Info

case - the Roman judges were not rather targeting the new science, or indeed, emancipation from the ancient philosopher who still remained the intellectual leader inside the Catholic Church: Aristotle.

Thus, in the mid-seventeenth century the relationship between scientific thinkers and ecclesiastical authorities was marked by reciprocal mistrust. Certainly this was the case in Catholic Europe. Perhaps this was the reason for the new intellectual momentum in Protestant Europe.

From Descartes to Newton

Nevertheless, one must not overlook the case of Descartes. His reaction to Galileo's condemnation well reveals the state of crisis provoked by the trial among Catholic intellectuals. In November 1633, Descartes wrote that when he heard the news, '[I was] so shocked I almost resolved to burn my papers, or at least to keep them hidden. I simply could not imagine that he [Galileo], who is Italian, and of whom even the Pope thinks well, I believe, could have been criminalized for anything other than wishing to establish the movement of the earth .. . and I confess that if Galileo is wrong, then so are all the foundations of my Philosophy [of Physics], since he clearly uses them to support his case.'6 As it turned out, the publication of Descartes's treatise 'Le Monde', already in finished state, was withheld until 1664, after his death.7

However, Descartes did not allow these events to prevent him from taking effective action to free thinking from Aristotle's grip. The Discourse on Method was intended to demonstrate the effectiveness of his logic in scientific reasoning; to this end, he published a Geometry and a Dioptric alongside the treatise (1637)8. Above all, Cartesian rationalism inspired the methods of several other great scholars. The first of these was Christiaan Huygens, who used Descartes' method in rigorously developing his own laws on the impact of bodies. Further, in the Systema Saturnium (1659), Huygens provided a solid argument in favour of the earth's movement, by transposing his observations of planetary satellites onto the whole solar system. The earth clearly turned around the sun, as did the moon around the earth: thus Copernicus's system was confirmed once again.9 This kind of reasoning was to carry Huygens towards the vision of an infinite universe (the Cosmotheoros), where an unlimited number of planets could not fail to be inhabited in much the same way as our own world.10

Huygens's idea met with great acclaim at the end of the seventeenth century, and reached the general public thanks to the pen of Fontenelle, whose talents

0 0

Post a comment