Space, spatiality, and epistemology in Hooke, Boyle, Newton, and Milton

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Fletcher, Puck Francis (2014)
  • Subject: BD143

In this thesis I trace the relations between thinking about space and the spatiality of thought as it relates to epistemology in the eponymous authors. I argue that the verbal,visual, and mental tools used to negotiate the ideas and objects under consideration are not merely representative or rhetorical, but are part of the process of knowledge-making itself. I contend that the spatialities of language, visual presentation, and mental image facilitate new ways of seeing and the exploring of previously invisible relationships. I show how the dynamic spatiality of the imagination is used for testing hypothesis, considering multiple points of view, accommodating uncertainties, and thinking about expansive ideas that push at (or exist beyond) the boundaries of the known or possible. In this way I offer new readings of key texts that foreground the inherent relativity of human experience, which I contend is at the heart of a scientific uncertainty found even in the new science that strove for objectivity. In four case studies I explore the elationship between external and internal space in the thinking and perceiving subject, building on Steven Connor’s assertion that ‘thinking about things is unavoidably a kind of thinking about the kind of thing that thinking is’ (‘Thinking Things’, 2010). In addition to this unidirectional relation between thinking and things, I demonstrate a complex dialogue between interior (thought) and exterior (thing) that occurs in the ways processes of thought and perception are externalized on the page and with instruments of viewing; in the way objects are brought into the mind; and in the way the mind creates infinities within by tracing expansive external spatialities.
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