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The Geographical Significance of Plutarch's Dialogue, concerning the Face Which Appears in the Orb of the Moon

Paul Coones
Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Vol. 8, No. 3 (1983), pp. 361-372
DOI: 10.2307/622050
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/622050
Page Count: 12
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The Geographical Significance of Plutarch's Dialogue, concerning the Face Which Appears in the Orb of the Moon
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Abstract

Plutarch's remarkable dialogue, Concerning the face which appears in the orb of the moon is a work familiar to classical scholars and historians of science interested in the development of astronomy, cosmology, catoptrics, and the historical relationship between philosophy and science. Its significance for the study of geographical thought is also considerable: in seeking to prove that the moon is an earth, the dialogue presents and explores important ideas regarding the nature of the geographical environment, the processes of environmental causation, and the adaptation of various forms of life to different natural conditions. The question of the moon's habitation is used as a starting point for a wide ranging discussion concerning the position of man in the cosmos. This lively and imaginative debate reveals that the main purpose of the dialogue is to review the concept of design in nature, and the discussion is generously illustrated with diverse and intriguing examples. The result serves to emphasize the importance of the design argument in stimulating enquiry into causal relationships within the geographical environment, while at the same time foreshadowing modern critiques of the inherent deficiencies of teleological explanations in nature.

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