Richard J. Blackwell
NEW IN PAPERBACK
Galileo’s trial for heresy 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.
Richard J. Blackwell focuses on the church’s official theological position against Galileo. At the center of Blackwell’s account stands Melchior Inchofer, S. J., the Jesuit most directly involved in Galileo’s actual trial. Inchofer’s judgment upon the orthodoxy of Galileo’s Dialogue had been requested earlier by the Holy Office and was then incorporated into the proceedings of the trial. His harsh assessment of Galileo’s book formed the basis for Inchofer’s treatise Tractatus syllepticus, the first English translation of which is included in this volume. His text provides a new and fascinating way of looking at the defense of the guilty verdict.
“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
“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
“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
“With these . . . defenses of the Church’s condemnation of Copernicanism we have a new, intriguing glimpse behind the scenes.”— Renaissance Quarterly
“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
“Blackwell exposes details of the infamous trial that are not universally known: Galileo’s explanation in the first session that he did not know there was a warning against writing the book that brought him to the Inquisition, his premature admission of guilt in the second session, and the misreporting of court proceedings to the cardinal in terms that would resonate with them. . . . Recommended.” — Choice
“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
“If the evidence does not support a plot in Galileo’s sense, Blackwell’s account provides a scenario for a spellbinding novel. The story leaves enough latitude for the reader to draw his own conclusions. Although scholars both acquit and condemn the Church, the underlying issue remains: what constitutes a demonstration?” — The Review of Metaphysics
“It was faith against reason, entrenched religious orthodoxy against radically new scientific fact. Richard J. Blackwell . . . is an expert on philosophy but here he diligently presents the complex religious and scientific details of the matter within the historical context of Galileo’s time.” — Bibliotheque d’Humanisme et Renaissance
“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 . . . [and it] 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