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The Case of Galileo

A Closed Question?

Annibale Fantoli

Publication Year: 2012

The “Galileo Affair” has been the locus of various and opposing appraisals for centuries: some view it as an historical event emblematic of the obscurantism of the Catholic Church, opposed a priori to the progress of science; others consider it a tragic reciprocal misunderstanding between Galileo, an arrogant and troublesome defender of the Copernican theory, and his theologian adversaries, who were prisoners of a narrow interpretation of scripture. In The Case of Galileo: A Closed Question? Annibale Fantoli presents a wide range of scientific, philosophical, and theological factors that played an important role in Galileo’s trial, all set within the historical progression of Galileo’s writing and personal interactions with his contemporaries. Fantoli traces the growth in Galileo Galilei’s thought and actions as he embraced the new worldview presented in On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, the epoch-making work of the great Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus.

Fantoli delivers a sophisticated analysis of the intellectual milieu of the day, describes the Catholic Church’s condemnation of Copernicanism (1616) and of Galileo (1633), and assesses the church’s slow acceptance of the Copernican worldview. Fantoli criticizes the 1992 treatment by Cardinal Poupard and Pope John Paul II of the reports of the Commission for the Study of the Galileo Case and concludes that the Galileo Affair, far from being a closed question, remains more than ever a challenge to the church as it confronts the wider and more complex intellectual and ethical problems posed by the contemporary progress of science and technology. In clear and accessible prose geared to a wide readership, Fantoli has distilled forty years of scholarly research into a fascinating recounting of one of the most famous cases in the history of science.
 
“This book is an excellent account of the trial and condemnation of Galileo by the Inquisition in 1633. It is a simplified and streamlined version adapted from the erudite book on the topic for which Fantoli is well known and highly respected among scholars. But like the erudite book this one is well balanced with respect to the contrasts of science vs. religion, Galileo vs. the Catholic Church, history vs. philosophy, and factual details vs. contemporary relevance.” —Maurice A. Finocchiaro, University of Nevada Las Vegas
 
"With his characteristic analytical power, new insights, and sharp eye for subtle nuances, Fantoli offers a highly contingent account of the Galileo Affair. He argues that Galileo's abjuration was not a foregone conclusion, but an unexpected turn two weeks before it occurred. His provocative conclusion puts this fine history to work today. He warns that new versions of the Galileo Affair lurk where the Catholic Church's position has joined disputable biblical interpretation to unsatisfactory dialogue with science, philosophy, other forms of Christianity, and other religions." —Michael H. Shank, University of Wisconsin-Madison
 
"This sage, sensitive account of one of the most infamous trials in history brims with new insights. Annibale Fantoli, uniquely qualified to explore the intricacies and implications of the case, has a finger on Galileo's pulse throughout the ordeal of his accusation and condemnation. Equally gripping is the author's depiction of the ongoing conflict between science and faith—the very struggle Galileo tried to avert—and what it portends for the future." —Dava Sobel, author of Galileo's Daughter and A More Perfect Heaven

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v

Contents

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p. vii-vii

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Presentation

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pp. ix-x

The reason I feel especially privileged to present this work of Annibale Fantoli is found in the fact that it responds in my opinion in an exemplary way to the wish of John Paul II in his 1979 address on the occasion of the centenary of the birth of Albert Einstein, when he spoke of ...

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Preface

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pp. xi-xii

After the publication of my work Galileo: Per il Copernicanesimo e per la Chiesa, published by the Vatican Observatory in 1993, friends suggested that I prepare a shorter version of it, aimed at a wider, nonspecialized public. In the following years, however, I was busy with the translations ...

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Prologue

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pp. 1-4

It is June 22, 1633, in the morning. In a hall of the convent of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome’s historical center, an accused man, on his knees before seven cardinals and officials of the Congregation of the Holy Office as witnesses to the proceedings, listens to the decree ...

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Chapter 1: From Galileo’s Birth to His Teaching Years in Padua

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pp. 5-31

Galileo was born in Pisa on February 15, 1564. At that time Italy was divided into many independent states, and Pisa, at one time a prosperous seafaring republic, was a part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, which was governed by the powerful Medici family, with its capital in ...

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Chapter 2: Copernicanism and the Bible

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pp. 33-68

The start of Galileo’s telescopic observations was not the only significant event of the year 1609. In that same year Kepler published his New Astronomy, in which he derived, from the numerous precise observations by Tycho Brahe, an elliptical orbit for Mars with the Sun located at ...

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Chapter 3: The Scriptural Controversy Grows

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pp. 69-96

A first indication that theologians were beginning to create close ties to the Aristotelians had occurred a little more than a year before in Florence. In the course of a conversation that had taken place among a group of Florentine intellectuals on November 1, 1612, the ...

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Chapter 4: The Copernican Doctrine Is Declared to Be Contrary to Holy Scripture

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pp. 97-120

In spite of Ambassador Guicciardini’s contrary opinion, Galileo put in practice his plan to go to Rome, where he arrived in the first days of December 1615. Judging from the first conversations upon his arrival, he wrote an optimistic letter to Secretary of the Grand Duke Picchena. ...

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Chapter 5: From the Polemics on the Comets to the Dialogue

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pp. 121-160

Upon his return to Florence, Galileo did not allow himself to be discouraged. He was certainly well aware of the necessity to keep an attitude of prudent silence on Copernicanism, bounded as he was by the admonition received from Bellarmine and that much more severe from ...

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Chapter 6: The Trial and Condemnation of Galileo

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pp. 161-214

As soon as it was published, the Dialogue began to be spread about in Italy and abroad, thanks in no small part to the numerous copies that Galileo had sent to friends and influential people. Father Riccardi also received a copy, the one that was sent by the inquisitor of Florence to ...

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Chapter 7: The Burdensome Inheritance of the Galileo Affair

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pp. 215-247

Given the purpose of this book, the nine years between the end of the trial and the death of Galileo will receive only a very brief treatment. This certainly does not mean that less value is given to that period from either a human or a scientific point of view. In fact, Galileo was never as ...

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Epilogue

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pp. 249-253

This book started with a prologue. I have purposefully used such a term, which recalls the idea of an introductory discourse to a drama or to an ancient tragedy. The Galileo Affair is, indeed, a drama and from many respects even a tragedy. A drama and a tragedy more than four ...

Bibliography

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pp. 255-265

Index

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pp. 267-271

About the Author

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p. 272-272


E-ISBN-13: 9780268079727
E-ISBN-10: 0268079722
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268028916
Print-ISBN-10: 0268028915

Page Count: 280
Illustrations: NA
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Religion and science -- Italy -- History -- 17th century.
  • Catholic Church -- History -- 17th century.
  • Galilei, Galileo, 1564-1642.
  • Galilei, Galileo, 1564-1642 -- Trials, litigation, etc.
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