Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Routledge Guidebook to Galileo's Dialogue

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Routledge Guidebook to Galileo's Dialogue

Article excerpt

The Routledge Guidebook to Galileo's Dialogue. By Maurice A. Finocchiaro. [Routledge Guides to the Great Books.] (New York: Routledge. 2014. Pp. xviii, 357. $31.95 paperback. ISBN 978-0-415-50368-6.)

Most of Maurice Finocchiaro's distinguished career has been devoted to a close and detailed study of Galileo Galilei. In Galileo and the Art of Reasoning (Boston, 1980), he commented on his use of logic and various forms of argument in the Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems (1632), and in Retrying Galileo, 1633-1992 (Berkeley, 2005), he examined the documents and the issues concerning Galileo's trial, which also was about the book that created the stir. In this guidebook to Galileo's Dialogue, he offers an extended reconstruction of this great work and provides an extended analysis of the intellectual background and the historical context of the Copernican controversy. Finocchiaro describes in a lucid and rigorous way the arguments and critiques that Galileo presented in the Dialogue, and he assesses the content and the significance of the book from three special points of view: science, methodology, and rhetoric. The main argument of the book is a reconstruction of Galileo's argument in favor of the Earth's motion. Finocchiaro remains faithful to the original and retains the Dialogue's basic structure and topical progression, but he also elucidates what is obscure, resolves ambiguities, and makes explicit the hidden assumptions. The reconstruction is sufficiently detailed not to miss anything essential yet sufficiently streamlined to avoid the digressions that Galileo occasionally allowed himself.

To confirm the Copernican hypothesis, Galileo used a twofold approach. On the one hand, he defended the motion of the Earth from numerous objections based on Aristotelian physics, naked-eye astronomical observations, and traditional epistemology. On the other hand, he supported heliocentrism with arguments stemming from his new physics, telescopic observation, and the methodological analysis of contextualized philosophical problems. …

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