Galileo’s Epistemology as the Basis for a Theory of the Growth of Knowledge

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


Thus far our investigations have helped us to reconstruct several of Galileo’s methodological rules. They are listed below in abbreviated form.


Scientific Revolution Scientific Change Commonsense View Political Revolution Gestalt Switch 
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  1. 82.
    While this notion of experiment as “contrived experience” sounds similar to Hacking’s [1983] account, it was arrived at independently.Google Scholar
  2. 83.
    I. B. Cohen [ 1985 ] has examined the evolution of the notion of a scientific revolution, arguing the intriguing thesis that the concept of a political revolution derives from the more fully developed notion of a scientific revolution. I did not find all of his presentation convincing (Pitt, [1987]). But, irrespective of Cohen’s historical claim, my discussion here captures, I think, some of the force of current usage for both concepts.Google Scholar
  3. 84.
    Richard Burian has rightly insisted on this point in our disagree-ments over scientific realism. I find that agreeing with him here, however, only strengthens the antirealist case. In fact, as suggested below, it leads us to a reductio of scientific realism -a position I call “realism with a vengeance” or Sicilian Realism.Google Scholar
  4. 85.
    This is not to say that good historians and good scientists, once into a project, may not find new and unexpected bits of evidence forcing them to rethink some of their views. Nevertheless, for theorists, the theory comes first. New and unexpected information is to be dealt with and may force revisions, but the project is undertaken with a healthy set of assumptions already in hand.Google Scholar
  5. 86.
    See Pitt [ 1981 ] [1983]. Laudan [1984b] also makes this point, but he fails to realize that not all goals can or ought to be so quickly re-jected. If we distinguish between two types of goals, regulative and constitutive, we can see that some goals are constitutive of science, yet unattainable. For example, on the account given here, total con-trol of nature is a constitutive goal of science, yet it is not possible. This, however, does not mean its should be abandoned, for it forms the basis for the activity of science. Likewise “excellence” can be seen to be a goal of Performance in the arts and in sports, still unattainable and yet necessary.Google Scholar
  6. 87.
    Since the difficulties with these views have been discussed at length in the literature, it makes no sense to repeat them here.Google Scholar
  7. 88.
    See Wallace [1984, Chapter 3] and Chapter 1 above.Google Scholar
  8. 89.
    Drake, [1978, p. 252].Google Scholar
  9. 90.
    See Drake [1983, p.xvii]. There is some controversy here. Drake attributes his claim to the existence of an outline of Galileo’s theory as developed in 1616 in the notes of Fra Paolo Sarpi from 1595. William Shea Claims it is Sarpi’s theory. See Shea [1972, p. 173], and Drake [1978, p. 37]. If it is originally Sarpi’s theory, then Galileo’s long term adherence to it and his defense of it in the Dialogue adds just one more note of oddness to an entirely stränge episode.Google Scholar
  10. 91.
    William Shea [1972] has produced a nice summary of the available alternatives. My account here is deeply indebted to his research.Google Scholar
  11. 92.
    I also realize this is a rather strong claim to make, but if one aban-dons the unjustifiable image of Galileo as martyr to science, one also gives up the only reason for claiming he believed Copernicus because he was convinced Copernicus’s theory was correct. Instead we can accept Galileo as simply eager to find a way to advance his pet ideas, not an unusual move.Google Scholar
  12. 93.
    See “The definitions of Book V of Euclid’s Elements in a Thir-teenth-Version, and Commentary; Campanus of Novara” in A Sourcebook in Mathematics, p. 137, n and ff.Google Scholar
  13. 94.
    See Donald Mertz [1980 and 1982]. See also Stillman Drake’s Introduction to his [1974] translation of Two New Sciences for an explanation of the importance of the rediscovered Euclidian definition for Galileo’s conception of mathematics and proof.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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