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Galileo Galilei (1564–1642)

Championed by many as the ‘father of modern physics’, if not the ‘father of modern science’ tout court, the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei did more than any other thinker in the Scientific Revolution to pursue the scientific consequences of the ‘Copernican Revolution’ that established the heliocentric model of the solar system. Born in Pisa, the son of an accomplished violinist, Galileo initially considered the priesthood before turning to mathematics. A devout Roman Catholic throughout his life, Galileo raised the ire of Catholic authorities with his defence of heliocentrism, the result of which was the remainder of his life spent under house arrest. Popular legend recounts that, following upon his recantation of the claim that the Earth circles the Sun at the end of his trial before the Inquisition, he muttered ‘Even so, it moves’. Indeed, among his many scientific achievements was the establishment of kinematics, the study of motion. In addition to his contributions to astronomy, Galileo is also responsible for manifold technological achievements, not the least the invention of the modern refracting telescope. Galileo’s central importance for modern science lay in his simultaneous establishment of the ‘imperfection’ of the universe (e.g., his discovery of sun spots), coupled with his commitment to the capacity of rational methods and practices to account for the qualities of an ‘infinite universe’ that transcended the ‘closed world’ of medieval Scholasticism. This coupling of rational order with intrinsic imperfection and open-endedness accounts for Jean-Claude Milner’s later characterisation of the Cahiers project as driven by a commitment to ‘extended Galileanism’. A central inspiration for Lacan. by way of the works of Alexandre Koyré, Galileo was the subject of Judith Miller’s contribution to volume nine of the Cahiers pour l’Analyse.

In the Cahiers pour l’Analyse

Jacques Lacan, ‘La Science et la vérité’, CpA 1.1 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]
Judith Miller, ‘Métaphysique de la physique de Galilée’, CpA 9.9 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]

Select bibliography

  • Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632), trans. S. Drake. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967.
  • Two New Sciences (1638), second edition, trans. S. Drake. Toronto: Wall and Emerson, 1989.