Galileo Galilei; Il Saggiatore (The Assayer); Rome, This quietly polemical text puts the case for a pared-down scientific conception of matter and a. This is Galileo’s argument from “The Assayer,” which I encountered in both my history survey of modern philosophy and in metaphysics. Galileo. Il saggiatore (The assayer) by Galileo Galilei (–) is the final and most significant work in the polemic regarding the characteristics of.
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Don Virginio Cesarini . I have never understood, Your Excellency, why it is that every one of the studies I have published in order to please assaer to serve other people has aroused in some men a certain perverse urge to detract, steal, or deprecate that modicum azsayer merit which I thought I had earned, if not for my work, at least for its intention.
In my Starry Messenger there were revealed many new and marvelous discoveries in the heavens that should have gratified all lovers of true science; yet scarcely had it been printed when men sprang up everywhere who envied the praises belonging to the discoveries there revealed.
Some, merely to contradict what I had said, did not scruple to cast doubt upon things they had seen with their own eyes again and again. My lord assaye Grand Duke Cosimo II, of glorious memory, once ordered me to write down my opinions about the causes of things floating or sinking in water, and in order to comply with that command I put on paper everything I could think of beyond the teachings of Archimedes, which perhaps is as much as may truly be said on this subject.
Immediately the entire press was filled with attacks against my Discourse. My opinions were contradicted without the least regard for the fact that what I had set forth was supported and proved by geometrical demonstrations; and such is the strength of men’s passion that they failed to [p.
How many men attacked my Letters on Sunspots, and under what disguises! The material contained therein ought to have opened to the minds eye much room for admirable speculation; instead it met with scorn and derision. Many people disbelieved it or failed to appreciate it. Others, not wanting to agree with my ideas, advanced ridiculous asssyer impossible opinions against me; and some, overwhelmed and convinced by my arguments, attempted to rob me of that glory which was mine, pretending not to have seen my writings and trying to represent themselves as the original discoverers of these impressive marvels.
I say nothing of certain unpublished private discussions, demonstrations, and propositions of mine which have been impugned or called worthless; yet even these have sometimes been stumbled upon by other men who with admirable dexterity have exerted themselves to appropriate these as inventions of their own ingenuity. Of such usurpers I might name not a few. I shall pass over first offenders in silence, as they customarily receive less severe punishment than repeaters.
But I shall no longer hold my peace about one of the latter, who has too boldly tried once more to do the very same thing he did many years ago when he appropriated the invention of my geometric compass, after Gali,eo had shown it to and discussed it with many gentlemen [p.
May I be pardoned if on this occasion-against my nature, my custom, and my present purpose- I show resentment and protest perhaps too bitterly about something I have kept to myself all these years.
I speak of Simon Mayr of Guntzenhausen. He it was in Padua, where I resided at the time, who set forth in Glileo the uses of my compass and had one of his pupils publish this and sign it. Then, perhaps to escape punishment, he departed immediately for his native land and left his pupil in the lurch. In Simon Mayr’s absence I was obliged to proceed against his pupil, in the manner described in the Defense which I published at the time. Now four years after my Starry Messenger appeared, this same fellow in the habit of trying to ornament himself with other people’s works unblushingly made himself the author of the things I bad discovered and printed in that book.
Publishing under the title of The World of Jupiter, he had the gall to claim that he had observed the Medicean planets which revolve about Jupiter before I had. But note his sly way of attempting to establish his priority.
I had written of making my first observation on the seventh of January, 16io. Assaayer comes Mayr, and, appropriating my very observations, he prints on the title page of his book as well as in the opening pages that he had made his observations in the year 16og.
But he neglects to warn the reader that he is a Protestant, and hence had not accepted the Gregorian calendar. Now the seventh day of January,for us Catholics, is the same as the twenty-eighth day of December,for those heretics. And so much for his pretended priority of observation. Assaayer considered remaining perfectly silent in order to save myself any occasion for being the unhappy target of such sharpshooting, and to remove from others any material capable of exciting these reprehensible talents.
I have certainly not lacked opportunities to put forth other works that would perhaps be no less astonishing to the schools of philosophy and no less important to science than those published previously. But the reason cited above was so cogent that Galkleo contented myself merely with the opinion and judgment of a few gentlemen, my real friends, to whom I communicated my thoughts.
Galileo, Selections from The Assayer
In discussions with these men I have enjoyed that pleasure which accompanies the opportunity to impart what one’s mind brings forth bit by bit, and at the same time I avoided any renewal of those stings which I had previously experienced with so much vexation. Demonstrating in no small degree their approval of my ideas, these gentlemen have managed for a variety of reasons to draw me away from the resolution I had made.
At first they tried to persuade me not to be upset by obstinate attacks, saying that in the end those would rebound upon their authors and merely render my own reasoning more lively and attractive, furnishing as they did clear assaayer that my essays were of an uncommon nature.
They pointed out to me the familiar maxim that vulgarity and mediocrity receive little or no attention and are soon left in the cold, while men’s minds turn to the revelation of wonders and transcendent things-though these indeed may give rise in ill-tempered minds to envy, and thereby to slander.
Now these and similar arguments, coming to me on the authority of those gentlemen, almost took away my resolve to write no more; yet my desire to live in axsayer prevailed. But it was in vain valileo I had reached this frame of mind, and by remaining silent I could not evade the stubborn fate of having to concern myself continually with men who write against me and quarrel with me.
It was useless to assayr my peace, because those who are so anxious to make trouble for me have now had recourse to attributing to me the works of others. In that way they have stirred up a bitter fight against me, something that I believe never happens without indicating some insane passion. One might have thought that Sig. Mario Guiducci would be allowed to lecture in his Academy, carrying out the duties of his office there, and even to publish his Discourse on Comets without “Lothario Sarsi” a person never heard of before, jumping upon me for this.
Why has he considered me the author of this Discourse without showing any respect for that fine man who was? I had no part in it beyond the honor and regard shown me by Guiducci in concurring with the opinions I had expressed in discussions with him and other gentlemen. And even if the entire Discourse were the work of my pen  – a thing that would never enter the mind of anyone who knows Guiducci-what kind of behavior is this for Sarsi to unmask me and reveal my face galipeo zealously?
Should I not have been showing a wish to remain incognito? Now for this reason, forced to act by this unexpected and uncalled-for treatment, I break my previous resolve to publish no more.
I am going to do my best to see that this act shall not escape notice, and to discourage those who refuse to let sleeping dogs he and who stir up trouble with men that are at peace. I am aware that this name Lothario Sarsi, unheard of in the world, serves as a mask for someone who wants to remain unknown. It is not my place to make trouble for another man by tearing off his mask after Sarsi’s own fashion, [p.
On the contrary, I have an idea that to deal with him as a person unknown will leave me a clearer field when I come to make my reasoning clear and explain my notions freely. I realize that often those who go about in masks are low persons who attempt by disguise to gain esteem among gentlemen and scholars, utilizing the dignity that attends nobility for some purpose of their own.
But sometimes they are gentlemen who, thus unknown, forgo the respectful decorum attending their rank and assume as is the custom in many Italian cities the liberty of speaking freely about any subject with anyone, taking whatever pleasure there may be in this discourteous raillery and strife.
I believe that it must be one of the latter who is hidden behind the mask of “Lothario Sarsi,” for if he were one of the former it would indeed be poor taste for him to impose upon the public in this manner. Also I think that just as he has permitted himself incognito to say some things that he might perhaps repress to my face, so it ought not to be taken amiss if I, availing myself of the privilege accorded against masqueraders, shall deal with him quite frankly.
Let neither Sarsi nor others imagine me to be weighing every word when I deal with him more freely than he may like. During the entire time the comet was visible I was confined by illness to my bed. There I was often visited by friends.
Discussions of the comets frequently occurred, during which I had occasion to voice some thoughts of mine which cast doubt upon the doctrines that have been previously held on this matter. Guiducci was often present, and one day he told me that he had thought of speaking on comets before the Academy; if I liked, he would include what he had heard from me along with things he had gathered from other authors or had thought himself.
Inasmuch as I was in no condition to write, I regarded this courtesy as my good fortune, and I not only accepted but I thanked him and acknowledged my debt.
The Assayer | work by Galileo |
I replied to them that I had only some questions to raise, which I was unable to write down because of my infirmity, but that I hoped these ideas of mine would soon be included in a discourse by a friend who had taken the trouble to collect them. That is an I said, and it has been told in several places by Guiducci.
There was no need for Sarsi to pass him off as a mere copyist. But since Sarsi wants it so, let it be; meanwhile let Guiducci accept my defense of his treatise in return for the honor he did me.
I have never claimed as Sarsi pretends that my opinion was certain to be swiftly carried by the winds to Rome. That usually happens only with the words of great and celebrated men, which really far exceeds the bounds of my ambition.
It is true, though, that in reading Sarsi’s book I have wondered that what I said never did reach Sarsi’s ears. Is it not astonishing that so many things have been reported to him which I never said, nor even thought, while not a single syllable reached him of other things that I have said over and over again?
But perhaps the winds that blow the clouds and those chimeras and monsters that tumultuously take shape in them had not the strength to carry solid and weighty things.
In Sarsi I seem to discern the firm belief that in philosophizing one must support oneself upon the opinion of some celebrated author, as if our minds ought to remain completely sterile and barren unless wedded to the reasoning of some other person. Possibly he thinks that philosophy is a book of fiction by some writer, like the Iliad or Orlando Furioso, productions in which the least important thing is whether what is written there is true.
Well, Sarsi, that is not how matters stand. Philosophy is written in this grand book, the universe, which stands continually open to our [p. But the book cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language and read the letters in which it is composed. It is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometric figures without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it; without these, one wanders about in a dark labyrinth.
Sarsi seems to think that our intellect should be enslaved to that of some other man. But even on that assumption, I do not see why he selects Tycho. Tycho could not extricate himself from his own explanation of diversity in the apparent motion of his comet; but now Sarsi expects my mind to be satisfied and set at rest by a little poetic flower that is not followed by any fruit at all.
It is this that Guiducci rejected when he quite rightly said that nature takes no delight in poetry. That is a very true statement, even though Sarsi appears to disbelieve it and acts as if acquainted with neither nature nor poetry.
He seems not to know that fables and fictions are in a way essential to poetry, which could not exist without them, while any sort of falsehood is so abhorrent to nature that it is as absent there as darkness is in light. Guiducci wrote that “people who wish to determine the location of a comet by means of parallax must first establish that the comet is a fixed and real object and not a mere appearance, since reasoning by parallax is indeed conclusive for real things but not for apparent ones.
Sarsi says that no author worth considering, ancient or modem, has ever supposed a comet to be a mere appearance; hence that his teacher, who was disputing only with such men and did not aspire to victory over any others, did not need to remove comets from the company of mere images.
To this I reply in the first place that for the same reason Sarsi might let Guiducci and me alone, as we are outside the circle of those worthy ancient and modem authors against whom his teacher was contending. We meant only to address those men, ancient or modem, who try in all their [p. We meant to steer clear of those who ostentatiously engage in noisy contests merely to be popularly judged victors over others and pompously praised.
Guiducci, in the hope of doing something that would be welcome to men studious of truth, proposed with all modesty that henceforth it would be good to consider the nature of a comet, and whether it might be a mere appearance rather than a real object. He did not criticize Father Grassi or anyone else who had not previously done this. Now Sarsi rises up in arms and passionately strives to prove that this suggestion is beside the point and false to boot.
Yet in order to be prepared for anything lest the idea appear worthy of some considerationhe robs me of any possible credit by calling this “an ancient notion of Cardan  and Telesio,” which his teacher disparages as a fantasy of feeble philosophers who had no followers.
And under this pretense, without the least shame for his disrespect, he robs those men of their reputations in order to cover up a slight oversight of his teacher’s. But I must not neglect to show, for his benefit and in their defense, how implausible is his deduction that their science was poor from their having had few followers. Perhaps Sarsi believes that all the host of good philosophers may be enclosed within four walls. I believe that they fly, and that they fly alone, like eagles, and not in flocks like starlings.
It is true that because eagles are rare birds they are little seen and less heard, while birds that fly like starlings fill the sky with shrieks and cries, and wherever they settle befoul the earth beneath them. Yet if true philosophers are like eagles they are not [unique] like the phoenix. The crowd of fools who know nothing, Sarsi, is infinite. Those who know very little of philosophy are numerous. Few indeed are they who really know some part of it, and only One knows all.