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L’optique des Voyages de Gulliver

Abstract : Swift’s masterpiece, Gulliver’s travels, one of the most pregnant and paradoxical contributions to the Battle of Ancients and Moderns, offers a pessimistic view on modernity and modern science. Values of the ancient world such as wisdom, simplicity and good proportion have now become inaccessible ideals. The disproportion between man and his surroundings, the contingency and artificiality of his perspective on the world, the indefinite extension of the universe are inescapable features of modernity. This philosophical view is subtly expressed in Gulliver’s travels narrative through the use of a threefold optical model: artificial perspective (Leon Battista Alberti) offers a principle of relativity; philosophical optics (George Berkeley) accounts for the artificiality of our acquaintance with the visual world, showing that it is actually built out of habits and experience; instrumental optics(microscopic-eyes, Robert Hooke, Nicolas Malebranche) suggests that the universe to which science and its instruments give access is not fitted to human life.
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Philippe Hamou. L’optique des Voyages de Gulliver. Revue d'Histoire des Sciences, Armand Colin 2007, 60 (1), pp.25-45. ⟨10.3917/rhs.601.0025⟩. ⟨hal-02326733⟩



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