Reading Nature’s Book

Galileo and the Birth of Modern Philosophy

by Fred Ablondi (Author)
©2016 Monographs X, 96 Pages
Series: American University Studies, Volume 221


Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) is widely recognized as one of the greatest scientific thinkers in history. Intriguingly, when offered a place in the Medici court in 1610, he requested the title of «Philosopher and Chief Mathematician.» Reading Nature’s Book: Galileo and the Birth of Modern Philosophy is the first book-length study written with undergraduates in mind that examines the philosophical implications (both theoretical and historical) of Galileo’s scientific discoveries, including many matters that were later taken up by seventeenth- and eighteenth-century philosophers. This close analysis of Galileo’s philosophical insights demonstrates the prominent place his thought should have in the history of early modern philosophy.
Reading Nature’s Book provides contextual material for college and university students enrolled in modern philosophy courses, introducing them to ideas and concepts that dominated philosophical discussion during the era. Furthermore, students and scholars interested in the history of philosophy of science will also benefit from a decidedly philosophical approach to such a leading scientific figure. Many of the topics explored by Galileo continue to be of philosophical interest today, including scientific methodology and the relation between science and religion.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction: Galileo and Philosophy
  • Chapter One: A Message from the Stars
  • Chapter Two: A Dispute over Buoyancy
  • Chapter Three: Inertia, Empiricism, and Spots on the Sun
  • Chapter Four: Science and Religion
  • Chapter Five: Troubles in Rome: 1615–1616
  • Chapter Six: Mathematics and the Book of Nature
  • Chapter Seven: Showdown
  • Chapter Eight: Matter and Motion
  • Bibliography
  • Index

← viii | ix →Acknowledgments

Work on this book was made possible by a Hendrix College Odyssey Professorship established by Morriss and Ann Henry. My thanks to both the Henrys and Hendrix. In addition, I would like to express my gratitude to the Marshall T. Steel Center for the Study of Religion and Philosophy for supporting my research.

I would also like to recognize and thank several people who helped me while I was writing this book. Lance Richey and Chris Campolo each read an early draft of Chapter One and encouraged me to undertake this project. Aaron Simmons read and commented on drafts of Chapters One through Five. John Sanders did the same with Chapters Four and Five. Zvi Biener and David Marshall Miller were both very kind to provide invaluable suggestions and corrections on Chapters One, Seven, and Eight. Michelle Salyga and Jackie Pavlovic at Peter Lang were wonderful to work with. And on several occasions, Damon Spayde was kind enough to take the time to answer my physics questions.

My colleague in the Physics Department at Hendrix, Ann Wright, has been both a conversation partner and teaching partner regarding all things Galileo. I would also like to thank the students in my Galileo seminar in the fall of 2012, especially Ashley Lyman.

← ix | x →Parts of Chapters Four and Five appeared in “Heretics Everywhere: On the Continuing Relevance of Galileo to the Philosophy of Religion,” Philosophy and Theology 22 (Spring–Summer 2010): 49–76. I am grateful to the journal for permission to re-print that material here.

Finally, I dedicate this book to my wife, Susan, for her love, support, and patience.

Conway, Arkansas
March 2015

The following is a list of Galileo’s writings cited in the text and notes.


Le Opere di Galileo Galilei. Edited by Antonio Favaro. 20 vols. Florence: G. Barbèra Editrice, 1890–1909.


The Essential Galileo. Edited and Translated by Maurice A. Finocchiaro.

Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2008.


The Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo. Translated by Stillman Drake. New York: Anchor, 1957.


Drake, Stillman. Cause, Experiment, and Science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.


Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. Translated by Stillman Drake. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967.


Galileo on the World Systems. Translated by Maurice A. Finocchiaro. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.


Finocchiaro, Maurice A. The Galileo Affair. Berkeley: The University of California Press, 1989.


Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences. Translated by Henry Crew and Alfonso de Salvio. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1933.← xi | xii →

Galileo was a powerful, passionate figure, a man who dominated every room and every discussion he entered. His excitement over the new world he saw opening up, and his blistering intolerance of those who would not see it as he did, break through in every page of his writings. These are infectious qualities, especially when joined with the gaiety and enormous vitality of a man who treasured every moment of his life.



X, 96
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (November)
Galilei Medici Philosophy
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. X, 96 pp.

Biographical notes

Fred Ablondi (Author)

Fred Ablondi received his PhD. in philosophy from Marquette University. He is currently Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, where he is also the Director of The Steel Center of the Study of Religion and Philosophy. He is the author of Gerauld de Cordemoy: Atomist, Occasionalist, Cartesian (2005) as well as more than twenty articles on various topics in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century philosophy.


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