International Catholic University

Galileo: Science and Religion

Eight Lessons

William Carroll and Peter Hodgson

  1. The Legend of Galileo
  2. Galileo and the Renaissance
  3. Galileo the Physicist
  4. Galileo the Astronomer
  5. Galileo and the Inquisition I
  6. Galileo and the Inquisition II
  7. Galileo and the Inquisition III
  8. Galileo: Theologian


Lecture 1: The Legend of Galileo

What are the principal features of the legend of Galileo's encounter with the Inquisition?

Lecture 2: Galileo and the Renaissance

1. Describe the cosmologies of Aristotle and Ptolemy, and discuss their advantages and disadvantages.

2. Describe the way the ancient Greeks explained the motion of projectiles, and the improvements made by the medieval philosophers. What contribution did Galileo make towards a solution of this problem?

Lecture 3: Galileo the Physicist

1. What was Galileo's most important contribution to the development of science?

2. How did Galileo establish the connection between the distance a body falls and the time taken?

3. What was Galileo's contribution to hydrostatics?

Lecture 4: Galileo the Astronomer

1. What were Galileo's most important astronomical discoveries, and how did they affect the cosmology of Aristotle?

2. What are the main arguments for believing that the earth moves round the sun?

3. Was Galileo a Platonist or an Aristotelian?

Lecture 5: Galileo and the Inquisition I

What is Cardinal Bellarmino's argument that the claims for Copernican astronomy cannot simply be dismissed as being irrelevant to the Bible?

Lecture 6: Galileo and the Inquisition II

How does Galileo respond, in "The Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina," to the claim that Copernican astronomy challenges the truth of the Bible?

Lecture 7: Galileo and the Inquisition III

What role do the different senses of "hypothesis" play in the dispute between Galileo and the Inquisition?

Why is it important to distinguish between discipline and doctrine in examining the actions of the Inquisition with regard to Galileo?

Lecture 8: Galileo: Theologian

How does Professor Carroll's analysis of Galileo as biblical exegete challenge the long established view that Galileo anticipates the modern distinction between the Bible and science?

Review questions for the final examination:

William Carroll

1. How does the "legend" of Galileo's encounter with the Inquisition compare with the historical record described in the lectures for this course?

2. In what sense is Galileo a good Aristotelian and in what sense does he reject Aristotelian thought? between Galileo and the Inquisition?

3. How do the events of 1615 and 1616 constitute the crucial core of the "Galileo Affair"?

4. What were the decisions of the Inquisition and the Index of Forbidden Books in 1616?

5. Why is there such a concern among many of the interlocutors as to whether or not there is a demonstration for the motion of the Earth?

6. Examine the claim that Galileo's "Letter to the Grand Duchess Christian" is a charter document of the modern world.

7. Why did the authorities in Rome in 1632 and 1633 find that Galileo's Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World System required a formal investigation by the Inquisition?

Peter Hodgson

1. What was the main source of Galileo's ideas on natural philosophy?

2. Why did Galileo believe that the earth goes round the sun, and how did he answer the arguments of the Aristotelians against this view?

3. Describe Galileo's work on sunspots, and show how he refuted alternative explanations.

4. Examine critically Galileo's explanation of comets.

5. Why did Galileo become involved in so many arguments with other scientists? Was he always fair to those who disagreed with him?

6. What was the role of thought experiments in Galileo's arguments?

7. Describe some of the scientific instruments that Galileo made, and their importance for his discoveries.

8. To what extent did Galileo show political skill in spreading his ideas?

9. Discuss Galileo's relations with Kepler and the extent to which he accepted his ideas.

10. Assess Galileo's contribution to the development of our ideas of motion.

How to Order This Course

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