Tag Archives: Galileo

Life of Galileo

After reading the play Life of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht, it made me question how we as humans come to the idea of truth and what is part of a discourse. Anything and everything can be brought into question of how valid it is and whether if it is deemed worthy of being knowledge by society or authorities. Galileo’s proposal for putting forth the heliocentric model to correct the existing Ptolemaic model is a great example of knowledge being questioned and shows how authorities dictate the knowledge exposed to the public. In act four, Galileo says, “Truth is born of the times, not of authority. Our ignorance is limitless: Let us lop one cubic millimetre off it. Why try to be clever now that we at last have a chance of being a little less stupid?” Galileo wants to change the existing system that is proven through his physical evidence as incorrect, but the evidence is still rejected simply because the authorities (Chief fathers of church, philosophers, Classical scientists) don’t want their current system to be disrupted. If the Aristotle model is abolished, it would prove that the church was wrong, thus tarnishing the ‘perfect’ representation of earth and heaven.

The authorities who decides on what knowledge is are represented in the play as people who aspire to become so close to God that they are too ignorant to realise the truth that is presented to them. In act nine, the opening epigraph states,

“Eight long years with tongue in cheek

Of what he knew he did not speak.

Then temptation grew too great

And Galileo challenged fate.”

The focus of this poem is the word ‘fate’ as it implies that it is beyond one’s control but in this case, fate is controlled by those with power and authority. When Galileo challenged fate, he challenged the belief of Christianity thus challenging the sphere of influence of the church and cardinals. This is further shown through the views of the old cardinal as he says, “I am walking, with a firm step, on a fixed earth, it is motionless, it is the centre of the universe, I am the centre and the eye of the creator falls upon means me alone.” He is represented as such an ignorant person who rejects knowledge given to him simply because if Galileo were to be right, he would no longer be the one who God favours because he is the ‘centre’.

Anyone can say that they know something, but to prove it is harder and even if it is proven to one’s self that it is true, it does not mean that society will accept such truths and views. This limits and restricts the boundaries of our knowledge and also our creativity, as truths are rejected due to how beneficial it is for the authority.


Through the reading of Galileo “The Starry Messenger”, and “Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina”, I wanted to look further into two questions. The questions are, to what extent is it more effective to understand sacred scriptures through the book of nature as suggested by Galileo, and How do we distinguish between what is recognised as knowledge and what’s not (In terms of gaining knowledge). I believe that Galileo’s belief that sacred scriptures should follow the proof that nature provides is true, because it limits the amount of interpretations that a scripture could hold. As Galileo claims, “mistrusting their defence so long as they confine themselves to the field of philosophy, these men have resolved to fabricate a shield for their fallacies out of the mantle of pretended religion and the authority of the Bible”. The sacred scriptures are used by the church to create a false shield which protects their interpretations, while blocking out all other thoughts and interpretations which don’t aline with the ones of the bible. This can be problematic, as not only does it limit the bounds of knowledge that people can have, but also generate vague and ‘inaccurate’ interpretations of scriptures. Also, it is more useful to interpret the bible through nature, since nature is something which is tangible to us, thus making more understandable.

In the second question, I asked how knowledge can be distinguished between what is, and what is not. I believe that knowledge is something that changes overtime, thus there is no true form of knowledge, as the knowledge base of anything can be proven and disproven later. This can be seen through how the Ptolemaic theory was at first proven ‘true’, but is later disproved by Galileo. The theory claims that the earth is the stationary center of the universe, with the planets moving in epicyclic orbits within surrounding concentric spheres. People believed the theory because it was the theory which best explained the positions of planets, and also did not conflict with the bible, thus not deemed as heretical by the church. Galileo said, “it is impossible for a conclusion to be declared heretical while we remain in doubt as to its truth, then these men are wasting their time clamouring for condemnation of the motion of the earth and stability of the sun, which they have not yet demonstrated to be impossible or false”. Without solid evidence from nature, what is seen as knowledge can be vague, as that form of knowledge can change in the future, through new theories or claims.