THE ASSAYER
In which
with a most just and accurate
balance there are weighed the
things contained in
THE ASTRONOMICAL AND PHILO-
SOPHICAL BALANCE OF LOTHARIO
SARSI OF SIGUENZA
Written in the form of a letter
to the Illustrious and Very Reverend Monsignor
DON VIRGINIO CESARINI
Lincean Academician, and Chamberlain to His Holiness
By Signor
GALILEO GALILEI
Lincean Academician, Gentleman of Florence,
Chief Philosopher and Mathematician to the
Most Serene Grand Duke of Tuscany
ROME
1623

[Selections translated by Stillman Drake, Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo (New York: Doubleday & Co., 1957)]
THE ASSAYER
A Letter to the Illustrious and Very Reverend
Don Virginio Cesarini

[p.237] […]
In Sarsi I seem to discern the firm belief that in philosophizing one must support oneself upon the opinion of some celebrated author, as if our minds ought to remain completely sterile and barren unless wedded to the reasoning of some other person. Possibly he thinks that philosophy is a book of fiction by some writer, like the Iliad or Orlando Furioso, productions in which the least important thing is whether what is written there is true. Well, Sarsi, that is not how matters stand. Philosophy is written in this grand book, the universe, which stands continually open to our [p.238] gaze. But the book cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language and read the letters in which it is composed. It is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometric figures without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it; without these, one wanders about in a dark labyrinth.
[p.273] […]
What I had in mind, though, was to suspend our argument and wait quietly until some new comet came along. I imagined that while this lasted you and Aristotle would grant me that since the air was then properly disposed for kindling the comet, it would likewise be suitable for melting lead balls and cooking eggs, inasmuch as you seem to require the same condition for both effects. It was then that I would have had us set to work with our slings, eggs, bows, muskets, and cannons so that we might clear up this matter for ourselves. And even without waiting for a comet we might find an opportune time when in midsummer the air flashes with heat lightning, as you assign all these "burnings" to a single cause. But I suppose that when you failed to behold a melting of lead' balls or even the cooking of eggs under such conditions you would still fail to give in; you would say that this "whatever else conduces to the effect" was lacking. If you would only tell me what this "whatever else" is, I should endeavor to provide it. But if not I shall have to abandon my little scheme, though I do believe it would turn out against you. . . .
It now remains for me to tell Your Excellency, as I promised, some thoughts of mine about the proposition "motion is the cause of heat," and to show in what sense this may [p.274] be true. But first I must consider what it is that we call heat, as I suspect that people in general have a concept of this which is very remote from the truth. For they believe that heat is a real phenomenon or property, or quality, which actually resides in the material by which we feel ourselves warmed. (19) Now I say that whenever I conceive any material or corporeal substance, I immediately feel the need to think of it as bounded, and as having this or that shape; as being large or small in relation to other things, and in some specific place at any given time; as being in motion or at rest; as touching or not touching some other body; and as being one in number, or few, or many. From these conditions I cannot separate such a substance by any stretch of my imagination. But that it must be white or red, bitter or sweet, noisy or silent, and of sweet or foul odor, my mind does not feel compelled to bring in as necessary accompaniments. Without the senses as our guides, reason or imagination unaided would probably never arrive at qualities like these. Hence I think that tastes, odors, colors, and so on are no more than mere names so far as the object in which we place them is concerned, and that they reside only in the consciousness. Hence if the living creature were removed, all these qualities would be wiped away and annihilated. But since we have imposed upon them special names, distinct from those of the other and real qualities mentioned previously, we wish to believe that they really exist as actually different from those.
[p.275] I may be able to make my notion clearer by means of some examples. I move my ha first over a marble statue and then over a living man. to the effect flowing from my hand, this is the same with regard to both objects and my hand; it consists of the primary phenomena of motion and touch, for which we have no further names. But the live body which receives these operations feels different sensations according to the various places touched. When touched upon the soles of the feet, for example, or under the knee or armpit, it feels in addition to the common sensation of touch a sensation on which we have. imposed a special name, "tickling." This sensation belongs to us and not to the hand. Anyone would make a serious error if he said that the hand, in addition to the properties of moving and touching, possessed another faculty of "tickling," as if tickling were a phenomenon that resided in the hand that tickled. A piece of paper or a feather drawn lightly over any part of our bodies performs intrinsically the same operations of moving and touching, but by touching the eye, the nose, or the upper lip it excites in us an almost intolerable titillation, even though elsewhere it is scarcely felt. This titillation belongs entirely to us and not to the feather; if the live and sensitive body were removed it would remain no more than a mere word. I believe that no more solid an existence belongs to many qualities which we have come to attribute to physical bodies-tastes, odors, colors, and many more.
[…] To excite in us tastes, odors, and sounds I believe that nothing is required in external bodies except shapes, numbers, and slow or rapid movements. I think that if ears, [p.277] tongues, and noses were removed, shapes and numbers and motions would remain, but not odors or tastes or sounds. The latter, I believe, are nothing more than names when separated from living beings, just as tickling and titillation are nothing but names in the absence of such things as noses and armpits. And as these four senses are related to the four elements, so I believe that vision, the sense eminent above all others in the proportion of the finite to the infinite, the temporal to the instantaneous, the quantitative to the indivisible, the illuminated to the obscure--that vision, I say, is related to light itself. But of this sensation and the things pertaining to it I pretend to understand but little; and since even a long time would not suffice to explain that trifle, or even to hint at an explanation, I pass this over in silence.