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Explores the science and creative process behind Poe’s cosmological treatise.
In 1848, almost a year and a half before Edgar Allan Poe died at the age of forty, his book Eureka was published. In it, he weaved together his scientific speculations about the universe with his own literary theory, theology, and philosophy of science. Although Poe himself considered it to be his magnum opus, Eureka has mostly been overlooked or underappreciated, sometimes even to the point of being thought an elaborate hoax. Remarkably, however, in Eureka Poe anticipated at least nine major theories and developments in twentieth-century science, including the Big Bang theory, multiverse theory, and the solution to Olbers’ paradox. In this book—the first devoted specifically to Poe’s science side—David N. Stamos, a philosopher of science, combines scientific background with analysis of Poe’s life and work to highlight the creative and scientific achievements of this text. He examines Poe’s literary theory, theology, and intellectual development, and then compares Poe’s understanding of science with that of scientists and philosophers from his own time to the present. Next, Stamos pieces together and clarifies Poe’s theory of scientific imagination, which he then attempts to update and defend by providing numerous case studies of eureka moments in modern science and by seeking insights from comparative biography and psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, and evolution.
“Edgar Allan Poe, Eureka, and Scientific Imagination is the most comprehensive treatment of Eureka that has yet been published. It is staggeringly thorough in its analysis of Poe’s book, but it also shows how Poe’s theories of cosmogony and cosmology ramify into his fiction and poetry, especially the tales of ratiocination. Stamos takes Eureka seriously, and he does so with the empirical undergirding of vast amounts of scientific scholarship and literary criticism.” — James M. Hutchisson, author of Poe
David N. Stamos teaches philosophy at York University in Toronto. He is the author of several books, including Darwin and the Nature of Species, also published by SUNY Press.
Table of Contents
1. Prologue Entrée Summaries Discovering Poe Poe’s House of Usher Poe’s Poiesis
2. Poe’s Literary Theory Entrée The Problem Pleasure, Plot, and Unity of Effect
Eureka as a “Prose Poem”
3. Poe’s Theology Entrée Poe’s Theology and the Problem of Evil Artistic Sensitivity and Poe’s View of the World The Argument from Beauty The Problem of Pain The Problem of Death Beauty and Hope
4. Poe’s Intellectual Background Entrée Poe’s Formal Education “Pinakidia”
The Conchologist’s First Book “A on Science and Art” The Bridgewater Treatises
Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation Poe’s Scientific Sources for Eureka Poe’s Criteria of Truth Was Eureka a Hoax?
5. The Scientific Anticipations of Eureka Entrée Rejection of Axioms as Intuitively True Big Bang Cosmogony Fine-Tuning of the Laws of Nature Non-Existence of Laws of Nature Before the Big Bang Olbers’ Paradox Multiverse Theory Space–Time Interdependence Matter–Energy Equivalence No Material Ether
6. Imagination in Philosophy and History of Science Entrée Philosophy of Science in Poe’s Time Logical Positivism Logical Empiricism Karl Popper Thomas Kuhn The New Experimentalism The Disunity of Science Movement Inference to the Best Explanation Epistemic Virtues and Values Evolutionary Epistemology Contextualist History of Science Charles Darwin Albert Einstein Mutation and Imagination, an Analogy
7. Poe’s Theory of Scientific Imagination Entrée Double Consciousness Mesmeric Consciousness Lunatics, Lovers, and Poets Kepler, Champollion, and Humboldt Leibniz, Newton, and Laplace Poe’s “Double Dupin” Against Deduction and Induction The Poetic Intellect