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.
Chapter Two: A Dispute over Buoyancy
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On floating bodies, which did away with levity and reduced the list of factors relevant to buoyancy to a single entry, specific gravity, was to terrestrial physics what Sidereus nuncius was to cosmology.
—J.L. HEILBRON 2010, P. 200
In 1611, just as the storm over his astronomical findings was growing, Galileo became engaged in another debate, one that is far less known today than is the controversy brought about by The Starry Messenger. Having moved to Florence in September of 1610, Galileo wintered not with Archduke Cosimo in Pisa but as a guest at the villa of his close friend Filippo Salviati. After spending the spring of 1611 in Rome, he returned to Salviati’s for the summer, and it was at this time that a dispute over the cause of buoyancy arose. Salviati was in the habit of bringing together some of the leading Florentine intellectuals for discussions. On the occasion in question, Galileo was talking with two Aristotelians from Pisa about condensation and rarefication, and the discussion turned to the topic of why some bodies, and ice in particular, float in water.
The Aristotelians, following their master, argued that ice floats as a result of its shape. Galileo disagreed; he claimed that the reason that ice floats in water is because its density is less than that of water. This, however, was in contradiction to Aristotle, who held that ice is condensed, not rarified, water, and as...
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