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  • Writer's pictureJoel Martinez

Addio Firenze!...Ciao, Siena!!!!

I left Firenze yesterday and arrived in Siena! I'm excited to share some thoughts about my first visit to Firenze and my initial experience arriving in Siena.

Addio Firenze! Final Thoughts (for now):

Florence was absolutely stunning! The combination of reading Dante, seeing the Museo Galileo and ringing in a new year was unforgettable. I have studied and taught Galileo and a good amount of the Philosophy of Science that has been done on the very idea of the Scientific Revolution. However, Dante is the one who is stuck in my head. Let me explain why.

Galileo is known for overturning the Aristotelian worldview. As I have learned over the years, that is really simplistic. As far back as Ptolemy (and Tusi anyone? The Tusi Couple? Shout out Dr. Wallhagen!), thinkers from the Mediterranean region (broadly construed) and astronomers in the Islamic tradition have recognized that Aristotle's model of the Universe is sorely deficient. There's a number of reasons why, primarily that it simply does not account for the movement of the wandering stars (the planets) and the fixed stars without (literally!) a TON of loopy thinking. It can (sort of) be done, but its really tough. Here's a photo of the roughly Aristotelian geocentric model of the spheres of the heavens...and reality as a whole minus the unmoved mover! I don't think its easy to graphically depict "Thought Thinking Itself" (i.e. The Origin of All Motion).

However, I really don't think any historians of science or philosophers of science would say that everyone pre-Galileo is in the grip of Aristotle's model of the Universe unreflectively and then Galileo just turns everything on its head. There's a whole history leading up to Galileo! And I'm not convinced Galileo was ready to say much of anything about a general theory of motion. (I could be wrong but I think I'm right!).

My point: we can't say that Galileo is more enlightened (or even has an overall more accurate! worldview) than someone like Dante, even though Dante is pretty explicitly convinced of the core elements of the Aristotelian model of the universe. I'm thinking that Dante is to Galileo as Plato is to Aristotle. Dante and Plato are wicked interesting, bold and revisionary in such a creative way that I think they stand out as amazing thinkers in a way that, in my opinion, Aristotle and Galileo do not. (Gulp!)

A lot of this is just me being blown away by the similarity in intellectual temperament between Plato and Dante. Here are some examples and instead of criticizing Aristotle and Galileo, I'll just praise Plato and Dante.

Plato is not terribly constrained by common Athenian attitudes toward...well, virtually anything. He is not a materialist, he is happy to revise common morality SIGNFICANTLY (e.g. dropping Piety as a cardinal virtue, among many other things..)...and he's got so much STYLE! He does Philosophy as no one else had ever, or has ever, been able to do. Its amazing! Plato is crazy awesome....haha.

I'm not a Dante scholar...but SHEESH! Dante seems similarly to not be terribly constrained by common morality. (Gulp! I really have no idea if I'm right or even on target.) From the outset of the Commedia one feels like they are on a journey to explore and inquire about what is good. And that will, of course, require understanding the nature of the universe, but its not detached and it does not feel like science. (Question for later: What does science feel like?)

In short, Dante seems to think reason is not a matter, primarily, of logic but of understanding what is good. (Purgatorio 16 & 17) He also seems to think that understanding JUST IS inquiry-done-well. Reading the Commedia feels active and engaged like Plato's dialogues. The overall effect is an impact on the soul of the reader and it does not seem like the reader is being *told* what is true, but investigating.

(Note to self: Why do I keep thinking that the history of Epistemology will look like continually returning to a revised version of Heraclitus' doctrine that everything is in flux, over and over?)

More than that, Dante seems to have a Platonic/Augustinain view of Morality. Namely, that Good is something like existence and Bad/Evil is something like absence. Satan is in no way alluring. Satan is frozen and just...ewww...Dante's Satan is not the hot sexy Satan that made me want to wear boots, black jeans and look cool when I was in college. (Note to self: You could NEVER pull off that look! This, for a number of reasons, not least of which is that you started going bald JUNIOR YEAR IN HIGH SCHOOL!...However, (note to self still going) bald *is* a good look here in Italy...and there are some cool boots at that one shop...but, I digress!)

I can go on...but I'm just so moved by Dante and I was so lucky to read the Commedia in Florence.

Mil Grazie, Firenze! (I'm still learning Italian! I don't know how that sounds!)

Ciao Siena!!!

First, a photo of my view while I write this post.

Today, it is a beautiful, crisp January day in Siena, Italy.

I could not believe how EASY it was to catch the bus from Firenze and get to Siena. It was 8 Euros and it took maybe an hour and 15 mins.

I have to report that a couple probably in their 50's sat down right in front of me on the bus. They were laughing and kissing and hugging and drinking wine and snuggling, I was so intrigued! At one point, they dropped their phone on the ground and I immediately picked it up for them and it felt like it clued them in to the fact that I was watching them and telling stories in my head about their love affair.

Are they both recent divorcees who have found love again in their 50's? Are they actually married and sneaking off on a torrid love affair that will end in pain? Have they been married for 35 years and have recently rekindled a spark they thought had forever died, only to return on their trip to Siena?

I felt like I did when I was 19 traveling for the first time and thinking about how my life and relationships will play out by the time I get to age.....forget it, let's change the subject!!! haha!!! Love and loss in Italy! What a topic!

Immediately upon arrival I was greeted by one of the founders of SIS and we walked to the apartment. I can only say that I broke a rule: I told myself I would not bug Bruce Suttmeier, our Dean and former Siena faculty leader, with tons of messages. But, about 10 mins after arriving I was bugging him so much b/c I was so very excited to be here and to feel settled.

The next day, after all the crazy excitement settled, I walked to SIS and met the faculty and staff. Extraordinary people!

I should bring this to a close. But I feel at home! I feel energetic! I feel so so lucky! I woke up at 5 a.m., wrote Philosophy, jogged out of the city walls and around Siena. I made a second espresso and sat down to write this. I'm cooking at night and, well,....LOOK BELOW TO SEE WHAT'S PLAYING OUT MY WINDOW EACH EVENING THIS WEEK!

Ciao all! I miss you! Much love, Joel

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