The Philosophy of Galileo Galilei & The World of Theology
Fashioning the stepping-stones to the land of modern science, Galileo Galilei turned the Earth on its axis, and spun it irrevocably out of control with his radical theories in opposition to the social construct of the geocentricism postulated by means of new technologies. By reverse engineering several technologies, Galileo was able to refine and redefine the means of analytical research. Even though it was based off of the scientific research he conducted, his conclusions were constantly combated against, and eventually sequestered out of him due to the controversial nature of his findings. His inspection into the heavens led to the man-made wrath of God to descend down upon Galileo and others like him, which is ironic as he formulated advancements in warfare. Having generated so much social friction, Galileo carried this momentum into the analysis of the relationship between friction, heat, and most importantly motion, which incited an assembly of Peripatetic philosophers to proverbially assault Galileo (pg 145). In spite of the initial allegations, conflicts, and protests brought against Galileo’s interpretations on the inter-workings of the solar system, his contributions to the realms of astronomy, physics, mathematics, and philosophy enacted a revolutionary movement in thought, which can still be felt resonating through time.
Living amongst a society hesitant to social alteration, Galileo shook the bedrock of their world by exclaiming it to be subject to the Sun and not be the point by which all life revolves; this proclamation did not come without extensive research, as well as backlash primarily from proponents of religion. Galileo understood the implications of supporting Copernicus to be dire, as was the case for Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake for his belief in the Copernican system on February 17, 1600. In 1609, while not the inventor of the telescope, Galileo invented novel ways to exploit this new technology by tinkering with the design (by alteration of lens thickness and size) (pg 18). Galileo accumulated an opposition to the Ptolemy system by re-focusing his telescope to the sky, and “within a few months more had been discovered about the real nature of heavenly bodies than had been known to any previous astronomer” (pg 72). By witnessing the phases of the planets and their re-positioning, Galileo advocated support towards the Copernican system “unequivocally in print”, but, even with evidence backing his support, a standoffish crowd was forming in defiance (pg 85). Although, “the relative positions of Venus and the sun [showed] that this planet must move not around the earth but around the sun,” these findings were originally disregarded as mere illusions (pg 74). As an interest arose in astronomy, Galileo found himself in competition with other scientists. In hopes to further confirm the Copernican system, the sun was analyzed, and, subsequently, Galileo discovered sunspots on the face of the sun. This discovery was rife with debate as Father Christopher Scheiner, a Jesuit professor, had contested against Galileo as the original discoverer of sunspots, and as a result, “this [appeared] to have had a great deal to do with Galileo’s ultimate trouble with the church” (pg 82). The objection by Scheiner seems to be an anomaly though as the Jesuit order had instructed him not to publish his findings because the findings would discredit the order (pg 81). Another peculiarity sprung about in this argument between Galileo and the Church; Galileo was a devote Roman-Catholic. Despite renouncing his belief of the Copernican system on March 5 of 1616 due to a proclamation by Pope Paul V (pg 218), “Galileo was summoned to Rome, tried by the Inquisition, condemned to perpetual arrest, forced to abjure, and forbidden to publish anything further” for discussing the Copernican system with his friend, the recently elected Pope Maffeo Barberini (pg 281). With the proverbial sky collapsing onto Galileo, he was subjected to live out the rest of his days under house arrest. Because of his inherent need to disseminate the scientific truth, Galileo found himself at odds with a society steeped in tradition; none of which would have been possible without the invention of the telescope.
Facilitated by his experience researching the movement of the celestial bodies, Galileo theorized the nature of floating bodies in water and the laws of motion, which faced attrition by Lodovico delle Colombe, “[Galileo’s] most determined adversary,” and Colombe’s fellow Peripatetic philosophers. Indicating an interest in physics early on, Galileo’s “first known scientific composition, written in 1586, deals with the invention of the hydrostatic balance” (pg 79). While in discussion about floating bodies during September 1611, Galileo and then Cardinal Maffeo Barberini agreed upon his belief in floating bodies, but his opposition was steadfast to refute his views. Upon publishing Discourse on Floating Bodies, the Peripatetic philosophers could not muster up a sustainable defense to aptly preserve the Aristotle’s principles of physics, as they had previously accomplished by making “the argument that Galileo’s claims were based upon optical illusions” (pg 80). What the Peripatetic philosophers presented was protectionist in nature; Colombe referenced the credibility of Aristotle as:
…the great leader of academics, head of so many schools, subject of so many poets, labor of so many historians, [a man] who had read more books than there were days in his, and had written more of them than he counted years (pg 149).
Instead of directly adding kindling to this fire, Galileo commissioned his pupils, dubbed Galileists, to undertake disputing Colombe and his anti-Galileo movement. The retaliating publication, titled “The Colombiad,” ridiculed Colombe not only in content, but in name as well (as a variant of colombi, the given name to Colombe’s followers, as well as meaning pigeon). Having burned yet another bridge, Galileo moves onto the examination of the origins of heat. There is a nebulous factor to heat, as to whether motion or friction produces heat. Examining two philosophers’ theories on the matter, Galileo concluded that:
…to Aristotle any rubbing of bodies would suffice, even of tenuous ones or of the air itself, whereas Guiducci requires two solid bodies, for he considers that trying to pulverize the air is as great a waste of time as grinding water in the proverbial mortar (pg 266).
As an assessment to their views on heat, Galileo sculpted his own belief out of the concrete ideas provided by the philosophers. He envisioned heat to be in relation with the senses:
Those materials which produce heat in us and make us feel warmth, which are known by the general name of ‘fire,’ would then be a multitude of minute particles having certain shapes and moving with certain velocities…their touch as felt by us when they pass through our substance is the sensation we call heat (pg 277).
Since Galileo connoted heat so heavily to sensation, once the sensation is gone, heat becomes nothing more than an abstract concept, a word. However, if the velocity of these particles is accelerated to an optimal speed, then Galileo theorized light is produced (Galileo’s discovery of inertia) (pg 278). Although his laws of motion were dragged through the mud at first, Galileo had conceptualized content worthy of being along the zenith of philosophical importance.
Before he had collected his catalogue of accomplishments, Galileo had placed his focus onto efficiency and re-established tactics by which civilization conducted war. In 1597, Galileo conceived the geometric and military compass, which “enabled its user to solve a wide variety of problems, and in this period before the invention of logarithms it was invaluable to engineers and military men” (pg 16). Galileo perceived there to be a necessary mathematical accuracy required within military. Through utilization of his geometric and military compass, “the practice of fortification, ordnance, assaults, sieges, estimation of distances, artillery matters, the uses of various instruments, and so on” may be enhanced (pg 63). The intentionality of his device allowed for an accuracy to military warfare. While this achievement did not technically yield any complications for Galileo, the empirical nature of advancing war tactics acted as a double-edged sword for society.
As a spectator surveying the world for inconsistencies, Galileo Galilei discovered numerous falsities propagated by society and religion. With a rigid society attempting to maintain stability, they clung to tradition, and repelled the innovative theories of Galileo. Through laborious and exhaustive research, Galileo had assembled a coherent, and nigh indisputable archive of research to back his findings. Regardless though, his work was consistently in the line of fire from those trying to shoot holes into his logic by any means feasible. His effort was impeccably utilized as the macrocosm-microcosm relationship of existence was reformatted on account of his contributions and diligence.
Galilei, Galileo, and Stillman Drake. Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo. Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday, 1973. Print.