Academic year
2024/2025 Syllabus of previous years
Official course title
Course code
FM0462 (AF:512446 AR:290485)
On campus classes
ECTS credits
Degree level
Master's Degree Programme (DM270)
Educational sector code
4th Term
Course year
The course focuses on the most versatile aspects of the multifaceted mind of the "first" Galileo. In this sense, the program deals with one of the most important turning points in the historical and philosophical transition between late Renaissance and early modernity. Accordingly, the course can be attended as an ideal trait d'union between the courses of medieval and contemporary philosophy, as well as between those of history of science and philosophy of science within the didactic offer of the master program.
capacity of contextualization of the main theoretical and methodological intersections that characterized the first Seicento, with particular attention to the intellectual evolution of Galileo Galilei within the larger framework of the Late-Renaissance philosophy; acquisition of a certain degree of "first-hand" familiarity with Galileian sources and the main historiographical readings in their regards; development of some critical sense in favor of an unstereotypical, but historically-informed, image of the alleged father of modern science and of his most and less known philosophical results.
basic capacity of critical reading and textual interpretation; basic philosophical competences; elementary Euclidean geometry.
Basic knowledge of Latin would be recommended, but it is not necessary to attend the course and pass the exam with profit.
The program of the course retraces the Paduan period of Galileo Galilei, which covered the years 1592-1610 – namely the "best" years of Galileo's life, according to his own remembrance. The biographic and intellectual path will be chronologically lay out in the course of the lessons, starting with his appointment as lecturer of mathematics at the Studio of Padua and ending with his call to become the chosen mathematician and first philosopher of the Gran Duke of Tuscany at the end of his long and honorable service for the Republic of Venice.

In particular, chosen excerpts from the following writings of Galileo will be taken into account the course of the lessons: (1) engineering studies for military purposes (architecture, fortification, "mechaniche"); (2) the operations of the geometrical and military compass; (3) first declarations on Copernicanism; (4) Paduan horoscopes and the second report to the Inquisition; (5) first formulations of the law of falling bodies; (6) the treatise on the Sphere, or Cosmographia; (7) the dispute on the "new star" of 1604; (8) the pseudonymous publications of 1605-1606; (9) improvement of the "Dutch tube", or telescope, and its adaptation to the astronomical use; (10) the publication of the Sidereus Nuncius, form the preparation of the print to its worldwide reception.

Commentary on original sources will mainly deal with the epistemological aspects of Galileo's researches, such as (A) the mathematical-geometrical approach to issues that traditionally belonged to the domain of natural philosophy; (B) the development of a (proto)hypothetical-experimental method and its relation with traditional Scholastic logic; (C) the potentialities, implications and limits of the so-called "instrumental reason" at the dawn of the modern era.
Primary Literature:

– Le Opere di Galileo Galilei [OG], Edizione Nazionale, a c. di A. Favaro et al., 20 voll., Firenze: Barbera, 1890-1909 (ristampe: 1929-1939 e 1964-66), vol. II: selected passages; vol. X: Carteggio, pp. 67-68 [Letter to J. Kepler, 4th August, 1597] and pp. 115-116 [Letter to P. Sarpi, 16th October, 1604]. [Online edition: https://galileoteca.museogalileo.it ]

– Galileo Galilei, Sidereus Nuncius, ed. by Albert Van Helden, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989. [Online edition: https://www.reed.edu/math/wieting/mathematics537/SideriusNuncius.pdf ]

Secondary Literature (General):

The study of (at least) one of the following intellectual biographies of Galileo is mandatory for the given pages:

– Michele Camerota, Galileo Galilei e la cultura scientifica nell'età della Controriforma, Roma: Salerno, 2004 (ristampe: 2 voll., Milano: Il Giornale, 2004; Milano: Corriere della Sera, 2018), capitoli 3 e 4, pp. 75-199.

– John L. Heilbron, Galileo, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Tr. italiana: Galileo. Scienziato e umanista, a cura di S. Gattei, Torino: Einaudi, 2013, pp. 76-212.

– Stillman Drake, Galileo at Work: His Scientific Biography, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1978. Tr. italiana: Galileo: una biografia scientifica, a c. di L. Ciancio, Bologna: Il Mulino, 1988, capitoli 3-9, pp. 67-242.

Secondary Literature (Specific):

To pass the exam, the reading of at least one of the following articles/chapters (at candidate's choice) is mandatory:

– Matteo Valleriani, "La natura pratica del Trattato della Sfera di Galileo Galilei", in Tintenfass und Teleskop: Galileo Galilei im Schnittpunkt wissenschaftlicher, literarischer und visueller Kulturen im 17. Jahrhundert, ed. by A. Albrecht, G. Cordibella and V. R. Remmert, Berlin-München-Boston: De Gruyter, 2014, pp. 321-336.

– Marco Sgarbi, The Age of Epistemology. Aristotelian Logic in Early Modern Philosophy 1500-1700, London: Bloomsbury, 2023, Cap. 5: "Galileo Galilei".

– Matteo Cosci, "Le fonti di Galileo Galilei per le Lezioni e studi sulla stella nuova del 1604", Archives Internationales d'Histoire des Sciences, vol. 68, 2020, pp. 6-70.

Further bibliographical references and studying aids will be given during the classes. Some of the didactic material will be made available on Moodle platform. Students that are planning of not attending the classes are invited to contact the lecturer in advance before the exam.
The oral exam consists in (1) reading and explaining one of the selected Galilean textual excerpts; (2) the execution of one of the Galilean demonstrations that have been given in class; (3) the critical exposition of one of the articles of the bibliography; (4) commenting on one of the episodes, or works, of the Paduan period of Galileo Galilei (at candidate's choosing) in reference to the selected intellectual biography.
After a general introduction to the author and the age of Counter-Reformation, lectures will be directed towards reading, contextualization and commentary of chosen Galilean texts from the period of interest (1592-1610), with particular stress on their historical-philosophical value.
Ca' Foscari abides by Italian Law (Law 17/1999; Law 170/2010) regarding support services and accommodation available to students with disabilities. This includes students with mobility, visual, hearing and other disabilities (Law 17/1999), and specific learning impairments (Law 170/2010). If you have a disability or impairment that requires accommodations (i.e., alternate testing, readers, note takers or interpreters) please contact the Disability and Accessibility Offices in Student Services: disabilita@unive.it.
Definitive programme.
Last update of the programme: 17/06/2024