Light, perception, and revelation
in Perception and analogy
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This chapter focuses on responses to Newton’s Opticks. It considers the endurance of analogical associations between light and the divine, and the ways in which this analogy is used to explain both sensory and extra-sensory knowledge in the context of empiricist approaches to light. Drawing on light analogies in Richard Blackmore’s Creation, David Mallet’s Excursion, Henry Baker’s The Universe, Thomas Hobson’s Christianity the Light of the Moral World, Lady Mary Chudleigh’s Song of the Three Children Paraphras’d, and James Thomson’s Seasons, the chapter demonstrates how these works refer to both light’s physical properties and its analogical associations with the acquisition of knowledge and the divine. The first section considers the relationship between light and perception in poetry and physico-theology after Newton by looking at the Neoplatonic concept of signs and tokens in the natural world. The second section investigates the ways in which light’s properties are incorporated into novel accounts of the creation of the world in rewritings of Genesis by William Whiston, John Hutchinson, and Thomas Hobson. The concluding section explores how light analogies are frequently employed to negotiate the tension between empiricist perception and divine revelation.

Perception and analogy

Poetry, science, and religion in the eighteenth century

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