Monthly Archives: September 2016

Friday, 30 September 2016 — 12:00 noon — WAG 316

Maurice Finocchiaro, Univ. of Nevada–Las Vegas

“Galileo’s First Confrontation with the Inquisition (1616): Historical Documents, Philosophical Distinctions, Legal Issues”

Galileo’s first confrontation with the Inquisition occurred in 1616; it was a key factor in his 1633 trial and condemnation as a suspected heretic, for holding the Copernican theory of the earth’s motion and denying the scientific authority of Scripture. There are six crucially relevant documents: the February 25 Inquisition minutes; the February 26 orders issued to Galileo by cardinal-inquisitor Bellarmine and commissary Seghizzi; Bellarmine’s March 3 report to the Inquisition; the March 5 Index’s decree; Bellarmine’s May 26 certificate to Galileo; and the 1620 Index’s decree. Moreover, there are about ten concepts that must be distinguished to understand what Galileo was prohibited to do regarding Copernicanism: believing, teaching, criticizing, discussing, supporting, and defending as true, as biblically compatible, or as a hypothesis. The main legal issue concerns the legitimacy of Seghizzi’s February 26 injunction not to hold, defend, or teach Copernicanism in any way whatever. The documentary authenticity and factual accuracy of this injunction are controversial. However, I focus on the legal issue, arguing that, even if authentic and accurate, the injunction is legally invalid because it conflicts with three other legitimate orders discernible in the conceptual content of these documents and emanating from the pope and Bellarmine.


Maurice Finocchiaro is a graduate of M.I.T. (B.S.) and U.C. Berkeley (Ph.D.); Distinguished Professor of Philosophy (Emeritus), University of Nevada-Las Vegas; and recipient of awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, American Council of Learned Societies, National Science Foundation, and National Endowment for the Humanities. He has published widely on history and philosophy of science, logic and argumentation theory, Gramsci, and Galileo, including: Galileo and the Art of Reasoning (1980), The Galileo Affair: A Documentary History (1989), Retrying Galileo, 1633-1992 (2005), Defending Copernicus and Galileo (2010), and The Routledge Guidebook to Galileo’s Dialogue (2014).


Friday, 23 September 2016 — 12:00 noon — WAG 316

Bruce Hunt, UT

“Themes and Problems in the History of Science: Thoughts on Organizing a Graduate Seminar”

Over the years I’ve offered a graduate seminar several times that I call “Themes and Problems in the History of Science”; I’m offering it again this fall. It aims at introducing students from a wide range of backgrounds to some of the ongoing issues in the field, in part by tracing how the history of science has developed as a discipline over the past century. Over the course of the semester we will read articles and book chapters that will take us from the internalism/externalism debates of the 1930s–1960s through the ideas of Thomas Kuhn on the structure of scientific revolutions and on to the debates over social constructivism that roiled the 1980s and 1990s. We will also take up recent controversies over whether there really was a Scientific Revolution, issues concerning the spread of science and technology around globe, and recent work on how scientific knowledge circulates.

Today I will speak very informally about how I went about putting together the seminar and will ask how taking such a look back at the genesis and development of the field might help us in on our own continuing work in the history of science. I would particularly like to solicit discussion of other texts and topics we might take up later in the seminar — I have deliberately left a couple of weeks open.


Bruce Hunt has taught courses in the history of science and technology at UT for many years. His research focuses on the interaction between the telegraph industry and electrical physics in 19th century Britain.