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Verbal Picturing

Verbal Picturing

(p.106) 4 Verbal Picturing
Aesthetic Science
Alexander Wragge-Morley
University of Chicago Press

Chapter 4 offers a new interpretation of the written style used by some leading members of the early Royal Society to represent plant and animal bodies. For a long time, the consensus has been that the naturalists of the late 17th century saw their descriptions as transparent signifiers of the objects for which they stood, simply representing the world as it appeared to the senses. This chapter shows, by contrast, that naturalists such as John Ray saw their written style as a form of "verbal picturing" or enargeia, capable of provoking the same bodily and affective pleasures long associated with certain forms of vivid pictorial depictions. The latter part of the chapter analyzes the implications of this insight for interpreting the empirical projects of the early Royal Society. Focusing on the role of the comparison in natural-historical and anatomical description, it shows that the lines between intellectual and affective persuasion were blurred. Comparison could function as a philosophically grounded analogy, but it was also a form of figuration that aided intelligibility by provoking sensations of ease and pleasure in the bodily parts of the mind. Matters of pleasure, then, went to the very heart of the epistemology of empiricism.

Keywords:   enargeia, verbal picturing, description, vividness, natural history, anatomy, comparison, John Ray, John Locke, analogy

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