Rhetoric and Natural History

BookRhetoric and Natural History

Rhetoric and Natural History

Buffon in Polemical and Literary Context

Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 2001:03

2001

March 1st, 2001

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This book examines the rhetorical dimension of eighteenth-century natural history. It focuses on the French naturalist and literary stylist Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon, author of the bestselling multi-volume Histoire naturelle (1749-1789). Natural history as Buffon and his contemporaries knew it remains a fascinating object of study for its breadth, its cultural openness, and its disorderly energy. Rhetoric here is understood as a set of techniques for attracting and persuading an audience. As a contribution both to literary studies and to the history of science, Rhetoric and natural history adds to our understanding of the intellectual culture of the French Enlightenment.

'Ce livre [...] représente une étude subtile et intéressante de l'œuvre d'une très grande figure des Lumières.'
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Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Cover1
Half Title2
Title Page6
Copyright Page7
Contents8
Acknowledgements9
Abbreviations10
Introduction12
Natural history14
Buffon19
Scientific rhetoric28
1. Style36
Style and natural history37
Buffon’s style and its critics48
2. Final causes63
Philosophers and final causes64
Using final causes and humanised animals75
3. The chain of being88
Holding an ambiguous, impractical belief89
Using the chain of being100
4. Systems and theories111
Rhetoric and ambiguities in the quarrel over systems112
Buffon in the quarrel over systems125
5. Mathematics138
Mathematical rhetoric140
Mathematical practice151
6. Nominalism164
Natural systems165
Buffon the nominalist176
Conclusion192
List of works cited200
Index218