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Hermes and the Telescope

In the Crucible of Galileo's Life-World

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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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Chapter 1. Myth

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MYTH

Over the last few years my approach to the history and philosophy of science developed from an analytic style of thought, which emphasized the logical-mathematical structures of scientific argumentation, through an appreciation of the pragmatics of science, to the realization that both the subject and the object of investigation, my self and the other, the stranger, in all its protean appearances, are productively engaged in a dialogue that is constitutive of their being-in-the-world across history. It is a process of reciprocal individuation that cannot be scrutinized solely from the perspective of analytic reason. I have come to think that reason, or soul, is given in gradations, extending from human beings all the way through the animate and inanimate kingdoms and embracing the life of the cosmos. There is nothing original in this paradoxical feelings. I share the captivation with paradox with many strangers, such as Galileo, Giordano Bruno, and the pantheists inspired by him.

In previous work I have investigated scientific processes that lay claim to universal validity by appealing to rational norms that now appear to me to be historically variable. These norms evolve but do not converge towards a cohesive ideal. They remain fragmentary and, as I see it, intertwined with political and economic struggle, as well as with racial and religious conflict and mundane careerism. The transformation of the normative structures of ← 1 | 2 → scientific processes, the rationality of science, is in itself not graspable...

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