This Right Whale I take to have been a Stoic; the Sperm Whale, a Platonian, who might have taken up Spinoza in his latter years. Moby-Dick (Chap. 75: The Right Whale's Head—Contrasted View) by Herman Melville

Stoicism
Platonism
Spinoza

These are the references, but what does Melville mean with the comparison? Is this just a joke about the Right Whale’s frowny face? Is it something to do with who neo-Platonists and neo-Stoics were in Melville’s time? Or is it actually a deep point that calls upon the actual philosophical systems in question? If you have any ideas, let us know in the comments.

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Would you not think you were inside of the great Haarlem organ, and gazing upon its thousand pipes Moby-Dick (Chap. 75: The Right Whale's Head—Contrasted View) by Herman Melville

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Nowadays fly under the same jaws for protection; the umbrella being a tent spread over the same bone. Moby-Dick (Chap. 75: The Right Whale's Head—Contrasted View) by Herman Melville

Umbrella frames were made out of whalebone in Melville’s time

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And as those ancient dames moved about gaily, though in the jaws of the whale, as you may say Moby-Dick (Chap. 75: The Right Whale's Head—Contrasted View) by Herman Melville

You should say in the jaws of a whale—corsets were notoriously uncomfortable. They made it so difficult to breath for so many, that we invented a piece of furniture to catch all the fainting women.

A fainting couch

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As every one knows, these same "hogs' bristles," "fins," "whiskers," "blinds," or whatever you please, furnish to the ladies their busks and other stiffening contrivances. But in this particular, the demand has long been on the decline. It was in Queen Anne's time that the bone was in its glory Moby-Dick (Chap. 75: The Right Whale's Head—Contrasted View) by Herman Melville

Baleen was used to stiffen corsets, which were the height of fashion when Queen Anne ruled England, Ireland, and Scotland from 1702-1714.

Queen Anne in a corset

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Analogical probability Moby-Dick (Chap. 75: The Right Whale's Head—Contrasted View) by Herman Melville

Not technically a mathematical principle, Melville is making fun of the human tendency to misapply knowledge—there is no reason that one should be able to calculate the age of a whale in the same way one calculates the age of a tree.

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Hare-lipped Moby-Dick (Chap. 75: The Right Whale's Head—Contrasted View) by Herman Melville

In humans, hare-lip is a derogatory term for cleft palate, a congenital disorder which is the result of abnormal facial development during gestation.

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Look at that hanging lower lip! what a huge sulk and pout is there! a sulk and pout, by carpenter's measurement, about twenty feet long and five feet deep; a sulk and pout that will yield you some 500 gallons of oil and more. Moby-Dick (Chap. 75: The Right Whale's Head—Contrasted View) by Herman Melville

Unfortunately, “sulk and pout” were not whaling terms. But they should have been.

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With a bird's nest in its crotch. Moby-Dick (Chap. 75: The Right Whale's Head—Contrasted View) by Herman Melville

Bird’s nests are for trees, what fig leafs are to human beans. Strange since trees already have so many leaves.

Someone get these trees a bird’s nest, ammirite?

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But as you come nearer to this great head it begins to assume different aspects, according to your point of view. Moby-Dick (Chap. 75: The Right Whale's Head—Contrasted View) by Herman Melville

For Melville, this is true of everything. He is a pluralist for whom every perspective from every angle has something to tell us about the nature of things.

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