Aspects of aristotelian statics in Galileo's dynamics

Jean De Groot
Catholic University of America
This paper examines geometrical arguments from Galileo's Mechanics and Two New Sciences to discern the influence of the Aristotelian Mechanical Problems on Galileo's dynamics. A common scientific procedure is found in the Aristotelian author's treatment of the balance and lever and in Galileo's rules concerning motion along inclined planes. This scientific procedure is understood as a development of Eudoxan proportional reasoning, as it was used in Eudoxan astronomy rather than simply as it appears in Euclid's Elements. Topics treated include the significance of the circle in Galileo's demonstrations, the substitution of rectilinear elements for heterogeneous factors like weight and curvilinear distance, and the way in which elements of a motion are used to measure other elements of the same motion. The indirectness of Galileo's proofs, his conception of speed as relative and comparative, and the meaning of his concept of moment all come into clearer focus. Conclusions are drawn about Galilean idealization, and also about the contrast of literal versus figural modes of explanation in Galileo's science.
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