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Retrying Galileo, 1633–1992

Retrying Galileo, 1633–1992

Maurice A. Finocchiaro
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 497
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  • Book Info
    Retrying Galileo, 1633–1992
    Book Description:

    In 1633, at the end of one of the most famous trials in history, the Inquisition condemned Galileo for contending that the Earth moves and that the Bible is not a scientific authority. Galileo's condemnation set off a controversy that has acquired a fascinating life of its own and that continues to this day. This absorbing book is the first to examine the entire span of the Galileo affair from his condemnation to his alleged rehabilitation by the Pope in 1992. Filled with primary sources, many translated into English for the first time,Retrying Galileowill acquaint readers with the historical facts of the trial, its aftermath and repercussions, the rich variety of reflections on it throughout history, and the main issues it raises.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94137-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction. The Galileo Affair from Descartes to John Paul II: A Survey of Sources, Facts, and Issues
    (pp. 1-6)

    In 1633 the Inquisition condemned Galileo for holding that the earth moves and the Bible is not a scientific authority. This condemnation ended a controversy that had started in 1613 , when his astronomical ideas were attacked on scriptural grounds and he wrote a letter of refutation to his disciple Benedetto Castelli. This was a controversy involving issues of methodology, epistemology, and theology as well as astronomy, physics, and cosmology: whether the earth is located at the center of the universe; whether the earth moves, both around its own axis daily and around the sun annually; whether and how the...

  5. Chapter 1 The Condemnation of Galileo (1633)
    (pp. 7-25)

    On 22 June 1633, at the convent of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome, the Inquisition concluded the trial of Galileo by pronouncing a sentence that condemned him for various transgressions. The sentence was immediately followed by the culprit’s abjuration, in which he retracted previous opinions and actions. Galileo’s beliefs and conduct were found to have violated certain prescriptions that had been decided upon in earlier developments. Some of these prescriptions had been announced in the anti-Copernican decree by the Congregation of the Index on 5 March 1616. This decree had been later clarified in a warning dated 15 May...

  6. Chapter 2 Promulgation and Diffusion of the News (1633–1651)
    (pp. 26-42)

    In the summer of 1633 all papal nuncios in Europe and all local inquisitors in Italy received from the Roman Inquisition copies of the sentence against Galileo and his abjuration, together with orders to publicize them. Such publicity was unprecedented in the annals of the Inquisition and never repeated.¹ As a result, many manuscript copies of Galileo’s sentence and abjuration have survived in European archives.² By contrast, no copies of the full text of the Inquisition’s sentence against Giordano Bruno survive, even though his crime (formal, unrepented, and obstinate heresy) and his penalty (to be burned alive at the stake)...

  7. Chapter 3 Emblematic Reactions: Descartes, Peiresc, Galileo’s Daughter (1633–1642)
    (pp. 43-64)

    Reception of and reactions to Galileo’s condemnation continue to this day. Although this process is obviously subject to chronological periodization and analytical subdivision, it is only at the end of our historical survey that we can be sure of those chronological stages and analytical principles. In the meantime, the survey must proceed in a somewhat ad hoc manner, although not a random one. Thus, I begin with the period from 1633 to approximately 1642—the period of Galileo’s life after the trial. I focus on the reactions of four individuals that for various reasons have emblematic significance: Galileo himself; Nicholas...

  8. Chapter 4 Polarizations: Secularism, Liberalism, Fundamentalism (1633–1661)
    (pp. 65-85)

    Descartes’s reaction to Galileo’s condemnation points up an important and clear distinction between condemnations issued by a Roman congregation of cardinals and pronouncements of either the pope speaking ex cathedra or an ecumenical Church council. The former did not have the binding status of either of the latter. Nevertheless, as Descartes also exemplified, most Catholics felt some kind of duty toward the former; for example, they felt obliged to refrain from publicly opposing congregational decisions.

    Another important distinction was that between the condemnation of persons as heretics (whether formal, relapsed, obstinate, or suspected) and the condemnation of doctrines and books...

  9. Chapter 5 Compromises Viviani, Auzout, Leibniz (1654–1704)]>
    (pp. 86-107)

    In this chapter I examine what might be called a third wave of reactions to Galileo’s trial, covering the period between 1654 and 1704 and most significantly represented by the figures of Vincenzio Viviani (1622–1703), Adrien Auzout (1622–1691), and Gottfried W. Leibniz (1646–1716). In calling this the third wave, I am taking the first to have been the series of responses corresponding approximately to the rest of Galileo’s life (1633–1642) and most importantly exemplified by Descartes, Galileo’s daughter, Peiresc, and Galileo himself; this was treated in chapter 3. And I take the second wave to have...

  10. Chapter 6 Myth-making or Enlightenment? Pascal, Voltaire, the Encyclopedia (1657–1777)
    (pp. 108-125)

    The subsequent Galileo affair is too interdisciplinary, international, longstanding, and far-reaching a controversy to be susceptible of any neat chronological periodization, monotonically progressive development, or analytically simple taxonomy of problems. Thus, we now need to examine a miscellany of texts and events that begin in the latter part of the period we have already examined but extend into the later eighteenth century. Although at first these may seem to reiterate or regurgitate old points, they are really digesting them and paving the way for new developments.

    In 1657, in the midst of the Jansenist controversy, Blaise Pascal found it only...

  11. Chapter 7 Incompetence or Enlightenment? Pope Benedict XIV (1740–1758)
    (pp. 126-153)

    In 1740 Prospero Lambertini, from Bologna, was elected pope Benedict XIV; he reigned until 1758 . He was widely respected and liked by Catholic, non-Catholic, and non-Christian rulers, scholars, and common people.¹ For example, Voltaire exchanged letters, compliments, and gifts with Benedict, claiming in 1745 that in his study he had an engraving of the pope with the caption: “Here is Lambertini, fittingly the father of Rome and of all the earth, / Who teaches the world by his writings and beautifies it by his goodness.”² And we have already seen (in chapter 6.4) that D’Alembert spoke highly of him...

  12. Chapter 8 New Lies, Documents, Myths, Apologies (1758–1797)
    (pp. 154-174)

    The partial unbanning of Copernicanism embodied in the 1758Indexwas noticed by a few people. For example, in 1765, while visiting Rome, the French astronomer Joseph Lalande¹ attempted to have Galileo’sDialoguetaken off the Index by exploiting the fact that the 1758 edition had withdrawn the general ban on Copernican books. But he was told by the head of the Congregation of the Index that Galileo’s case was different because it involved a trial, and so one would first have to revoke the sentence pronounced against him; he was also told that the just-deceased Pope Clement XIII had...

  13. Chapter 9 Napoleonic Wars and Trials (1810–1821)
    (pp. 175-192)

    The French Revolution affected the Galileo affair not only in the general and indirect ways that might be expected,¹ but also in a very specific and concrete way. For in 1810 Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte decided to transfer to Paris all Church archives in Rome, paying special attention to certain documents such as the Vatican file of the Inquisition’s proceedings of Galileo’s trial. Napoleon started the process of publishing these documents, but the project remained incomplete. As a result, however, a few documents came to light, the most important being Galileo’s confession at the second deposition of 30 April 1633 and...

  14. Chapter 10 The Inquisition on Galileo’s Side? The Settele Affair (1820) and Beyond (1835)
    (pp. 193-221)

    In 1820 a controversy raged in Rome that came to be called the Settele affair.¹ The surface issue was whether to allow the publication of an astronomy textbook in which Guiseppe Settele treated the earth’s motion as a fact. The Inquisition sided with him, but both were opposed by the chief censor in Rome. Settele won his case in 1820, but two other steps took longer: only in 1822 did the Inquisition rule that Catholics in general were free to accept the earth’s motion as a fact in accordance with modern astronomy, and only in 1835 were Galileo’s and publish...

  15. Chapter 11 Varieties of Torture: Demythologizing Galileo’s Trial? (1835–1867)
    (pp. 222-240)

    In the middle part of the nineteenth century, Galileo’s trial started receiving an unprecedented amount of attention. Sustained discussion spread from Italy and France to England, Ireland, America, and Germany. Key issues started to be seriously debated with a critical dialogue of arguments and counterarguments. The controversy also grew more heated and bitter. The variety of topics and approaches seem to have coalesced around two themes: torture and demythologization.

    The question of whether Galileo had been physically tortured became a cause célèbre. But physical torture was not the only kind that was argued about. Some authors who rejected the physical-torture...

  16. Chapter 12 A Miscarriage of Justice? The Documentation of Impropriety (1867–1879)
    (pp. 241-258)

    We have seen that in 1755 Church officials created a special file of proceedings of Galileo’s trial by removing the relevant documents from one of the regular volumes of the Inquisition archives. We have also learned that Napoleon was the first to have made a serious plan (between 1810 and 1814) to publish that file of trial documents. After the dossier was returned to Rome in 1843, the prefect of the Vatican secret archives (Marini) was expected to publish it, but instead in 1850 published his own interpretive account. There is evidence that many other people tried unsuccessfully to publish...

  17. Chapter 13 Galileo Right Again, Wrong Again: Hermeneutics, Epistemology, “Heresy” (1866–1928)
    (pp. 259-274)

    During the last third of the nineteenth century, the most important developments in the Galileo affair were those discussed in chapter 12: the publication of the Vatican file of trial proceedings and other directly related documents; the interpretation and evaluation of these documents; and the discussion and refinement of various revisionist accounts that undermine the propriety of the Inquisition’s having condemned Galileo for disobeying the special injunction. Overlapping with these developments there were others that deserve comment for a variety of other reasons.¹ Moreover, after a brief pause, around the turn of the century new and important developments once again...

  18. Chapter 14 A Catholic Hero: Tricentennial Rehabilitation (1941–1947)
    (pp. 275-294)

    In the early 1940s, the tricentennial of Galileo’s death occasioned a series of reassessments of Galileo’s trial that may be regarded as a semi-official rehabilitation. The rehabilitation was not formal or official because it was not proclaimed either by the pope or by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the new name of the Inquisition). On the other hand, it did involve authoritative persons and institutions: the Franciscan friar Agostino Gemelli (O.F.M.), president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and of the “Sacred Heart” Catholic University of Milan; the priest and Church historian Pio Paschini, president of Pontifical...

  19. Chapter 15 Secular Indictments: Brecht’s Atomic Bomb and Koestler’s Two Cultures (1947–1959)
    (pp. 295-317)

    At about the same time that Galileo was being implicitly rehabilitated by various Catholic persons and institutions as a result of the tricentennial of 1942, he became the subject of unprecedented criticism by various representatives of secular culture. It was almost as if a reversal of roles was occurring, with his erstwhile enemies turning into friends, and his former friends becoming enemies. Several other circumstances add interest and significance to such a development. These critics elaborated what might be called social and cultural criticism of Galileo. They were mostly writers with backgrounds and sympathies subsumable under the left wing of...

  20. Chapter 16 History on Trial: The Paschini Affair (1941–1979)
    (pp. 318-337)

    We have seen that in 1941, to mark the tricentennial of Galileo’s death, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences commissioned Pio Paschini to write a book on Galileo’s life and work and their historical background and significance. We have also seen that although in 1943 Paschini managed to make a small contribution to the silent rehabilitation of Galileo occasioned by that tricentennial, this book was not published until 1964.¹ Now it is time to discuss the reasons for the delay, the reasons for the posthumous publication, and the controversy generated by such a publication.²

    Paschini was born in 1878 near Udine...

  21. Chapter 17 More “Rehabilitation”: Pope John Paul II (1979–1992)
    (pp. 338-358)

    In 1978, for the first time in the two-thousand-year history of the Catholic Church, a compatriot of Copernicus was elected pope. He was also the first non-Italian to occupy the post since the condemnation of Galileo. Karol Wojtyla took the name of John Paul II, partly to commemorate his shortlived predecessor (John Paul I) and partly to join the late pope in signaling a departure from tradition. Wojtyla was a Polish nationalist whose background made him appreciate freedom from foreign domination; a staunch anticommunist whose experience enabled him to appreciate individual freedom—of religion and of conscience; and something of...

  22. Epilogue: Unfinished Business
    (pp. 359-366)

    Many people were disappointed or dissatisfied with the process or the ending of Pope John Paul II’s rehabilitation of Galileo in 1979–1992.¹ Some have gone so far as to claim that the primary effect of the whole episode has been to generate a new myth about the Galileo affair, the myth that the Church has rehabilitated Galileo.² One need not agree with either the milder expression of disappointment or the stronger mythologization charge. Instead, one could adopt the view, articulated in the last chapter, that there was a rehabilitation, but that it was informal, partial, incomplete, not unopposed, and...

  23. NOTES
    (pp. 367-428)
    (pp. 429-466)
  25. INDEX
    (pp. 467-485)