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Galileo on the World Systems: A New Abridged Translation and Guide

Translated and Edited by Maurice A. Finocchiaro
Copyright Date: 1997
Edition: 1
Pages: 387
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  • Book Info
    Galileo on the World Systems
    Book Description:

    Galileo's 1632 book,Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems, Ptolemaic and Copernican, comes alive for twentieth-century readers thanks to Maurice Finocchiaro's brilliant new translation and presentation. Condemned by the Inquisition for its heretical proposition that the earth revolves around the sun, Galileo's masterpiece takes the form of a debate, divided into four "days," among three highly articulate gentlemen. Finocchiaro sets the stage with his introduction, which not only provides the human and historical framework for theDialoguebut also admits the reader gracefully into the basic non-Copernican understanding of the universe that would have been shared by Galileo's original audience. The translation of theDialogueis abridged in order to highlight its essential content, and Finocchiaro gives titles to the various parts of the debate as a guide to the principal topics. By explicating his own critical reading of this text that is itself an exercise in critical reasoning on a gripping real-life controversy, he illuminates those universal, perennial activities of the human mind that make Galileo's book a living document. This is a concrete, hands-on introduction to critical thinking. The translation has been made from the Italian text provided in volume 7 of the Critical National Edition of Galileo's complete works edited by Antonio Favaro. The translator has also consulted the 1632 edition, as well as the other previous English translations, including California's1967 version.Galileo on the World Systemsis a remarkably nuanced interpretation of a classic work and will give readers the tools to understand and evaluate for themselves one of the most influential scientific books in Western civilization.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-91822-1
    Subjects: General Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Editorial Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-70)

    From prehistoric times until the middle of the sixteenth century, almost all thinkers believed that the earth stood still at the center of the universe and that all heavenly bodies revolved around it. By the end of the seventeenth century, most thinkers had come to believe that the earth is the third planet circling the sun once a year and spinning around its own axis once a day. Nowadays, after three more centuries of accumulating knowledge, this modern view is known to be true beyond any reasonable doubt. But the earlier view had been a very plausible belief; for two...


    • Outline of Selections
      (pp. 73-76)

      To the Discerning Reader

      I. Preface

      Ia. The anti-Copernican decree of 1616

      Ib. The aim of the book

      IC. The book’s approach

      Id. The book’s content

      First Day

      2. Natural Motion and Aristotle’s Logic

      2a. The natural motion argument against Copernicanism

      2b. The methodological principle of priority of observation over theory

      2c. The basic geocentric argument

      2d. The role of the logical authority of Aristotle

      2e. The progress of scientific knowledge

      3. Heavenly Changes and Aristotle’s Empiricism

      3a. The observational argument for heavenly unchangeability

      3b. The issue of the explanation of past observations

      3c. The issue of the extrapolation of...

    • To the Discerning Reader
      (pp. 77-82)

      [29] Some years ago there was published in Rome a salutary edict² which, to prevent the dangerous scandals of the present age, imposed opportune silence upon the Pythagorean opinion of the earth’s motion. There were some who rashly asserted that that decree was the offspring of extremely ill-informed passion and not of judicious examination; one also heard complaints that consultants who are totally ignorant of astronomical observations should not cut the wings of speculative intellects by means of an irnmediate prohibition³ Upon noticing the audacity of such complaints, my zeal could not remain silent. Being fully informed about that most...

    • First Day
      (pp. 83-116)

      [57] . . . SIMPLICIO. Aristotle was someone who did not expect more than is appropriate from his intellect, even though it was very sharp; thus in his philosophizing he judged that sensible experience should have priority over any theory constructed by the human intellect² and said that those who denied their senses deserved to be punished by being deprived of them. Now, who is so blind as not to see that the parts of the element earth and of the element water, being heavy bodies, move naturally downwards, namely, toward the center of the universe, assigned by nature herself...

    • Second Day
      (pp. 117-220)

      [132] SALVIATI. Yesterday’s digressions from the direct path of our main discussions were many, and so I do not know whether I can get back and proceed further without your help.

      SAGREDO. I am not surprised that you are in a state of confusion, given that you have your mind full not only of what has been said but also of what remains; but I, who am a mere listener and know only the things I have heard, will perhaps be able to bring the argument back into line by briefly recalling them. As far as I can remember then,...

    • Third Day
      (pp. 221-281)

      [346] . . . SALVIATI. . . . We ought to leave this question and go back to our main subject; here the next point to consider is the annual motion, which is commonly attributed to the sun, but which was taken away from the sun and given to the earth first by Aristarchus of Samos and later by Copernicus. Against this position I see Simplicio comes well equipped, in particular with the sword and shield of the booklet of mathematical conclusions or disquisition²; it would be good to begin by proposing its attacks.

      SIMPLICIO. If you do not mind,...

    • Fourth Day
      (pp. 282-308)

      [445] . . . SIMPLICIO. Salviati, these phenomena² did not just start to happen; they are very old and have been observed by infinitely many persons. Many have striven to explain them by means of some reason or other. Just a few miles from here, a great Peripatetic has advanced a new cause fished out of a certain text of Aristotle not duly noticed by his interpreters; from this text he gathers that the true cause of these motions derives from nothing but the different depths of the seas; for where the depth is greater, the water is greater in...

  6. Appendix
    (pp. 309-372)
  7. Glossary
    (pp. 373-398)
  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 399-408)
  9. Index
    (pp. 409-425)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 426-428)