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Behind the Scenes at Galileo's Trial

Including the First English Translation of Melchior Inchofer's Tractatus syllepticus

Richard J. Blackwell

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University of Notre Dame
01 September 2008
Galileo's trial in 1633 before the Roman Inquisition is one of the most frequently mentioned topics in the history of science. Galileo's encounter with the Catholic Church was not only a major turning point in the history of western culture; it is the paradigm case of the clash between the institutional authority of religion and the authority of scientific reason, a clash that has helped to define the modern era. Blackwell's new contribution to the Galileo affair concerns the official theological position against Galileo. The centerpiece of his project is the treatise entitled Tractatus syllepticus, written by Melchior Inchofer, S.J., whose judgment of the orthodoxy of Galileo's Dialogue had been requested earlier by the Holy Office and was then incorporated into the proceedings of the trial. At the time, Inchofer's judgment against Galileo's book was both detailed and harsh. That judgment formed the basis for Inchofer's subsequent Tractatus, the first English translation of which is included in this volume. Inchofer's text provides a new and fascinating way of looking at the defense of the guilty verdict. Blackwell's analysis of this material greatly enriches our knowledge of Galileo and his trial. Both legal and theological behind-the-scenes aspects of Galileo's trial are discussed. Because of a weak legal case, a plea bargain was arranged, extrajudicially, then sabotaged in the Holy Office before the final decision of the case. Through his close scrutiny of the specifics of the trial, Blackwell renders a picture that is more complex, and ominous, than the usual portrayal of the trial. Embedded here is a real jewel: Blackwell's powerfully illuminating and sobering portrayal of Galileo's fraught relations with the Jesuit astronomer Christopher Scheiner. I know of no other account that shows with such clarity the theological constraints that bound the Catholic protagonists in the infamous 'Galileo affair' and how behind the scenes these constraints evolved and hardened. -Owen Gingerich, Professor Emeritus, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics An original contribution to Galilean studies, Richard J. Blackwell's Behind the Scenes at Galileo's Trial is both an in-depth study of the trial and a careful and enlightening examination of the roles played by that understudied figure, Melchior Inchofer, and the famed Jesuit astronomer, Christopher Scheiner, in Galileo's condemnation. It is also a boon to have here English translations of Inchofer's Tractatus syllepticus and Jesuit works, including an excerpt from Scheiner's Prodromus. -Irving Kelter, University of St. Thomas, Houston This book is not the usual kind of Galileo fare. Blackwell makes no attempt to tell the whole story, but meticulously and judiciously analyzes background events, texts, and personalities in ways that illuminate and clarify the course and outcome of Galileo's campaign on behalf of heliocentrism and the trial with which it ended. Appendices include relevant texts in translation, as well as Jesuit procedural rules that played a central role in the drama. This is an outstanding contribution to Galileo scholarship. -David C. Lindberg, Hilldale Professor Emeritus of the History of Science, University of Wisconsin
By:   Richard J. Blackwell
Imprint:   University of Notre Dame
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 226mm,  Width: 152mm,  Spine: 15mm
Weight:   363g
ISBN:   9780268022105
ISBN 10:   0268022100
Pages:   264
Publication Date:   01 September 2008
Audience:   College/higher education ,  Professional and scholarly ,  A / AS level ,  Further / Higher Education
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

RICHARD J. BLACKWELL is professor emeritus of philosophy, Saint Louis University. He is the author of numerous books, including Galileo, Bellarmine, and the Bible (University of Notre Dame Press, 1991).

Reviews for Behind the Scenes at Galileo's Trial: Including the First English Translation of Melchior Inchofer's Tractatus syllepticus

There are many reasons why this 'Galileo affair' is uniquely important in modern history. One is that it is instructive for understanding the interaction between science and religion. Blackwell adds some nuances to the conflictualist thesis. . . . The main theme of Blackwell's book is that of exploring 'behind the scenes at Galileo's trial.'. . . This trial is one of the best-documented episodes emblematic of modernity . . . this book makes a valuable contribution and provides a model for this type of inquiry. --Journal of Modern History Richard Blackwell . . . is a distinguished scholar whose work has often focused on the theological and biblical issues raised by Galileo's discoveries and writings. His translation of Inchofer's treatise is a very important contribution by itself, but he also provides translations for four short texts that shed further light on the trial. . . . The remainder of the book reviews the legal and scriptural case against Galileo, describes the activities and ideas of Inchofer and Scheiner, and closes with Blackwell's own thoughts about science and religion. --Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith Though the conduct of Galileo's trial was probably less sinister than Blackwell has suggested, with these two defenses of the Church's condemnation of Copernicanism we have a new, intriguing glimpse behind the scenes. --The Renaissance Quarterly Richard Blackwell's latest foray into scholarship on the Galileo affair contains detective history, careful scholarship, theological ruminations, and excellent translation work. The most tantalizing piece is chapter 1, titled 'The Legal Case at Galileo's Trial: Impasse and Perfidy, which pushes a thesis that involves plea bargains, mysterious saboteur(s), and a miscarriage of justice. --The Sixteenth Century Journal Richard Blackwell offers yet another important volume for our understanding of the context and thought around the trial of Galileo and more broadly the interaction of theology and science in the early modern era. Blackwell's scholarship is well known to Galileo scholars. . . . This latest volume makes Melchior Inchofer's Tractatus syllepticus (1633) available in English for the first time, affording those lacking Latin better insights into the mind of the advisor to the Holy Office of the (Roman) Inquisition who gave the most detailed analysis of Galileo's Dialogue. Blackwell's five introductory chapters set Inchofer and other dramatis personae in Galileo's life in the context of the history of theology as well as of science. Blackwell especially considers the biblical hermeneutics that prompted figures like Inchofer to conclude that the Bible in fact taught the immobility of the Earth. --Journal for the History of Astronomy

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