- Series: Science and Its Conceptual Foundations series
- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (November 1, 1994)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226045609
- ISBN-13: 978-0226045603
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,231,026 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Galileo, Courtier: The Practice of Science in the Culture of Absolutism (Science and Its Conceptual Foundations series) 1st Edition
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From the Back Cover
In the court of the Medicis and the Vatican, Galileo fashioned both his career and his science to the demands of patronage and its complex systems of wealth, power, and prestige. In this fascinating cultural and social history of science, Biagioli argues that Galileo's courtly role was integral to his science - the questions he chose to examine, his methods, even his conclusions.
About the Author
Mario Biagioli is distinguished professor of law and science and technology studies and director of the Center for Innovation Studies at the University of California, Davis.
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And what does he get for this dangerous shot into the crowd?... Why tenure at Harvard, as he should.
Other reviews here focus--quite rightly--on the main narrative issues, and with them it is best to learn about the upper bulk of this book. But the heart of what Biagioli is up to was beautifully demonstrated by another critical reviewer here. That reviewer supplies the perfect quote to illustrate my point and Biagioli's deeper project:
"from Michael Shank's review (Shank, Michael H. 1994. Galileo's Day in Court. Journal for the History of Astronomy 25:236-242.) and Biagioli and Shank's later exchange on the book in Early science and medicine Vol 1, 1996.
Shank concludes, and I agree, that Biagioli manipulates the evidence and does not "behave in the way in which good, honest, historians behave"."
Shank (and the other reviewer) responds in this typically defensive and indoctrinated way, because Biagioli's inspired use of Historiography does by definition take ossified historians to task. The book reveals the limiting problems inherent in intellectuals refracting in EXACTLY this way: Biagioli "does not 'behave in the way in which good, honest, historians behave'." Conversely, Biagioli follows intellectually rigorous curiosity, and divergent methodology, and thus arrives at valid conclusions that modern scholarly disciplinary strictures often preclude.
According to Shank, Biagioli has breached an imaginary and obscurant "moral historian code," by pointing his finger back at historians. That's actually hilarious: Shank thus proves Biagioli's subtextual argument, which was built in through the entirety of the work. If one reads this book carefully, understanding Biagioli's allusive use of a complex combination of footnotes, his purpose is clear and would threaten the bejesus out of any "trained" thinker who is cemented in the status quo.
Writers looking for a template on how to shake up a system while working within the confines of it--look no further.
Science historian Mario Bioagioli wrote in the first chapter of this 1993 book, “In many ways, I am presenting a study of a scientist’s self-fashioning… My choice of this approach to Galileo’s scientific career reflects the character of his own social trajectory. Galileo began his career as a member of a specific socioprofessional culture---that of the mathematicians. However, in the process of moving to court, he successfully refashioned himself as an unusual type of philosopher… In a sense, Galileo reinvented himself around 1610 by becoming the grand duke’s philosopher and mathematician… This book traces Galileo’s court-based articulation of the new socioprofessional identity of the ‘new philosopher’ or ‘philosophical astronomer’ and analyzes the relationship between this identity and Galileo’s work… [This book] is neither a biography nor a social history of Galileo’s career… I am more interested in identifying and studying the synchronic processes … [that] produced the historical artifact that we now call Galileo’s career.” (Pg. 2-3) He adds, “Not only was Galileo’s style embedded in court culture, but, as I hope to make clear by the end of the book, his increasing commitment to Copernicanism and his self-fashioning as a successful court client fed on each other.” (Pg. 4-5)
He points out, “Galileo’s condemnation cannot be separated from the patronage crisis that affected his… relationship with [Pope] Urban VIII. Galileo’s troubles of 1633 were also preceded by the deaths of two of his major patrons… With [Prince] Cesi’s death---and the earlier one of [Virginio] Cesarini in 1624---Galileo was left with very little support within the Roman court. Therefore, although Galileo’s condemnation was triggered by the specific theological implications of his ‘Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems,’ it was, at the same time, an instance of a more general pattern. It offers a typical example of a patronage-related termination of a client’s career.” (Pg. 35)
He states, “I suggest that these dynamics… may help us to contextualize the repeated invitations of Galileo’s patrons … to present his arguments as hypotheses, to write dialogues rather than treatises… However, an upwardly mobile client such as Galileo did not necessarily share his princely patrons’ discourse of effacement’… Like Carbone’s duel-prone youths, Galileo had to ‘attack’ and cast his arguments not as hypotheses or fictions but as true claims, if he wanted to go up in the social scale, become a philosopher, gain status and credibility, and legitimate the new worldview.” (Pg. 82-83) He adds, “the tensions between Galileo’s ‘scientific’ and ‘courtly’ concerns should not be viewed as a clash of two irreconcilable ‘worlds’ but rather as a fundamental tension between two aspects of the same system… the increasing commitment to Copernican astronomy that Galileo developed in those years may have resulted also from the patronage dynamics that pushed him to defend his discoveries and even produce more of them.” (Pg. 91) He suggests, “Galileo was not attacked because he was a Copernican but because of his … extreme visibility and his success in becoming the mathematician and philosopher of the grand duke.” (Pg. 98) He summarizes, “To say that Galileo was simply lucky with his patronage strategies---or to say that he was an exceptional scientist---is to ignore the broader historical dynamics that made possible his unusual career and informed his strategies for the legitimation of Copernicanism and mathematical physics.” (Pg. 157)
He observes, “what I propose here… [is] only a possible alternative framework based on the analysis of patronage and courtly dynamics presented earlier… I will argue that Galileo’s career was propelled and then undone by the same patronage dynamics. I will try to show that the dynamics that led to Galileo’s troubles were typical of a princely court: they resembled what was known as ‘the fall of the favorite.’” (Pg. 313) After the publication of the Dialogues, “[Pope] Urban’s rages and accusations of betrayal became frequent… Interestingly enough, Urban’s rage tended to explode whenever the Florentine ambassador would call his attention to the fact that in publishing the Dialogue Galileo had followed the instructions he had received from Rome and, indirectly, from the pope himself. In short, the betrayal trope was brought up precisely when Urban’s connection to Galileo’s ‘misdeeds’ was intimated.” (Pg. 337)
He concludes, “This volume has presented a study of the interaction between the culture of political absolutism and Galileo’s natural philosophy. Once we see it in this context, Galileo’s trial appears as a sign of the structural limits of the type of socioprofessional legitimation offered by court society and political absolutism. Galileo’s trial was as much a clash between Aristotelian natural philosophy, Thomistic theology, and modern cosmology as it was a … clash between the dynamics and tensions of baroque court society and culture.” (Pg. 352)
This is an utterly fascinating and thought-provoking study, that will be of great interest to anyone interested in intellectual history, and/or the history of science.
Mario Biagioli takes us through court life, and descibed Galileo's unique position in this court culture. Galileo was able to become close to a prince (Cosimo II), and used his title as "philosopher" to try to validate his ideas.
We also learn how Galileo's fate was tied to court life. A pope, who as a Cardinal enjoyed Galileo's works, turned upon Galileo due to criticisms by his peers. Biagioli calls this "the fall of the favorite."
This is an interesting look at Galileo's professional life and its influence on his scientific musings and how court life gave him both his glory and downfall.