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The Conception of Science in Galileo’s Work

  • Ernan McMullin
Chapter
Part of the The University of Western Ontario Series in Philosophy of Science book series (WONS, volume 14)

Abstract

It has been remarked more than once that each generation of theorists of science makes of Galileo, the “father of modern science” by customary reckoning, a scientist after its own heart.1 Most recently Paul Feyerabend proposed that: What Galileo did was to let refuted theories support each other, that he built in this way a new world-view which was only loosely (if at all!) connected with the preceding cosmology (everyday experience included), that he established false connections with the perceptual elements of this cosmology which are only now being replaced by genuine theories (physiological optics, theory of continua), and that whenever possible he replaced old facts by a new type of experience which he simply invented for the purpose of supporting Copernicus.2

Keywords

Causal Explanation Lunar Surface Incline Plane Posterior Analytics Scientific Demonstration 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    See, for example, A. C. Crombie, ‘Galilée devant les critiques de la posterité,’ Conference du Palais de la Découverte, Paris, 1956, Section 3.Google Scholar
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    I have discussed two of the leading figures in this ‘mathematical’ tradition, in ‘Ptolemy on Saving the Phenomena’, prepared for the XV Intern. Congress for the History of Science, Edinburgh 1977, and ‘Mathematics and Physics in the Work of Alhazen’, Conference on the relations of history and philosophy of science, Jyväskylä (Finland), 1973, Proceedings to appear in Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science.Google Scholar
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    This is done very well by Nicholas Jardine, ‘Galileo’s Road to Truth and the Demonstrative Regress’, Studies Hist. Philos Science 1 (1976), 277–318. He argues that the Paduan regressus was not the foreshadowing of experimental and hypothetical method that Randall claimed it to be, and that in its manner of going from effect to proximate cause and back to effect, it left unresolved the main difficulties in the Aristotelian scheme. He also claims that far from being influenced by this notion of regressus, Galileo rejected it explicitly. This last is too strong a conclusion from the texts he cites, but what is shown is that the analytic procedure described by Galileo in his mechanics is of a different sort (back to axiom rather than to proximate cause), and further, that there is not much evidence of direct influence on his own work of the specifically Paduan version of the oti-dioti problem. We shall show below that in contexts other than the mechanics, however, Galileo relates demonstration to causes rather than to axioms.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    As a young man, he wrote a detailed commentary on the Posterior Analytics, the Disputationes de Praecognitione et Demonstratione, in which he followed the ‘oti-dioti’ distinction by reducing scientific demonstration to the usual two kinds, propter quid and quia, insisted that ex suppositione argument could not be regarded as truly scientific, and argued that regressus is needed in physics (unlike mathematics) because physical causes may be less known than their effects, so that one has to work back to cause and then down to effect again to achieve complete demonstration. This work is not included in Favaro’s National Edition of Galileo’s works, and its exact status is still under discussion. See A. C. Crombie, ‘Sources of Galileo’s Early Natural Philosophy’, in Reason, Experiment and Mysticism (ed. by M. L. Righini Bonelli and W. R. Shea), New York, 1975, pp. 157–75.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ernan McMullin
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Notre DameUSA

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