, since there was no science at all), Wallace has shown that Galileo knew exactly what would or would not constitute a proof or demonstration according to the sophisticated (Aristotelian) understanding of his day. Moreover, once we appreciate that Galileo was hoping to prevent the Church from falling into the error that Augustine had warned against previously - that is, of making an empirical claim an article of faith and thereby allowing a heathen who could show it to be false to call the faith into doubt - this myth runs out of steam very quickly.

    A variant of this approach claims with Feyerabend (see his address to the Pontifical Academy given in Krakow) that Bellarmine's remarks in 1616 exemplified a "scientific" attitude and hence Galileo was wrong to insist that the Church give up a worldview which worked for one which was unproven. Leaving alone the unfortunate circumstance that Galileo was doing no such thing, Bellarmine's letter to Foscarini is usually cited in support of this contention, wherein Bellarmine wrote that he knew of no proof of Copernicanism and would

    The principle employed here is that we should not dispense with a position of known success in interpreting our world unless we have good reason to, a sentiment that we are supposed to agree with as transparently obvious. The section of Bellarmine's letter conveniently not quoted, however, gives a rather different picture of Bellarmine's supposedly enlightened attitude:

    Here we see (as among Galileo scholars only Fantoli appears to have noted clearly and with regard to its consequences) that Scriptural statements concerning the movement of the Sun around the Earth cannot be questioned because they issue from the Holy Spirit via the Biblical authors. The result of this position, as is immediately obvious to all who read this far in the letter, is that there can never be any non-heretical proof of Copernicanism. Regardless of the arguments Galileo could muster, then, he would unavoidably fall into heresy. Whatever we call this unfalsifiable position with regard to astronomical questions, "scientific" and "rational" are not meaningful descriptions.

    A more recent look at the Galileo Affair points to the so-called "Galileo Commission" set up by Pope John Paul II in 1979 as indicative of a desire on the part of the Church to gain a more acccurate understanding of what occurred and where the Church of that time made mistakes. The harshest criticisms of their conclusions, however, have come from George Coyne, a Jesuit, and Annibale Fantoli. At the close of my essay, I explained why the Church had succeeded in little more than erecting new myths in place of the old, in spite of earlier optimism that something valuable would be achieved.

    Why does the Galileo Affair give rise to such a variety of myths? Probably because it represents the confluence of so many different factors that it is quite easy to focus on one or a few to the exclusion of others and hence to read into it opinions actually held a priori. A wide reading can perhaps help avoid this to some extent, but a more important lesson may be to simply realise that everyone has a position to sell. Sadly many of the accounts of Galileo's life and times make this far too obvious to be interesting on any other level.

    (NB. All references in this article may be found in the extended essay on The Galileo Affair linked to above.)