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Novelties in the Heavens: Rhetoric and Science in the Copernican Controversy
by Jean Dietz Moss
University of Chicago Press, 1993
Paper: 978-0-226-54235-5 | Cloth: 978-0-226-54234-8
Library of Congress Classification QB29.M67 1993
Dewey Decimal Classification 520.903

In this fascinating work, Jean Dietz Moss shows how the scientific revolution begun by Copernicus brought about another revolution as well—one in which rhetoric, previously used simply to explain scientific thought, became a tool for persuading a skeptical public of the superiority of the Copernican system.

Moss describes the nature of dialectical and rhetorical discourse in the period of the Copernican debate to shed new light on the argumentative strategies used by the participants. Against the background of Ptolemy's Almagest, she analyzes the gradual increase of rhetoric beginning with Copernicus's De Revolutionibus and Galileo's Siderius nuncius, through Galileo's debates with the Jesuits Scheiner and Grassi, to the most persuasive work of all, Galileo's Dialogue. The arguments of the Dominicans Bruno and Campanella, the testimony of Johannes Kepler, and the pleas of Scriptural exegetes and the speculations of John Wilkins furnish a counterpoint to the writings of Galileo, the centerpiece of this study.

The author places the controversy within its historical frame, creating a coherent narrative movement. She illuminates the reactions of key ecclesiastical and academic figures figures and the general public to the issues.

Blending history and rhetorical analysis, this first study to look at rhetoric as defined by sixteenth- and seventeenth-century participants is an original contribution to our understanding of the use of persuasion as an instrument of scientific debate.

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