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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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Chapter 5. Jove


← 148 | 149 →

· 5 ·


Antonio Favaro was flabbergasted when he found among the Galileo manuscripts preserved in Florence a strange poem laboriously reworked.1 Who was the author? The handwriting was Galileo’s. But the verses had been sent him, apparently towards the end of 1610, by the Medici court poet Andrea Salvadori. The surprise was due to the fact that the autographs indicated that Galileo had elaborated Salvadori’s verses in a highly original fashion. The inevitable conclusion drawn by Favaro was that Galileo had appropriated the poem, and that in consequence the authorship of the extant verses was to be attributed to both Galileo and Salvadori.2 In fact, we do not even know whether Salvadori’s original verses have survived. On the basis of corrections, additions, and deletions Favaro and Vaccalluzzo surmised that Galileo cobbled together a final version starting from Salvadori’s originals. ← 149 | 150 → 3

Be that as it may, it is clear that the poem stirred up the motions of Galileo’s soul. It consisted of twenty stanzas recounting the myth of the giants assaulting the throne of Jove. The poem celebrated their doomed feat before evoking, in the last part, a mysterious figure. The latter was to suffer the same fate for attempting to steal from Jove the four companions discovered by Galileo with the perspicillum.4 The poem was a feat of concettismo, brilliant in its own right, but which must have scandalized Favaro. It has never been taken seriously as an...

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