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The Church And Galileo (Studies in Science and the Humanities from the Reilly Center for Science Technology and Values) [Paperback]

By Ernan McMullin (Editor)
Our Price $ 31.80  
 
 
Item Number 159581  
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Studies in Science and the Humanities from the Reilly Center - Full Series Preview
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Item Description...
This collection of first-rate essays provides an accurate, scholarly assessment of the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and Galileo. In 1981, Pope John Paul II established a commission to inquire into the Church's treatment of Galileo in loyal recognition of wrongs, from whatever side they came, hoping this way to dispel the mistrust... between science and faith. When the Galileo Commission finally issued its report in 1992, many scholars were disappointed by its inadequacies and its perpetuation of old defensive stratagems. This volume attempts what the commission failed to provide - a historically accurate, scholarly, and balanced account of Galileo and his turbulent relationship with the Roman Catholic Church. Contributors provide careful analyses of the interactions of the Church and Galileo over the thirty years between 1612 and his death in 1642. prior to Galileo's entry into the fray, survey the political landscape within which he lived, assess the effectiveness (or otherwise) of censorship of his work, and provide an analysis and occasional critique of the Church's later responses to the Galileo controversy. The book is divided into three sections corresponding to the periods before, during, and after the original Galileo affair. Particular attention is paid to those topics that have been the most divisive among scholars and theologians. The Church and Galileo will be welcomed by all those interested in early modern history and early modern science.

Item Specifications...

Pages   391
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.22" Width: 6.7" Height: 1.06"
Weight:   1.45 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 1, 2005
Publisher   University of Notre Dame Press
ISBN  0268034842  
EAN  9780268034849  


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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Some Valuable Information; Some Tendentiousness  Jun 9, 2006
All in all, this book seems to take a rather harsh view of the Church and its condemnation of Galileo. Most of the authors in this volume are of the opinion that the Church had drifted towards a hyperliteral interpretation of Scripture as a result of the controversies surrounding the Reformation of the previous century. Interestingly enough, however, the Copernican view had been widely known for several decades before it was condemned in the form of Galileo's teachings. Galileo's arrogance in pressing his views is recognized as one factor, but not the only factor, in the Church's approach towards Galileo's views. The authors of this book seem to fail to remember that the Church was and is a conservative institution in that part of its mission is to protect humananity from potentially-malevolent new teachings and movements. If it sometimes errs in condemning new views that later turn out to be correct or beneficial, then it should not be overly criticized for having done so.

The Galileo affair inevitably recounts the issue of how Scripture is to be understood. Perhaps the most interesting content of this book is the analysis of Augustine and his interpretation of the Book of Genesis. Augustine is often portrayed as someone who took a figurative approach to the Creation account. In actuality, as elaborated by article-author McMullin (pp. 90-93), there were extrinsic reasons that motivated Augustine to depart from a straightforward reading of Genesis. Augustine had been a Manichaean, and, even after his return to Christianity, had been intimidated by the Manichaean's characterization of the Creation account as "primitive and incoherent". It was then that Augustine began to vacillate, back and forth, between a literal acceptance of the Creation account and various figurative interpretations. Augustine was quoted as thinking that a literal interpretation was "nearly impossible", and so his tendentiousness towards nonliteral interpretations of Genesis are readily understandable.

 
Ghostbusting Galileo  Aug 8, 2005
Revolutionary movements in an intellectual discipline require a revisionist review of history. Contemporary pragmatism has been a revolutionary movement in philosophy of science, but there is no revisionist history in this book about the Galileo-Vatican affair edited by a Reverend Ernan McMullin.

Contemporary pragmatists maintain the artifactual view of semantics, in which a prevailing web of beliefs defines the literal meanings of the descriptive vocabulary in the belief system. This is the context determination of semantics and ontology. So, in his "Two Dogmas" (1952) in his From a Logical Point of View: Nine Logico-Philosophical Essays, Second Revised Edition Quine for example saw language as so empirically underdetermined that any statement can be believed, if one is willing to make sufficiently radical revisions in other beliefs. And in his "Ontological Relativity" in his Ontological Relativity he extended contextual determination to ontology.

Thus the revisions needed to accept heliocentrism affect even observational description. In his Against Method (1975) Feyerabend described a prejudicial practice he called "counterinduction", and illustrated Galileo's use of it in the Dialogue to create a new semantics for observational description. Similarly Heisenberg later used it for reinterpreting the Wilson bubble-chamber electron-track observations, after Einstein told him that theory decides what the physicist can observe.

In his Patterns of Discovery: An Inquiry into the Conceptual Foundations of Science (1958) Hanson recognized a strong resistance to new ideas due to old ideas built into the semantics controlling observation. Many seventeenth-century Dialogue readers including the Vatican's Inquisitors could not overcome such semantical resistance to Copernicanism.

But the Reverend Ernan McMullin studied philosophy at Catholic University of Louvain in the 1950's, where his dissertation construed quantum theory in terms of operationalist definitions, a thesis he defended long after the profession moved beyond positivism. I find his rejection of the pragmatist thesis that quantum theory is literally descriptive as comparable to the Vatican's rejection of Galileo's claim that the heliocentric theory is literally descriptive, because both rejections are due to a naturalistic view of semantics. Catholic philosophers love their absolutes and recoil at pragmatism's contextualism, so the Reverend can expect that the Vatican will not object to his book.

The Reverend McMullin says he seeks movement toward "closure" for the haunting Galileo affair. No one will exorcise this bedeviling ghost! Ghostbusting Galileo is futile. But the contemporary pragmatist philosophy prevailing in academia today offers a deeper understanding that renders the specter of Galileo less appalling - a depth lacking in this book. This book appears to me to be no more philosophically sophisticated than the Vatican conspiracy theories in popular fiction.

Sorry, Ernie, but I think the ghost of Galileo deserves better. If you were in my class, I would give you a failing grade.

Google my History of Twentieth-Century Philosophy of Science at my web site philsci with free downloads by chapter.

Thomas J. Hickey
 

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