4

According to Wikipedia, the "appeal to pity" fallacy (also known as "argumentum ad misericordiam" or the "sob story") is also called "the Galileo argument."

Why is that? The linked source ("Appeal to Pity (the Galileo Argument)") mentions Galileo only once, and does not explain how the scientist used this argument. ("The connection to Galileo refers to his trials and house arrest by the Inquisition as a result of his scientific views that branded him as a heretic.")

How did Galileo use the "Galileo argument"?

  • 5
    Worth noting: pretty much everything you know about Galileo and heliocentrism is wrong. For starters, Galileo was put on trial by the Catholic church not for teaching heliocentrism, but for teaching that Copernicus's model (which, though heliocentric, turned out to be very, very wrong in the details) had scriptural support, which was justifiably regarded as heresy as he did not have the authority to make such a proclamation. See the The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown series for one of the better treatments of the subject. – Mason Wheeler Mar 13 '17 at 18:53
  • That's very interesting, @MasonWheeler. Thanks for the link. I'll definitely give it a read when I get a chance. – Shokhet Mar 13 '17 at 19:06
  • Cool! It's long and detailed--there's a lot of scientific, cultural and political context bound up in all of this--but the author presents it in a very entertaining and accessible way that makes it easy to follow. – Mason Wheeler Mar 13 '17 at 19:10
  • @MasonWheeler "Justifiably regarded as heresy." That an odd editorial statement as made in today's time. From a disinterested standpoint, Who technically does have the right to declaring something has scriptural support? – Dex Stakker Apr 2 '19 at 12:36
  • @DexStakker I'm not actually the best person to ask about this, as I'm not Catholic. The answer is going to be some flavor of "an authoritative council of the Catholic Church," but for accurate details you'd be better off asking about it on Christianity.SE. – Mason Wheeler Apr 2 '19 at 12:40
3

For the sources regarding Galileo's depositions during the 1633 trial, see:

But it is quite hard to assert that they fit the pattern.


We can find in :

a discussion of logical fallacies, including the "appeal to pity", but without explicit references to Galileo.

No reference to Galileo in:


Conclusion: Galileo did not use the so-called "Galileo's argument".

The locution is more apt to describe an argument (not) used by Socrates during his trial (see Apology, 34c).

3

The term arose from the use of Galileo's trial as an example while making an appeal to pity. It did not come from any particular use by Galileo nor from his preponderance for making appeals to pity.

Of note, Galileo was not actually tortured for his views. By today's standards though, the prosecution of a scientist for advancing knowledge would, in civilized parts of the world, likely be considered an ideological persecution. But even then, there are ethical obstructions to advancing certain kinds of empirical investigation. That said, Galileo was shown the instruments of torture. This was a common practice of escalation after the threat of torture was made, prior to actual infliction of pain.

In April 1633 Galileo was interrogated before the Inquisition. For over two weeks he was imprisoned in an apartment in the Inquisition building. After being shown the instruments of torture, he agreed to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a more lenient sentence. He declared that the Copernican case was made too strongly in his book Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, and offered to refute it in another book.


Just like Lou Gherig didn't know he had "Lou Gherig's Disease" though, I don't think Galileo ever used "Galileo's Argument" even if he made arguments with a logical fallacy of an appeal to pity. For what it is worth, I always understood the "Galileo Argument" as the Galileo Gambit fallacy such that ideas threatening to establishment powers must be valid and sound by virtue of the threat to power. But hey, I learned something new today, so instead of downvoting for clearly demonstrating a lack of research (one more click dude! ;^) ) I say, good question!

If you follow your "Appeal to Pity (the Galileo Argument)" link you will see another reference link which states the following:

Appeal to Pity (the Galileo Argument)

This strategy is an attempt to persuade someone to agree with you or give you what you want by making them pity or feel sorry for you. This fallacy can make the other person seem cruel or insensitive if they do not comply. The connection to Galileo refers to his trials and house arrest by the Inquisition as a result of his scientific views that branded him as a heretic.

Reference: http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html#pity

On the DonLindsay Archive URL you will find the explanation of the Galileo Argument term coming from the use of Galileo's tribulations as an example in the logical fallacy of appeal to pity:

• Appeal To Pity (Appeal to Sympathy, The Galileo Argument):

"I did not murder my mother and father with an axe ! Please don't find me guilty; I'm suffering enough through being an orphan."

Some authors want you to know they're suffering for their beliefs. For example, "Scientists scoffed at Copernicus and Galileo; they laughed at Edison, Tesla and Marconi; they won't give my ideas a fair hearing either. But time will be the judge. I can wait; I am patient; sooner or later science will be forced to admit that all matter is built, not of atoms, but of tiny capsules of TIME."

There is a strange variant which shows up on Usenet. Somebody refuses to answer questions about their claims, on the grounds that the asker is mean and has hurt their feelings. Or, that the question is personal.

  • "Bellarmine wanted to torture Galileo and was allowed to show him the tools of torture." Could you provide a citation for this statement? – brianpck Mar 13 '17 at 20:59
  • Some documents regarding Galileo's trial: see Inquisition Minutes (25 February 1616) : "to issue him an injunction to abstain completely from teaching or defending this doctrine and opinion or from discussing it; and further, if he should not acquiesce, he is to be imprisoned." – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Mar 14 '17 at 14:52
  • See Maurice Finocchiaro, The Galileo Affair: A Documentary History , University of California Press (1989), page 38 : "On 21 June Galileo was subjected to interrogation under the formal threat of torture." And see page 237 for the minutes of Galileo's Fourth Deposition (21 June 1633) : "And he was told to tell the truth, otherwise one would have recourse to torture." – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Mar 14 '17 at 15:02
  • @brianpck - Cardinal Roberto Bellarmino was deeply involved with Giordano Bruno's trial and Galileo's affair but he did not attended Galileo trial in 1633: Bellarmino died in 1621. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Mar 14 '17 at 15:07
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA neither jocking nor joking. I've update my answer accordingly. Thanks for the factual correction. – Mr. Kennedy Mar 15 '17 at 7:04
2

Appeal To Pity (Appeal to Sympathy, The Galileo Argument):

Some authors want you to know they're suffering for their beliefs. For example, "Scientists scoffed at Copernicus and Galileo; they laughed at Edison, Tesla and Marconi; they won't give my ideas a fair hearing either. But time will be the judge. I can wait; I am patient; sooner or later science will be forced to admit that all matter is built, not of atoms, but of tiny capsules of TIME."

So this argument stresses a relation with other situations (like Galileo persecution of the Holy Inquisition and the following justification of Galileo views) to appeal to pity ("pity me my proposition is erroneously unjustified") and justify fallaciously its proposition.

It is not referring to something Galileo said, it just took its name from his case.

http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html#pity

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.