Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds by Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle moonlit gardens, Fontenelle describes the new cosmology of the Copernican. Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds. Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle the Earth by suggesting the possibility of multiple inhabited worlds in the universe. A Plurality of Worlds: Bernard Le Bovier, sieur de Fontenelle: la pluralité des Alternative Titles: “Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds”, “Entretiens sur la.
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Published inthe book is remarkable, not so much for its literary merits as for the ultimate function its publication served.
Hitherto, all scientific knowledge had been written only for other scientists and usually in some classical language. The answer to that question represents the second reason the book is remarkable. The ideas he was bandying about were bold, controversial, even forbidden. As they had been scarcely known to the average reader before he explained and disseminated them, these astonishing ideas suddenly became all the rage.
Fontenelle himself seemed aware of the dangers and tried to pre-empt negative judgment from the religious quarters with a few choice words in his own preface to the book:.
These are fontenekle scrupulous contenelle who think there is a danger in respect to religion in placing inhabitants elsewhere than on Earth. I respect even the most excessive sensibilities people have on the matter of Religion, and I would have respected Religion to the point of wishing not to offend it in a public work, even if it were contrary to my own opinion.
But what may be surprising to you is that Religion simply has nothing to do with this system, in which an infinity of worlds with inhabitants exist. The descendants of Adam have not spread to the moon, nor sent colonies there.
Therefore the men in the moon are not sons of Adam. Perhaps I could respond soundly enough if I undertook it, but certainly I have no need to respond. I put no men there at all: I put inhabitants there who are not like men in any way.
Fontenelle not only managed to avoid the usual persecution but in fact his book became an instant best seller of the day, and went on to be translated into no less than 10 languages. Perhaps it was the way he structured the book which helped it avoid censor the book takes the form of a succession of casual evening conversations or perhaps it was the the intentionally abstract and theoretical tone of the ideas themselves.
In the first place, they were abstract beliefs, a matter of principle rather than speculation about the future. It did not occur to anyone that travel between solar systems might become possible. It was assumed that mortals from one solar system could never have knowledge of the others, except perhaps in an afterlife. Paula Findlen, of Stanford University describes this change from the norm in her essay Becoming a Scientist: Gender and Knowledge in 18th c.
Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds – Wikipedia
His knowledge was no social liability that removed him from ordinary conversation, but the very reason that he held the attention of an aristocratic Marquise for several aorlds and nights, as he educated her in the mysteries of the post-Copernican, cartesian universe. But Fontenelle took this arrangement a step further. He goes on in that vein for a while.
So whether it was clever recognition of an untapped market, a sincere desire to educate women and give them a fictional role model in the sciences, or to goad the men who would surely read the book into a more careful consideration we can not know.
The effect, however, was to achieve all three. People were as eager to visit them as we are today, but could imagine only one potential opportunity, a time after death when the soul…. According to others these same ideas heavily influenced what we now call the Baroque in P,urality and Theater. These are no small accomplishments to be connected with for a man who was lampooned by Voltaire and to this day is considered only moderately noteworthy.
Popularizing science is a task which years later, in our age of stunning technology, liberal attitudes, and torrents of information, continues to be necessary. A full Google book scan of Conversations… Oeuvred de Fontenelle.
French Tales of Infinity from Astrobiology magazine. Dick which is a nice recap of ideas and trends which have lead connversations our current views on the same subjects.
A Plurality of Worlds
This post was the first in a series of reworkings of old posts which date from before the redesign of The Nonist. The links have all been updated, the text has been edited slightly, and the images are all new. I will be periodically adding these reworkings worls the flow of new content in an effort to eventually remove all the old pages from circulation.