How much can our senses truthfully tell us about the world around us? A person’s five senses provide us with observational information that help us day after day. According to Galileo Galilei, sense experience is misleading in understanding how the world works. In his book On The World Systems, Galileo expresses his view on the senses through the character Salviati, who is introduced by the translator, Finocchiaro, as “an expert who takes the Copernican side” (Finocchiaro, 4). Salviati is able to prove, even with opposition from the Aristotelian named Simplicio, that sense experience is unreliable in Galileo’s scientific method on the relativity of motion.
On the second day of their debate, Simplicio tries to refute the Copernican view that the senses are deceptive. Simplicio states that “according to the view of all philosophical schools, this criterion requires that the senses and experience be our guides in philosophizing” (Finocchiaro, 212). In response to this, Salviati asks Simplicio to think of a stone falling from a tower and asks him to state how he perceives the motion. Simplicio responds that he “notices its descent in relation to the tower, for I now see it next to this mark on the tower, then a little below that, and so on until I perceive it land on the ground” (Finocchiaro 213). They come up with the conclusion that, since their eyes would move for a falling rock, it is indeed in motion, while a still rock would not be in motion because they would never have to move their eyes. In this case, their senses show them what is truly happening. However, Simplicio has a different situation to address. To present a more difficult scenario than the last, Salviati tells Simplicio to imagine being on a moving ship and to fix his eyes on the tip of the sail. Simplicio agrees with Salviati that, while he is on the ship, his eyes remain fixed on the tip of the sail “regardless of any motion by the ship” (Finocchiaro, 214). According to...
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