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“Galileo’s First Confrontation with the Inquisition (1616): Historical Documents, Philosophical Distinctions, Legal Issues”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