Scholars have proved very astute in revealing the cetological
and natural historical sources Melville used in Moby-Dick, but no one has yet explored Melville's originality as a scientific thinker.
Moby-Dick is, among other things, an encyclopedia of cetological
lore having to do with every aspect of the whale--the scientific, zoological, oceanographic, mythic, and philological.
Thus, in his cetological
meditations he introduced the idea that the sea life is ungraspable, indeed, without reference to biological thought (which was for him natural theology).
Lists are also, of course, a quintessentially American fictional technique--Moby-Dick's cetological
catalogs are only the most striking example.
Moreover, less than two months before beginning his cetological
epic, Melville may have seen paired representations of Jonah and Jesus in the Cologne cathedral that he toured at length.
Ishmael, whom Markels represents as wavering between a Lockean and Hobbesian world view throughout the text, "reconstitute[s] Cordelia's politics of responsibility" and fashions a Lockean alternative to Ahab's "Manichean interpretation of Hobbes" through his friendship with Queequeg and his cetological