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The Galileo Affair: A Documentary History (California Studies in the History of Science) Paperback – 1 Jul 1992

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Product details

  • Paperback: 382 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (1 July 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520066626
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520066625
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 2.5 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,526,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Based on the Antonio Favaro Italian editions of 1890-1909 and the original text of 1632, this new masterpiece focuses on the Copernican controversy and surrounding scientific and philosophical issues." --"Renaissance Quarterly

From the Inside Flap

A classic introduction to Galileo s masterpiece. William A. Wallace, author of "Galileo s Logic of Discovery and Proof"
"This is an outstanding contribution to the literature of seventeenth-century science."--Robert Westman, University of California at San Diego"The Galileo Affair should be required reading for everyone who values freedom and fears censorship. The extraordinary virtue of this collection of documents edited by Maurice A. Finocchiaro is that is presents both sides of the dispute."--Alan M. Dershowitz, Harvard Law School"A highly readable sourcebook, the like of which does not exist."--Karl H. Dannenfeldt, History: Reviews of New Books

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book presents the documents that one must read to understand the trial of Galileo and its causes from the words of the people involved and without the bias of individual modern interpretations.

In its introduction, Finocchiaro presents a very good description of the philosophical, scientific, epistemological, social, historical and religious factors that shaped the Galileo affair with the Catholic Church. Keeping away from both extreme ideologies, one judging the Church as a dogmatic ignorant authority and the other presenting Galileo as justly condemned by the Church, Finocchiaro tries (and managed) to put arguments from both sides in balance. Galileo laid the foundations of a new science, contrary to Aristotelian Physics, and, obviously, faced opposition from academics and clergymen of his time, which on the other hand had very strong scientific evidence to stick to the traditional views, but wrongly chose to criticize Galileo's views in the religious sphere and based on misinterpretations of Bible's statements.

Apart from the brilliant introduction, the abundance of footnotes added in every translated document are of great help so as not to get lost with the amount of names and information.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x95e0be1c) out of 5 stars 7 reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9312f2e8) out of 5 stars This is MUST if you want to know about the Galileo Affair 24 Nov. 2005
By Pedro M. Rosario Barbosa - Published on
Format: Paperback
When I browsed through, I was amazed that after all of these years there was not a single review on this book. I wanted to write a review to let people know what this book is about. Basically Finocchiaro has made an excellent compilation of all documents pertaining the famous "Galileo Affair", of what happened in the Inquisition's case against Galileo.

But more than that, Finocchiaro in his "Introduction" to the book, deals with both sides of the affair, of those against Galileo, and of those in his favor. He then tries to make a very accurate interpretation about what really happened them, and pointing to both groups' flaws about their interpretation of history. Certainly the Galileo Affair was not just a case where the Inquisition was absolutely right, but also it is far beyond the statement that the Inquisition wanted him silenced to prevent the advance of science. The Galileo Affair is much more complex than that, and Finnochiaro takes into account the scientific, philosophical, theological and political realities of the time.

The documents in the book include correspondence, Inquisition documents, fragments of Galileo's writings, among others. You MUST have this book if you want to understand more accurately the Galileo Affair.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92f6224c) out of 5 stars I Couldn't Put It Down 13 Oct. 2010
By Benjamin B. Eshbach - Published on
Format: Paperback
Is the title of my review an endorsement or a confession? This was a terrific book. By reading Galileo's correspondences I was introduced to the man, instead of the icon/name/historical placeholder we all know. He had an attitude and a peculiar way of reasoning. Even his inquisitors lost some of their inhuman opacity and started to look a little fleshy.

One minor complaint: The correspondences, depositions and minutes of the Holy Office are not placed in precise chronological order in the book. I wanted to read them that way and so I was forced to flip around using the exquisitely detailed time-line provided at the end of the book. As the reading progressed, a clear story unfolded and all the historical characters took on traits that were more human than what you can get reading historical accounts.

There were several very interesting parts to this story. I was intrigued by the apparently deliberate "mis-copying" of Galileo's letter to Benedetto Castelli. I was impressed by Galileo's ability to infer (from complaints about him) that a corrupted letter had been circulating. This had cased Galileo's first set of headaches around 1614-1615. It's also telling that all of the complaints against him were drawn from exactly these corrupted passages. I enjoyed - in a darker way - watching Galileo try to B.S. his way past his inquisitors during his second deposition by pretending to believe that he had thought his Dialog was a pro-Ptolemaic work - and acting shocked that, when upon rereading it, he discovered Lo! This DOES sound like I'm defending Copernicus! The Holy Office had placed him in a position where he was forced say what they wanted him to say, but to do it in a way that passed as honest. Ouch! I was also pleased with the author's explanation of what "hypothesis" (ex hypothesi) meant to Galileo and his contemporaries and how the meaning is different from how we understand it today. This was a crucial idea for understanding what happened in Rome.

This book is a great narrative couched in personal and institutional correspondences. On the other hand, if what you want - as the reviewer from April 7, 2009 wanted - is an "exhaustive" history of the Galileo affair that consists of "no more than a dozen pages" of unpacked "points", then all you need to do is copy-and-paste his review into a word processor and increase the font size to about 48.
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x943ed330) out of 5 stars Reference only 7 April 2009
By Viktor Blasjo - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book should not be called "a documentary history." It is true that it consists of documents (exclusively so, excepts for a very basic introduction) and that these are historical, but the professed conjunction does not obtain. The book prides itself in being non-interpretative, but the problem is that no more than a dozen pages are needed for an exhaustive, non-interpretative history of the Galileo affair. It becomes a 400-page book only by being extremely repetitive. Every single point is repeated at least three or four times: first in a letter or two, then in some treatise, then in Inquisition commission reports, then in witness testimonies before the Inquisition, then in the Inquisition's conclusion, etc.

What this book is not may be illustrated with an example from the short introduction. Here we read that Pope Urban VIII, whose tolerance Galileo overestimated, may have been driven to make an example out of Galileo to mend his own reputation, especially in relation to critiques of his not being ardent enough in his support for the catholic side in the thirty years war. One may have hoped that pursuing letters and internal documents would reveal precisely this type of behind-the-scenes aspects of the affair. But unfortunately the letters are far more formulaic and no more revealing than the formal proceedings themselves. The final Inquisition report of about five pages is in effect a concise summary of the whole book; the rest is almost entirely redundant reiteration.

The outline of the story, to which so very little depth is added, may be recounted as follows.

The dispute seems to have been sparked not so much by heliocentrism as such but rather by Galileo's forays into scriptural interpretation. Galileo claims that in such matters "one must begin not with the authority of scriptural passages but with sensory experience and necessary demonstrations" (p. 93). This because "Scripture appear to be full not only of contradictions but also of serious heresies and blasphemies; for one would have to attribute to God feet, hands, eyes, and bodily sensations, as well as human feelings like anger contrition, and hatred, and such conditions as the forgetfulness of things past and the ignorance of future ones" (an argument which, by the way, we hear him repeat three times; pp. 50, 85, 92). The clash with the interpretations of the church fathers Galileo explains by the fact that heliocentrism was not an issue at that time (p. 108) and that such matters were considered unimportant. He quotes St. Augustine as saying that "God did not want to teach men these things which are of no use to salvation," and ask how, then, "one can now say that to hold this rather than that proposition on this topic is so important that one is a principle of faith and one is erroneous?" (p. 95). As for actual biblical interpretation, Galileo's most prominent example is that of Joshua stopping the sun to lengthen the day. Galileo criticises the geocentric interpretation by distinguishing the "Prime Mobile" daily motion of the heavens and the annual motion of the sun along the zodiac: stopping the latter would not lengthen the day but rather shorten it. He offers instead a Copernican interpretation which is based on the assumption that the sun's rotation causes all motion, so that stopping it would stop the entire solar system. (Pp. 53-54.)

It seems that it was primarily this provocation that brought the matter to the Inquisition's attention (pp. 134-135, 138). Once provoked, the Inquisition also moved to condemn holding heliocentrism as physical truth. Perhaps they did so only because of the theory's proponents' explicit polemic with the church. After all, Copernicus' book had long been permitted, and Galileo's own Letters on Sunspots of 1613 had been censored only where it referred to scripture, not where it asserted heliocentrism.

The outcomes of the first Inquisition proceedings (1615-1616) were: a condemnation of heliocentrism as "formally heretical" (p. 146); a special injunction that Galileo must not "hold, teach or defend it in any way whatever" (p. 147); mild censoring of Copernicus' book (viz., removal of a passage concerning the conflict with the Bible and a handful expressions which insinuated the physical truth of the theory; pp. 149, 200-202). Thus Galileo was not actually convicted, and to protect himself from slander he requested a certificate of this fact from Cardinal Bellarmine (p. 153).

Galileo did indeed keep quiet for a number of years, but he was lured out of silence, it seems, by a false sense of security stemming from his good relations with the new Pope, Urban VIII (cf. p. 155), in light of which he "artfully and cunningly extorted" (in the words of the Inquisition, p. 290) a permission to publish the Dialogue on the Two Wold Systems in 1632.

A special commission appointed by the Pope found many inappropriate things in the Dialogue, but this was not a major issue, they noted, for such things "could be emended if the book were judged to have some utility which would warrant such a favor" (p. 222). The problem was instead that Galileo "may have overstepped his instructions" not to treat heliocentricism (p. 219). This is an internal document so presumably it is sincere. The same report also points out that Galileo had placed the Pope's favourite argument (that the omnipotent God could have created any universe, including a heliocentric one), which he had been asked to include, "in the mouth of a fool" (p. 221).

This forced the second Inquisition proceedings in 1633. Galileo's defence was quite pathetic and transparently dishonest. He claimed that: in the Dialogue "I show the contrary of Copernicus's opinion, and that Copernicus's reasons are invalid and inconclusive" (p. 262); in light of the accusations, "it dawned on me to reread my printed Dialogue," and to his surprise "I found it almost a new book by another author" (pp. 277-278); he did not recall the injunction's phrases "to teach" or "any way whatever" since these did not appear in Bellarmine's certificate, "which I relied upon and kept as a reminder" (p. 260). Of course he was forced to abjure. The Dialogue was prohibited, but not for its contents but rather, in the words of the Inquisition's sentence, "so that this serious and pernicious error and transgression of yours does not remain completely unpunished" and as "an example for others to abstain from similar crimes" (p. 291).
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92f8dd20) out of 5 stars Emphasis on "documentary" 4 April 2007
By Skylark - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not exactly what I was looking for. Aside from the 43-page introduction, this book is a primary source of documentation (letters to and from Galileo) surrounding Galileo and his two trials, and devoid of commentary or narrative.
HASH(0x94777384) out of 5 stars The book was a college text in poor condition, but I enjoyedm thge content 1 Jun. 2016
By C. Shoemaker - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book was a college text in poor condition, but I enjoyedm thge content.
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