Title

The Logic of the Invisible: Perceiving the Submarine World in French Enlightenment Geography

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date

2019

Department

French

Language

English

Publication Title

The Aesthetics of the Undersea

Abstract

In the "Preliminary Discourse" (1751) of the French Enlightenment Encyclopedia, or Reasoned Dictionary of Sciences, Arts and Crafts, the mathematician Jean D"Alembert described the organization of disciplines as "a kind of map of the world." Each article was like a single country, presumed to be linked geographically and culturally to others, but these links could be difficult to perceive. What obscured them was likened to the ocean: "The Universe is nothing but a vast Ocean, upon the surface of which we perceive ... islands, some bigger, some smaller, whose link to the continent is hidden from us." To create the map of disciplines, seemingly arbitrary islands of knowledge had to be placed within a larger network, but the ocean blurred the pathways that connected them.

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