THE AUTHOR'S DEDICATION TO
THE GRAND DUKE
MOST SERENE GRAND DUKE:
Though the difference between man and the other animals is enormous, yet one might say reasonably that it is little less than the difference among men themselves. What is the ratio of one to a thousand? Yet it is proverbial that one man is worth a thousand where a thousand are of less value than a single one. Such differences depend upon diverse mental abilities, and I reduce them to the difference between being or not being a philosopher; for philosophy, as the proper nutriment of those who can feed upon it, does in fact distinguish that single man from the common herd in a greater or less degree of merit according as his diet varies.
He who looks the higher is the more highly distinguished, and turning over the great book of nature (which is the proper object of philosophy) is the way to elevate one's gaze. And though whatever we read in that book is the creation of the omnipotent Craftsman, and is accordingly excellently proportioned, nevertheless that part is most suitable and most worthy which makes His work and His craftsmanship most evident to our view. The constitution of the universe I believe may be set in first place among all natural things that can be known, for coming before all others in grandeur by reason of its universal content, it must also stand above them all in nobility as their rule and standard. Therefore if any men might claim extreme distinction in intellect above all mankind, Ptolemy and Copernicus were such men, whose gaze was thus raised on high and who philosophized about the constitution of the world. These dialogues of mine revolving principally around their works, it seemed to me that I should not dedicate them to anyone except Your Highness. For they set forth the teaching of these two men whom I consider the greatest minds ever to have left us such contemplations in their works; and, in order to avoid any loss of greatness, must be placed under the protection of the greatest support I know from which they can receive fame and patronage. And if those two men have shed so much light upon my understanding that this work of mine can in large part be called theirs, it may properly be said also to belong to Your Highness, whose liberal munificence has not only given me leisure and peace for writing, but whose effective assistance, never tired of favoring me, is the means by which it finally reaches publication.
Therefore may Your Highness accept it with your customary beneficence; and if anything is to be found in it from which lovers of truth can draw the fruit of greater knowledge and utility, let them acknowledge it as coming from you who are so accustomed to being of assistance that in your happy dominions no man feels the widespread distress existing in the world or suffers anything that disturbs him. Wishing you prosperity and continual increase in your pious and magnanimous practices, I most humbly offer you reverence.
Your Most Serene Highness's most humble and most devoted servant and subject,
TO THE DISCERNING READER
Several years ago there was published in Rome a salutary edict which, in order to obviate the dangerous tendencies of our present age, imposed a seasonable silence upon the Pythagorean opinion that the earth moves There were those who impudently asserted that this decree had its origin not injudicious inquire, but in passion none too well informed Complaints were to be heard that advisers who were totally unskilled at astronomical observations ought not to clip the wings of reflective intellects by means of rash prohibitions.
Upon hearing such carping insolence, my zeal could not be contained Being thoroughly informed about that prudent determination, I decided to appear openly in the theater of the world as a witness of the sober truth. I was at that time in Rome; I was not only received by the most eminent prelates of that Court, but had their applause; indeed this decree was not published without some previous notice of it having been given to me. Therefore I propose in the present work to show to foreign nations that as much is understood of this matter in Italy, and particularly in Rome, as transalpine diligence can ever have imagined Collecting all the reflections thai properly concern the Copernican system, I shall make it known that everything was brought before the attention of the Roman censorship, and that there proceed from this clime not only dogmas for the welfare of the soul, but ingenious discoveries for the delight of the mind as well.
To this end I have taken the Copernican side in the discourse, proceeding as with a pure mathematical hypothesis and striving by every part to represent it as superior to supposing the earth motionless–not, indeed absolutely, but as against the arguments of some professed Peripatetics. These men indeed deserve not even that name, for they do not walk about; they are content to adore the shadows, philosophizing not with due circumspection but merely from having memorized a few ill-understood principles.
Three principal headings are treated First, I shall try to show that all experiments practicable upon the earth are insufficient measures for proving its mobility, since they are indifferently adaptable to an earth in motion or at rest. I hope in so doing to reveal many observations unknown to the ancients. Secondly, the celestial phenomena will be examined strengthening the Copernican hypothesis until it might seem that this must triumph absolutely. Here new reflections are adjoined which might be used in order to simplify astronomy, though not because of any necessity imposed by nature. In the third place, I shall propose an ingenious speculation. It happens that long ago I said that the unsolved problem of the ocean tides might receive some light from assuming the motion of the earth. This assertion of mine, passing by word of mouth, found loving fathers who adopted it as a child of their own ingenuity. Now, so that no stranger may ever a who, arming himself with our weapons, shall charge us with want of attention to such an important matter, I have thought it good to reveal those probabilities which might render this plausible, given that the earth moves.
I hope that from these considerations the world will come to know that if other nations have navigated more, we have not theorized less. It is not from failing to take count of what others have thought that we have yielded to asserting that the earth is motionless, and holding the contrary to be a mere mathematical caprice, but (if for nothing else) for those reasons that are supplied by piety, religion, the knowledge of Divine Omnipotence, and a consciousness of the limitations of the human mind I have thought it most appropriate to explain these concepts in the form of dialogues, which, no! being restricted to the rigorous observance of mathematical laws, make room also for digressions which are sometimes no less interesting than the principal argument.
Many years ago I was often to be found in the marvelous city of Venice, in discussions with Signore Giovanni Francesco Sagredo, a man of noble extraction and trenchant wit. Prom Florence came Signore Filippo Salviati, the least of whose glories were the eminence of his blood and the magnificence of his fortune. His was a sublime intellect which fed no more hungrily upon any pleasure than it did upon fine meditations. I often talked with these two of such matters in the presence of a certain Peripatetic philosopher whose greatest obstacle in apprehending the truth seemed to be the reputation he had acquired by his interpretations of Aristotle.
Now, since bitter death has deprived Venice and Florence of those two great luminaries in the very meridian of their years, I have resolved to make their fame live on in these pages, so far as my poor abilities will permit, by introducing them as interlocutors in the present argument. (Nor shall the good Peripatetic lack a place; because of his excessive affection toward the Commentaries of Simplicius, I have thought fit to leave him under the name of the author he so much revered, without mentioning his own) May it please those two great souls, ever venerable to my heart, to accept this public monument of my undying love. And may the memory of their eloquence assist me in delivering to posterity the promised reflections.
It happened that several discussions had taken place casually at various times among these gentlemen, and had rather whetted than satisfied their thirst for learning. Hence very wisely they resolved to meet together on certain days during which, setting aside all other business, they might apply themselves more methodically to the contemplation of the wonders of God in the heavens and upon the earth. They met in the palace of the illustrious Sagredo; and, after the customary but brief exchange of compliments, Salviati commenced as follows.
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