Galileo as Scientist and as Philosopher and the Emergence of Mathematical Physics in the 17th Century

  • Joseph C. Pitt
Part of the The University of Western Ontario Series in Philosophy of Science book series (WONS, volume 50)


Our topic is Galileo’s contribution to the concept of science. For many that is summed up in the following quote from The Assayer, written in 1623.


Syllogistic Reasoning Aristotelian Philosopher Modem Science Methodological View Copernican System 
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  1. 1.
    References will be by author and date of publication with other information where appropriate. Füll citations regarding works referred to can be found in the list of Works Consulted at the end of the book. Wherever possible I have used Drake’s translations for two reasons. First, they have become the accepted Standard English translations of Galileo’s major works. Second, I could not hope to approach the clarity of the translation nor the spirit of Galileo which Drake so effortlessly captures. References to the collected works of Galileo, Edizione Nationale [1890–1909], Ist Edition, edited by A. Favaro, will follow citations of translated texts where appropriate as (Opere, [vol., page]).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    For a succinct and clear view of the problems of reconstructing history see Crombie [1963, pp. 5–7].Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See also Rossi [1975] on this theme.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See Rossi [1982, p. 15], for a view of how this pragmatic conception of knowledge functioned in the thought of Bacon, Mersenne, and Hobbes. See also Dijksterhuis [ 1961, Part III, Ch. 2] for the role of technology and the notion of the control of nature in the development of modern science.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    For an annotated bibliography of the most significant biographical works on Galileo see Drake [1967]. See also McMullin [1967] for a detailed general bibliography on materials pertaining to Galileo’s life and works published between 1940 and 1967.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    For a more elaborate account of this episode see Drake [1978, pp.2–4]Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    For a detailed and comprehensive analysis of Galileo’s scientific life, with an underlying subtext that exposes his life long preoccupation with the problem of capturing mathematically the rate of fall, see Drake [1978].Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    This intuitive idea, is, I suspect, behind Kuhn’s [1962] notion of the role of paradigms in scientific change.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    For a fuller account see Wallace [1984, pp. 126–148], Dear [ 1988 ], Carugo and Crombie [1983], Schmitt et al [1987].Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Westfall [1971 p. 20] also comments on the difficulty presented by the conceptual gap between our current account of the concept of inertia and earlier Aristotelian accounts of motion.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    For a detailed analysis of Galileo’s use of ratios see Mertz [1980],[1982].Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    For an analysis of Galileo’s early methodology and his initial use of mathematics to solve problems in physics see Carugo and Crombie [1983].Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    See Schmitt [1983].Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    See Rossi [1975,1982], Carugo and Crombie [1983], Schmitt etal [ 1987 ].Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Alfonso Ingegno in Schmitt et al. [1987, p. 262] credits Galileo with at least framing the distinction between the Book of Nature and the Bible (the book of Revelation.)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    See Westman [1984].Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    The major analysis of Galileo’s Dialogue is Shea’s [1972]. Finnochiaro’s [1980] also contains a discussion of the rhetorical structure of the Dialogue.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Contrast this with the Situation in Galileo’s early De Motu (Opere [Vol.l]) which contains a lengthy methodological introduction.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    See Ariew [1986] for a useful review of the reaction scholars have had to Descartes’ supposedly embarrassing gaffe.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    There are a variety of forms of arguments and logicians since Aristotle have enjoyed classifying them and evaluating their relative strengths. Regarding the merits of the form of argument Galileo portrayed as most congenial to 17th Century Aristotelians, appeal to authority (Aristotle’s), it is one of the weakest forms available. As we shall see, Galileo used a number of different techniques to expose the faulty philosophical assumptions here; despite his attacks on “Aristotelians”, Galileo is careful to distinguish them from Aristotle himself (see below).Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    I have a great deal of trouble with philosophers and historians who feel compelled to require every great person to submit to a logical temporal ordering of their works. There may be individuals who at the beginning of their conscious existence are capable of conceiving of the nature of their life’s work and the order in which they intend to accomplish it. But, I submit, they are not only few and far between, but they are probably not worth reading. The initial assumption that such order is not only possible, but also desirable, implies that nothing the writer learns as he or she matures has any bearing on the further development of their views. That is, the person in question does not learn from experience; this is fundamentally counter-intuitive and as I shall argue in Chapter 6, irrational.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph C. Pitt
    • 1
  1. 1.Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityUSA

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