New Book | Aesthetic Science

Posted in books by Editor on May 14, 2020

From The University of Chicago Press:

Alexander Wragge-Morley, Aesthetic Science: Representing Nature in the Royal Society of London, 1650–1720 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2020), 272 pages, ISBN: 978-0226680729 (hardcover), $120 / ISBN: 978-0226680866 (paper), $40. E-books are also available.

The scientists affiliated with the early Royal Society of London have long been regarded as forerunners of modern empiricism, rejecting the symbolic and moral goals of Renaissance natural history in favor of plainly representing the world as it really was. In Aesthetic Science, Alexander Wragge-Morley challenges this interpretation by arguing that key figures such as John Ray, Robert Boyle, Nehemiah Grew, Robert Hooke, and Thomas Willis saw the study of nature as an aesthetic project.

To show how early modern naturalists conceived of the interplay between sensory experience and the production of knowledge, Aesthetic Science explores natural-historical and anatomical works of the Royal Society through the lens of the aesthetic. By underscoring the importance of subjective experience to the communication of knowledge about nature, Wragge-Morley offers a groundbreaking reconsideration of scientific representation in the early modern period and brings to light the hitherto overlooked role of aesthetic experience in the history of the empirical sciences.

Alexander Wragge-Morley is clinical assistant professor of liberal studies and history at New York University.


1  Physico-Theology, Natural Philosophy, and Sensory Experience
2  An Empiricism of Imperceptible Entities
3  In Search of Lost Designs
4  Verbal Picturing
5  Natural Philosophy and the Cultivation of Taste
Conclusion: Embodied Aesthetics


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