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Hermes and the Telescope

In the Crucible of Galileo's Life-World


Paolo Palmieri

This book explores the life of Galileo Galilei through a philosophical and scientific lens, utilizing an innovative hermeneutic perspective that places his work in the wider context of early modern hermeticism, religious heresy, and libertinism.

As the first comprehensive study of Galileo’s life and work from a phenomenological and existentialist viewpoint, Paolo Palmieri calls into question the positivist myth of Galileo, the founder of modern science, and interrogates the positivist historiography that has shaped the myth since the historic publication of the monumental edition of Galileo’s works at the turn of the twentieth century. The book highlights the entanglement of Galileo’s natural philosophy with his private unorthodox convictions about Christian theology, Biblical hermeneutic, sexuality, and the hidden traditions of Italian heretics and libertines. The text demonstrates the philosophical, pedagogical, and political implications of this new reading of one of the founding fathers of modernity for both the sciences and the humanities.

Addressing hotly debated questions of ethnicity, racism, subjectivity, the self, and pedagogy, this study will be of particular interest to scholars who teach both undergraduate and graduate courses in history of science, philosophy of science, phenomenology and existential philosophy, cultural studies, Italian studies, humanism, and the European Renaissance.

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The journey that brought me to the project of this book started long ago. Its ideal beginning was an act of sincere hospitality by which I was accepted as a graduate student in the Science and Technology Studies department at University College, London. There I met Andrew Gregory and Hasok Chang, who became my doctoral supervisors. They were instrumental in helping me develop ideas in a spirit of total openness and liberal inquiry that paved the way for my professional pursuits. I thank them from the heart. It behooves me to remember that it was thanks to an extraordinary man, Colin Norris, that I was able to perfect (within limits) my knowledge of English to a point that I could express myself fluently in a second language. He taught me more than the passion for the idiomatic expression, or the perfect collocation of words, or the nuances of meaning and phraseology. He taught me a style of thought. My undergraduate years in Modena, Milan, and Bologna were life-changing. The foremost historian Paolo Prodi at the University of Bologna warned me that he needed to free me of the straightjacket of the history of science. It was a healthy warning that I have never forgotten. My friends William Shea and David Wootton have been wonderful mentors, from whom I learned how to temper my excessive polemical fervor. Stefano Gattei inspired me to pursue lines of research in the margins of seventeenth-century culture that proved to ← ix | x → be most...

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