Galileo and the Birth of 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.
Introduction: Galileo and Philosophy
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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.
—ERNAN MCMULLIN 1967, P. 3
Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) is widely recognized as one of the greatest scientific thinkers in human history. While he began his academic career as a mathematician, he went on to make seminal contributions to physics, and revolutionized astronomy and cosmology. Fittingly, a great deal has been written about his work in these fields. There has also been much scholarly attention given to Galileo the historical figure, and in particular to his struggles with and ultimate punishment by the Catholic Church. This book attempts to do something different: it is an investigation of the philosophical implications (both theoretical and historical) of his scientific discoveries. Of course, in Galileo’s day—and for the rest of the seventeenth century—there was not the clear distinction between philosophy and science that we have today. Galileo, like Descartes and Newton after him, would not have thought himself to be doing science as opposed to philosophy (indeed, the word ‘scientist’ was not coined until the nineteenth century). Many of his (and Descartes’ and...
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