The Individual Limit of Natural Substances. A Comparison Between Aristotle and Galileo on the Strength of Materials

Silvia Gullino


The Aristotelian text known with the title of Quaestiones mechanicae has greatly and explicitly influenced Galileo’s Discourses and Mathematical Demonstrations Relating to Two New Sciences (1638). In particular, one of 35 questions posed and solved by the author of the Quaestiones mechanicae, is the problem known under the title “Problem of the breaking strength of materials” (Problem XVI). Regarding this problem, the notion of ‘Individual Limit’, which appears in this paper’s title, is central. This problem is discussed and solved by Galileo in a manner very different from that which, at the time of its formulation, was treated by Aristotle. The author of this article has analyzed the two treatments, comparing the proposed solutions, also in the light of scientific and philosophical positions of the two philosophers: Aristotle and Galileo. In  particular, in the context of the following analysis, the author was analyzed first of all the exposition of the problem put forth by Galileo, and then he looked at the solution he proposed. After this, Galileo’s proposal was compared to the one made by Aristotle and, finally, several works by the Stagirite contained in the Corpus Aristotelicum were examined in order to find more precise information on this topic, and to find any affirmations made by Aristotle which may not have been considered before.

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