Legal Formalities and Improprieties: Mayer on the Inquisition Trying Galileo

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Book Section

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Argumentation Library



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Midtown Manhattan, New York City



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This essay is a critical examination of Thomas Mayer’s The Roman Inquisition: Trying Galileo (2015). I argue that Mayer’s book does have a few small merits: it displays considerable diligence and hard work in archival research; its legal orientation is potentially fruitful; its prosopographical approach provides some useful information; and its central thesis shows ingenuity and is challengingly provocative. However, I also argue that Mayer’s book has many major flaws: its account of the 1616 Inquisition orders to Galileo is one-sided, insofar as it focuses arbitrarily on the order by the Inquisition’s commissary, to the exclusion of those by cardinal-inquisitor Bellarmine and by Pope Paul V; Mayer’s account is too formalistic, insofar as it stresses the form of the commissary’s order and neglects the content; it lacks conceptual clarity and precision, insofar as it ignores the important differences in the contents of these orders; it commits a fallacy of equivocation, insofar as it fails to properly distinguish among the documentary authenticity, the historical accuracy, and the legal validity of the commissary’s order; and it is hyper-legalistic, insofar as it perverts the concept of law, which Mayer pretends to articulate.

Controlled Subject

Mayer, Thomas, 1907-2002; Galilei, Galileo, 1564-1642; Archives--Research


Philosophy | Philosophy of Science

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