Tuesday, May 13, 2014

St. Robert Cardinal Bellarmine

On today's feast day of St. Robert Cardinal Bellarmine, I reproduce below his 12 April 1615 letter to Fr. Foscarini, who wrote a theology book trying to reconcile heliocentrism with Scriptures (The Essential Galileo p. 146-148; my emphases):
[171] To the Very Reverend Father Paolo Antonio Foscarini, Provincial of the Carmelites in the Province of Calabria:

  My Very Reverend Father,

 I have read with interest the letter in Italian and the essay in Latin which Your Paternity sent me; I thank you for the one and for the other and confess that they are all full of intelligence and erudition.  You ask for my opinion, and so I shall give it to you, but very briefly, since now you have little time for reading and I for writing.

 First, I say that it seems to me that Your Paternity and Mr. Galileo are proceeding prudently by limiting yourselves to speaking suppositionally and not absolutely, as I have always believed that Copernicus spoke. For there is no danger in saying that, by assuming the earth moves and the sun stands still, one saves all the appearances better than by postulating eccentrics and epicycles; and that is sufficient for the mathematician. However, it is different to want to affirm that in reality the sun is at the center of the world and only turns on itself without moving from east to west, and the earth is in the third heaven⁴ and revolves with great speed around the sun; this is a very dangerous thing, likely not only to irritate all scholastic philosophers and theologians, but also to harm the Holy Faith by rendering Holy Scripture false. For Your Paternity has well shown many ways of interpreting Holy Scripture, but has not applied them to particular cases; without a doubt you would have encountered very great difficulties if you had wanted to interpret all those passages you yourself cited.

  [172] Second, I say that, as you know, the Council⁵ prohibits interpreting Scripture against the common consensus of the Holy Fathers; and if Your Paternity wants to read not only the Holy Fathers, but also the modern commentaries on Genesis, the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Joshua, you will find all agreeing in the literal interpretation that the sun is in heaven and turns around the earth with great speed, and that the earth is very far from heaven and sits motionless at the center of the world. Consider now, with your sense of prudence, whether the Church can tolerate giving Scripture a meaning contrary to the Holy Fathers and to all the Greek and Latin commentators. Nor can one answer that this is not a matter of faith, since if it is not a matter of faith “as regards the topic” [ex parte obiecti], it is a matter of faith “as regards the speaker” [ex parte dicentis]; and so it would be heretical to say that Abraham did not have two children and Jacob twelve, as well as to say that Christ was not born of a virgin, because both are said by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of the prophets and the apostles.

  Third, I say that if there were a true demonstration that the sun is at the center of the world and the earth in the third heaven, and that the sun does not circle the earth but the earth circles the sun, then one would have to proceed with great care in explaining the Scriptures that appear contrary, and say rather that we do not understand them than that what is demonstrated is false. But I will not believe that there is such a demonstration, until it is shown me. Nor is it the same to demonstrate that by assuming the sun to be at the center and the earth in heaven one can save the appearances, and to demonstrate that in truth the sun is at the center and the earth in heaven; for I believe the first demonstration may be available, but I have very great doubts about the second, and in case of doubt one must not abandon the Holy Scripture as interpreted by the Holy Fathers. I add that the one who wrote, “The sun riseth, and goeth down, and returneth to his place: and there rising again,”⁶ was Solomon, who not only spoke inspired by God, but was a man above all others wise and learned in the human sciences and in the knowledge of created things; he received all this wisdom from God; therefore it is not likely that he was affirming something that was contrary to truth already demonstrated or capable of being demonstrated. Now, suppose you say that Solomon speaks in accordance with appearances, since it seems to us that the sun moves (while the earth does so), just as to someone who moves away from the seashore on a ship it looks like the shore is moving. I shall answer that when someone moves away from the shore, although it appears to him that the shore is moving away from him, nevertheless he knows that this is an error and corrects it, seeing clearly that the ship moves and not the shore; but in regard to the sun and the earth, no scientist has any need to correct the error, since he clearly experiences that the earth stands still and that the eye is not in error when it judges that the sun moves, as it also is not in error when it judges that the moon and the stars move.  And this is enough for now.

  With this I greet dearly Your Paternity, and I pray to God to grant you all your wishes.

  At home, 12 April 1615.
  To Your Reverend Paternity.
As a Brother,
Cardinal Bellarmine.
⁴“In the third heaven” just means in the third orbit around the sun.
⁵The Council of Trent (1545–63). [Session the Fourth, Decree concerning the Canonical Scriptures; reiterated in Vatican I's Dei Filius]
Ecclesiastes 1:5 [Douay-Rheims version]

In his Système du monde, Duhem suggests that in one respect, at least, Bellarmine had shown himself a better scientist than Galileo by disallowing the possibility of a “strict proof” of the earth’ motion, on the grounds that an astronomical theory merely “saves the appearances” without necessarily revealing what “really happens.”

Saturday, May 3, 2014

esprit de géométrie & esprit de finesse

Pascal, Blaise. Pensées. Translated by Roger Ariew. Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2004:
    Some draw consequences well from a few principles, and this is rightness of thinking.
    Others draw well the consequences of things involving many principles. For example, the former understand well the effects of water, which involve few principles; but these consequences are so subtle that only acute right thinking can get to them. And, in spite of that, these people might not be great geometers, because geometry comprises a great number of principles, and a mind may be of such a nature as to be able to penetrate easily to the bottom of a few principles without in the least being able to penetrate those things involving many principles.
    There are therefore two kinds of minds: the one, penetrating rapidly and deeply the consequences of principles, is the intuitive mind [esprit de finesse]; the other, grasping a great number of principles without confusing them, is the geometric mind [esprit de géométrie]. The first has strength and rightness of mind, the second breadth of mind. Now, one can exist without the other; the mind can be strong and narrow, and also broad and weak.

Difference between the geometric and the intuitive mind
    In the one, principles are obvious, but removed from ordinary use, so that we find it difficult to turn our head in that direction, for lack of habit. But if it was turned that way ever so little, we would see the principles fully and would need to have a wholly defective mind to reason wrongly about such principles so obvious that it is almost impossible for them to notice.
    But with the intuitive mind, principles are in common use and before everybody's eyes. You have only to look, and no effort is necessary; it is only a question of good sight. But it must be good, because the principles are so subtle and numerous that it is almost impossible but that some escape notice. Now the omission of one principle leads to error. Thus you must have very clear sight to see all the principles, as well as an accurate mind to avoid reasoning falsely from known principles.
    All geometers would then be intuitive if they had clear sight, for they do not reason wrongly from principles known to them. And intuitive minds would be geometric if they could bend their thinking to the principles of geometry to which they are unaccustomed.
    The reason, then, that some intuitive minds are not geometric is that they simply cannot turn their attention to the principles of geometry. But the reason that geometers are not intuitive is that they do not see what is before them, and that, accustomed to the exact and plain principles of geometry, and not reasoning until they have clearly seen and handled their principles, they are lost in matters of intuition, where the principles do not allow such handling. The principles are scarcely seen; they are felt rather than seen; there is endless difficulty in making them felt by those who do not themselves apprehend them. These principles are so delicate and numerous that a delicate and clear sense is needed to apprehend them, and to judge rightly and correctly according to this feeling, without most often being able to demonstrate them in order as in geometry; because the principles are not known to us in this way and because it would be an endless task to undertake it. We must see the matter at once, at a glance, and not by a process of reasoning, at least up to a point. And thus it is rare for geometers to be intuitive and for intuitive people to be geometers, because geometers want to treat matters of intuition geometrically and make themselves ridiculous, wanting to begin by definitions and then by principles, which is not the way to proceed in this kind of reasoning. Not that the mind does not do this, but it does so tacitly, naturally, and without art, for its expression surpasses all men, and only a few can apprehend it.
    Intuitive minds, on the contrary, being thus accustomed to judge at a single glance, when presented with propositions of which they understand nothing and the paths to which consist of such sterile definitions and principles, which they are not accustomed to see in such detail, are so surprised that they are repelled and disheartened.
    But false minds are never either intuitive or geometrical.
    Geometers who are only geometers, then, have rightness of mind, provided all things are explained to them by means of definitions and principles; otherwise they are wrong and insufferable, for they are only right when the principles are quite clear.
    And intuitive minds that are only intuitive cannot have the patience to reach the first principles of speculative and imaginative things, which they have never seen in the world and which are altogether out of the common.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

«The Principle» pre-screening at the University of Arizona

The Principle pre-screening April 30, 2014, with Rick Delano (writer) and Robert Sungenis (producer)

physicists featured in the film: George Ellis, Michio Kaku, Julian Barbour, Lawrence Krauss, and Max Tegmark.