Isaac Asimov

Start Free Trial

AI Fact-Check

How does Asimov develop his argument in his essay "Science and Beauty" by starting with Walt Whitman's poem and then noting that many people agree with Whitman, and how does Whitman achieve unity and coherence in his work?

AI Generated Answer

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In his essay, "Science and Beauty," Isaac Asimov begins his argument with a quote from Walt Whitman's poem "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer." Whitman's poem presents a dichotomy between the cold, analytical view of the universe as presented by the astronomer, and the awe-inspiring beauty of the night sky when experienced directly.

This dichotomy forms the basis of Asimov's argument. He argues that science does not diminish the beauty of nature, but rather enhances it. Here's how Asimov structures his argument:

  1. Paragraph 1 - Asimov begins by quoting Whitman's poem, thereby setting up the dichotomy between the scientific and the aesthetic view of the universe. This serves to introduce the central question of the essay: Does understanding the scientific principles behind natural phenomena diminish their beauty?

  2. Paragraph 2 - Asimov acknowledges that many people would agree with Whitman's sentiment. This establishes common ground with readers who might initially be skeptical of Asimov's thesis.

In subsequent paragraphs, Asimov challenges this dichotomy by arguing that scientific understanding enhances rather than diminishes the aesthetic experience of nature. He provides examples from astronomy, chemistry, and biology to illustrate his point.

As for the unity and coherence of Whitman's poem, Whitman achieves this through the repetition of certain words and phrases, the use of parallel structure, and the progression of ideas from the specific to the general. The repetition of the word "when" at the start of each line creates a rhythmic pattern that unifies the poem. The parallel structure of the lines contributes to the coherence of the poem by creating a clear, logical progression of ideas. Finally, Whitman moves from the specific (hearing the astronomer speak) to the general (looking up at the stars), which helps to unify the poem and tie together its central themes.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The generated response provides a generally accurate and coherent assessment of Asimov's argument in "Science and Beauty" and the structure of his essay. It correctly summarizes Asimov's argument and highlights his thesis that scientific understanding enhances rather than diminishes the beauty of nature.

It also identifies the use of Whitman's poem as a foundational element in Asimov's argument, showcasing the dichotomy between the scientific and aesthetic views of the universe. The generated response also is well-structured and easy to follow, with a clear delineation of Asimov's main points and the progression of his argument.

If you are looking to add anything to the generated response, you can consider the examples Asimov uses from astronomy, chemistry, and biology to illustrate his argument. This could include specific scientific concepts or discoveries that emphasize how understanding enhances appreciation of natural beauty.

You could also discuss Asimov's concluding remarks in more depth. This might involve exploring how he ties together his argument and reinforces his thesis, as well as any implications for the broader understanding of science and beauty.

Furthermore,  you could expand on the analysis of Whitman's poem by exploring additional literary techniques or themes. This could include examining the use of imagery, symbolism, or the speaker's emotional journey throughout the poem.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Reviewed by eNotes Editorial on