Celestial speculations
in Perception and analogy
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This chapter demonstrates how analogies and models are used in literature about Newtonian astronomy to communicate a cognitive experience of outer space. The argument centres on a series of educational dialogues on astronomy – John Harris’s Astronomical Dialogues, James Ferguson’s The Young Gentleman and Lady’s Astronomy, and Benjamin Martin’s The Young Gentleman and Lady’s Philosophy – and astronomical poems by John Hughes, David Mallet, Elizabeth Carter, Richard Blackmore, and Mark Akenside. The chapter surveys a series of analogical techniques for transmitting knowledge about space: conversation, the use of models such as orreries and globes as physical analogies that permit a range of cognitive and somatic experiences, explanatory domestic analogies that make comprehensible the vast scales and unseen forces of space, the Newtonian concept of an infinite universe as physico-theological trope, and the possibilities and restrictions of imaginative journeys into space. These examples demonstrate how the use of analogy transforms astronomy from an abstract and solitary philosophy into a polite, communal activity. From domestic familiarity to imaginative journey amongst the stars, the analogies surveyed in this chapter are shown to facilitate connections between the known and the unknown.

Perception and analogy

Poetry, science, and religion in the eighteenth century

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