Chapter

<i>Moby-Dick</i> and the Opposite of Providence

Maurice S. Lee

in Uncertain Chances

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199797578
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932412 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199797578.003.0002
Moby-Dick and the Opposite of Providence

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Chapter two shows how chance destabilizes conventional discussions of fate and free will. Beginning with a deeply historicized account of theological and philosophical denials of chance, the chapter turns to Moby-Dick to demonstrate how Melville subverts Christian beliefs in providence and the argument from design, preferring instead to resuscitate concepts of chance as presented in classical and Early Modern scepticism. This chapter also shows how Melville’s knowledge of oceanography, meteorology, and navigation shape his understanding of probability and the potential for managing chance’s disruptive power. We end with a discussion of King Ahab as a figure for anxieties over the possibilities of chance as Moby-Dick resists both formal unity and causal teleology.

Keywords: Herman Melville; Moby Dick; fate; free will; providence; philosophy; theology

Chapter.  13687 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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