New Perspectives in Italian Cultural Studies
A Gendered Cosmos: Galileo, Mother Earth, and the "Sink of Uncleanliness": Dolora A. Wojciehowski 93
A Gendered Cosmos: Galileo, Mother Earth, and the "Sink of Uncleanliness" Dolora A. Wojciehowski Throughout the Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632), in which he attempts to prove the validity of the Copernican hypothesis, Galileo makes a distinction between two types of discourse or, if you will, two word systems. Salviati, Galileo's spokesman in the Dialogue, 1 often contrasts "rigorous demonstration," or authentic science, with mere rhetoric. For example, when the character Simplicia offers Aristotelian critiques of the Copernican hypothesis, Salviati responds: As to the terrestrial globe being between Venus and Mars, let me say one word about that. You yourself, on behalf of this author, may attempt to remove it, but please let us not entangle these little flowers of rhetoric in the rigors of demonstration. Let us leave them rather to the orators, or better to the poets, who best know how to exalt by the graciousness the most vile and sometimes even pernicious things. 2 What Salviati advocates as "rigorous demonstration" is a kind of proof based both on mathematical deduction and on empirical evidence, as opposed to the sort of proof offered by Aristotelian syllogistic reasoning.3 In this passage Salviati revives with Platonic condescension an ancient prejudice against rhetoric. He implies that the arguments of his opponents are merely rhetorical, techniques of persuasion lacking substance. True science, in contrast, consists of more than oratorical or poetic technique, because it is founded on solid empirical and/or mathematical proof. We recognize in Salviati' s rhetoric a...
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