Chapter

The Dialectic of Modern Science

Ehrhard Bahr

in Weimar on the Pacific

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2007 | ISBN: 9780520251281
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520933804 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520251281.003.0005
The Dialectic of Modern Science

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During his exile in Denmark, Bertolt Brecht selected Galileo Galilei, an early representative of modern science, as protagonist for a play that he began to write in October 1938. He represents Galileo as a scientist who first resisted the authorities of his time, but, when threatened with torture or death by the Inquisition, complied in order to survive for the sake of science. Brecht presents Galileo's recantation as a cunning device to allow him to continue his experiments in secret and achieve earth-shaking results in his research. His Galileo, written in collaboration with the British movie actor Charles Laughton, is an extension of the discussion of modern science in Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment. It takes the debate to a new level, involving the audience in making a decision about the role of science in the atomic age. The model for Brecht's drama was the Danish physicist Niels Bohr, whose research on the fission of uranium Brecht considered as important as Galileo's studies.

Keywords: Bertolt Brecht; Galileo Galilei; Galileo; Charles Laughton; modern science; Max Horkheimer; Theodor W. Adorno; Dialectic of Enlightenment; Niels Bohr; atomic age

Chapter.  9513 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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