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Reading Nature’s Book

Galileo and the Birth of Modern Philosophy


Fred Ablondi

Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) is widely recognized as one of the greatest scientific thinkers in history. Intriguingly, when offered a place in the Medici court in 1610, he requested the title of «Philosopher and Chief Mathematician.» Reading Nature’s Book: Galileo and the Birth of Modern Philosophy is the first book-length study written with undergraduates in mind that examines the philosophical implications (both theoretical and historical) of Galileo’s scientific discoveries, including many matters that were later taken up by seventeenth- and eighteenth-century philosophers. This close analysis of Galileo’s philosophical insights demonstrates the prominent place his thought should have in the history of early 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.
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Chapter Six: Mathematics and the Book of Nature


← 52 | 53 →CHAPTER SIX

The rejection of dogmatic submission to the principle of authority in the field of philosophy; the vindication of a new language; the rights of research and free intellectual discussion against the prevarication of institutional culture—these were the contents that made The Assayer the manifesto of the new philosophy in Rome. The book was a literary sensation because, even more than the Jesuits, even more than Scholastic thought, it seemed to oppose a whole intellectual tradition. The telescope was the instrument through which one looked at the entire universe, and The Assayer was the manual that taught one to read the universe like a book.


The Assayer amused Galileo’s friends, multiplied his enemies, and brought him new readers who could appreciate the brilliance of the style and the asides that have made excerpts from it chestnuts in the history of science and in the teaching of Italian literature.

—J.L. HEILBRON 2010, PP. 246–7

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