Beyond Deduction and Induction:
Towards Perfect Truth
According to Edgar Allan Poe

NOTE: Most notably in Eureka: A Prose Poem, Edgar Allan Poe sought to unite the religious and poetic imagination with the physics of Newton and the cosmology of Laplace in a grand vision. He summarizes these ideas and repeats some of the same passages in the spoof "Mellonta Tauta", replete with travestied philosophical characters such as Aries Tottle and Cant. Here are excerpts of Poe's notions of scientific truth, which he posits to transcend the options of deduction and induction. — Ralph Dumain

Now I do not complain of these ancients so much because their logic is, by their own showing, utterly baseless, worthless and fantastic altogether, as because of their pompous and imbecile proscription of all other roads of Truth, of all other means for its attainment than the two preposterous paths [deduction & induction] — the one of creeping and the one of crawling — to which they have dared to confine the Soul that loves nothing so well as to soar.

By the by, my dear friend, do you not think it would have puzzled these ancient dogmaticians to have determined by which of their two roads it was that the most important and most sublime of all their truths was, in effect, attained? I mean the truth of Gravitation. Newton owed it to Kepler .... Kepler guessed — that is to say, imagined.

— from “Mellonta Tauta” [pp. 315-316]

By the bye, my dear friend, is it not evidence of the mental slavery entailed upon those bigoted people by their Hogs and Rams, that in spite of the eternal prating of their savants about roads to Truth, none of them fell, even by accident, into what we now into what we distinctly perceive to be the broadest, the straightest, and most available of all mere roads — the great thoroughfare — the majestic highway of the Consistent? Is it not wonderful that they should have failed to deduce from the works of God the vitally momentous consideration that a a perfect consistency can be nothing but an absolute truth? How plain — how rapid our progress since the late announcement of this proposition! By its means, investigation has been taken out of the hands of the ground-moles, and given as a duty, rather than as a task, to the true — to the only true thinkers — to the generally-educated men of ardent imagination. The latter — our Keplers — our Laplaces — "speculate" — "theorize" — these are the terms — can you not fancy the shout of scorn with which they would be received by our progenitors, were it possible for them to be looking over my shoulder as I write? The Keplers, I repeat, speculate — theorize — and their theories are merely corrected — reduced — sifted — cleared, little by little, of their chaff of inconsistency — until at length there stands apparent and unencumbered Consistency — a consistency which the most stolid admit — because it is a consistency — to be an absolute and unquestionable Truth.

— from Eureka: A Prose Poem [p. 219]

And, in fact, the sense of the symmetrical is an instinct which may be depended on with an almost blindfold reliance. It is the poetical essence of the Universe — of the Universe which, in the supremeness of its symmetry, is but the most sublime of poems. Now symmetry and consistency are convertible terms: — thus Poetry and Truth are one. A thing is consistent in the ratio of its truth — true in the ratio of its consistency. A perfect consistency, I repeat, can be nothing but an absolute truth. We may take it for granted, then, that Man cannot long or widely err, if he suffer himself to be guided by his poetical, which I have maintained to be his truthful, in being his symmetrical, instinct. He must have a care, however, lest in pursuing too heedlessly the superficial symmetry of forms and motions, he leave out of sight the really essential symmetry of the principles which determine and control them.

— from Eureka: A Prose Poem [p. 300]


SOURCE: The Science Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. Harold Beaver. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1976.


George Cary Eggleston on Science Fiction & Jules Verne (1874)

Edward Page Mitchell (1852-1927), Science Fiction Pioneer: Time Travel, Hegel, and More

Science Fiction & Utopia Research Resources: A Selective Work in Progress

Exotica, Curiosa, Crankery, Hoaxes, Cultural & Intellectual Arcana: Selected Web Guide & Bibliography

American Philosophy Study Guide

Offsite:

"Mellonta Tauta"

Eureka—A Prose Poem

"Edgar Allan Poe's Eureka: I Have Found It!" by David Grantz

"Poe's Magnum Opus, Eureka: A Prose Poem" by John Astin

EDGAR ALLAN POE and his cosmology


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