The Heresy Of Galileo Essay Research Paper

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The Heresy Of Galileo Essay, Research Paper  THE HERESY OF GALILEO Galileo was condemned by the Inquisition, not for his own brilliant theories, but because he stood up for his belief in Copernicus’s theory that the earth was not, as the Church insisted, the center of the universe, but that rather, the universe is heliocentric. Galileo was a man of tremendous intellect and imagination living in a era dominated by the Catholic Church, which attempted to control the people by dictating their own version of “reality.” Any person who publicly questioned Church doctrine ran the chance of condemnation and punishment. If man could think, man could question, and the Church could lose its authority over the masses. This could not be tolerated in the 17th century, when the

Church had the power to dictate “reality.” Copernicus probably avoided a similar fate by confining his opinions to his students and the university milieu, and in fact his theories were not published until the time of his death. To be tried by the Inquisition was something that nobody could take lightly. Although in Galileo’s time the Inquisition was becoming more and more lenient, it was known to have used torture in the past and to have sent many heretics to burn at the stake. As late as 1600, this fate had befallen the Italian thinker Giordano Bruno, a one-time Dominican friar who had adopted a pantheistic philosophy of nature. From the summer of 1605, Galileo was private tutor of mathematics to young Prince Cosimo de’ Medici, son of the Grand Duke of Tuscany. Teacher

and pupil became sincerely attached to each other by mutual affection and deference, and this bond lasted to the end of Galileo’s life. Galileo remained a good friend of the Grand Duke as well. In the summer of 1611, the Grand Duke invited Galileo to a dinner party at his court. The Duke liked to gather great scholars around him, especially when he had illustrious guests, to hear them talk about issues of interest to the learned world. At this dinner the discussion centered on floating bodies. Galileo maintained that bodies can float only if their specific gravity is less than that of water. Among the dinner guests there were, however, some followers of Aristotle’s philosophies, and they argued that bodies float if their shape is wide and smooth so they cannot cut through the

resistance of the water. Floating bodies were a topic on which Galileo was especially knowledgeable, as he had been interested in the subject since, when as a student, he had read Archimedes. He was able to support his point so brilliantly that one of the guests of honor, Maffeo Cardinal Barberini, sided with him. Years later, Cardinal Barberini became Pope Urban VIII and turned against Galileo, becoming one of his bitter enemies, but at that moment he was as congenial as one could be, sincerely admiring Galileo’s dialectical skill. Perhaps to please the Cardinal, the Grand Duke asked Galileo to put his argument into writing, which he did. The result was The Discourse on Floating Bodies. Galileo’s sharp, almost sarcastic wit made him especially suited to arguments and

debates, of which he was to have many in the following years. Some of these resulted in famous writings that added to his lasting glory; many antagonized people of his time and turned many of them into “enemies.” The Peripatetics at the Grand Duke’s table were not very dangerous as potential enemies, but his next adversary was. Even before the Discourse on Floating Bodies was published in 1612, Galileo was engaged in a conflict with an astronomer whose name he did not know and was not to find out for over a year — the Jesuit father Christopher Scheiner (1575-1650). In 1610, Galileo had claimed to be the first discoverer of sunspots; so had Father Scheiner, and the two had entered into a bitter dispute. Father Scheiner had communicated his opinions on his observations of