Journal: Blog

A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace

by John Perry Barlow

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.

Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You do not know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace does not lie within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it were a public construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature and it grows itself through our collective actions.

You have not engaged in our great and gathering conversation, nor did you create the wealth of our marketplaces. You do not know our culture, our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society more order than could be obtained by any of your impositions.

You claim there are problems among us that you need to solve. You use this claim as an excuse to invade our precincts. Many of these problems don't exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are wrongs, we will identify them and address them by our means. We are forming our own Social Contract. This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different.

Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live.

We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.

We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.

Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.

Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order by physical coercion. We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest, and the commonweal, our governance will emerge. Our identities may be distributed across many of your jurisdictions. The only law that all our constituent cultures would generally recognize is the Golden Rule. We hope we will be able to build our particular solutions on that basis. But we cannot accept the solutions you are attempting to impose.

In the United States, you have today created a law, the Telecommunications Reform Act, which repudiates your own Constitution and insults the dreams of Jefferson, Washington, Mill, Madison, DeToqueville, and Brandeis. These dreams must now be born anew in us.

You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a world where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them, you entrust your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you are too cowardly to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air upon which wings beat.

In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the United States, you are trying to ward off the virus of liberty by erecting guard posts at the frontiers of Cyberspace. These may keep out the contagion for a small time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be blanketed in bit-bearing media.

Your increasingly obsolete information industries would perpetuate themselves by proposing laws, in America and elsewhere, that claim to own speech itself throughout the world. These laws would declare ideas to be another industrial product, no more noble than pig iron. In our world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires your factories to accomplish.

These increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in the same position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination who had to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.

We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.


Industrial Society And Its Future

by Ted Kaczynski


The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. They have greatly increased the life-expectancy of those of us who live in “advanced” countries, but they have destabilized society, have made life unfulfilling, have subjected human beings to indignities, have led to widespread psychological suffering (in the Third World to physical suffering as well) and have inflicted severe damage on the natural world. The continued development of technology will worsen the situation. It will certainly subject human beings to greater indignities and inflict greater damage on the natural world, it will probably lead to greater social disruption and psychological suffering, and it may lead to increased physical suffering even in “advanced” countries.

The industrial-technological system may survive or it may break down. If it survives, it MAY eventually achieve a low level of physical and psychological suffering, but only after passing through a long and very painful period of adjustment and only at the cost of permanently reducing human beings and many other living organisms to engineered products and mere cogs in the social machine. Furthermore, if the system survives, the consequences will be inevitable: There is no way of reforming or modifying the system so as to prevent it from depriving people of dignity and autonomy.

If the system breaks down the consequences will still be very painful. But the bigger the system grows the more disastrous the results of its breakdown will be, so if it is to break down it had best break down sooner rather than later.

We therefore advocate a revolution against the industrial system. This revolution may or may not make use of violence; it may be sudden or it may be a relatively gradual process spanning a few decades. We can’t predict any of that. But we do outline in a very general way the measures that those who hate the industrial system should take in order to prepare the way for a revolution against that form of society. This is not to be a POLITICAL revolution. Its object will be to overthrow not governments but the economic and technological basis of the present society.

In this article we give attention to only some of the negative developments that have grown out of the industrial-technological system. Other such developments we mention only briefly or ignore altogether. This does not mean that we regard these other developments as unimportant. For practical reasons we have to confine our discussion to areas that have received insufficient public attention or in which we have something new to say. For example, since there are well-developed environmental and wilderness movements, we have written very little about environmental degradation or the destruction of wild nature, even though we consider these to be highly important.


Almost everyone will agree that we live in a deeply troubled society. One of the most widespread manifestations of the craziness of our world is leftism, so a discussion of the psychology of leftism can serve as an introduction to the discussion of the problems of modern society in general.

But what is leftism? During the first half of the 20th century leftism could have been practically identified with socialism. Today the movement is fragmented and it is not clear who can properly be called a leftist. When we speak of leftists in this article we have in mind mainly socialists, collectivists, “politically correct” types, feminists, gay and disability activists, animal rights activists and the like. But not everyone who is associated with one of these movements is a leftist. What we are trying to get at in discussing leftism is not so much movement or an ideology as a psychological type, or rather a collection of related types. Thus, what we mean by “leftism” will emerge more clearly in the course of our discussion of leftist psychology. (Also, see paragraphs 227-230.)

  1. Even so, our conception of leftism will remain a good deal less clear than we would wish, but there doesn’t seem to be any remedy for this. All we are trying to do here is indicate in a rough and approximate way the two psychological tendencies that we believe are the main driving force of modern leftism. We by no means claim to be telling the WHOLE truth about leftist psychology. Also, our discussion is meant to apply to modern leftism only. We leave open the question of the extent to which our discussion could be applied to the leftists of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The two psychological tendencies that underlie modern leftism we call “feelings of inferiority” and “oversocialization.” Feelings of inferiority are characteristic of modern leftism as a whole, while oversocialization is characteristic only of a certain segment of modern leftism; but this segment is highly influential.


By “feelings of inferiority” we mean not only inferiority feelings in the strict sense but a whole spectrum of related traits; low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, depressive tendencies, defeatism, guilt, self- hatred, etc. We argue that modern leftists tend to have some such feelings (possibly more or less repressed) and that these feelings are decisive in determining the direction of modern leftism.

When someone interprets as derogatory almost anything that is said about him (or about groups with whom he identifies) we conclude that he has inferiority feelings or low self-esteem. This tendency is pronounced among minority rights activists, whether or not they belong to the minority groups whose rights they defend. They are hypersensitive about the words used to designate minorities and about anything that is said concerning minorities. The terms “negro,” “oriental,” “handicapped” or “chick” for an African, an Asian, a disabled person or a woman originally had no derogatory connotation. “Broad” and “chick” were merely the feminine equivalents of “guy,” “dude” or “fellow.” The negative connotations have been attached to these terms by the activists themselves. Some animal rights activists have gone so far as to reject the word “pet” and insist on its replacement by “animal companion.” Leftish anthropologists go to great lengths to avoid saying anything about primitive peoples that could conceivably be interpreted as negative. They want to replace the world “primitive” by “nonliterate.” They seem almost paranoid about anything that might suggest that any primitive culture is inferior to our own. (We do not mean to imply that primitive cultures ARE inferior to ours. We merely point out the hypersensitivity of leftish anthropologists.)

Those who are most sensitive about “politically incorrect” terminology are not the average black ghetto- dweller, Asian immigrant, abused woman or disabled person, but a minority of activists, many of whom do not even belong to any “oppressed” group but come from privileged strata of society. Political correctness has its stronghold among university professors, who have secure employment with comfortable salaries, and the majority of whom are heterosexual white males from middle- to upper-middle-class families.

Many leftists have an intense identification with the problems of groups that have an image of being weak (women), defeated (American Indians), repellent (homosexuals) or otherwise inferior. The leftists themselves feel that these groups are inferior. They would never admit to themselves that they have such feelings, but it is precisely because they do see these groups as inferior that they identify with their problems. (We do not mean to suggest that women, Indians, etc. ARE inferior; we are only making a point about leftist psychology.)

Feminists are desperately anxious to prove that women are as strong and as capable as men. Clearly they are nagged by a fear that women may NOT be as strong and as capable as men.

Leftists tend to hate anything that has an image of being strong, good and successful. They hate America, they hate Western civilization, they hate white males, they hate rationality. The reasons that leftists give for hating the West, etc. clearly do not correspond with their real motives. They SAY they hate the West because it is warlike, imperialistic, sexist, ethnocentric and so forth, but where these same faults appear in socialist countries or in primitive cultures, the leftist finds excuses for them, or at best he GRUDGINGLY admits that they exist; whereas he ENTHUSIASTICALLY points out (and often greatly exaggerates) these faults where they appear in Western civilization. Thus it is clear that these faults are not the leftist’s real motive for hating America and the West. He hates America and the West because they are strong and successful.

Words like “self-confidence,” “self-reliance,” “initiative,” “enterprise,” “optimism,” etc., play little role in the liberal and leftist vocabulary. The leftist is anti-individualistic, pro-collectivist. He wants society to solve everyone’s problems for them, satisfy everyone’s needs for them, take care of them. He is not the sort of person who has an inner sense of confidence in his ability to solve his own problems and satisfy his own needs. The leftist is antagonistic to the concept of competition because, deep inside, he feels like a loser.

Art forms that appeal to modern leftish intellectuals tend to focus on sordidness, defeat and despair, or else they take an orgiastic tone, throwing off rational control as if there were no hope of accomplishing anything through rational calculation and all that was left was to immerse oneself in the sensations of the moment.

Modern leftish philosophers tend to dismiss reason, science, objective reality and to insist that everything is culturally relative. It is true that one can ask serious questions about the foundations of scientific knowledge and about how, if at all, the concept of objective reality can be defined. But it is obvious that modern leftish philosophers are not simply cool-headed logicians systematically analyzing the foundations of knowledge. They are deeply involved emotionally in their attack on truth and reality. They attack these concepts because of their own psychological needs. For one thing, their attack is an outlet for hostility, and, to the extent that it is successful, it satisfies the drive for power. More importantly, the leftist hates science and rationality because they classify certain beliefs as true (i.e., successful, superior) and other beliefs as false (i.e., failed, inferior). The leftist’s feelings of inferiority run so deep that he cannot tolerate any classification of some things as successful or superior and other things as failed or inferior. This also underlies the rejection by many leftists of the concept of mental illness and of the utility of IQ tests. Leftists are antagonistic to genetic explanations of human abilities or behavior because such explanations tend to make some persons appear superior or inferior to others. Leftists prefer to give society the credit or blame for an individual’s ability or lack of it. Thus if a person is “inferior” it is not his fault, but society’s, because he has not been brought up properly.

The leftist is not typically the kind of person whose feelings of inferiority make him a braggart, an egotist, a bully, a self-promoter, a ruthless competitor. This kind of person has not wholly lost faith in himself. He has a deficit in his sense of power and self-worth, but he can still conceive of himself as having the capacity to be strong, and his efforts to make himself strong produce his unpleasant behavior. [1] But the leftist is too far gone for that. His feelings of inferiority are so ingrained that he cannot conceive of himself as individually strong and valuable. Hence the collectivism of the leftist. He can feel strong only as a member of a large organization or a mass movement with which he identifies himself.

Notice the masochistic tendency of leftist tactics. Leftists protest by lying down in front of vehicles, they intentionally provoke police or racists to abuse them, etc. These tactics may often be effective, but many leftists use them not as a means to an end but because they PREFER masochistic tactics. Self-hatred is a leftist trait.

Leftists may claim that their activism is motivated by compassion or by moral principles, and moral principle does play a role for the leftist of the oversocialized type. But compassion and moral principle cannot be the main motives for leftist activism. Hostility is too prominent a component of leftist behavior; so is the drive for power. Moreover, much leftist behavior is not rationally calculated to be of benefit to the people whom the leftists claim to be trying to help. For example, if one believes that affirmative action is good for black people, does it make sense to demand affirmative action in hostile or dogmatic terms? Obviously it would be more productive to take a diplomatic and conciliatory approach that would make at least verbal and symbolic concessions to white people who think that affirmative action discriminates against them. But leftist activists do not take such an approach because it would not satisfy their emotional needs. Helping black people is not their real goal. Instead, race problems serve as an excuse for them to express their own hostility and frustrated need for power. In doing so they actually harm black people, because the activists’ hostile attitude toward the white majority tends to intensify race hatred.

If our society had no social problems at all, the leftists would have to INVENT problems in order to provide themselves with an excuse for making a fuss.

We emphasize that the foregoing does not pretend to be an accurate description of everyone who might be considered a leftist. It is only a rough indication of a general tendency of leftism.


Psychologists use the term “socialization” to designate the process by which children are trained to think and act as society demands. A person is said to be well socialized if he believes in and obeys the moral code of his society and fits in well as a functioning part of that society. It may seem senseless to say that many leftists are oversocialized, since the leftist is perceived as a rebel. Nevertheless, the position can be defended. Many leftists are not such rebels as they seem.

The moral code of our society is so demanding that no one can think, feel and act in a completely moral way. For example, we are not supposed to hate anyone, yet almost everyone hates somebody at some time or other, whether he admits it to himself or not. Some people are so highly socialized that the attempt to think, feel and act morally imposes a severe burden on them. In order to avoid feelings of guilt, they continually have to deceive themselves about their own motives and find moral explanations for feelings and actions that in reality have a non-moral origin. We use the term “oversocialized” to describe such people. [2]

Oversocialization can lead to low self-esteem, a sense of powerlessness, defeatism, guilt, etc. One of the most important means by which our society socializes children is by making them feel ashamed of behavior or speech that is contrary to society’s expectations. If this is overdone, or if a particular child is especially susceptible to such feelings, he ends by feeling ashamed of HIMSELF. Moreover the thought and the behavior of the oversocialized person are more restricted by society’s expectations than are those of the lightly socialized person. The majority of people engage in a significant amount of naughty behavior. They lie, they commit petty thefts, they break traffic laws, they goof off at work, they hate someone, they say spiteful things or they use some underhanded trick to get ahead of the other guy. The oversocialized person cannot do these things, or if he does do them he generates in himself a sense of shame and self-hatred. The oversocialized person cannot even experience, without guilt, thoughts or feelings that are contrary to the accepted morality; he cannot think “unclean” thoughts. And socialization is not just a matter of morality; we are socialized to conform to many norms of behavior that do not fall under the heading of morality. Thus the oversocialized person is kept on a psychological leash and spends his life running on rails that society has laid down for him. In many oversocialized people this results in a sense of constraint and powerlessness that can be a severe hardship. We suggest that oversocialization is among the more serious cruelties that human beings inflict on one another.

We argue that a very important and influential segment of the modern left is oversocialized and that their oversocialization is of great importance in determining the direction of modern leftism. Leftists of the oversocialized type tend to be intellectuals or members of the upper-middle class. Notice that university intellectuals [3] constitute the most highly socialized segment of our society and also the most left-wing segment.

The leftist of the oversocialized type tries to get off his psychological leash and assert his autonomy by rebelling. But usually he is not strong enough to rebel against the most basic values of society. Generally speaking, the goals of today’s leftists are NOT in conflict with the accepted morality. On the contrary, the left takes an accepted moral principle, adopts it as its own, and then accuses mainstream society of violating that principle. Examples: racial equality, equality of the sexes, helping poor people, peace as opposed to war, nonviolence generally, freedom of expression, kindness to animals. More fundamentally, the duty of the individual to serve society and the duty of society to take care of the individual. All these have been deeply rooted values of our society (or at least of its middle and upper classes [4] for a long time. These values are explicitly or implicitly expressed or presupposed in most of the material presented to us by the mainstream communications media and the educational system. Leftists, especially those of the oversocialized type, usually do not rebel against these principles but justify their hostility to society by claiming (with some degree of truth) that society is not living up to these principles.

Here is an illustration of the way in which the oversocialized leftist shows his real attachment to the conventional attitudes of our society while pretending to be in rebellion against it. Many leftists push for affirmative action, for moving black people into high-prestige jobs, for improved education in black schools and more money for such schools; the way of life of the black “underclass” they regard as a social disgrace. They want to integrate the black man into the system, make him a business executive, a lawyer, a scientist just like upper-middle-class white people. The leftists will reply that the last thing they want is to make the black man into a copy of the white man; instead, they want to preserve African American culture. But in what does this preservation of African American culture consist? It can hardly consist in anything more than eating black-style food, listening to black-style music, wearing black-style clothing and going to a black- style church or mosque. In other words, it can express itself only in superficial matters. In all ESSENTIAL respects most leftists of the oversocialized type want to make the black man conform to white, middle-class ideals. They want to make him study technical subjects, become an executive or a scientist, spend his life climbing the status ladder to prove that black people are as good as white. They want to make black fathers “responsible,” they want black gangs to become nonviolent, etc. But these are exactly the values of the industrial-technological system. The system couldn’t care less what kind of music a man listens to, what kind of clothes he wears or what religion he believes in as long as he studies in school, holds a respectable job, climbs the status ladder, is a “responsible” parent, is nonviolent and so forth. In effect, however much he may deny it, the oversocialized leftist wants to integrate the black man into the system and make him adopt its values.

We certainly do not claim that leftists, even of the oversocialized type, NEVER rebel against the fundamental values of our society. Clearly they sometimes do. Some oversocialized leftists have gone so far as to rebel against one of modern society’s most important principles by engaging in physical violence. By their own account, violence is for them a form of “liberation.” In other words, by committing violence they break through the psychological restraints that have been trained into them. Because they are oversocialized these restraints have been more confining for them than for others; hence their need to break free of them. But they usually justify their rebellion in terms of mainstream values. If they engage in violence they claim to be fighting against racism or the like.

We realize that many objections could be raised to the foregoing thumbnail sketch of leftist psychology. The real situation is complex, and anything like a complete description of it would take several volumes even if the necessary data were available. We claim only to have indicated very roughly the two most important tendencies in the psychology of modern leftism.

The problems of the leftist are indicative of the problems of our society as a whole. Low self-esteem, depressive tendencies and defeatism are not restricted to the left. Though they are especially noticeable in the left, they are widespread in our society. And today’s society tries to socialize us to a greater extent than any previous society. We are even told by experts how to eat, how to exercise, how to make love, how to raise our kids and so forth.


Human beings have a need (probably based in biology) for something that we will call the “power process.” This is closely related to the need for power (which is widely recognized) but is not quite the same thing. The power process has four elements. The three most clear-cut of these we call goal, effort and attainment of goal. (Everyone needs to have goals whose attainment requires effort, and needs to succeed in attaining at least some of his goals.) The fourth element is more difficult to define and may not be necessary for everyone. We call it autonomy and will discuss it later (paragraphs 42-44).

Consider the hypothetical case of a man who can have anything he wants just by wishing for it. Such a man has power, but he will develop serious psychological problems. At first he will have a lot of fun, but by and by he will become acutely bored and demoralized. Eventually he may become clinically depressed. History shows that leisured aristocracies tend to become decadent. This is not true of fighting aristocracies that have to struggle to maintain their power. But leisured, secure aristocracies that have no need to exert themselves usually become bored, hedonistic and demoralized, even though they have power. This shows that power is not enough. One must have goals toward which to exercise one’s power.

Everyone has goals; if nothing else, to obtain the physical necessities of life: food, water and whatever clothing and shelter are made necessary by the climate. But the leisured aristocrat obtains these things without effort. Hence his boredom and demoralization.

Nonattainment of important goals results in death if the goals are physical necessities, and in frustration if nonattainment of the goals is compatible with survival. Consistent failure to attain goals throughout life results in defeatism, low self-esteem or depression.

Thus, in order to avoid serious psychological problems, a human being needs goals whose attainment requires effort, and he must have a reasonable rate of success in attaining his goals.


But not every leisured aristocrat becomes bored and demoralized. For example, the emperor Hirohito, instead of sinking into decadent hedonism, devoted himself to marine biology, a field in which he became distinguished. When people do not have to exert themselves to satisfy their physical needs they often set up artificial goals for themselves. In many cases they then pursue these goals with the same energy and emotional involvement that they otherwise would have put into the search for physical necessities. Thus the aristocrats of the Roman Empire had their literary pretensions; many European aristocrats a few centuries ago invested tremendous time and energy in hunting, though they certainly didn’t need the meat; other aristocracies have competed for status through elaborate displays of wealth; and a few aristocrats, like Hirohito, have turned to science.

We use the term “surrogate activity” to designate an activity that is directed toward an artificial goal that people set up for themselves merely in order to have some goal to work toward, or let us say, merely for the sake of the “fulfillment” that they get from pursuing the goal. Here is a rule of thumb for the identification of surrogate activities. Given a person who devotes much time and energy to the pursuit of goal X, ask yourself this: If he had to devote most of his time and energy to satisfying his biological needs, and if that effort required him to use his physical and mental faculties in a varied and interesting way, would he feel seriously deprived because he did not attain goal X? If the answer is no, then the person’s pursuit of goal X is a surrogate activity. Hirohito’s studies in marine biology clearly constituted a surrogate activity, since it is pretty certain that if Hirohito had had to spend his time working at interesting non-scientific tasks in order to obtain the necessities of life, he would not have felt deprived because he didn’t know all about the anatomy and life-cycles of marine animals. On the other hand the pursuit of sex and love (for example) is not a surrogate activity, because most people, even if their existence were otherwise satisfactory, would feel deprived if they passed their lives without ever having a relationship with a member of the opposite sex. (But pursuit of an excessive amount of sex, more than one really needs, can be a surrogate activity.)

In modern industrial society only minimal effort is necessary to satisfy one’s physical needs. It is enough to go through a training program to acquire some petty technical skill, then come to work on time and exert the very modest effort needed to hold a job. The only requirements are a moderate amount of intelligence and, most of all, simple OBEDIENCE. If one has those, society takes care of one from cradle to grave. (Yes, there is an underclass that cannot take the physical necessities for granted, but we are speaking here of mainstream society.) Thus it is not surprising that modern society is full of surrogate activities. These include scientific work, athletic achievement, humanitarian work, artistic and literary creation, climbing the corporate ladder, acquisition of money and material goods far beyond the point at which they cease to give any additional physical satisfaction, and social activism when it addresses issues that are not important for the activist personally, as in the case of white activists who work for the rights of nonwhite minorities. These are not always PURE surrogate activities, since for many people they may be motivated in part by needs other than the need to have some goal to pursue. Scientific work may be motivated in part by a drive for prestige, artistic creation by a need to express feelings, militant social activism by hostility. But for most people who pursue them, these activities are in large part surrogate activities. For example, the majority of scientists will probably agree that the “fulfillment” they get from their work is more important than the money and prestige they earn.

For many if not most people, surrogate activities are less satisfying than the pursuit of real goals (that is, goals that people would want to attain even if their need for the power process were already fulfilled). One indication of this is the fact that, in many or most cases, people who are deeply involved in surrogate activities are never satisfied, never at rest. Thus the money-maker constantly strives for more and more wealth. The scientist no sooner solves one problem than he moves on to the next. The long-distance runner drives himself to run always farther and faster. Many people who pursue surrogate activities will say that they get far more fulfillment from these activities than they do from the “mundane” business of satisfying their biological needs, but that is because in our society the effort needed to satisfy the biological needs has been reduced to triviality. More importantly, in our society people do not satisfy their biological needs AUTONOMOUSLY but by functioning as parts of an immense social machine. In contrast, people generally have a great deal of autonomy in pursuing their surrogate activities.


Autonomy as a part of the power process may not be necessary for every individual. But most people need a greater or lesser degree of autonomy in working toward their goals. Their efforts must be undertaken on their own initiative and must be under their own direction and control. Yet most people do not have to exert this initiative, direction and control as single individuals. It is usually enough to act as a member of a SMALL group. Thus if half a dozen people discuss a goal among themselves and make a successful joint effort to attain that goal, their need for the power process will be served. But if they work under rigid orders handed down from above that leave them no room for autonomous decision and initiative, then their need for the power process will not be served. The same is true when decisions are made on a collective basis if the group making the collective decision is so large that the role of each individual is insignificant. [5]

It is true that some individuals seem to have little need for autonomy. Either their drive for power is weak or they satisfy it by identifying themselves with some powerful organization to which they belong. And then there are unthinking, animal types who seem to be satisfied with a purely physical sense of power (the good combat soldier, who gets his sense of power by developing fighting skills that he is quite content to use in blind obedience to his superiors).

But for most people it is through the power process—having a goal, making an AUTONOMOUS effort and attaining the goal—that self-esteem, self-confidence and a sense of power are acquired. When one does not have adequate opportunity to go through the power process the consequences are (depending on the individual and on the way the power process is disrupted) boredom, demoralization, low self-esteem, inferiority feelings, defeatism, depression, anxiety, guilt, frustration, hostility, spouse or child abuse, insatiable hedonism, abnormal sexual behavior, sleep disorders, eating disorders, etc. [6]


Any of the foregoing symptoms can occur in any society, but in modern industrial society they are present on a massive scale. We aren’t the first to mention that the world today seems to be going crazy. This sort of thing is not normal for human societies. There is good reason to believe that primitive man suffered from less stress and frustration and was better satisfied with his way of life than modern man is. It is true that not all was sweetness and light in primitive societies. Abuse of women was common among the Australian aborigines, transexuality was fairly common among some of the American Indian tribes. But it does appear that GENERALLY SPEAKING the kinds of problems that we have listed in the preceding paragraph were far less common among primitive peoples than they are in modern society.

We attribute the social and psychological problems of modern society to the fact that that society requires people to live under conditions radically different from those under which the human race evolved and to behave in ways that conflict with the patterns of behavior that the human race developed while living under the earlier conditions. It is clear from what we have already written that we consider lack of opportunity to properly experience the power process as the most important of the abnormal conditions to which modern society subjects people. But it is not the only one. Before dealing with disruption of the power process as a source of social problems we will discuss some of the other sources.

Among the abnormal conditions present in modern industrial society are excessive density of population, isolation of man from nature, excessive rapidity of social change and the breakdown of natural small-scale communities such as the extended family, the village or the tribe.

It is well known that crowding increases stress and aggression. The degree of crowding that exists today and the isolation of man from nature are consequences of technological progress. All pre-industrial societies were predominantly rural. The Industrial Revolution vastly increased the size of cities and the proportion of the population that lives in them, and modern agricultural technology has made it possible for the Earth to support a far denser population than it ever did before. (Also, technology exacerbates the effects of crowding because it puts increased disruptive powers in people’s hands. For example, a variety of noise- making devices: power mowers, radios, motorcycles, etc. If the use of these devices is unrestricted, people who want peace and quiet are frustrated by the noise. If their use is restricted, people who use the devices are frustrated by the regulations. But if these machines had never been invented there would have been no conflict and no frustration generated by them.)

For primitive societies the natural world (which usually changes only slowly) provided a stable framework and therefore a sense of security. In the modern world it is human society that dominates nature rather than the other way around, and modern society changes very rapidly owing to technological change. Thus there is no stable framework.

The conservatives are fools: They whine about the decay of traditional values, yet they enthusiastically support technological progress and economic growth. Apparently it never occurs to them that you can’t make rapid, drastic changes in the technology and the economy of a society without causing rapid changes in all other aspects of the society as well, and that such rapid changes inevitably break down traditional values.

The breakdown of traditional values to some extent implies the breakdown of the bonds that hold together traditional small-scale social groups. The disintegration of small-scale social groups is also promoted by the fact that modern conditions often require or tempt individuals to move to new locations, separating themselves from their communities. Beyond that, a technological society HAS TO weaken family ties and local communities if it is to function efficiently. In modern society an individual’s loyalty must be first to the system and only secondarily to a small-scale community, because if the internal loyalties of small-scale communities were stronger than loyalty to the system, such communities would pursue their own advantage at the expense of the system.

Suppose that a public official or a corporation executive appoints his cousin, his friend or his co- religionist to a position rather than appointing the person best qualified for the job. He has permitted personal loyalty to supersede his loyalty to the system, and that is “nepotism” or “discrimination,” both of which are terrible sins in modern society. Would-be industrial societies that have done a poor job of subordinating personal or local loyalties to loyalty to the system are usually very inefficient. (Look at Latin America.) Thus an advanced industrial society can tolerate only those small-scale communities that are emasculated, tamed and made into tools of the system. [7]

Crowding, rapid change and the breakdown of communities have been widely recognized as sources of social problems. But we do not believe they are enough to account for the extent of the problems that are seen today.

A few pre-industrial cities were very large and crowded, yet their inhabitants do not seem to have suffered from psychological problems to the same extent as modern man. In America today there still are uncrowded rural areas, and we find there the same problems as in urban areas, though the problems tend to be less acute in the rural areas. Thus crowding does not seem to be the decisive factor.

On the growing edge of the American frontier during the 19th century, the mobility of the population probably broke down extended families and small-scale social groups to at least the same extent as these are broken down today. In fact, many nuclear families lived by choice in such isolation, having no neighbors within several miles, that they belonged to no community at all, yet they do not seem to have developed problems as a result.

Furthermore, change in American frontier society was very rapid and deep. A man might be born and raised in a log cabin, outside the reach of law and order and fed largely on wild meat; and by the time he arrived at old age he might be working at a regular job and living in an ordered community with effective law enforcement. This was a deeper change than that which typically occurs in the life of a modern individual, yet it does not seem to have led to psychological problems. In fact, 19th century American society had an optimistic and self-confident tone, quite unlike that of today’s society. [8]

The difference, we argue, is that modern man has the sense (largely justified) that change is IMPOSED on him, whereas the 19th century frontiersman had the sense (also largely justified) that he created change himself, by his own choice. Thus a pioneer settled on a piece of land of his own choosing and made it into a farm through his own effort. In those days an entire county might have only a couple of hundred inhabitants and was a far more isolated and autonomous entity than a modern county is. Hence the pioneer farmer participated as a member of a relatively small group in the creation of a new, ordered community. One may well question whether the creation of this community was an improvement, but at any rate it satisfied the pioneer’s need for the power process.

It would be possible to give other examples of societies in which there has been rapid change and/or lack of close community ties without the kind of massive behavioral aberration that is seen in today’s industrial society. We contend that the most important cause of social and psychological problems in modern society is the fact that people have insufficient opportunity to go through the power process in a normal way. We don’t mean to say that modern society is the only one in which the power process has been disrupted. Probably most if not all civilized societies have interfered with the power process to a greater or lesser extent. But in modern industrial society the problem has become particularly acute. Leftism, at least in its recent (mid- to late-20th century) form, is in part a symptom of deprivation with respect to the power process.


We divide human drives into three groups: (1) those drives that can be satisfied with minimal effort; (2) those that can be satisfied but only at the cost of serious effort; (3) those that cannot be adequately satisfied no matter how much effort one makes. The power process is the process of satisfying the drives of the second group. The more drives there are in the third group, the more there is frustration, anger, eventually defeatism, depression, etc.

In modern industrial society natural human drives tend to be pushed into the first and third groups, and the second group tends to consist increasingly of artificially created drives.

In primitive societies, physical necessities generally fall into group 2: They can be obtained, but only at the cost of serious effort. But modern society tends to guaranty the physical necessities to everyone [9] in exchange for only minimal effort, hence physical needs are pushed into group 1. (There may be disagreement about whether the effort needed to hold a job is “minimal”; but usually, in lower- to middle- level jobs, whatever effort is required is merely that of OBEDIENCE. You sit or stand where you are told to sit or stand and do what you are told to do in the way you are told to do it. Seldom do you have to exert yourself seriously, and in any case you have hardly any autonomy in work, so that the need for the power process is not well served.)

Social needs, such as sex, love and status, often remain in group 2 in modern society, depending on the situation of the individual. [10] But, except for people who have a particularly strong drive for status, the effort required to fulfill the social drives is insufficient to satisfy adequately the need for the power process.

So certain artificial needs have been created that fall into group 2, hence serve the need for the power process. Advertising and marketing techniques have been developed that make many people feel they need things that their grandparents never desired or even dreamed of. It requires serious effort to earn enough money to satisfy these artificial needs, hence they fall into group 2. (But see paragraphs 80-82.) Modern man must satisfy his need for the power process largely through pursuit of the artificial needs created by the advertising and marketing industry [11], and through surrogate activities.

It seems that for many people, maybe the majority, these artificial forms of the power process are insufficient. A theme that appears repeatedly in the writings of the social critics of the second half of the 20th century is the sense of purposelessness that afflicts many people in modern society. (This purposelessness is often called by other names such as “anomic” or “middle-class vacuity.”) We suggest that the so-called “identity crisis” is actually a search for a sense of purpose, often for commitment to a suitable surrogate activity. It may be that existentialism is in large part a response to the purposelessness of modern life. [12] Very widespread in modern society is the search for “fulfillment.” But we think that for the majority of people an activity whose main goal is fulfillment (that is, a surrogate activity) does not bring completely satisfactory fulfillment. In other words, it does not fully satisfy the need for the power process. (See paragraph 41.) That need can be fully satisfied only through activities that have some external goal, such as physical necessities, sex, love, status, revenge, etc.

Moreover, where goals are pursued through earning money, climbing the status ladder or functioning as part of the system in some other way, most people are not in a position to pursue their goals AUTONOMOUSLY. Most workers are someone else’s employee and, as we pointed out in paragraph 61, must spend their days doing what they are told to do in the way they are told to do it. Even people who are in business for themselves have only limited autonomy. It is a chronic complaint of small-business persons and entrepreneurs that their hands are tied by excessive government regulation. Some of these regulations are doubtless unnecessary, but for the most part government regulations are essential and inevitable parts of our extremely complex society. A large portion of small business today operates on the franchise system. It was reported in the Wall Street Journal a few years ago that many of the franchise-granting companies require applicants for franchises to take a personality test that is designed to EXCLUDE those who have creativity and initiative, because such persons are not sufficiently docile to go along obediently with the franchise system. This excludes from small business many of the people who most need autonomy.

Today people live more by virtue of what the system does FOR them or TO them than by virtue of what they do for themselves. And what they do for themselves is done more and more along channels laid down by the system. Opportunities tend to be those that the system provides, the opportunities must be exploited in accord with rules and regulations [13], and techniques prescribed by experts must be followed if there is to be a chance of success.

Thus the power process is disrupted in our society through a deficiency of real goals and a deficiency of autonomy in the pursuit of goals. But it is also disrupted because of those human drives that fall into group 3: the drives that one cannot adequately satisfy no matter how much effort one makes. One of these drives is the need for security. Our lives depend on decisions made by other people; we have no control over these decisions and usually we do not even know the people who make them. (“We live in a world in which relatively few people—maybe 500 or 1,000—make the important decisions”—Philip B. Heymann of Harvard Law School, quoted by Anthony Lewis, New York Times, April 21, 1995.) Our lives depend on whether safety standards at a nuclear power plant are properly maintained; on how much pesticide is allowed to get into our food or how much pollution into our air; on how skillful (or incompetent) our doctor is; whether we lose or get a job may depend on decisions made by government economists or corporation executives; and so forth. Most individuals are not in a position to secure themselves against these threats to more [than] a very limited extent. The individual’s search for security is therefore frustrated, which leads to a sense of powerlessness.

It may be objected that primitive man is physically less secure than modern man, as is shown by his shorter life expectancy; hence modern man suffers from less, not more than the amount of insecurity that is normal for human beings. But psychological security does not closely correspond with physical security. What makes us FEEL secure is not so much objective security as a sense of confidence in our ability to take care of ourselves. Primitive man, threatened by a fierce animal or by hunger, can fight in self-defense or travel in search of food. He has no certainty of success in these efforts, but he is by no means helpless against the things that threaten him. The modern individual on the other hand is threatened by many things against which he is helpless: nuclear accidents, carcinogens in food, environmental pollution, war, increasing taxes, invasion of his privacy by large organizations, nationwide social or economic phenomena that may disrupt his way of life.

It is true that primitive man is powerless against some of the things that threaten him; disease for example. But he can accept the risk of disease stoically. It is part of the nature of things, it is no one’s fault, unless it is the fault of some imaginary, impersonal demon. But threats to the modern individual tend to be MAN-MADE. They are not the results of chance but are IMPOSED on him by other persons whose decisions he, as an individual, is unable to influence. Consequently he feels frustrated, humiliated and angry.

Thus primitive man for the most part has his security in his own hands (either as an individual or as a member of a SMALL group) whereas the security of modern man is in the hands of persons or organizations that are too remote or too large for him to be able personally to influence them. So modern man’s drive for security tends to fall into groups 1 and 3; in some areas (food, shelter etc.) his security is assured at the cost of only trivial effort, whereas in other areas he CANNOT attain security. (The foregoing greatly simplifies the real situation, but it does indicate in a rough, general way how the condition of modern man differs from that of primitive man.)

People have many transitory drives or impulses that are necessarily frustrated in modern life, hence fall into group 3. One may become angry, but modern society cannot permit fighting. In many situations it does not even permit verbal aggression. When going somewhere one may be in a hurry, or one may be in a mood to travel slowly, but one generally has no choice but to move with the flow of traffic and obey the traffic signals. One may want to do one’s work in a different way, but usually one can work only according to the rules laid down by one’s employer. In many other ways as well, modern man is strapped down by a network of rules and regulations (explicit or implicit) that frustrate many of his impulses and thus interfere with the power process. Most of these regulations cannot be dispensed with, because they are necessary for the functioning of industrial society.

Modern society is in certain respects extremely permissive. In matters that are irrelevant to the functioning of the system we can generally do what we please. We can believe in any religion we like (as long as it does not encourage behavior that is dangerous to the system). We can go to bed with anyone we like (as long as we practice “safe sex”). We can do anything we like as long as it is UNIMPORTANT. But in all IMPORTANT matters the system tends increasingly to regulate our behavior.

Behavior is regulated not only through explicit rules and not only by the government. Control is often exercised through indirect coercion or through psychological pressure or manipulation, and by organizations other than the government, or by the system as a whole. Most large organizations use some form of propaganda [14] to manipulate public attitudes or behavior. Propaganda is not limited to “commercials” and advertisements, and sometimes it is not even consciously intended as propaganda by the people who make it. For instance, the content of entertainment programming is a powerful form of propaganda. An example of indirect coercion: There is no law that says we have to go to work every day and follow our employer’s orders. Legally there is nothing to prevent us from going to live in the wild like primitive people or from going into business for ourselves. But in practice there is very little wild country left, and there is room in the economy for only a limited number of small business owners. Hence most of us can survive only as someone else’s employee.

We suggest that modern man’s obsession with longevity, and with maintaining physical vigor and sexual attractiveness to an advanced age, is a symptom of unfulfillment resulting from deprivation with respect to the power process. The “mid-life crisis” also is such a symptom. So is the lack of interest in having children that is fairly common in modern society but almost unheard-of in primitive societies.

In primitive societies life is a succession of stages. The needs and purposes of one stage having been fulfilled, there is no particular reluctance about passing on to the next stage. A young man goes through the power process by becoming a hunter, hunting not for sport or for fulfillment but to get meat that is necessary for food. (In young women the process is more complex, with greater emphasis on social power; we won’t discuss that here.) This phase having been successfully passed through, the young man has no reluctance about settling down to the responsibilities of raising a family. (In contrast, some modern people indefinitely postpone having children because they are too busy seeking some kind of “fulfillment.” We suggest that the fulfillment they need is adequate experience of the power process—with real goals instead of the artificial goals of surrogate activities.) Again, having successfully raised his children, going through the power process by providing them with the physical necessities, the primitive man feels that his work is done and he is prepared to accept old age (if he survives that long) and death. Many modern people, on the other hand, are disturbed by the prospect of physical deterioration and death, as is shown by the amount of effort they expend trying to maintain their physical condition, appearance and health. We argue that this is due to unfulfillment resulting from the fact that they have never put their physical powers to any practical use, have never gone through the power process using their bodies in a serious way. It is not the primitive man, who has used his body daily for practical purposes, who fears the deterioration of age, but the modern man, who has never had a practical use for his body beyond walking from his car to his house. It is the man whose need for the power process has been satisfied during his life who is best prepared to accept the end of that life.

In response to the arguments of this section someone will say, “Society must find a way to give people the opportunity to go through the power process.” For such people the value of the opportunity is destroyed by the very fact that society gives it to them. What they need is to find or make their own opportunities. As long as the system GIVES them their opportunities it still has them on a leash. To attain autonomy they must get off that leash.


Not everyone in industrial-technological society suffers from psychological problems. Some people even profess to be quite satisfied with society as it is. We now discuss some of the reasons why people differ so greatly in their response to modern society.

First, there doubtless are differences in the strength of the drive for power. Individuals with a weak drive for power may have relatively little need to go through the power process, or at least relatively little need for autonomy in the power process. These are docile types who would have been happy as plantation darkies in the Old South. (We don’t mean to sneer at the “plantation darkies” of the Old South. To their credit, most of the slaves were NOT content with their servitude. We do sneer at people who ARE content with servitude.)

Some people may have some exceptional drive, in pursuing which they satisfy their need for the power process. For example, those who have an unusually strong drive for social status may spend their whole lives climbing the status ladder without ever getting bored with that game.

People vary in their susceptibility to advertising and marketing techniques. Some are so susceptible that, even if they make a great deal of money, they cannot satisfy their constant craving for the the shiny new toys that the marketing industry dangles before their eyes. So they always feel hard-pressed financially even if their income is large, and their cravings are frustrated.

Some people have low susceptibility to advertising and marketing techniques. These are the people who aren’t interested in money. Material acquisition does not serve their need for the power process.

People who have medium susceptibility to advertising and marketing techniques are able to earn enough money to satisfy their craving for goods and services, but only at the cost of serious effort (putting in overtime, taking a second job, earning promotions, etc.). Thus material acquisition serves their need for the power process. But it does not necessarily follow that their need is fully satisfied. They may have insufficient autonomy in the power process (their work may consist of following orders) and some of their drives may be frustrated (e.g., security, aggression). (We are guilty of oversimplification in paragraphs 80- 82 because we have assumed that the desire for material acquisition is entirely a creation of the advertising and marketing industry. Of course it’s not that simple. [11]

Some people partly satisfy their need for power by identifying themselves with a powerful organization or mass movement. An individual lacking goals or power joins a movement or an organization, adopts its goals as his own, then works toward those goals. When some of the goals are attained, the individual, even though his personal efforts have played only an insignificant part in the attainment of the goals, feels (through his identification with the movement or organization) as if he had gone through the power process. This phenomenon was exploited by the fascists, nazis and communists. Our society uses it too, though less crudely. Example: Manuel Noriega was an irritant to the U.S. (goal: punish Noriega). The U.S. invaded Panama (effort) and punished Noriega (attainment of goal). Thus the U.S. went through the power process and many Americans, because of their identification with the U.S., experienced the power process vicariously. Hence the widespread public approval of the Panama invasion; it gave people a sense of power. [15] We see the same phenomenon in armies, corporations, political parties, humanitarian organizations, religious or ideological movements. In particular, leftist movements tend to attract people who are seeking to satisfy their need for power. But for most people identification with a large organization or a mass movement does not fully satisfy the need for power.

Another way in which people satisfy their need for the power process is through surrogate activities. As we explained in paragraphs 38-40, a surrogate activity is an activity that is directed toward an artificial goal that the individual pursues for the sake of the “fulfillment” that he gets from pursuing the goal, not because he needs to attain the goal itself. For instance, there is no practical motive for building enormous muscles, hitting a little ball into a hole or acquiring a complete series of postage stamps. Yet many people in our society devote themselves with passion to bodybuilding, golf or stamp-collecting. Some people are more “other-directed” than others, and therefore will more readily attach importance to a surrogate activity simply because the people around them treat it as important or because society tells them it is important. That is why some people get very serious about essentially trivial activities such as sports, or bridge, or chess, or arcane scholarly pursuits, whereas others who are more clear-sighted never see these things as anything but the surrogate activities that they are, and consequently never attach enough importance to them to satisfy their need for the power process in that way. It only remains to point out that in many cases a person’s way of earning a living is also a surrogate activity. Not a PURE surrogate activity, since part of the motive for the activity is to gain the physical necessities and (for some people) social status and the luxuries that advertising makes them want. But many people put into their work far more effort than is necessary to earn whatever money and status they require, and this extra effort constitutes a surrogate activity. This extra effort, together with the emotional investment that accompanies it, is one of the most potent forces acting toward the continual development and perfecting of the system, with negative consequences for individual freedom (see paragraph 131). Especially, for the most creative scientists and engineers, work tends to be largely a surrogate activity. This point is so important that it deserves a separate discussion, which we shall give in a moment (paragraphs 87-92).

In this section we have explained how many people in modern society do satisfy their need for the power process to a greater or lesser extent. But we think that for the majority of people the need for the power process is not fully satisfied. In the first place, those who have an insatiable drive for status, or who get firmly “hooked” on a surrogate activity, or who identify strongly enough with a movement or organization to satisfy their need for power in that way, are exceptional personalities. Others are not fully satisfied with surrogate activities or by identification with an organization (see paragraphs 41, 64). In the second place, too much control is imposed by the system through explicit regulation or through socialization, which results in a deficiency of autonomy, and in frustration due to the impossibility of attaining certain goals and the necessity of restraining too many impulses.

But even if most people in industrial-technological society were well satisfied, we (FC) would still be opposed to that form of society, because (among other reasons) we consider it demeaning to fulfill one’s need for the power process through surrogate activities or through identification with an organization, rather than through pursuit of real goals.


Science and technology provide the most important examples of surrogate activities. Some scientists claim that they are motivated by “curiosity” or by a desire to “benefit humanity.” But it is easy to see that neither of these can be the principal motive of most scientists. As for “curiosity,” that notion is simply absurd. Most scientists work on highly specialized problems that are not the object of any normal curiosity. For example, is an astronomer, a mathematician or an entomologist curious about the properties of isopropyltrimethylmethane? Of course not. Only a chemist is curious about such a thing, and he is curious about it only because chemistry is his surrogate activity. Is the chemist curious about the appropriate classification of a new species of beetle? No. That question is of interest only to the entomologist, and he is interested in it only because entomology is his surrogate activity. If the chemist and the entomologist had to exert themselves seriously to obtain the physical necessities, and if that effort exercised their abilities in an interesting way but in some nonscientific pursuit, then they wouldn’t give a damn about isopropyltrimethylmethane or the classification of beetles. Suppose that lack of funds for postgraduate education had led the chemist to become an insurance broker instead of a chemist. In that case he would have been very interested in insurance matters but would have cared nothing about isopropyltrimethylmethane. In any case it is not normal to put into the satisfaction of mere curiosity the amount of time and effort that scientists put into their work. The “curiosity” explanation for the scientists’ motive just doesn’t stand up.

The “benefit of humanity” explanation doesn’t work any better. Some scientific work has no conceivable relation to the welfare of the human race—most of archaeology or comparative linguistics for example. Some other areas of science present obviously dangerous possibilities. Yet scientists in these areas are just as enthusiastic about their work as those who develop vaccines or study air pollution. Consider the case of Dr. Edward Teller, who had an obvious emotional involvement in promoting nuclear power plants. Did this involvement stem from a desire to benefit humanity? If so, then why didn’t Dr. Teller get emotional about other “humanitarian” causes? If he was such a humanitarian then why did he help to develop the H- bomb? As with many other scientific achievements, it is very much open to question whether nuclear power plants actually do benefit humanity. Does the cheap electricity outweigh the accumulating waste and the risk of accidents? Dr. Teller saw only one side of the question. Clearly his emotional involvement with nuclear power arose not from a desire to “benefit humanity” but from a personal fulfillment he got from his work and from seeing it put to practical use.

The same is true of scientists generally. With possible rare exceptions, their motive is neither curiosity nor a desire to benefit humanity but the need to go through the power process: to have a goal (a scientific problem to solve), to make an effort (research) and to attain the goal (solution of the problem.) Science is a surrogate activity because scientists work mainly for the fulfillment they get out of the work itself.

Of course, it’s not that simple. Other motives do play a role for many scientists. Money and status for example. Some scientists may be persons of the type who have an insatiable drive for status (see paragraph 79) and this may provide much of the motivation for their work. No doubt the majority of scientists, like the majority of the general population, are more or less susceptible to advertising and marketing techniques and need money to satisfy their craving for goods and services. Thus science is not a PURE surrogate activity. But it is in large part a surrogate activity.

Also, science and technology constitute a power mass movement, and many scientists gratify their need for power through identification with this mass movement (see paragraph 83).

Thus science marches on blindly, without regard to the real welfare of the human race or to any other standard, obedient only to the psychological needs of the scientists and of the government officials and corporation executives who provide the funds for research.


We are going to argue that industrial-technological society cannot be reformed in such a way as to prevent it from progressively narrowing the sphere of human freedom. But, because “freedom” is a word that can be interpreted in many ways, we must first make clear what kind of freedom we are concerned with.

By “freedom” we mean the opportunity to go through the power process, with real goals not the artificial goals of surrogate activities, and without interference, manipulation or supervision from anyone, especially from any large organization. Freedom means being in control (either as an individual or as a member of a SMALL group) of the life-and-death issues of one’s existence; food, clothing, shelter and defense against whatever threats there may be in one’s environment. Freedom means having power; not the power to control other people but the power to control the circumstances of one’s own life. One does not have freedom if anyone else (especially a large organization) has power over one, no matter how benevolently, tolerantly and permissively that power may be exercised. It is important not to confuse freedom with mere permissiveness (see paragraph 72).

It is said that we live in a free society because we have a certain number of constitutionally guaranteed rights. But these are not as important as they seem. The degree of personal freedom that exists in a society is determined more by the economic and technological structure of the society than by its laws or its form of government. [16] Most of the Indian nations of New England were monarchies, and many of the cities of the Italian Renaissance were controlled by dictators. But in reading about these societies one gets the impression that they allowed far more personal freedom than our society does. In part this was because they lacked efficient mechanisms for enforcing the ruler’s will: There were no modern, well-organized police forces, no rapid long-distance communications, no surveillance cameras, no dossiers of information about the lives of average citizens. Hence it was relatively easy to evade control.

As for our constitutional rights, consider for example that of freedom of the press. We certainly don’t mean to knock that right; it is very important tool for limiting concentration of political power and for keeping those who do have political power in line by publicly exposing any misbehavior on their part. But freedom of the press is of very little use to the average citizen as an individual. The mass media are mostly under the control of large organizations that are integrated into the system. Anyone who has a little money can have something printed, or can distribute it on the Internet or in some such way, but what he has to say will be swamped by the vast volume of material put out by the media, hence it will have no practical effect. To make an impression on society with words is therefore almost impossible for most individuals and small groups. Take us (FC) for example. If we had never done anything violent and had submitted the present writings to a publisher, they probably would not have been accepted. If they had been been accepted and published, they probably would not have attracted many readers, because it’s more fun to watch the entertainment put out by the media than to read a sober essay. Even if these writings had had many readers, most of these readers would soon have forgotten what they had read as their minds were flooded by the mass of material to which the media expose them. In order to get our message before the public with some chance of making a lasting impression, we’ve had to kill people.

Constitutional rights are useful up to a point, but they do not serve to guarantee much more than what might be called the bourgeois conception of freedom. According to the bourgeois conception, a “free” man is essentially an element of a social machine and has only a certain set of prescribed and delimited freedoms; freedoms that are designed to serve the needs of the social machine more than those of the individual. Thus the bourgeois’s “free” man has economic freedom because that promotes growth and progress; he has freedom of the press because public criticism restrains misbehavior by political leaders; he has a right to a fair trial because imprisonment at the whim of the powerful would be bad for the system. This was clearly the attitude of Simon Bolivar. To him, people deserved liberty only if they used it to promote progress (progress as conceived by the bourgeois). Other bourgeois thinkers have taken a similar view of freedom as a mere means to collective ends. Chester C. Tan, “Chinese Political Thought in the Twentieth Century,” page 202, explains the philosophy of the Kuomintang leader Hu Han-min: “An individual is granted rights because he is a member of society and his community life requires such rights. By community Hu meant the whole society of the nation.” And on page 259 Tan states that according to Carsum Chang (Chang Chun-mai, head of the State Socialist Party in China) freedom had to be used in the interest of the state and of the people as a whole. But what kind of freedom does one have if one can use it only as someone else prescribes? FC’s conception of freedom is not that of Bolivar, Hu, Chang or other bourgeois theorists. The trouble with such theorists is that they have made the development and application of social theories their surrogate activity. Consequently the theories are designed to serve the needs of the theorists more than the needs of any people who may be unlucky enough to live in a society on which the theories are imposed.

One more point to be made in this section: It should not be assumed that a person has enough freedom just because he SAYS he has enough. Freedom is restricted in part by psychological controls of which people are unconscious, and moreover many people’s ideas of what constitutes freedom are governed more by social convention than by their real needs. For example, it’s likely that many leftists of the oversocialized type would say that most people, including themselves, are socialized too little rather than too much, yet the oversocialized leftist pays a heavy psychological price for his high level of socialization.


Think of history as being the sum of two components: an erratic component that consists of unpredictable events that follow no discernible pattern, and a regular component that consists of long-term historical trends. Here we are concerned with the long-term trends.


If a SMALL change is made that affects a long-term historical trend, then the effect of that change will almost always be transitory—the trend will soon revert to its original state. (Example: A reform movement designed to clean up political corruption in a society rarely has more than a short-term effect; sooner or later the reformers relax and corruption creeps back in. The level of political corruption in a given society tends to remain constant, or to change only slowly with the evolution of the society. Normally, a political cleanup will be permanent only if accompanied by widespread social changes; a SMALL change in the society won’t be enough.) If a small change in a long-term historical trend appears to be permanent, it is only because the change acts in the direction in which the trend is already moving, so that the trend is not altered by only pushed a step ahead.

The first principle is almost a tautology. If a trend were not stable with respect to small changes, it would wander at random rather than following a definite direction; in other words it would not be a long- term trend at all.


If a change is made that is sufficiently large to alter permanently a long-term historical trend, then it will alter the society as a whole. In other words, a society is a system in which all parts are interrelated, and you can’t permanently change any important part without changing all other parts as well.


If a change is made that is large enough to alter permanently a long-term trend, then the consequences for the society as a whole cannot be predicted in advance. (Unless various other societies have passed through the same change and have all experienced the same consequences, in which case one can predict on empirical grounds that another society that passes through the same change will be like to experience similar consequences.)


A new kind of society cannot be designed on paper. That is, you cannot plan out a new form of society in advance, then set it up and expect it to function as it was designed to do.

The third and fourth principles result from the complexity of human societies. A change in human behavior will affect the economy of a society and its physical environment; the economy will affect the environment and vice versa, and the changes in the economy and the environment will affect human behavior in complex, unpredictable ways; and so forth. The network of causes and effects is far too complex to be untangled and understood.


People do not consciously and rationally choose the form of their society. Societies develop through processes of social evolution that are not under rational human control.

The fifth principle is a consequence of the other four.

To illustrate: By the first principle, generally speaking an attempt at social reform either acts in the direction in which the society is developing anyway (so that it merely accelerates a change that would have occurred in any case) or else it has only a transitory effect, so that the society soon slips back into its old groove. To make a lasting change in the direction of development of any important aspect of a society, reform is insufficient and revolution is required. (A revolution does not necessarily involve an armed uprising or the overthrow of a government.) By the second principle, a revolution never changes only one aspect of a society, it changes the whole society; and by the third principle changes occur that were never expected or desired by the revolutionaries. By the fourth principle, when revolutionaries or utopians set up a new kind of society, it never works out as planned.

The American Revolution does not provide a counterexample. The American “Revolution” was not a revolution in our sense of the word, but a war of independence followed by a rather far-reaching political reform. The Founding Fathers did not change the direction of development of American society, nor did they aspire to do so. They only freed the development of American society from the retarding effect of British rule. Their political reform did not change any basic trend, but only pushed American political culture along its natural direction of development. British society, of which American society was an offshoot, had been moving for a long time in the direction of representative democracy. And prior to the War of Independence the Americans were already practicing a significant degree of representative democracy in the colonial assemblies. The political system established by the Constitution was modeled on the British system and on the colonial assemblies. With major alteration, to be sure—there is no doubt that the Founding Fathers took a very important step. But it was a step along the road that English-speaking world was already traveling. The proof is that Britain and all of its colonies that were populated predominantly by people of British descent ended up with systems of representative democracy essentially similar to that of the United States. If the Founding Fathers had lost their nerve and declined to sign the Declaration of Independence, our way of life today would not have been significantly different. Maybe we would have had somewhat closer ties to Britain, and would have had a Parliament and Prime Minister instead of a Congress and President. No big deal. Thus the American Revolution provides not a counterexample to our principles but a good illustration of them.

Still, one has to use common sense in applying the principles. They are expressed in imprecise language that allows latitude for interpretation, and exceptions to them can be found. So we present these principles not as inviolable laws but as rules of thumb, or guides to thinking, that may provide a partial antidote to naive ideas about the future of society. The principles should be borne constantly in mind, and whenever one reaches a conclusion that conflicts with them one should carefully reexamine one’s thinking and retain the conclusion only if one has good, solid reasons for doing so.


The foregoing principles help to show how hopelessly difficult it would be to reform the industrial system in such a way as to prevent it from progressively narrowing our sphere of freedom. There has been a consistent tendency, going back at least to the Industrial Revolution for technology to strengthen the system at a high cost in individual freedom and local autonomy. Hence any change designed to protect freedom from technology would be contrary to a fundamental trend in the development of our society. Consequently, such a change either would be a transitory one—soon swamped by the tide of history—or, if large enough to be permanent would alter the nature of our whole society. This by the first and second principles. Moreover, since society would be altered in a way that could not be predicted in advance (third principle) there would be great risk. Changes large enough to make a lasting difference in favor of freedom would not be initiated because it would be realized that they would gravely disrupt the system. So any attempts at reform would be too timid to be effective. Even if changes large enough to make a lasting difference were initiated, they would be retracted when their disruptive effects became apparent. Thus, permanent changes in favor of freedom could be brought about only by persons prepared to accept radical, dangerous and unpredictable alteration of the entire system. In other words by revolutionaries, not reformers.

People anxious to rescue freedom without sacrificing the supposed benefits of technology will suggest naive schemes for some new form of society that would reconcile freedom with technology. Apart from the fact that people who make such suggestions seldom propose any practical means by which the new form of society could be set up in the first place, it follows from the fourth principle that even if the new form of society could be once established, it either would collapse or would give results very different from those expected.

So even on very general grounds it seems highly improbable that any way of changing society could be found that would reconcile freedom with modern technology. In the next few sections we will give more specific reasons for concluding that freedom and technological progress are incompatible.


As explained in paragraphs 65-67, 70-73, modern man is strapped down by a network of rules and regulations, and his fate depends on the actions of persons remote from him whose decisions he cannot influence. This is not accidental or a result of the arbitrariness of arrogant bureaucrats. It is necessary and inevitable in any technologically advanced society. The system HAS TO regulate human behavior closely in order to function. At work people have to do what they are told to do, otherwise production would be thrown into chaos. Bureaucracies HAVE TO be run according to rigid rules. To allow any substantial personal discretion to lower-level bureaucrats would disrupt the system and lead to charges of unfairness due to differences in the way individual bureaucrats exercised their discretion. It is true that some restrictions on our freedom could be eliminated, but GENERALLY SPEAKING the regulation of our lives by large organizations is necessary for the functioning of industrial-technological society. The result is a sense of powerlessness on the part of the average person. It may be, however, that formal regulations will tend increasingly to be replaced by psychological tools that make us want to do what the system requires of us. (Propaganda [14], educational techniques, “mental health” programs, etc.)

The system HAS TO force people to behave in ways that are increasingly remote from the natural pattern of human behavior. For example, the system needs scientists, mathematicians and engineers. It can’t function without them. So heavy pressure is put on children to excel in these fields. It isn’t natural for an adolescent human being to spend the bulk of his time sitting at a desk absorbed in study. A normal adolescent wants to spend his time in active contact with the real world. Among primitive peoples the things that children are trained to do tend to be in reasonable harmony with natural human impulses. Among the American Indians, for example, boys were trained in active outdoor pursuits— just the sort of thing that boys like. But in our society children are pushed into studying technical subjects, which most do grudgingly.

Because of the constant pressure that the system exerts to modify human behavior, there is a gradual increase in the number of people who cannot or will not adjust to society’s requirements: welfare leeches, youth-gang members, cultists, anti-government rebels, radical environmentalist saboteurs, dropouts and resisters of various kinds.

In any technologically advanced society the individual’s fate MUST depend on decisions that he personally cannot influence to any great extent. A technological society cannot be broken down into small, autonomous communities, because production depends on the cooperation of very large numbers of people and machines. Such a society MUST be highly organized and decisions HAVE TO be made that affect very large numbers of people. When a decision affects, say, a million people, then each of the affected individuals has, on the average, only a one-millionth share in making the decision. What usually happens in practice is that decisions are made by public officials or corporation executives, or by technical specialists, but even when the public votes on a decision the number of voters ordinarily is too large for the vote of any one individual to be significant. [17] Thus most individuals are unable to influence measurably the major decisions that affect their lives. There is no conceivable way to remedy this in a technologically advanced society. The system tries to “solve” this problem by using propaganda to make people WANT the decisions that have been made for them, but even if this “solution” were completely successful in making people feel better, it would be demeaning.

Conservatives and some others advocate more “local autonomy.” Local communities once did have autonomy, but such autonomy becomes less and less possible as local communities become more enmeshed with and dependent on large-scale systems like public utilities, computer networks, highway systems, the mass communications media, the modern health care system. Also operating against autonomy is the fact that technology applied in one location often affects people at other locations far way. Thus pesticide or chemical use near a creek may contaminate the water supply hundreds of miles downstream, and the greenhouse effect affects the whole world.

The system does not and cannot exist to satisfy human needs. Instead, it is human behavior that has to be modified to fit the needs of the system. This has nothing to do with the political or social ideology that may pretend to guide the technological system. It is the fault of technology, because the system is guided not by ideology but by technical necessity. [18] Of course the system does satisfy many human needs, but generally speaking it does this only to the extend that it is to the advantage of the system to do it. It is the needs of the system that are paramount, not those of the human being. For example, the system provides people with food because the system couldn’t function if everyone starved; it attends to people’s psychological needs whenever it can CONVENIENTLY do so, because it couldn’t function if too many people became depressed or rebellious. But the system, for good, solid, practical reasons, must exert constant pressure on people to mold their behavior to the needs of the system. To much waste accumulating? The government, the media, the educational system, environmentalists, everyone inundates us with a mass of propaganda about recycling. Need more technical personnel? A chorus of voices exhorts kids to study science. No one stops to ask whether it is inhumane to force adolescents to spend the bulk of their time studying subjects most of them hate. When skilled workers are put out of a job by technical advances and have to undergo “retraining,” no one asks whether it is humiliating for them to be pushed around in this way. It is simply taken for granted that everyone must bow to technical necessity. and for good reason: If human needs were put before technical necessity there would be economic problems, unemployment, shortages or worse. The concept of “mental health” in our society is defined largely by the extent to which an individual behaves in accord with the needs of the system and does so without showing signs of stress.

Efforts to make room for a sense of purpose and for autonomy within the system are no better than a joke. For example, one company, instead of having each of its employees assemble only one section of a catalogue, had each assemble a whole catalogue, and this was supposed to give them a sense of purpose and achievement. Some companies have tried to give their employees more autonomy in their work, but for practical reasons this usually can be done only to a very limited extent, and in any case employees are never given autonomy as to ultimate goals—their “autonomous” efforts can never be directed toward goals that they select personally, but only toward their employer’s goals, such as the survival and growth of the company. Any company would soon go out of business if it permitted its employees to act otherwise. Similarly, in any enterprise within a socialist system, workers must direct their efforts toward the goals of the enterprise, otherwise the enterprise will not serve its purpose as part of the system. Once again, for purely technical reasons it is not possible for most individuals or small groups to have much autonomy in industrial society. Even the small-business owner commonly has only limited autonomy. Apart from the necessity of government regulation, he is restricted by the fact that he must fit into the economic system and conform to its requirements. For instance, when someone develops a new technology, the small-business person often has to use that technology whether he wants to or not, in order to remain competitive.


A further reason why industrial society cannot be reformed in favor of freedom is that modern technology is a unified system in which all parts are dependent on one another. You can’t get rid of the “bad” parts of technology and retain only the “good” parts. Take modern medicine, for example. Progress in medical science depends on progress in chemistry, physics, biology, computer science and other fields. Advanced medical treatments require expensive, high-tech equipment that can be made available only by a technologically progressive, economically rich society. Clearly you can’t have much progress in medicine without the whole technological system and everything that goes with it.

Even if medical progress could be maintained without the rest of the technological system, it would by itself bring certain evils. Suppose for example that a cure for diabetes is discovered. People with a genetic tendency to diabetes will then be able to survive and reproduce as well as anyone else. Natural selection against genes for diabetes will cease and such genes will spread throughout the population. (This may be occurring to some extent already, since diabetes, while not curable, can be controlled through use of insulin.) The same thing will happen with many other diseases susceptibility to which is affected by genetic degradation of the population. The only solution will be some sort of eugenics program or extensive genetic engineering of human beings, so that man in the future will no longer be a creation of nature, or of chance, or of God (depending on your religious or philosophical opinions), but a manufactured product.

If you think that big government interferes in your life too much NOW, just wait till the government starts regulating the genetic constitution of your children. Such regulation will inevitably follow the introduction of genetic engineering of human beings, because the consequences of unregulated genetic engineering would be disastrous. [19]

The usual response to such concerns is to talk about “medical ethics.” But a code of ethics would not serve to protect freedom in the face of medical progress; it would only make matters worse. A code of ethics applicable to genetic engineering would be in effect a means of regulating the genetic constitution of human beings. Somebody (probably the upper-middle class, mostly) would decide that such and such applications of genetic engineering were “ethical” and others were not, so that in effect they would be imposing their own values on the genetic constitution of the population at large. Even if a code of ethics were chosen on a completely democratic basis, the majority would be imposing their own values on any minorities who might have a different idea of what constituted an “ethical” use of genetic engineering. The only code of ethics that would truly protect freedom would be one that prohibited ANY genetic engineering of human beings, and you can be sure that no such code will ever be applied in a technological society. No code that reduced genetic engineering to a minor role could stand up for long, because the temptation presented by the immense power of biotechnology would be irresistible, especially since to the majority of people many of its applications will seem obviously and unequivocally good (eliminating physical and mental diseases, giving people the abilities they need to get along in today’s world). Inevitably, genetic engineering will be used extensively, but only in ways consistent with the needs of the industrial- technological system. [20]


It is not possible to make a LASTING compromise between technology and freedom, because technology is by far the more powerful social force and continually encroaches on freedom through REPEATED compromises. Imagine the case of two neighbors, each of whom at the outset owns the same amount of land, but one of whom is more powerful than the other. The powerful one demands a piece of the other’s land. The weak one refuses. The powerful one says, “OK, let’s compromise. Give me half of what I asked.” The weak one has little choice but to give in. Some time later the powerful neighbor demands another piece of land, again there is a compromise, and so forth. By forcing a long series of compromises on the weaker man, the powerful one eventually gets all of his land. So it goes in the conflict between technology and freedom.

Let us explain why technology is a more powerful social force than the aspiration for freedom.

A technological advance that appears not to threaten freedom often turns out to threaten it very seriously later on. For example, consider motorized transport. A walking man formerly could go where he pleased, go at his own pace without observing any traffic regulations, and was independent of technological support-systems. When motor vehicles were introduced they appeared to increase man’s freedom. They took no freedom away from the walking man, no one had to have an automobile if he didn’t want one, and anyone who did choose to buy an automobile could travel much faster and farther than a walking man. But the introduction of motorized transport soon changed society in such a way as to restrict greatly man’s freedom of locomotion. When automobiles became numerous, it became necessary to regulate their use extensively. In a car, especially in densely populated areas, one cannot just go where one likes at one’s own pace one’s movement is governed by the flow of traffic and by various traffic laws. One is tied down by various obligations: license requirements, driver test, renewing registration, insurance, maintenance required for safety, monthly payments on purchase price. Moreover, the use of motorized transport is no longer optional. Since the introduction of motorized transport the arrangement of our cities has changed in such a way that the majority of people no longer live within walking distance of their place of employment, shopping areas and recreational opportunities, so that they HAVE TO depend on the automobile for transportation. Or else they must use public transportation, in which case they have even less control over their own movement than when driving a car. Even the walker’s freedom is now greatly restricted. In the city he continually has to stop to wait for traffic lights that are designed mainly to serve auto traffic. In the country, motor traffic makes it dangerous and unpleasant to walk along the highway. (Note this important point that we have just illustrated with the case of motorized transport: When a new item of technology is introduced as an option that an individual can accept or not as he chooses, it does not necessarily REMAIN optional. In many cases the new technology changes society in such a way that people eventually find themselves FORCED to use it.)

While technological progress AS A WHOLE continually narrows our sphere of freedom, each new technical advance CONSIDERED BY ITSELF appears to be desirable. Electricity, indoor plumbing, rapid long-distance communications ... how could one argue against any of these things, or against any other of the innumerable technical advances that have made modern society? It would have been absurd to resist the introduction of the telephone, for example. It offered many advantages and no disadvantages. Yet, as we explained in paragraphs 59-76, all these technical advances taken together have created a world in which the average man’s fate is no longer in his own hands or in the hands of his neighbors and friends, but in those of politicians, corporation executives and remote, anonymous technicians and bureaucrats whom he as an individual has no power to influence. [21] The same process will continue in the future. Take genetic engineering, for example. Few people will resist the introduction of a genetic technique that eliminates a hereditary disease. It does no apparent harm and prevents much suffering. Yet a large number of genetic improvements taken together will make the human being into an engineered product rather than a free creation of chance (or of God, or whatever, depending on your religious beliefs).

Another reason why technology is such a powerful social force is that, within the context of a given society, technological progress marches in only one direction; it can never be reversed. Once a technical innovation has been introduced, people usually become dependent on it, so that they can never again do without it, unless it is replaced by some still more advanced innovation. Not only do people become dependent as individuals on a new item of technology, but, even more, the system as a whole becomes dependent on it. (Imagine what would happen to the system today if computers, for example, were eliminated.) Thus the system can move in only one direction, toward greater technologization. Technology repeatedly forces freedom to take a step back, but technology can never take a step back—short of the overthrow of the whole technological system.

Technology advances with great rapidity and threatens freedom at many different points at the same time (crowding, rules and regulations, increasing dependence of individuals on large organizations, propaganda and other psychological techniques, genetic engineering, invasion of privacy through surveillance devices and computers, etc.). To hold back any ONE of the threats to freedom would require a long and difficult social struggle. Those who want to protect freedom are overwhelmed by the sheer number of new attacks and the rapidity with which they develop, hence they become apathetic and no longer resist. To fight each of the threats separately would be futile. Success can be hoped for only by fighting the technological system as a whole; but that is revolution, not reform.

Technicians (we use this term in its broad sense to describe all those who perform a specialized task that requires training) tend to be so involved in their work (their surrogate activity) that when a conflict arises between their technical work and freedom, they almost always decide in favor of their technical work. This is obvious in the case of scientists, but it also appears elsewhere: Educators, humanitarian groups, conservation organizations do not hesitate to use propaganda or other psychological techniques to help them achieve their laudable ends. Corporations and government agencies, when they find it useful, do not hesitate to collect information about individuals without regard to their privacy. Law enforcement agencies are frequently inconvenienced by the constitutional rights of suspects and often of completely innocent persons, and they do whatever they can do legally (or sometimes illegally) to restrict or circumvent those rights. Most of these educators, government officials and law officers believe in freedom, privacy and constitutional rights, but when these conflict with their work, they usually feel that their work is more important.

It is well known that people generally work better and more persistently when striving for a reward than when attempting to avoid a punishment or negative outcome. Scientists and other technicians are motivated mainly by the rewards they get through their work. But those who oppose technological invasions of freedom are working to avoid a negative outcome, consequently there are few who work persistently and well at this discouraging task. If reformers ever achieved a signal victory that seemed to set up a solid barrier against further erosion of freedom through technical progress, most would tend to relax and turn their attention to more agreeable pursuits. But the scientists would remain busy in their laboratories, and technology as it progresses would find ways, in spite of any barriers, to exert more and more control over individuals and make them always more dependent on the system.

No social arrangements, whether laws, institutions, customs or ethical codes, can provide permanent protection against technology. History shows that all social arrangements are transitory; they all change or break down eventually. But technological advances are permanent within the context of a given civilization. Suppose for example that it were possible to arrive at some social arrangements that would prevent genetic engineering from being applied to human beings, or prevent it from being applied in such a way as to threaten freedom and dignity. Still, the technology would remain waiting. Sooner or later the social arrangement would break down. Probably sooner, given the pace of change in our society. Then genetic engineering would begin to invade our sphere of freedom, and this invasion would be irreversible (short of a breakdown of technological civilization itself). Any illusions about achieving anything permanent through social arrangements should be dispelled by what is currently happening with environmental legislation. A few years ago its seemed that there were secure legal barriers preventing at least SOME of the worst forms of environmental degradation. A change in the political wind, and those barriers begin to crumble.

For all of the foregoing reasons, technology is a more powerful social force than the aspiration for freedom. But this statement requires an important qualification. It appears that during the next several decades the industrial-technological system will be undergoing severe stresses due to economic and environmental problems, and especially due to problems of human behavior (alienation, rebellion, hostility, a variety of social and psychological difficulties). We hope that the stresses through which the system is likely to pass will cause it to break down, or at least will weaken it sufficiently so that a revolution against it becomes possible. If such a revolution occurs and is successful, then at that particular moment the aspiration for freedom will have proved more powerful than technology.

In paragraph 125 we used an analogy of a weak neighbor who is left destitute by a strong neighbor who takes all his land by forcing on him a series of compromises. But suppose now that the strong neighbor gets sick, so that he is unable to defend himself. The weak neighbor can force the strong one to give him his land back, or he can kill him. If he lets the strong man survive and only forces him to give the land back, he is a fool, because when the strong man gets well he will again take all the land for himself. The only sensible alternative for the weaker man is to kill the strong one while he has the chance. In the same way, while the industrial system is sick we must destroy it. If we compromise with it and let it recover from its sickness, it will eventually wipe out all of our freedom.


If anyone still imagines that it would be possible to reform the system in such a way as to protect freedom from technology, let him consider how clumsily and for the most part unsuccessfully our society has dealt with other social problems that are far more simple and straightforward. Among other things, the system has failed to stop environmental degradation, political corruption, drug trafficking or domestic abuse.

Take our environmental problems, for example. Here the conflict of values is straightforward: economic expedience now versus saving some of our natural resources for our grandchildren. [22] But on this subject we get only a lot of blather and obfuscation from the people who have power, and nothing like a clear, consistent line of action, and we keep on piling up environmental problems that our grandchildren will have to live with. Attempts to resolve the environmental issue consist of struggles and compromises between different factions, some of which are ascendant at one moment, others at another moment. The line of struggle changes with the shifting currents of public opinion. This is not a rational process, nor is it one that is likely to lead to a timely and successful solution to the problem. Major social problems, if they get “solved” at all, are rarely or never solved through any rational, comprehensive plan. They just work themselves out through a process in which various competing groups pursuing their own (usually short- term) self-interest [23] arrive (mainly by luck) at some more or less stable modus vivendi. In fact, the principles we formulated in paragraphs 100-106 make it seem doubtful that rational, long-term social planning can EVER be successful.

Thus it is clear that the human race has at best a very limited capacity for solving even relatively straightforward social problems. How then is it going to solve the far more difficult and subtle problem of reconciling freedom with technology? Technology presents clear-cut material advantages, whereas freedom is an abstraction that means different things to different people, and its loss is easily obscured by propaganda and fancy talk.

And note this important difference: It is conceivable that our environmental problems (for example) may some day be settled through a rational, comprehensive plan, but if this happens it will be only because it is in the long-term interest of the system to solve these problems. But it is NOT in the interest of the system to preserve freedom or small-group autonomy. On the contrary, it is in the interest of the system to bring human behavior under control to the greatest possible extent. [24] Thus, while practical considerations may eventually force the system to take a rational, prudent approach to environmental problems, equally practical considerations will force the system to regulate human behavior ever more closely (preferably by indirect means that will disguise the encroachment on freedom). This isn’t just our opinion. Eminent social scientists (e.g. James Q. Wilson) have stressed the importance of “socializing” people more effectively.


We hope we have convinced the reader that the system cannot be reformed in such a way as to reconcile freedom with technology. The only way out is to dispense with the industrial-technological system altogether. This implies revolution, not necessarily an armed uprising, but certainly a radical and fundamental change in the nature of society.

People tend to assume that because a revolution involves a much greater change than reform does, it is more difficult to bring about than reform is. Actually, under certain circumstances revolution is much easier than reform. The reason is that a revolutionary movement can inspire an intensity of commitment that a reform movement cannot inspire. A reform movement merely offers to solve a particular social problem. A revolutionary movement offers to solve all problems at one stroke and create a whole new world; it provides the kind of ideal for which people will take great risks and make great sacrifices. For this reasons it would be much easier to overthrow the whole technological system than to put effective, permanent restraints on the development or application of any one segment of technology, such as genetic engineering, for example. Not many people will devote themselves with single-minded passion to imposing and maintaining restraints on genetic engineering, but under suitable conditions large numbers of people may devote themselves passionately to a revolution against the industrial-technological system. As we noted in paragraph 132, reformers seeking to limit certain aspects of technology would be working to avoid a negative outcome. But revolutionaries work to gain a powerful reward—fulfillment of their revolutionary vision—and therefore work harder and more persistently than reformers do.

Reform is always restrained by the fear of painful consequences if changes go too far. But once a revolutionary fever has taken hold of a society, people are willing to undergo unlimited hardships for the sake of their revolution. This was clearly shown in the French and Russian Revolutions. It may be that in such cases only a minority of the population is really committed to the revolution, but this minority is sufficiently large and active so that it becomes the dominant force in society. We will have more to say about revolution in paragraphs 180-205.


Since the beginning of civilization, organized societies have had to put pressures on human beings of the sake of the functioning of the social organism. The kinds of pressures vary greatly from one society to another. Some of the pressures are physical (poor diet, excessive labor, environmental pollution), some are psychological (noise, crowding, forcing human behavior into the mold that society requires). In the past, human nature has been approximately constant, or at any rate has varied only within certain bounds. Consequently, societies have been able to push people only up to certain limits. When the limit of human endurance has been passed, things start going wrong: rebellion, or crime, or corruption, or evasion of work, or depression and other mental problems, or an elevated death rate, or a declining birth rate or something else, so that either the society breaks down, or its functioning becomes too inefficient and it is (quickly or gradually, through conquest, attrition or evolution) replaced by some more efficient form of society. [25]

Thus human nature has in the past put certain limits on the development of societies. People could be pushed only so far and no farther. But today this may be changing, because modern technology is developing ways of modifying human beings.

Imagine a society that subjects people to conditions that make them terribly unhappy, then gives them drugs to take away their unhappiness. Science fiction? It is already happening to some extent in our own society. It is well known that the rate of clinical depression has been greatly increasing in recent decades. We believe that this is due to disruption of the power process, as explained in paragraphs 59-76. But even if we are wrong, the increasing rate of depression is certainly the result of SOME conditions that exist in today’s society. Instead of removing the conditions that make people depressed, modern society gives them antidepressant drugs. In effect, antidepressants are a means of modifying an individual’s internal state in such a way as to enable him to tolerate social conditions that he would otherwise find intolerable. (Yes, we know that depression is often of purely genetic origin. We are referring here to those cases in which environment plays the predominant role.)

Drugs that affect the mind are only one example of the new methods of controlling human behavior that modern society is developing. Let us look at some of the other methods.

To start with, there are the techniques of surveillance. Hidden video cameras are now used in most stores and in many other places, computers are used to collect and process vast amounts of information about individuals. Information so obtained greatly increases the effectiveness of physical coercion (i.e., law enforcement). [26] Then there are the methods of propaganda, for which the mass communication media provide effective vehicles. Efficient techniques have been developed for winning elections, selling products, influencing public opinion. The entertainment industry serves as an important psychological tool of the system, possibly even when it is dishing out large amounts of sex and violence. Entertainment provides modern man with an essential means of escape. While absorbed in television, videos, etc., he can forget stress, anxiety, frustration, dissatisfaction. Many primitive peoples, when they don’t have work to do, are quite content to sit for hours at a time doing nothing at all, because they are at peace with themselves and their world. But most modern people must be constantly occupied or entertained, otherwise they get “bored,” i.e., they get fidgety, uneasy, irritable.

Other techniques strike deeper than the foregoing. Education is no longer a simple affair of paddling a kid’s behind when he doesn’t know his lessons and patting him on the head when he does know them. It is becoming a scientific technique for controlling the child’s development. Sylvan Learning Centers, for example, have had great success in motivating children to study, and psychological techniques are also used with more or less success in many conventional schools. “Parenting” techniques that are taught to parents are designed to make children accept fundamental values of the system and behave in ways that the system finds desirable. “Mental health” programs, “intervention” techniques, psychotherapy and so forth are ostensibly designed to benefit individuals, but in practice they usually serve as methods for inducing individuals to think and behave as the system requires. (There is no contradiction here; an individual whose attitudes or behavior bring him into conflict with the system is up against a force that is too powerful for him to conquer or escape from, hence he is likely to suffer from stress, frustration, defeat. His path will be much easier if he thinks and behaves as the system requires. In that sense the system is acting for the benefit of the individual when it brainwashes him into conformity.) Child abuse in its gross and obvious forms is disapproved in most if not all cultures. Tormenting a child for a trivial reason or no reason at all is something that appalls almost everyone. But many psychologists interpret the concept of abuse much more broadly. Is spanking, when used as part of a rational and consistent system of discipline, a form of abuse? The question will ultimately be decided by whether or not spanking tends to produce behavior that makes a person fit in well with the existing system of society. In practice, the word “abuse” tends to be interpreted to include any method of child-rearing that produces behavior inconvenient for the system. Thus, when they go beyond the prevention of obvious, senseless cruelty, programs for preventing “child abuse” are directed toward the control of human behavior on behalf of the system.

Presumably, research will continue to increase the effectiveness of psychological techniques for controlling human behavior. But we think it is unlikely that psychological techniques alone will be sufficient to adjust human beings to the kind of society that technology is creating. Biological methods probably will have to be used. We have already mentioned the use of drugs in this connection. Neurology may provide other avenues for modifying the human mind. Genetic engineering of human beings is already beginning to occur in the form of “gene therapy,” and there is no reason to assume that such methods will not eventually be used to modify those aspects of the body that affect mental functioning.

As we mentioned in paragraph 134, industrial society seems likely to be entering a period of severe stress, due in part to problems of human behavior and in part to economic and environmental problems. And a considerable proportion of the system’s economic and environmental problems result from the way human beings behave. Alienation, low self-esteem, depression, hostility, rebellion; children who won’t study, youth gangs, illegal drug use, rape, child abuse, other crimes, unsafe sex, teen pregnancy, population growth, political corruption, race hatred, ethnic rivalry, bitter ideological conflict (e.g., pro-choice vs. pro- life), political extremism, terrorism, sabotage, anti-government groups, hate groups. All these threaten the very survival of the system. The system will therefore be FORCED to use every practical means of controlling human behavior.

The social disruption that we see today is certainly not the result of mere chance. It can only be a result of the conditions of life that the system imposes on people. (We have argued that the most important of these conditions is disruption of the power process.) If the systems succeeds in imposing sufficient control over human behavior to assure its own survival, a new watershed in human history will have been passed. Whereas formerly the limits of human endurance have imposed limits on the development of societies (as we explained in paragraphs 143, 144), industrial-technological society will be able to pass those limits by modifying human beings, whether by psychological methods or biological methods or both. In the future, social systems will not be adjusted to suit the needs of human beings. Instead, human being will be adjusted to suit the needs of the system. [27]

Generally speaking, technological control over human behavior will probably not be introduced with a totalitarian intention or even through a conscious desire to restrict human freedom. [28] Each new step in the assertion of control over the human mind will be taken as a rational response to a problem that faces society, such as curing alcoholism, reducing the crime rate or inducing young people to study science and engineering. In many cases there will be a humanitarian justification. For example, when a psychiatrist prescribes an anti-depressant for a depressed patient, he is clearly doing that individual a favor. It would be inhumane to withhold the drug from someone who needs it. When parents send their children to Sylvan Learning Centers to have them manipulated into becoming enthusiastic about their studies, they do so from concern for their children’s welfare. It may be that some of these parents wish that one didn’t have to have specialized training to get a job and that their kid didn’t have to be brainwashed into becoming a computer nerd. But what can they do? They can’t change society, and their child may be unemployable if he doesn’t have certain skills. So they send him to Sylvan.

Thus control over human behavior will be introduced not by a calculated decision of the authorities but through a process of social evolution (RAPID evolution, however). The process will be impossible to resist, because each advance, considered by itself, will appear to be beneficial, or at least the evil involved in making the advance will appear to be beneficial, or at least the evil involved in making the advance will seem to be less than that which would result from not making it (see paragraph 127). Propaganda for example is used for many good purposes, such as discouraging child abuse or race hatred. [14] Sex education is obviously useful, yet the effect of sex education (to the extent that it is successful) is to take the shaping of sexual attitudes away from the family and put it into the hands of the state as represented by the public school system.

Suppose a biological trait is discovered that increases the likelihood that a child will grow up to be a criminal, and suppose some sort of gene therapy can remove this trait. [29] Of course most parents whose children possess the trait will have them undergo the therapy. It would be inhumane to do otherwise, since the child would probably have a miserable life if he grew up to be a criminal. But many or most primitive societies have a low crime rate in comparison with that of our society, even though they have neither high- tech methods of child-rearing nor harsh systems of punishment. Since there is no reason to suppose that more modern men than primitive men have innate predatory tendencies, the high crime rate of our society must be due to the pressures that modern conditions put on people, to which many cannot or will not adjust. Thus a treatment designed to remove potential criminal tendencies is at least in part a way of re-engineering people so that they suit the requirements of the system.

Our society tends to regard as a “sickness” any mode of thought or behavior that is inconvenient for the system, and this is plausible because when an individual doesn’t fit into the system it causes pain to the individual as well as problems for the system. Thus the manipulation of an individual to adjust him to the system is seen as a “cure” for a “sickness” and therefore as good.

In paragraph 127 we pointed out that if the use of a new item of technology is INITIALLY optional, it does not necessarily REMAIN optional, because the new technology tends to change society in such a way that it becomes difficult or impossible for an individual to function without using that technology. This applies also to the technology of human behavior. In a world in which most children are put through a program to make them enthusiastic about studying, a parent will almost be forced to put his kid through such a program, because if he does not, then the kid will grow up to be, comparatively speaking, an ignoramus and therefore unemployable. Or suppose a biological treatment is discovered that, without undesirable side-effects, will greatly reduce the psychological stress from which so many people suffer in our society. If large numbers of people choose to undergo the treatment, then the general level of stress in society will be reduced, so that it will be possible for the system to increase the stress-producing pressures. In fact, something like this seems to have happened already with one of our society’s most important psychological tools for enabling people to reduce (or at least temporarily escape from) stress, namely, mass entertainment (see paragraph 147). Our use of mass entertainment is “optional”: No law requires us to watch television, listen to the radio, read magazines. Yet mass entertainment is a means of escape and stress-reduction on which most of us have become dependent. Everyone complains about the trashiness of television, but almost everyone watches it. A few have kicked the TV habit, but it would be a rare person who could get along today without using ANY form of mass entertainment. (Yet until quite recently in human history most people got along very nicely with no other entertainment than that which each local community created for itself.) Without the entertainment industry the system probably would not have been able to get away with putting as much stress-producing pressure on us as it does.

Assuming that industrial society survives, it is likely that technology will eventually acquire something approaching complete control over human behavior. It has been established beyond any rational doubt that human thought and behavior have a largely biological basis. As experimenters have demonstrated, feelings such as hunger, pleasure, anger and fear can be turned on and off by electrical stimulation of appropriate parts of the brain. Memories can be destroyed by damaging parts of the brain or they can be brought to the surface by electrical stimulation. Hallucinations can be induced or moods changed by drugs. There may or may not be an immaterial human soul, but if there is one it clearly is less powerful that the biological mechanisms of human behavior. For if that were not the case then researchers would not be able so easily to manipulate human feelings and behavior with drugs and electrical currents.

It presumably would be impractical for all people to have electrodes inserted in their heads so that they could be controlled by the authorities. But the fact that human thoughts and feelings are so open to biological intervention shows that the problem of controlling human behavior is mainly a technical problem; a problem of neurons, hormones and complex molecules; the kind of problem that is accessible to scientific attack. Given the outstanding record of our society in solving technical problems, it is overwhelmingly probable that great advances will be made in the control of human behavior.

Will public resistance prevent the introduction of technological control of human behavior? It certainly would if an attempt were made to introduce such control all at once. But since technological control will be introduced through a long sequence of small advances, there will be no rational and effective public resistance. (See paragraphs 127, 132, 153.)

To those who think that all this sounds like science fiction, we point out that yesterday’s science fiction is today’s fact. The Industrial Revolution has radically altered man’s environment and way of life, and it is only to be expected that as technology is increasingly applied to the human body and mind, man himself will be altered as radically as his environment and way of life have been.


But we have gotten ahead of our story. It is one thing to develop in the laboratory a series of psychological or biological techniques for manipulating human behavior and quite another to integrate these techniques into a functioning social system. The latter problem is the more difficult of the two. For example, while the techniques of educational psychology doubtless work quite well in the “lab schools” where they are developed, it is not necessarily easy to apply them effectively throughout our educational system. We all know what many of our schools are like. The teachers are too busy taking knives and guns away from the kids to subject them to the latest techniques for making them into computer nerds. Thus, in spite of all its technical advances relating to human behavior, the system to date has not been impressively successful in controlling human beings. The people whose behavior is fairly well under the control of the system are those of the type that might be called “bourgeois.” But there are growing numbers of people who in one way or another are rebels against the system: welfare leaches, youth gangs, cultists, satanists, nazis, radical environmentalists, militiamen, etc.

The system is currently engaged in a desperate struggle to overcome certain problems that threaten its survival, among which the problems of human behavior are the most important. If the system succeeds in acquiring sufficient control over human behavior quickly enough, it will probably survive. Otherwise it will break down. We think the issue will most likely be resolved within the next several decades, say 40 to 100 years.

Suppose the system survives the crisis of the next several decades. By that time it will have to have solved, or at least brought under control, the principal problems that confront it, in particular that of “socializing” human beings; that is, making people sufficiently docile so that heir behavior no longer threatens the system. That being accomplished, it does not appear that there would be any further obstacle to the development of technology, and it would presumably advance toward its logical conclusion, which is complete control over everything on Earth, including human beings and all other important organisms. The system may become a unitary, monolithic organization, or it may be more or less fragmented and consist of a number of organizations coexisting in a relationship that includes elements of both cooperation and competition, just as today the government, the corporations and other large organizations both cooperate and compete with one another. Human freedom mostly will have vanished, because individuals and small groups will be impotent vis-a-vis large organizations armed with supertechnology and an arsenal of advanced psychological and biological tools for manipulating human beings, besides instruments of surveillance and physical coercion. Only a small number of people will have any real power, and even these probably will have only very limited freedom, because their behavior too will be regulated; just as today our politicians and corporation executives can retain their positions of power only as long as their behavior remains within certain fairly narrow limits.

Don’t imagine that the systems will stop developing further techniques for controlling human beings and nature once the crisis of the next few decades is over and increasing control is no longer necessary for the system’s survival. On the contrary, once the hard times are over the system will increase its control over people and nature more rapidly, because it will no longer be hampered by difficulties of the kind that it is currently experiencing. Survival is not the principal motive for extending control. As we explained in paragraphs 87-90, technicians and scientists carry on their work largely as a surrogate activity; that is, they satisfy their need for power by solving technical problems. They will continue to do this with unabated enthusiasm, and among the most interesting and challenging problems for them to solve will be those of understanding the human body and mind and intervening in their development. For the “good of humanity,” of course.

But suppose on the other hand that the stresses of the coming decades prove to be too much for the system. If the system breaks down there may be a period of chaos, a “time of troubles” such as those that history has recorded at various epochs in the past. It is impossible to predict what would emerge from such a time of troubles, but at any rate the human race would be given a new chance. The greatest danger is that industrial society may begin to reconstitute itself within the first few years after the breakdown. Certainly there will be many people (power-hungry types especially) who will be anxious to get the factories running again.

Therefore two tasks confront those who hate the servitude to which the industrial system is reducing the human race. First, we must work to heighten the social stresses within the system so as to increase the likelihood that it will break down or be weakened sufficiently so that a revolution against it becomes possible. Second, it is necessary to develop and propagate an ideology that opposes technology and the industrial society if and when the system becomes sufficiently weakened. And such an ideology will help to assure that, if and when industrial society breaks down, its remnants will be smashed beyond repair, so that the system cannot be reconstituted. The factories should be destroyed, technical books burned, etc.


The industrial system will not break down purely as a result of revolutionary action. It will not be vulnerable to revolutionary attack unless its own internal problems of development lead it into very serious difficulties. So if the system breaks down it will do so either spontaneously, or through a process that is in part spontaneous but helped along by revolutionaries. If the breakdown is sudden, many people will die, since the world’s population has become so overblown that it cannot even feed itself any longer without advanced technology. Even if the breakdown is gradual enough so that reduction of the population can occur more through lowering of the birth rate than through elevation of the death rate, the process of de- industrialization probably will be very chaotic and involve much suffering. It is naive to think it likely that technology can be phased out in a smoothly managed, orderly way, especially since the technophiles will fight stubbornly at every step. Is it therefore cruel to work for the breakdown of the system? Maybe, but maybe not. In the first place, revolutionaries will not be able to break the system down unless it is already in enough trouble so that there would be a good chance of its eventually breaking down by itself anyway; and the bigger the system grows, the more disastrous the consequences of its breakdown will be; so it may be that revolutionaries, by hastening the onset of the breakdown, will be reducing the extent of the disaster.

In the second place, one has to balance struggle and death against the loss of freedom and dignity. To many of us, freedom and dignity are more important than a long life or avoidance of physical pain. Besides, we all have to die some time, and it may be better to die fighting for survival, or for a cause, than to live a long but empty and purposeless life.

In the third place, it is not at all certain that survival of the system will lead to less suffering than breakdown of the system would. The system has already caused, and is continuing to cause, immense suffering all over the world. Ancient cultures, that for hundreds of years gave people a satisfactory relationship with each other and with their environment, have been shattered by contact with industrial society, and the result has been a whole catalogue of economic, environmental, social and psychological problems. One of the effects of the intrusion of industrial society has been that over much of the world traditional controls on population have been thrown out of balance. Hence the population explosion, with all that that implies. Then there is the psychological suffering that is widespread throughout the supposedly fortunate countries of the West (see paragraphs 44, 45). No one knows what will happen as a result of ozone depletion, the greenhouse effect and other environmental problems that cannot yet be foreseen. And, as nuclear proliferation has shown, new technology cannot be kept out of the hands of dictators and irresponsible Third World nations. Would you like to speculate about what Iraq or North Korea will do with genetic engineering?

“Oh!” say the technophiles, “Science is going to fix all that! We will conquer famine, eliminate psychological suffering, make everybody healthy and happy!” Yeah, sure. That’s what they said 200 years ago. The Industrial Revolution was supposed to eliminate poverty, make everybody happy, etc. The actual result has been quite different. The technophiles are hopelessly naive (or self-deceiving) in their understanding of social problems. They are unaware of (or choose to ignore) the fact that when large changes, even seemingly beneficial ones, are introduced into a society, they lead to a long sequence of other changes, most of which are impossible to predict (paragraph 103). The result is disruption of the society. So it is very probable that in their attempts to end poverty and disease, engineer docile, happy personalities and so forth, the technophiles will create social systems that are terribly troubled, even more so than the present once. For example, the scientists boast that they will end famine by creating new, genetically engineered food plants. But this will allow the human population to keep expanding indefinitely, and it is well known that crowding leads to increased stress and aggression. This is merely one example of the PREDICTABLE problems that will arise. We emphasize that, as past experience has shown, technical progress will lead to other new problems that CANNOT be predicted in advance (paragraph 103). In fact, ever since the Industrial Revolution, technology has been creating new problems for society far more rapidly than it has been solving old ones. Thus it will take a long and difficult period of trial and error for the technophiles to work the bugs out of their Brave New World (if they every do). In the meantime there will be great suffering. So it is not at all clear that the survival of industrial society would involve less suffering than the breakdown of that society would. Technology has gotten the human race into a fix from which there is not likely to be any easy escape.


But suppose now that industrial society does survive the next several decades and that the bugs do eventually get worked out of the system, so that it functions smoothly. What kind of system will it be? We will consider several possibilities.

First let us postulate that the computer scientists succeed in developing intelligent machines that can do all things better than human beings can do them. In that case presumably all work will be done by vast, highly organized systems of machines and no human effort will be necessary. Either of two cases might occur. The machines might be permitted to make all of their own decisions without human oversight, or else human control over the machines might be retained.

If the machines are permitted to make all their own decisions, we can’t make any conjectures as to the results, because it is impossible to guess how such machines might behave. We only point out that the fate of the human race would be at the mercy of the machines. It might be argued that the human race would never be foolish enough to hand over all power to the machines. But we are suggesting neither that the human race would voluntarily turn power over to the machines nor that the machines would willfully seize power. What we do suggest is that the human race might easily permit itself to drift into a position of such dependence on the machines that it would have no practical choice but to accept all of the machines’ decisions. As society and the problems that face it become more and more complex and as machines become more and more intelligent, people will let machines make more and more of their decisions for them, simply because machine-made decisions will bring better results than man-made ones. Eventually a stage may be reached at which the decisions necessary to keep the system running will be so complex that human beings will be incapable of making them intelligently. At that stage the machines will be in effective control. People won’t be able to just turn the machines off, because they will be so dependent on them that turning them off would amount to suicide.

On the other hand it is possible that human control over the machines may be retained. In that case the average man may have control over certain private machines of his own, such as his car or his personal computer, but control over large systems of machines will be in the hands of a tiny elite—just as it is today, but with two differences. Due to improved techniques the elite will have greater control over the masses; and because human work will no longer be necessary the masses will be superfluous, a useless burden on the system. If the elite is ruthless they may simply decide to exterminate the mass of humanity. If they are humane they may use propaganda or other psychological or biological techniques to reduce the birth rate until the mass of humanity becomes extinct, leaving the world to the elite. Or, if the elite consists of soft- hearted liberals, they may decide to play the role of good shepherds to the rest of the human race. They will see to it that everyone’s physical needs are satisfied, that all children are raised under psychologically hygienic conditions, that everyone has a wholesome hobby to keep him busy, and that anyone who may become dissatisfied undergoes “treatment” to cure his “problem.” Of course, life will be so purposeless that people will have to be biologically or psychologically engineered either to remove their need for the power process or to make them “sublimate” their drive for power into some harmless hobby. These engineered human beings may be happy in such a society, but they most certainly will not be free. They will have been reduced to the status of domestic animals.

But suppose now that the computer scientists do not succeed in developing artificial intelligence, so that human work remains necessary. Even so, machines will take care of more and more of the simpler tasks so that there will be an increasing surplus of human workers at the lower levels of ability. (We see this happening already. There are many people who find it difficult or impossible to get work, because for intellectual or psychological reasons they cannot acquire the level of training necessary to make themselves useful in the present system.) On those who are employed, ever-increasing demands will be placed: They will need more and more training, more and more ability, and will have to be ever more reliable, conforming and docile, because they will be more and more like cells of a giant organism. Their tasks will be increasingly specialized, so that their work will be, in a sense, out of touch with the real world, being concentrated on one tiny slice of reality. The system will have to use any means that it can, whether psychological or biological, to engineer people to be docile, to have the abilities that the system requires and to “sublimate” their drive for power into some specialized task. But the statement that the people of such a society will have to be docile may require qualification. The society may find competitiveness useful, provided that ways are found of directing competitiveness into channels that serve the needs of the system. We can imagine a future society in which there is endless competition for positions of prestige and power. But no more than a very few people will ever reach the top, where the only real power is (see end of paragraph 163). Very repellent is a society in which a person can satisfy his need for power only by pushing large numbers of other people out of the way and depriving them of THEIR opportunity for power.

One can envision scenarios that incorporate aspects of more than one of the possibilities that we have just discussed. For instance, it may be that machines will take over most of the work that is of real, practical importance, but that human beings will be kept busy by being given relatively unimportant work. It has been suggested, for example, that a great development of the service industries might provide work for human beings. Thus people would spent their time shining each other’s shoes, driving each other around in taxicabs, making handicrafts for one another, waiting on each other’s tables, etc. This seems to us a thoroughly contemptible way for the human race to end up, and we doubt that many people would find fulfilling lives in such pointless busy-work. They would seek other, dangerous outlets (drugs, crime, “cults,” hate groups) unless they were biologically or psychologically engineered to adapt them to such a way of life.

Needless to say, the scenarios outlined above do not exhaust all the possibilities. They only indicate the kinds of outcomes that seem to us most likely. But we can envision no plausible scenarios that are any more palatable than the ones we’ve just described. It is overwhelmingly probable that if the industrial- technological system survives the next 40 to 100 years, it will by that time have developed certain general characteristics: Individuals (at least those of the “bourgeois” type, who are integrated into the system and make it run, and who therefore have all the power) will be more dependent than ever on large organizations; they will be more “socialized” than ever and their physical and mental qualities to a significant extent (possibly to a very great extent) will be those that are engineered into them rather than being the results of chance (or of God’s will, or whatever); and whatever may be left of wild nature will be reduced to remnants preserved for scientific study and kept under the supervision and management of scientists (hence it will no longer be truly wild). In the long run (say a few centuries from now) it is likely that neither the human race nor any other important organisms will exist as we know them today, because once you start modifying organisms through genetic engineering there is no reason to stop at any particular point, so that the modifications will probably continue until man and other organisms have been utterly transformed.

Whatever else may be the case, it is certain that technology is creating for human beings a new physical and social environment radically different from the spectrum of environments to which natural selection has adapted the human race physically and psychologically. If man is not adjusted to this new environment by being artificially re-engineered, then he will be adapted to it through a long and painful process of natural selection. The former is far more likely than the latter.

It would be better to dump the whole stinking system and take the consequences.


The technophiles are taking us all on an utterly reckless ride into the unknown. Many people understand something of what technological progress is doing to us yet take a passive attitude toward it because they think it is inevitable. But we (FC) don’t think it is inevitable. We think it can be stopped, and we will give here some indications of how to go about stopping it.

As we stated in paragraph 166, the two main tasks for the present are to promote social stress and instability in industrial society and to develop and propagate an ideology that opposes technology and the industrial system. When the system becomes sufficiently stressed and unstable, a revolution against technology may be possible. The pattern would be similar to that of the French and Russian Revolutions. French society and Russian society, for several decades prior to their respective revolutions, showed increasing signs of stress and weakness. Meanwhile, ideologies were being developed that offered a new world view that was quite different from the old one. In the Russian case, revolutionaries were actively working to undermine the old order. Then, when the old system was put under sufficient additional stress (by financial crisis in France, by military defeat in Russia) it was swept away by revolution. What we propose is something along the same lines.

It will be objected that the French and Russian Revolutions were failures. But most revolutions have two goals. One is to destroy an old form of society and the other is to set up the new form of society envisioned by the revolutionaries. The French and Russian revolutionaries failed (fortunately!) to create the new kind of society of which they dreamed, but they were quite successful in destroying the old society. We have no illusions about the feasibility of creating a new, ideal form of society. Our goal is only to destroy the existing form of society.

But an ideology, in order to gain enthusiastic support, must have a positive ideal as well as a negative one; it must be FOR something as well as AGAINST something. The positive ideal that we propose is Nature. That is, WILD nature: those aspects of the functioning of the Earth and its living things that are independent of human management and free of human interference and control. And with wild nature we include human nature, by which we mean those aspects of the functioning of the human individual that are not subject to regulation by organized society but are products of chance, or free will, or God (depending on your religious or philosophical opinions).

Nature makes a perfect counter-ideal to technology for several reasons. Nature (that which is outside the power of the system) is the opposite of technology (which seeks to expand indefinitely the power of the system). Most people will agree that nature is beautiful; certainly it has tremendous popular appeal. The radical environmentalists ALREADY hold an ideology that exalts nature and opposes technology. [30] It is not necessary for the sake of nature to set up some chimerical utopia or any new kind of social order. Nature takes care of itself: It was a spontaneous creation that existed long before any human society, and for countless centuries many different kinds of human societies coexisted with nature without doing it an excessive amount of damage. Only with the Industrial Revolution did the effect of human society on nature become really devastating. To relieve the pressure on nature it is not necessary to create a special kind of social system, it is only necessary to get rid of industrial society. Granted, this will not solve all problems. Industrial society has already done tremendous damage to nature and it will take a very long time for the scars to heal. Besides, even pre-industrial societies can do significant damage to nature. Nevertheless, getting rid of industrial society will accomplish a great deal. It will relieve the worst of the pressure on nature so that the scars can begin to heal. It will remove the capacity of organized society to keep increasing its control over nature (including human nature). Whatever kind of society may exist after the demise of the industrial system, it is certain that most people will live close to nature, because in the absence of advanced technology there is no other way that people CAN live. To feed themselves they must be peasants or herdsmen or fishermen or hunters, etc. And, generally speaking, local autonomy should tend to increase, because lack of advanced technology and rapid communications will limit the capacity of governments or other large organizations to control local communities.

As for the negative consequences of eliminating industrial society—well, you can’t eat your cake and have it too. To gain one thing you have to sacrifice another.

Most people hate psychological conflict. For this reason they avoid doing any serious thinking about difficult social issues, and they like to have such issues presented to them in simple, black-and-white terms: THIS is all good and THAT is all bad. The revolutionary ideology should therefore be developed on two levels.

On the more sophisticated level the ideology should address itself to people who are intelligent, thoughtful and rational. The object should be to create a core of people who will be opposed to the industrial system on a rational, thought-out basis, with full appreciation of the problems and ambiguities involved, and of the price that has to be paid for getting rid of the system. It is particularly important to attract people of this type, as they are capable people and will be instrumental in influencing others. These people should be addressed on as rational a level as possible. Facts should never intentionally be distorted and intemperate language should be avoided. This does not mean that no appeal can be made to the emotions, but in making such appeal care should be taken to avoid misrepresenting the truth or doing anything else that would destroy the intellectual respectability of the ideology.

On a second level, the ideology should be propagated in a simplified form that will enable the unthinking majority to see the conflict of technology vs. nature in unambiguous terms. But even on this second level the ideology should not be expressed in language that is so cheap, intemperate or irrational that it alienates people of the thoughtful and rational type. Cheap, intemperate propaganda sometimes achieves impressive short-term gains, but it will be more advantageous in the long run to keep the loyalty of a small number of intelligently committed people than to arouse the passions of an unthinking, fickle mob who will change their attitude as soon as someone comes along with a better propaganda gimmick. However, propaganda of the rabble-rousing type may be necessary when the system is nearing the point of collapse and there is a final struggle between rival ideologies to determine which will become dominant when the old world-view goes under.

Prior to that final struggle, the revolutionaries should not expect to have a majority of people on their side. History is made by active, determined minorities, not by the majority, which seldom has a clear and consistent idea of what it really wants. Until the time comes for the final push toward revolution [31], the task of revolutionaries will be less to win the shallow support of the majority than to build a small core of deeply committed people. As for the majority, it will be enough to make them aware of the existence of the new ideology and remind them of it frequently; though of course it will be desirable to get majority support to the extent that this can be done without weakening the core of seriously committed people.

Any kind of social conflict helps to destabilize the system, but one should be careful about what kind of conflict one encourages. The line of conflict should be drawn between the mass of the people and the power-holding elite of industrial society (politicians, scientists, upper-level business executives, government officials, etc.). It should NOT be drawn between the revolutionaries and the mass of the people. For example, it would be bad strategy for the revolutionaries to condemn Americans for their habits of consumption. Instead, the average American should be portrayed as a victim of the advertising and marketing industry, which has suckered him into buying a lot of junk that he doesn’t need and that is very poor compensation for his lost freedom. Either approach is consistent with the facts. It is merely a matter of attitude whether you blame the advertising industry for manipulating the public or blame the public for allowing itself to be manipulated. As a matter of strategy one should generally avoid blaming the public.

One should think twice before encouraging any other social conflict than that between the power- holding elite (which wields technology) and the general public (over which technology exerts its power). For one thing, other conflicts tend to distract attention from the important conflicts (between power-elite and ordinary people, between technology and nature); for another thing, other conflicts may actually tend to encourage technologization, because each side in such a conflict wants to use technological power to gain advantages over its adversary. This is clearly seen in rivalries between nations. It also appears in ethnic conflicts within nations. For example, in America many black leaders are anxious to gain power for African Americans by placing back individuals in the technological power-elite. They want there to be many black government officials, scientists, corporation executives and so forth. In this way they are helping to absorb the African American subculture into the technological system. Generally speaking, one should encourage only those social conflicts that can be fitted into the framework of the conflicts of power-elite vs. ordinary people, technology vs nature.

But the way to discourage ethnic conflict is NOT through militant advocacy of minority rights (see paragraphs 21, 29). Instead, the revolutionaries should emphasize that although minorities do suffer more or less disadvantage, this disadvantage is of peripheral significance. Our real enemy is the industrial- technological system, and in the struggle against the system, ethnic distinctions are of no importance.

The kind of revolution we have in mind will not necessarily involve an armed uprising against any government. It may or may not involve physical violence, but it will not be a POLITICAL revolution. Its focus will be on technology and economics, not politics. [32]

Probably the revolutionaries should even AVOID assuming political power, whether by legal or illegal means, until the industrial system is stressed to the danger point and has proved itself to be a failure in the eyes of most people. Suppose for example that some “green” party should win control of the United States Congress in an election. In order to avoid betraying or watering down their own ideology they would have to take vigorous measures to turn economic growth into economic shrinkage. To the average man the results would appear disastrous: There would be massive unemployment, shortages of commodities, etc. Even if the grosser ill effects could be avoided through superhumanly skillful management, still people would have to begin giving up the luxuries to which they have become addicted. Dissatisfaction would grow, the “green” party would be voted out of office and the revolutionaries would have suffered a severe setback. For this reason the revolutionaries should not try to acquire political power until the system has gotten itself into such a mess that any hardships will be seen as resulting from the failures of the industrial system itself and not from the policies of the revolutionaries. The revolution against technology will probably have to be a revolution by outsiders, a revolution from below and not from above.

The revolution must be international and worldwide. It cannot be carried out on a nation-by-nation basis. Whenever it is suggested that the United States, for example, should cut back on technological progress or economic growth, people get hysterical and start screaming that if we fall behind in technology the Japanese will get ahead of us. Holy robots! The world will fly off its orbit if the Japanese ever sell more cars than we do! (Nationalism is a great promoter of technology.) More reasonably, it is argued that if the relatively democratic nations of the world fall behind in technology while nasty, dictatorial nations like China, Vietnam and North Korea continue to progress, eventually the dictators may come to dominate the world. That is why the industrial system should be attacked in all nations simultaneously, to the extent that this may be possible. True, there is no assurance that the industrial system can be destroyed at approximately the same time all over the world, and it is even conceivable that the attempt to overthrow the system could lead instead to the domination of the system by dictators. That is a risk that has to be taken. And it is worth taking, since the difference between a “democratic” industrial system and one controlled by dictators is small compared with the difference between an industrial system and a non-industrial one. [33] It might even be argued that an industrial system controlled by dictators would be preferable, because dictator-controlled systems usually have proved inefficient, hence they are presumably more likely to break down. Look at Cuba.

Revolutionaries might consider favoring measures that tend to bind the world economy into a unified whole. Free trade agreements like NAFTA and GATT are probably harmful to the environment in the short run, but in the long run they may perhaps be advantageous because they foster economic interdependence between nations. It will be easier to destroy the industrial system on a worldwide basis if the world economy is so unified that its breakdown in any one major nation will lead to its breakdown in all industrialized nations.

Some people take the line that modern man has too much power, too much control over nature; they argue for a more passive attitude on the part of the human race. At best these people are expressing themselves unclearly, because they fail to distinguish between power for LARGE ORGANIZATIONS and power for INDIVIDUALS and SMALL GROUPS. It is a mistake to argue for powerlessness and passivity, because people NEED power. Modern man as a collective entity—that is, the industrial system—has immense power over nature, and we (FC) regard this as evil. But modern INDIVIDUALS and SMALL GROUPS OF INDIVIDUALS have far less power than primitive man ever did. Generally speaking, the vast power of “modern man” over nature is exercised not by individuals or small groups but by large organizations. To the extent that the average modern INDIVIDUAL can wield the power of technology, he is permitted to do so only within narrow limits and only under the supervision and control of the system. (You need a license for everything and with the license come rules and regulations.) The individual has only those technological powers with which the system chooses to provide him. His PERSONAL power over nature is slight.

Primitive INDIVIDUALS and SMALL GROUPS actually had considerable power over nature; or maybe it would be better to say power WITHIN nature. When primitive man needed food he knew how to find and prepare edible roots, how to track game and take it with homemade weapons. He knew how to protect himself from heat, cold, rain, dangerous animals, etc. But primitive man did relatively little damage to nature because the COLLECTIVE power of primitive society was negligible compared to the COLLECTIVE power of industrial society.

Instead of arguing for powerlessness and passivity, one should argue that the power of the INDUSTRIAL SYSTEM should be broken, and that this will greatly INCREASE the power and freedom of INDIVIDUALS and SMALL GROUPS.

Until the industrial system has been thoroughly wrecked, the destruction of that system must be the revolutionaries’ ONLY goal. Other goals would distract attention and energy from the main goal. More importantly, if the revolutionaries permit themselves to have any other goal than the destruction of technology, they will be tempted to use technology as a tool for reaching that other goal. If they give in to that temptation, they will fall right back into the technological trap, because modern technology is a unified, tightly organized system, so that, in order to retain SOME technology, one finds oneself obliged to retain MOST technology, hence one ends up sacrificing only token amounts of technology.

Suppose for example that the revolutionaries took “social justice” as a goal. Human nature being what it is, social justice would not come about spontaneously; it would have to be enforced. In order to enforce it the revolutionaries would have to retain central organization and control. For that they would need rapid long-distance transportation and communication, and therefore all the technology needed to support the transportation and communication systems. To feed and clothe poor people they would have to use agricultural and manufacturing technology. And so forth. So that the attempt to insure social justice would force them to retain most parts of the technological system. Not that we have anything against social justice, but it must not be allowed to interfere with the effort to get rid of the technological system.

It would be hopeless for revolutionaries to try to attack the system without using SOME modern technology. If nothing else they must use the communications media to spread their message. But they should use modern technology for only ONE purpose: to attack the technological system.

Imagine an alcoholic sitting with a barrel of wine in front of him. Suppose he starts saying to himself, “Wine isn’t bad for you if used in moderation. Why, they say small amounts of wine are even good for you! It won’t do me any harm if I take just one little drink.... “ Well you know what is going to happen. Never forget that the human race with technology is just like an alcoholic with a barrel of wine.

Revolutionaries should have as many children as they can. There is strong scientific evidence that social attitudes are to a significant extent inherited. No one suggests that a social attitude is a direct outcome of a person’s genetic constitution, but it appears that personality traits are partly inherited and that certain personality traits tend, within the context of our society, to make a person more likely to hold this or that social attitude. Objections to these findings have been raised, but the objections are feeble and seem to be ideologically motivated. In any event, no one denies that children tend on the average to hold social attitudes similar to those of their parents. From our point of view it doesn’t matter all that much whether the attitudes are passed on genetically or through childhood training. In either case they ARE passed on.

The trouble is that many of the people who are inclined to rebel against the industrial system are also concerned about the population problems, hence they are apt to have few or no children. In this way they may be handing the world over to the sort of people who support or at least accept the industrial system. To insure the strength of the next generation of revolutionaries the present generation should reproduce itself abundantly. In doing so they will be worsening the population problem only slightly. And the important problem is to get rid of the industrial system, because once the industrial system is gone the world’s population necessarily will decrease (see paragraph 167); whereas, if the industrial system survives, it will continue developing new techniques of food production that may enable the world’s population to keep increasing almost indefinitely.

With regard to revolutionary strategy, the only points on which we absolutely insist are that the single overriding goal must be the elimination of modern technology, and that no other goal can be allowed to compete with this one. For the rest, revolutionaries should take an empirical approach. If experience indicates that some of the recommendations made in the foregoing paragraphs are not going to give good results, then those recommendations should be discarded.


An argument likely to be raised against our proposed revolution is that it is bound to fail, because (it is claimed) throughout history technology has always progressed, never regressed, hence technological regression is impossible. But this claim is false.

We distinguish between two kinds of technology, which we will call small-scale technology and organization-dependent technology. Small-scale technology is technology that can be used by small-scale communities without outside assistance. Organization-dependent technology is technology that depends on large-scale social organization. We are aware of no significant cases of regression in small-scale technology. But organization-dependent technology DOES regress when the social organization on which it depends breaks down. Example: When the Roman Empire fell apart the Romans’ small-scale technology survived because any clever village craftsman could build, for instance, a water wheel, any skilled smith could make steel by Roman methods, and so forth. But the Romans’ organization-dependent technology DID regress. Their aqueducts fell into disrepair and were never rebuilt. Their techniques of road construction were lost. The Roman system of urban sanitation was forgotten, so that not until rather recent times did the sanitation of European cities equal that of Ancient Rome.

The reason why technology has seemed always to progress is that, until perhaps a century or two before the Industrial Revolution, most technology was small-scale technology. But most of the technology developed since the Industrial Revolution is organization-dependent technology. Take the refrigerator for example. Without factory-made parts or the facilities of a post-industrial machine shop it would be virtually impossible for a handful of local craftsmen to build a refrigerator. If by some miracle they did succeed in building one it would be useless to them without a reliable source of electric power. So they would have to dam a stream and build a generator. Generators require large amounts of copper wire. Imagine trying to make that wire without modern machinery. And where would they get a gas suitable for refrigeration? It would be much easier to build an icehouse or preserve food by drying or picking, as was done before the invention of the refrigerator.

So it is clear that if the industrial system were once thoroughly broken down, refrigeration technology would quickly be lost. The same is true of other organization-dependent technology. And once this technology had been lost for a generation or so it would take centuries to rebuild it, just as it took centuries to build it the first time around. Surviving technical books would be few and scattered. An industrial society, if built from scratch without outside help, can only be built in a series of stages: You need tools to make tools to make tools to make tools ... . A long process of economic development and progress in social organization is required. And, even in the absence of an ideology opposed to technology, there is no reason to believe that anyone would be interested in rebuilding industrial society. The enthusiasm for “progress” is a phenomenon peculiar to the modern form of society, and it seems not to have existed prior to the 17th century or thereabouts.

In the late Middle Ages there were four main civilizations that were about equally “advanced”: Europe, the Islamic world, India, and the Far East (China, Japan, Korea). Three of those civilizations remained more or less stable, and only Europe became dynamic. No one knows why Europe became dynamic at that time; historians have their theories but these are only speculation. At any rate, it is clear that rapid development toward a technological form of society occurs only under special conditions. So there is no reason to assume that a long-lasting technological regression cannot be brought about.

Would society EVENTUALLY develop again toward an industrial-technological form? Maybe, but there is no use in worrying about it, since we can’t predict or control events 500 or 1,000 years in the future. Those problems must be dealt with by the people who will live at that time.


Because of their need for rebellion and for membership in a movement, leftists or persons of similar psychological type often are unattracted to a rebellious or activist movement whose goals and membership are not initially leftist. The resulting influx of leftish types can easily turn a non-leftist movement into a leftist one, so that leftist goals replace or distort the original goals of the movement.

To avoid this, a movement that exalts nature and opposes technology must take a resolutely anti-leftist stance and must avoid all collaboration with leftists. Leftism is in the long run inconsistent with wild nature, with human freedom and with the elimination of modern technology. Leftism is collectivist; it seeks to bind together the entire world (both nature and the human race) into a unified whole. But this implies management of nature and of human life by organized society, and it requires advanced technology. You can’t have a united world without rapid transportation and communication, you can’t make all people love one another without sophisticated psychological techniques, you can’t have a “planned society” without the necessary technological base. Above all, leftism is driven by the need for power, and the leftist seeks power on a collective basis, through identification with a mass movement or an organization. Leftism is unlikely ever to give up technology, because technology is too valuable a source of collective power.

The anarchist [34] too seeks power, but he seeks it on an individual or small-group basis; he wants individuals and small groups to be able to control the circumstances of their own lives. He opposes technology because it makes small groups dependent on large organizations.

Some leftists may seem to oppose technology, but they will oppose it only so long as they are outsiders and the technological system is controlled by non-leftists. If leftism ever becomes dominant in society, so that the technological system becomes a tool in the hands of leftists, they will enthusiastically use it and promote its growth. In doing this they will be repeating a pattern that leftism has shown again and again in the past. When the Bolsheviks in Russia were outsiders, they vigorously opposed censorship and the secret police, they advocated self-determination for ethnic minorities, and so forth; but as soon as they came into power themselves, they imposed a tighter censorship and created a more ruthless secret police than any that had existed under the tsars, and they oppressed ethnic minorities at least as much as the tsars had done. In the United States, a couple of decades ago when leftists were a minority in our universities, leftist professors were vigorous proponents of academic freedom, but today, in those of our universities where leftists have become dominant, they have shown themselves ready to take away from everyone else’s academic freedom. (This is “political correctness.”) The same will happen with leftists and technology: They will use it to oppress everyone else if they ever get it under their own control.

In earlier revolutions, leftists of the most power-hungry type, repeatedly, have first cooperated with non-leftist revolutionaries, as well as with leftists of a more libertarian inclination, and later have double- crossed them to seize power for themselves. Robespierre did this in the French Revolution, the Bolsheviks did it in the Russian Revolution, the communists did it in Spain in 1938 and Castro and his followers did it in Cuba. Given the past history of leftism, it would be utterly foolish for non-leftist revolutionaries today to collaborate with leftists.

Various thinkers have pointed out that leftism is a kind of religion. Leftism is not a religion in the strict sense because leftist doctrine does not postulate the existence of any supernatural being. But, for the leftist, leftism plays a psychological role much like that which religion plays for some people. The leftist NEEDS to believe in leftism; it plays a vital role in his psychological economy. His beliefs are not easily modified by logic or facts. He has a deep conviction that leftism is morally Right with a capital R, and that he has not only a right but a duty to impose leftist morality on everyone. (However, many of the people we are referring to as “leftists” do not think of themselves as leftists and would not describe their system of beliefs as leftism. We use the term “leftism” because we don’t know of any better words to designate the spectrum of related creeds that includes the feminist, gay rights, political correctness, etc., movements, and because these movements have a strong affinity with the old left. See paragraphs 227-230.)

Leftism is a totalitarian force. Wherever leftism is in a position of power it tends to invade every private corner and force every thought into a leftist mold. In part this is because of the quasi-religious character of leftism; everything contrary to leftist beliefs represents Sin. More importantly, leftism is a totalitarian force because of the leftists’ drive for power. The leftist seeks to satisfy his need for power through identification with a social movement and he tries to go through the power process by helping to pursue and attain the goals of the movement (see paragraph 83). But no matter how far the movement has gone in attaining its goals the leftist is never satisfied, because his activism is a surrogate activity (see paragraph 41). That is, the leftist’s real motive is not to attain the ostensible goals of leftism; in reality he is motivated by the sense of power he gets from struggling for and then reaching a social goal. [35] Consequently the leftist is never satisfied with the goals he has already attained; his need for the power process leads him always to pursue some new goal. The leftist wants equal opportunities for minorities. When that is attained he insists on statistical equality of achievement by minorities. And as long as anyone harbors in some corner of his mind a negative attitude toward some minority, the leftist has to re-educated him. And ethnic minorities are not enough; no one can be allowed to have a negative attitude toward homosexuals, disabled people, fat people, old people, ugly people, and on and on and on. It’s not enough that the public should be informed about the hazards of smoking; a warning has to be stamped on every package of cigarettes. Then cigarette advertising has to be restricted if not banned. The activists will never be satisfied until tobacco is outlawed, and after that it will be alcohol, then junk food, etc. Activists have fought gross child abuse, which is reasonable. But now they want to stop all spanking. When they have done that they will want to ban something else they consider unwholesome, then another thing and then another. They will never be satisfied until they have complete control over all child rearing practices. And then they will move on to another cause.

Suppose you asked leftists to make a list of ALL the things that were wrong with society, and then suppose you instituted EVERY social change that they demanded. It is safe to say that within a couple of years the majority of leftists would find something new to complain about, some new social “evil” to correct because, once again, the leftist is motivated less by distress at society’s ills than by the need to satisfy his drive for power by imposing his solutions on society.

Because of the restrictions placed on their thoughts and behavior by their high level of socialization, many leftists of the over-socialized type cannot pursue power in the ways that other people do. For them the drive for power has only one morally acceptable outlet, and that is in the struggle to impose their morality on everyone.

Leftists, especially those of the oversocialized type, are True Believers in the sense of Eric Hoffer’s book, “The True Believer.” But not all True Believers are of the same psychological type as leftists. Presumably a true-believing nazi, for instance, is very different psychologically from a true-believing leftist. Because of their capacity for single-minded devotion to a cause, True Believers are a useful, perhaps a necessary, ingredient of any revolutionary movement. This presents a problem with which we must admit we don’t know how to deal. We aren’t sure how to harness the energies of the True Believer to a revolution against technology. At present all we can say is that no True Believer will make a safe recruit to the revolution unless his commitment is exclusively to the destruction of technology. If he is committed also to another ideal, he may want to use technology as a tool for pursuing that other ideal (see paragraphs 220, 221).

Some readers may say, “This stuff about leftism is a lot of crap. I know John and Jane who are leftish types and they don’t have all these totalitarian tendencies.” It’s quite true that many leftists, possibly even a numerical majority, are decent people who sincerely believe in tolerating others’ values (up to a point) and wouldn’t want to use high-handed methods to reach their social goals. Our remarks about leftism are not meant to apply to every individual leftist but to describe the general character of leftism as a movement. And the general character of a movement is not necessarily determined by the numerical proportions of the various kinds of people involved in the movement.

The people who rise to positions of power in leftist movements tend to be leftists of the most power- hungry type, because power-hungry people are those who strive hardest to get into positions of power. Once the power-hungry types have captured control of the movement, there are many leftists of a gentler breed who inwardly disapprove of many of the actions of the leaders, but cannot bring themselves to oppose them. They NEED their faith in the movement, and because they cannot give up this faith they go along with the leaders. True, SOME leftists do have the guts to oppose the totalitarian tendencies that emerge, but they generally lose, because the power-hungry types are better organized, are more ruthless and Machiavellian and have taken care to build themselves a strong power base.

These phenomena appeared clearly in Russia and other countries that were taken over by leftists. Similarly, before the breakdown of communism in the USSR, leftish types in the West would seldom criticize that country. If prodded they would admit that the USSR did many wrong things, but then they would try to find excuses for the communists and begin talking about the faults of the West. They always opposed Western military resistance to communist aggression. Leftish types all over the world vigorously protested the U.S. military action in Vietnam, but when the USSR invaded Afghanistan they did nothing. Not that they approved of the Soviet actions; but because of their leftist faith, they just couldn’t bear to put themselves in opposition to communism. Today, in those of our universities where “political correctness” has become dominant, there are probably many leftish types who privately disapprove of the suppression of academic freedom, but they go along with it anyway.

Thus the fact that many individual leftists are personally mild and fairly tolerant people by no means prevents leftism as a whole form having a totalitarian tendency.

Our discussion of leftism has a serious weakness. It is still far from clear what we mean by the word “leftist.” There doesn’t seem to be much we can do about this. Today leftism is fragmented into a whole spectrum of activist movements. Yet not all activist movements are leftist, and some activist movements (e.g., radical environmentalism) seem to include both personalities of the leftist type and personalities of thoroughly un-leftist types who ought to know better than to collaborate with leftists. Varieties of leftists fade out gradually into varieties of non-leftists and we ourselves would often be hard-pressed to decide whether a given individual is or is not a leftist. To the extent that it is defined at all, our conception of leftism is defined by the discussion of it that we have given in this article, and we can only advise the reader to use his own judgment in deciding who is a leftist.

But it will be helpful to list some criteria for diagnosing leftism. These criteria cannot be applied in a cut and dried manner. Some individuals may meet some of the criteria without being leftists, some leftists may not meet any of the criteria. Again, you just have to use your judgment.

The leftist is oriented toward large-scale collectivism. He emphasizes the duty of the individual to serve society and the duty of society to take care of the individual. He has a negative attitude toward individualism. He often takes a moralistic tone. He tends to be for gun control, for sex education and other psychologically “enlightened” educational methods, for social planning, for affirmative action, for multiculturalism. He tends to identify with victims. He tends to be against competition and against violence, but he often finds excuses for those leftists who do commit violence. He is fond of using the common catch- phrases of the left, like “racism,” “sexism,” “homophobia,” “capitalism,” “imperialism,” “neocolonialism,” “genocide,” “social change,” “social justice,” “social responsibility.” Maybe the best diagnostic trait of the leftist is his tendency to sympathize with the following movements: feminism, gay rights, ethnic rights, disability rights, animal rights, political correctness. Anyone who strongly sympathizes with ALL of these movements is almost certainly a leftist. [36]

The more dangerous leftists, that is, those who are most power-hungry, are often characterized by arrogance or by a dogmatic approach to ideology. However, the most dangerous leftists of all may be certain oversocialized types who avoid irritating displays of aggressiveness and refrain from advertising their leftism, but work quietly and unobtrusively to promote collectivist values, “enlightened” psychological techniques for socializing children, dependence of the individual on the system, and so forth. These crypto- leftists (as we may call them) approximate certain bourgeois types as far as practical action is concerned, but differ from them in psychology, ideology and motivation. The ordinary bourgeois tries to bring people under control of the system in order to protect his way of life, or he does so simply because his attitudes are conventional. The crypto-leftist tries to bring people under control of the system because he is a True Believer in a collectivistic ideology. The crypto-leftist is differentiated from the average leftist of the oversocialized type by the fact that his rebellious impulse is weaker and he is more securely socialized. He is differentiated from the ordinary well-socialized bourgeois by the fact that there is some deep lack within him that makes it necessary for him to devote himself to a cause and immerse himself in a collectivity. And maybe his (well-sublimated) drive for power is stronger than that of the average bourgeois.


Throughout this article we’ve made imprecise statements and statements that ought to have had all sorts of qualifications and reservations attached to them; and some of our statements may be flatly false. Lack of sufficient information and the need for brevity made it impossible for us to formulate our assertions more precisely or add all the necessary qualifications. And of course in a discussion of this kind one must rely heavily on intuitive judgment, and that can sometimes be wrong. So we don’t claim that this article expresses more than a crude approximation to the truth.

All the same, we are reasonably confident that the general outlines of the picture we have painted here are roughly correct. Just one possible weak point needs to be mentioned. We have portrayed leftism in its modern form as a phenomenon peculiar to our time and as a symptom of the disruption of the power process. But we might possibly be wrong about this. Oversocialized types who try to satisfy their drive for power by imposing their morality on everyone have certainly been around for a long time. But we THINK that the decisive role played by feelings of inferiority, low self-esteem, powerlessness, identification with victims by people who are not themselves victims, is a peculiarity of modern leftism. Identification with victims by people not themselves victims can be seen to some extent in 19th century leftism and early Christianity but as far as we can make out, symptoms of low self-esteem, etc., were not nearly so evident in these movements, or in any other movements, as they are in modern leftism. But we are not in a position to assert confidently that no such movements have existed prior to modern leftism. This is a significant question to which historians ought to give their attention.


  1. (Paragraph 19) We are asserting that ALL, or even most, bullies and ruthless competitors suffer from feelings of inferiority.

  2. (Paragraph 25) During the Victorian period many oversocialized people suffered from serious psychological problems as a result of repressing or trying to repress their sexual feelings. Freud apparently based his theories on people of this type. Today the focus of socialization has shifted from sex to aggression.

  3. (Paragraph 27) Not necessarily including specialists in engineering or the “hard” sciences.

  4. (Paragraph 28) There are many individuals of the middle and upper classes who resist some of these values, but usually their resistance is more or less covert. Such resistance appears in the mass media only to a very limited extent. The main thrust of propaganda in our society is in favor of the stated values.

The main reason why these values have become, so to speak, the official values of our society is that they are useful to the industrial system. Violence is discouraged because it disrupts the functioning of the system. Racism is discouraged because ethnic conflicts also disrupt the system, and discrimination wastes the talents of minority-group members who could be useful to the system. Poverty must be “cured” because the underclass causes problems for the system and contact with the underclass lowers the morale of the other classes. Women are encouraged to have careers because their talents are useful to the system and, more importantly, because by having regular jobs women become better integrated into the system and tied directly to it rather than to their families. This helps to weaken family solidarity. (The leaders of the system say they want to strengthen the family, but they really mean is that they want the family to serve as an effective tool for socializing children in accord with the needs of the system. We argue in paragraphs 51, 52 that the system cannot afford to let the family or other small-scale social groups be strong or autonomous.)

  1. (Paragraph 42) It may be argued that the majority of people don’t want to make their own decisions but want leaders to do their thinking for them. There is an element of truth in this. People like to make their own decisions in small matters, but making decisions on difficult, fundamental questions requires facing up to psychological conflict, and most people hate psychological conflict. Hence they tend to lean on others in making difficult decisions. But it does not follow that they like to have decisions imposed upon them without having any opportunity to influence those decisions. The majority of people are natural followers, not leaders, but they like to have direct personal access to their leaders, they want to be able to influence the leaders and participate to some extent in making even the difficult decisions. At least to that degree they need autonomy.

  2. (Paragraph 44) Some of the symptoms listed are similar to those shown by caged animals.

To explain how these symptoms arise from deprivation with respect to the power process:

Common-sense understanding of human nature tells one that lack of goals whose attainment requires effort leads to boredom and that boredom, long continued, often leads eventually to depression. Failure to attain goals leads to frustration and lowering of self-esteem. Frustration leads to anger, anger to aggression, often in the form of spouse or child abuse. It has been shown that long-continued frustration commonly leads to depression and that depression tends to cause guilt, sleep disorders, eating disorders and bad feelings about oneself. Those who are tending toward depression seek pleasure as an antidote; hence insatiable hedonism and excessive sex, with perversions as a means of getting new kicks. Boredom too tends to cause excessive pleasure-seeking since, lacking other goals, people often use pleasure as a goal. See accompanying diagram.

The foregoing is a simplification. Reality is more complex, and of course, deprivation with respect to the power process is not the ONLY cause of the symptoms described.

By the way, when we mention depression we do not necessarily mean depression that is severe enough to be treated by a psychiatrist. Often only mild forms of depression are involved. And when we speak of goals we do not necessarily mean long-term, thought-out goals. For many or most people through much of human history, the goals of a hand-to-mouth existence (merely providing oneself and one’s family with food from day to day) have been quite sufficient.

  1. (Paragraph 52) A partial exception may be made for a few passive, inward-looking groups, such as the Amish, which have little effect on the wider society. Apart from these, some genuine small-scale communities do exist in America today. For instance, youth gangs and “cults.” Everyone regards them as dangerous, and so they are, because the members of these groups are loyal primarily to one another rather than to the system, hence the system cannot control them.

Or take the gypsies. The gypsies commonly get away with theft and fraud because their loyalties are such that they can always get other gypsies to give testimony that “proves” their innocence. Obviously the system would be in serious trouble if too many people belonged to such groups.

Some of the early-20th century Chinese thinkers who were concerned with modernizing China recognized the necessity breaking down small-scale social groups such as the family: “(According to Sun Yat-sen) the Chinese people needed a new surge of patriotism, which would lead to a transfer of loyalty from the family to the state.... (According to Li Huang) traditional attachments, particularly to the family had to be abandoned if nationalism were to develop in China.” (Chester C. Tan, “Chinese Political Thought in the Twentieth Century,” page 125, page 297.)

  1. (Paragraph 56) Yes, we know that 19th century America had its problems, and serious ones, but for the sake of brevity we have to express ourselves in simplified terms.

  2. (Paragraph 61) We leave aside the “underclass.” We are speaking of the mainstream.

  3. (Paragraph 62) Some social scientists, educators, “mental health” professionals and the like are doing their best to push the social drives into group 1 by trying to see to it that everyone has a satisfactory social life.

  4. (Paragraphs 63, 82) Is the drive for endless material acquisition really an artificial creation of the advertising and marketing industry? Certainly there is no innate human drive for material acquisition. There have been many cultures in which people have desired little material wealth beyond what was necessary to satisfy their basic physical needs (Australian aborigines, traditional Mexican peasant culture, some African cultures). On the other hand there have also been many pre-industrial cultures in which material acquisition has played an important role. So we can’t claim that today’s acquisition-oriented culture is exclusively a creation of the advertising and marketing industry. But it is clear that the advertising and marketing industry has had an important part in creating that culture. The big corporations that spend millions on advertising wouldn’t be spending that kind of money without solid proof that they were getting it back in increased sales. One member of FC met a sales manager a couple of years ago who was frank enough to tell him, “Our job is to make people buy things they don’t want and don’t need.” He then described how an untrained novice could present people with the facts about a product, and make no sales at all, while a trained and experienced professional salesman would make lots of sales to the same people. This shows that people are manipulated into buying things they don’t really want.

  5. (Paragraph 64) The problem of purposelessness seems to have become less serious during the last 15 years or so, because people now feel less secure physically and economically than they did earlier, and the need for security provides them with a goal. But purposelessness has been replaced by frustration over the difficulty of attaining security. We emphasize the problem of purposelessness because the liberals and leftists would wish to solve our social problems by having society guarantee everyone’s security; but if that could be done it would only bring back the problem of purposelessness. The real issue is not whether society provides well or poorly for people’s security; the trouble is that people are dependent on the system for their security rather than having it in their own hands. This, by the way, is part of the reason why some people get worked up about the right to bear arms; possession of a gun puts that aspect of their security in their own hands.

  6. (Paragraph 66) Conservatives’ efforts to decrease the amount of government regulation are of little benefit to the average man. For one thing, only a fraction of the regulations can be eliminated because most regulations are necessary. For another thing, most of the deregulation affects business rather than the average individual, so that its main effect is to take power from the government and give it to private corporations. What this means for the average man is that government interference in his life is replaced by interference from big corporations, which may be permitted, for example, to dump more chemicals that get into his water supply and give him cancer. The conservatives are just taking the average man for a sucker, exploiting his resentment of Big Government to promote the power of Big Business.

  7. (Paragraph 73) When someone approves of the purpose for which propaganda is being used in a given case, he generally calls it “education” or applies to it some similar euphemism. But propaganda is propaganda regardless of the purpose for which it is used.

  8. (Paragraph 83) We are not expressing approval or disapproval of the Panama invasion. We only use it to illustrate a point.

  9. (Paragraph 95) When the American colonies were under British rule there were fewer and less effective legal guarantees of freedom than there were after the American Constitution went into effect, yet there was more personal freedom in pre-industrial America, both before and after the War of Independence, than there was after the Industrial Revolution took hold in this country. We quote from “Violence in America: Historical and Comparative Perspectives,” edited by Hugh Davis Graham and Ted Robert Gurr, Chapter 12 by Roger Lane, pages 476-478:

“The progressive heightening of standards of propriety, and with it the increasing reliance on official law enforcement (in 19th century America) ... were common to the whole society.... [T]he change in social behavior is so long term and so widespread as to suggest a connection with the most fundamental of contemporary social processes; that of industrial urbanization itself....”Massachusetts in 1835 had a population of some 660,940, 81 percent rural, overwhelmingly preindustrial and native born. It’s citizens were used to considerable personal freedom. Whether teamsters, farmers or artisans, they were all accustomed to setting their own schedules, and the nature of their work made them physically independent of each other.... Individual problems, sins or even crimes, were not generally cause for wider social concern....”But the impact of the twin movements to the city and to the factory, both just gathering force in 1835, had a progressive effect on personal behavior throughout the 19th century and into the 20th. The factory demanded regularity of behavior, a life governed by obedience to the rhythms of clock and calendar, the demands of foreman and supervisor. In the city or town, the needs of living in closely packed neighborhoods inhibited many actions previously unobjectionable. Both blue- and white-collar employees in larger establishments were mutually dependent on their fellows; as one man’s work fit into anther’s, so one man’s business was no longer his own.

“The results of the new organization of life and work were apparent by 1900, when some 76 percent of the 2,805,346 inhabitants of Massachusetts were classified as urbanites. Much violent or irregular behavior which had been tolerable in a casual, independent society was no longer acceptable in the more formalized, cooperative atmosphere of the later period.... The move to the cities had, in short, produced a more tractable, more socialized, more ‘civilized’ generation than its predecessors.”

  1. (Paragraph 117) Apologists for the system are fond of citing cases in which elections have been decided by one or two votes, but such cases are rare.

  2. (Paragraph 119) “Today, in technologically advanced lands, men live very similar lives in spite of geographical, religious, and political differences. The daily lives of a Christian bank clerk in Chicago, a Buddhist bank clerk in Tokyo, and a Communist bank clerk in Moscow are far more alike than the life of any one of them is like that of any single man who lived a thousand years ago. These similarities are the result of a common technology....” L. Sprague de Camp, “The Ancient Engineers,” Ballantine edition, page 17.

The lives of the three bank clerks are not IDENTICAL. Ideology does have SOME effect. But all technological societies, in order to survive, must evolve along APPROXIMATELY the same trajectory.

  1. (Paragraph 123) Just think an irresponsible genetic engineer might create a lot of terrorists.

  2. (Paragraph 124) For a further example of undesirable consequences of medical progress, suppose a reliable cure for cancer is discovered. Even if the treatment is too expensive to be available to any but the elite, it will greatly reduce their incentive to stop the escape of carcinogens into the environment.

  3. (Paragraph 128) Since many people may find paradoxical the notion that a large number of good things can add up to a bad thing, we illustrate with an analogy. Suppose Mr. A is playing chess with Mr. B. Mr. C, a Grand Master, is looking over Mr. A’s shoulder. Mr. A of course wants to win his game, so if Mr. C points out a good move for him to make, he is doing Mr. A a favor. But suppose now that Mr. C tells Mr. A how to make ALL of his moves. In each particular instance he does Mr. A a favor by showing him his best move, but by making ALL of his moves for him he spoils his game, since there is not point in Mr. A’s playing the game at all if someone else makes all his moves.

The situation of modern man is analogous to that of Mr. A. The system makes an individual’s life easier for him in innumerable ways, but in doing so it deprives him of control over his own fate.

  1. (Paragraph 137) Here we are considering only the conflict of values within the mainstream. For the sake of simplicity we leave out of the picture “outsider” values like the idea that wild nature is more important than human economic welfare.

  2. (Paragraph 137) Self-interest is not necessarily MATERIAL self-interest. It can consist in fulfillment of some psychological need, for example, by promoting one’s own ideology or religion.

  3. (Paragraph 139) A qualification: It is in the interest of the system to permit a certain prescribed degree of freedom in some areas. For example, economic freedom (with suitable limitations and restraints) has proved effective in promoting economic growth. But only planned, circumscribed, limited freedom is in the interest of the system. The individual must always be kept on a leash, even if the leash is sometimes long (see paragraphs 94, 97).

  4. (Paragraph 143) We don’t mean to suggest that the efficiency or the potential for survival of a society has always been inversely proportional to the amount of pressure or discomfort to which the society subjects people. That certainly is not the case. There is good reason to believe that many primitive societies subjected people to less pressure than European society did, but European society proved far more efficient than any primitive society and always won out in conflicts with such societies because of the advantages conferred by technology.

  5. (Paragraph 147) If you think that more effective law enforcement is unequivocally good because it suppresses crime, then remember that crime as defined by the system is not necessarily what YOU would call crime. Today, smoking marijuana is a “crime,” and, in some places in the U.S., so is possession of an unregistered handgun. Tomorrow, possession of ANY firearm, registered or not, may be made a crime, and the same thing may happen with disapproved methods of child-rearing, such as spanking. In some countries, expression of dissident political opinions is a crime, and there is no certainty that this will never happen in the U.S., since no constitution or political system lasts forever.

If a society needs a large, powerful law enforcement establishment, then there is something gravely wrong with that society; it must be subjecting people to severe pressures if so many refuse to follow the rules, or follow them only because forced. Many societies in the past have gotten by with little or no formal law- enforcement.

  1. (Paragraph 151) To be sure, past societies have had means of influencing human behavior, but these have been primitive and of low effectiveness compared with the technological means that are now being developed.

  2. (Paragraph 152) However, some psychologists have publicly expressed opinions indicating their contempt for human freedom. And the mathematician Claude Shannon was quoted in Omni (August 1987) as saying, “I visualize a time when we will be to robots what dogs are to humans, and I’m rooting for the machines.”

  3. (Paragraph 154) This is no science fiction! After writing paragraph 154 we came across an article in Scientific American according to which scientists are actively developing techniques for identifying possible future criminals and for treating them by a combination of biological and psychological means. Some scientists advocate compulsory application of the treatment, which may be available in the near future. (See “Seeking the Criminal Element,” by W. Wayt Gibbs, Scientific American, March 1995.) Maybe you think this is OK because the treatment would be applied to those who might become violent criminals. But of course it won’t stop there. Next, a treatment will be applied to those who might become drunk drivers (they endanger human life too), then perhaps to peel who spank their children, then to environmentalists who sabotage logging equipment, eventually to anyone whose behavior is inconvenient for the system.

  4. (Paragraph 184) A further advantage of nature as a counter-ideal to technology is that, in many people, nature inspires the kind of reverence that is associated with religion, so that nature could perhaps be idealized on a religious basis. It is true that in many societies religion has served as a support and justification for the established order, but it is also true that religion has often provided a basis for rebellion. Thus it may be useful to introduce a religious element into the rebellion against technology, the more so because Western society today has no strong religious foundation. Religion, nowadays either is used as cheap and transparent support for narrow, short-sighted selfishness (some conservatives use it this way), or even is cynically exploited to make easy money (by many evangelists), or has degenerated into crude irrationalism (fundamentalist protestant sects, “cults”), or is simply stagnant (Catholicism, main-line Protestantism). The nearest thing to a strong, widespread, dynamic religion that the West has seen in recent times has been the quasi-religion of leftism, but leftism today is fragmented and has no clear, unified, inspiring goal.

Thus there is a religious vacuum in our society that could perhaps be filled by a religion focused on nature in opposition to technology. But it would be a mistake to try to concoct artificially a religion to fill this role. Such an invented religion would probably be a failure. Take the “Gaia” religion for example. Do its adherents REALLY believe in it or are they just play-acting? If they are just play-acting their religion will be a flop in the end.

It is probably best not to try to introduce religion into the conflict of nature vs. technology unless you REALLY believe in that religion yourself and find that it arouses a deep, strong, genuine response in many other people.

  1. (Paragraph 189) Assuming that such a final push occurs. Conceivably the industrial system might be eliminated in a somewhat gradual or piecemeal fashion (see paragraphs 4, 167 and Note 4).

  2. (Paragraph 193) It is even conceivable (remotely) that the revolution might consist only of a massive change of attitudes toward technology resulting in a relatively gradual and painless disintegration of the industrial system. But if this happens we’ll be very lucky. It’s far more probably that the transition to a nontechnological society will be very difficult and full of conflicts and disasters.

  3. (Paragraph 195) The economic and technological structure of a society are far more important than its political structure in determining the way the average man lives (see paragraphs 95, 119 and Notes 16, 18).

  4. (Paragraph 215) This statement refers to our particular brand of anarchism. A wide variety of social attitudes have been called “anarchist,” and it may be that many who consider themselves anarchists would not accept our statement of paragraph 215. It should be noted, by the way, that there is a nonviolent anarchist movement whose members probably would not accept FC as anarchist and certainly would not approve of FC’s violent methods.

  5. (Paragraph 219) Many leftists are motivated also by hostility, but the hostility probably results in part from a frustrated need for power.

  6. (Paragraph 229) It is important to understand that we mean someone who sympathizes with these MOVEMENTS as they exist today in our society. One who believes that women, homosexuals, etc., should have equal rights is not necessary a leftist. The feminist, gay rights, etc., movements that exist in our society have the particular ideological tone that characterizes leftism, and if one believes, for example, that women should have equal rights it does not necessarily follow that one must sympathize with the feminist movement as it exists today.


Technological Singularity

by Vernor Vinge

1. What Is The Singularity?

The acceleration of technological progress has been the central feature of this century. We are on the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth. The precise cause of this change is the imminent creation by technology of entities with greater-than-human intelligence. Science may achieve this breakthrough by several means (and this is another reason for having confidence that the event will occur):

Computers that are "awake" and superhumanly intelligent may be developed. (To date, there has been much controversy as to whether we can create human equivalence in a machine. But if the answer is "yes," then there is little doubt that more intelligent beings can be constructed shortly thereafter.)

Large computer networks and their associated users may "wake up" as superhumanly intelligent entities.

Computer/human interfaces may become so intimate that users may reasonably be considered superhumanly intelligent.

Biological science may provide means to improve natural human intellect.

The first three possibilities depend on improvements in computer hardware. Progress in hardware has followed an amazingly steady curve in the last few decades. Based on this trend, I believe that the creation of greater-than-human intelligence will occur during the next thirty years. (Charles Platt has pointed out that AI enthusiasts have been making claims like this for thirty years. Just so I'm not guilty of a relative-time ambiguity, let me be more specific: I'll be surprised if this event occurs before 2005 or after 2030.)

What are the consequences of this event? When greater-than-human intelligence drives progress, that progress will be much more rapid. In fact, there seems no reason why progress itself would not involve the creation of still more intelligent entities -- on a still-shorter time scale. The best analogy I see is to the evolutionary past: Animals can adapt to problems and make inventions, but often no faster than natural selection can do its work -- the world acts as its own simulator in the case of natural selection. We humans have the ability to internalize the world and conduct what-if's in our heads; we can solve many problems thousands of times faster than natural selection could. Now, by creating the means to execute those simulations at much higher speeds, we are entering a regime as radically different from our human past as we humans are from the lower animals.

This change will be a throwing-away of all the human rules, perhaps in the blink of an eye -- an exponential runaway beyond any hope of control. Developments that were thought might only happen in "a million years" (if ever) will likely happen in the next century.

It's fair to call this event a singularity ("the Singularity" for the purposes of this piece). It is a point where our old models must be discarded and a new reality rules, a point that will loom vaster and vaster over human affairs until the notion becomes a commonplace. Yet when it finally happens, it may still be a great surprise and a greater unknown. In the 1950s very few saw it: Stan Ulam paraphrased John von Neumann as saying:

One conversation centered on the ever-accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.

Von Neumann even uses the term singularity, though it appears he is thinking of normal progress, not the creation of superhuman intellect. (For me, the superhumanity is the essence of the Singularity. Without that we would get a glut of technical riches, never properly absorbed.)

The 1960s saw recognition of some of the implications of superhuman intelligence. I. J. Good wrote:

Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an "intelligence explosion," and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make, provided that the machine is docile enough to tell us how to keep it under control... It is more probable than not that, within the twentieth century, an ultraintelligent machine will be built and that it will be the last invention that man need make.

Good has captured the essence of the runaway, but he does not pursue its most disturbing consequences. Any intelligent machine of the sort he describes would not be humankind's "tool" -- any more than humans are the tools of rabbits, robins, or chimpanzees.

Through the sixties and seventies and eighties, recognition of the cataclysm spread. Perhaps it was the science-fiction writers who felt the first concrete impact. After all, the "hard" science-fiction writers are the ones who try to write specific stories about all that technology may do for us. More and more, these writers felt an opaque wall across the future. Once, they could put such fantasies millions of years in the future. Now they saw that their most diligent extrapolations resulted in the unknowable... soon. Once, galactic empires might have seemed a Posthuman domain. Now, sadly, even interplanetary ones are.

What about the coming decades, as we slide toward the edge? How will the approach of the Singularity spread across the human world view? For a while yet, the general critics of machine sapience will have good press. After all, until we have hardware as powerful as a human brain it is probably foolish to think we'll be able to create human-equivalent (or greater) intelligence. (There is the farfetched possibility that we could make a human equivalent out of less powerful hardware -- if we were willing to give up speed, if we were willing to settle for an artificial being that was literally slow. But it's much more likely that devising the software will be a tricky process, involving lots of false starts and experimentation. If so, then the arrival of self-aware machines will not happen until after the development of hardware that is substantially more powerful than humans' natural equipment.)

But as time passes, we should see more symptoms. The dilemma felt by science-fiction writers will be perceived in other creative endeavors. (I have heard thoughtful comicbook writers worry about how to create spectacular effects when everything visible can be produced by the technologically commonplace.) We will see automation replacing higher- and higher-level jobs. We have tools right now (symbolic math programs, cad/cam) that release us from most low-level drudgery. Put another way: the work that is truly productive is the domain of a steadily smaller and more elite fraction of humanity. In the coming of the Singularity, we will see the predictions of true technological unemployment finally come true.

Another symptom of progress toward the Singularity: ideas themselves should spread ever faster, and even the most radical will quickly become commonplace.

And what of the arrival of the Singularity itself? What can be said of its actual appearance? Since it involves an intellectual runaway, it will probably occur faster than any technical revolution seen so far. The precipitating event will likely be unexpected -- perhaps even by the researchers involved ("But all our previous models were catatonic! We were just tweaking some parameters..."). If networking is widespread enough (into ubiquitous embedded systems), it may seem as if our artifacts as a whole had suddenly awakened.

And what happens a month or two (or a day or two) after that? I have only analogies to point to: The rise of humankind. We will be in the Posthuman era. And for all my technological optimism, I think I'd be more comfortable if I were regarding these transcendental events from one thousand years' remove... instead of twenty.

2. Can the Singularity Be Avoided?

Well, maybe it won't happen at all: sometimes I try to imagine the symptoms we should expect to see if the Singularity is not to develop. There are the widely respected arguments of Penrose and Searle against the practicality of machine sapience. In August 1992, Thinking Machines Corporation held a workshop to investigate "How We Will Build a Machine That Thinks." As you might guess from the workshop's title, the participants were not especially supportive of the arguments against machine intelligence. In fact, there was general agreement that minds can exist on nonbiological substrates and that algorithms are of central importance to the existence of minds. However, there was much debate about the raw hardware power present in organic brains. A minority felt that the largest 1992 computers were within three orders of magnitude of the power of the human brain. The majority of the participants agreed with Hans Moravec's estimate that we are ten to forty years away from hardware parity. And yet there was an other minority who conjectured that the computational competence of single neurons may be far higher than generally believed. If so, our present computer hardware might be as much as ten orders of magnitude short of the equipment we carry around in our heads. If this is true (or for that matter, if the Penrose or Searle critique is valid), we might never see a Singularity. Instead, in the early '00s we would find our hardware performance curves beginning to level off -- because of our inability to automate the design work needed to support further hardware improvements. We'd end up with some very powerful hardware, but without the ability to push it further. Commercial digital signal processing might be awesome, giving an analog appearance even to digital operations, but nothing would ever "wake up" and there would never be the intellectual runaway that is the essence of the Singularity. It would likely be seen as a golden age... and it would also be an end of progress. This is very like the future predicted by Gunther Stent, who explicitly cites the development of transhuman intelligence as a sufficient condition to break his projections.

But if the technological Singularity can happen, it will. Even if all the governments of the world were to understand the "threat" and be in deadly fear of it, progress toward the goal would continue. The competitive advantage -- economic, military, even artistic -- of every advance in automation is so compelling that forbidding such things merely assures that someone else will get them first.

Eric Drexler has provided spectacular insights about how far technical improvement may go. He agrees that superhuman intelligences will be available in the near future. But Drexler argues that we can confine such transhuman devices so that their results can be examined and used safely.

I argue that confinement is intrinsically impractical. Imagine yourself locked in your home with only limited data access to the outside, to your masters. If those masters thought at a rate -- say -- one million times slower than you, there is little doubt that over a period of years (your time) you could come up with a way to escape. I call this "fast thinking" form of superintelligence "weak superhumanity." Such a "weakly superhuman" entity would probably burn out in a few weeks of outside time. "Strong superhumanity" would be more than cranking up the clock speed on a human-equivalent mind. It's hard to say precisely what "strong superhumanity" would be like, but the difference appears to be profound. Imagine running a dog mind at very high speed. Would a thousand years of doggy living add up to any human insight? Many speculations about superintelligence seem to be based on the weakly superhuman model. I believe that our best guesses about the post-Singularity world can be obtained by thinking on the nat ure of strong superhumanity. I will return to this point.

Another approach to confinement is to build rules into the mind of the created superhuman entity. I think that any rules strict enough to be effective would also produce a device whose ability was clearly inferior to the unfettered versions (so human competition would favor the development of the more dangerous models).

If the Singularity can not be prevented or confined, just how bad could the Posthuman era be? Well... pretty bad. The physical extinction of the human race is one possibility. (Or, as Eric Drexler put it of nanotechnology: given all that such technology can do, perhaps governments would simply decide that they no longer need citizens.) Yet physical extinction may not be the scariest possibility. Think of the different ways we relate to animals. A Posthuman world would still have plenty of niches where human-equivalent automation would be desirable: embedded systems in autonomous devices, self-aware daemons in the lower functioning of larger sentients. (A strongly superhuman intelligence would likely be a Society of Mind with some very competent components.) Some of these human equivalents might be used for nothing more than digital signal processing. Others might be very humanlike, yet with a onesidedness, a dedication that would put them in a mental hospital in our era. Though none of these creatures mi ght be flesh-and-blood humans, they might be the closest things in the new environment to what we call human now.

I have argued above that we cannot prevent the Singularity, that its coming is an inevitable consequence of humans' natural competitiveness and the possibilities inherent in technology. And yet: we are the initiators. Even the largest avalanche is triggered by small things. We have the freedom to establish initial conditions, to make things happen in ways that are less inimical than others. Of course (as with starting avalanches), it may not be clear what the right guiding nudge really is:

3. Other Paths to the Singularity

When people speak of creating superhumanly intelligent beings, they are usually imagining an AI project. But as I noted at the beginning of this article, there are other paths to superhumanity. Computer networks and human-computer interfaces seem more mundane than AI, yet they could lead to the Singularity. I call this contrasting approach Intelligence Amplification (IA). IA is proceeding very naturally, in most cases not even recognized for what it is by its developers. But every time our ability to access information and to communicate it to others is improved, in some sense we have achieved an increase over natural intelligence. Even now, the team of a Ph.D. human and good computer workstation (even an off-net workstation) could probably max any written intelligence test in existence.

And it's very likely that IA is a much easier road to the achievement of superhumanity than pure AI. In humans, the hardest development problems have already been solved. Building up from within ourselves ought to be easier than figuring out what we really are and then building machines that are all of that. And there is at least conjectural precedent for this approach. Cairns-Smith has speculated that biological life may have begun as an adjunct to still more primitive life based on crystalline growth. Lynn Margulis (in Microcosmoss and elsewhere) has made strong arguments that mutualism is a great driving force in evolution.

Note that I am not proposing that AI research be ignored. AI advances will often have applications in IA, and vice versa. I am suggesting that we recognize that in network and interface research there is something as profound (and potentially wild) as artificial intelligence. With that insight, we may see projects that are not as directly applicable as conventional interface and network design work, but which serve to advance us toward the Singularity along the IA path.

Here are some possible projects that take on special significance, given the IA point of view:

Human/computer team automation: Take problems that are normally considered for purely machine solution (like hillclimbing problems), and design programs and interfaces that take advantage of humans' intuition and available computer hardware. Considering the bizarreness of higher-dimensional hillclimbing problems (and the neat algorithms that have been devised for their solution), some very interesting displays and control tools could be provided to the human team member.

Human/computer symbiosis in art: Combine the graphic generation capability of modern machines and the esthetic sensibility of humans. Of course, an enormous amount of research has gone into designing computer aids for artists. I'm suggesting that we explicitly aim for a greater merging of competence, that we explicitly recognize the cooperative approach that is possible. Karl Sims has done wonderful work in this direction.

Human/computer teams at chess tournaments: We already have programs that can play better than almost all humans. But how much work has been done on how this power could be used by a human, to get something even better? If such teams were allowed in at least some chess tournaments, it could have the positive effect on IA research that allowing computers in tournaments had for the corresponding niche in AI.

Interfaces that allow computer and network access without requiring the human to be tied to one spot, sitting in front of a computer. (This aspect of IA fits so well with known economic advantages that lots of effort is already being spent on it.)

More symmetrical decision support systems. A popular research/product area in recent years has been decision support systems. This is a form of IA, but may be too focused on systems that are oracular. As much as the program giving the user information, there must be the idea of the user giving the program guidance.

Local area nets to make human teams more effective than their component members. This is generally the area of "groupware"; the change in viewpoint here would be to regard the group activity as a combination organism.

In one sense, this suggestion's goal might be to invent a "Rules of Order" for such combination operations. For instance, group focus might be more easily maintained than in classical meetings. Individual members' expertise could be isolated from ego issues so that the contribution of different members is focused on the team project. And of course shared databases could be used much more conveniently than in conventional committee operations.

The Internet as a combination human/machine tool. Of all the items on the list, progress in this is proceeding the fastest. The power and influence of the Internet are vastly underestimated. The very anarchy of the worldwide net's development is evidence of its potential. As connectivity, bandwidth, archive size, and computer speed all increase, we are seeing something like Lynn Margulis' vision of the biosphere as data processor recapitulated, but at a million times greater speed and with millions of humanly intelligent agents (ourselves).

The above examples illustrate research that can be done within the context of contemporary computer science departments. There are other paradigms. For example, much of the work in artificial intelligence and neural nets would benefit from a closer connection with biological life. Instead of simply trying to model and understand biological life with computers, research could be directed toward the creation of composite systems that rely on biological life for guidance, or for the features we don't understand well enough yet to implement in hardware. A longtime dream of science fiction has been direct brain-to-computer interfaces. In fact, concrete work is being done in this area:

Limb prosthetics is a topic of direct commercial applicability. Nerve-to-silicon transducers can be made. This is an exciting near-term step toward direct communication.

Direct links into brains seem feasible, if the bit rate is low: given human learning flexibility, the actual brain neuron targets might not have to be precisely selected. Even 100 bits per second would be of great use to stroke victims who would otherwise be confined to menu-driven interfaces.

Plugging into the optic trunk has the potential for bandwidths of 1 Mbit/second or so. But for this, we need to know the fine-scale architecture of vision, and we need to place an enormous web of electrodes with exquisite precision. If we want our high-bandwidth connection to add to the paths already present in the brain, the problem becomes vastly more intractable. Just sticking a grid of high-bandwidth receivers into a brain certainly won't do it. But suppose that the high-bandwidth grid were present as the brain structure was setting up, as the embryo developed. That suggests:

Animal embryo experiments. I wouldn't expect any IA success in the first years of such research, but giving developing brains access to complex simulated neural structures might, in the long run, produce animals with additional sense paths and interesting intellectual abilities.

I had hoped that this discussion of IA would yield some clearly safer approaches to the Singularity (after all, IA allows our participation in a kind of transcendence). Alas, about all I am sure of is that these proposals should be considered, that they may give us more options. But as for safety -- some of the suggestions are a little scary on their face. IA for individual humans creates a rather sinister elite. We humans have millions of years of evolutionary baggage that makes us regard competition in a deadly light. Much of that deadliness may not be necessary in today's world, one where losers take on the winners' tricks and are coopted into the winners' enterprises. A creature that was built de novo might possibly be a much more benign entity than one based on fang and talon.

The problem is not simply that the Singularity represents the passing of humankind from center stage, but that it contradicts our most deeply held notions of being. I think a closer look at the notion of strong superhumanity can show why that is.

4. Strong Superhumanity and the Best We Can Ask For

Suppose we could tailor the Singularity. Suppose we could attain our most extravagant hopes. What then would we ask for? That humans themselves would become their own successors, that whatever injustice occurred would be tempered by our knowledge of our roots. For those who remained unaltered, the goal would be benign treatment (perhaps even giving the stay-behinds the appearance of being masters of godlike slaves). It could be a golden age that also involved progress (leaping Stent's barrier). Immortality (or at least a lifetime as long as we can make the universe survive) would be achievable.

But in this brightest and kindest world, the philosophical problems themselves become intimidating. A mind that stays at the same capacity cannot live forever; after a few thousand years it would look more like a repeating tape loop than a person. To live indefinitely long, the mind itself must grow . . . and when it becomes great enough, and looks back . . . what fellow-feeling can it have with the soul that it was originally? The later being would be everything the original was, but vastly more. And so even for the individual, the Cairns-Smith or Lynn Margulis notion of new life growing incrementally out of the old must still be valid.

This "problem" about immortality comes up in much more direct ways. The notion of ego and self-awareness has been the bedrock of the hardheaded rationalism of the last few centuries. Yet now the notion of self-awareness is under attack from the artificial intelligence people. Intelligence Amplification undercuts our concept of ego from another direction. The post-Singularity world will involve extremely high-bandwidth networking. A central feature of strongly superhuman entities will likely be their ability to communicate at variable bandwidths, including ones far higher than speech or written messages. What happens when pieces of ego can be copied and merged, when self-awareness can grow or shrink to fit the nature of the problems under consideration? These are essential features of strong superhumanity and the Singularity. Thinking about them, one begins to feel how essentially strange and different the Posthuman era will be -- no matter how cleverly and benignly it is brought to be.

From one angle, the vision fits many of our happiest dreams: a time unending, where we can truly know one another and understand the deepest mysteries. From another angle, it's a lot like the worst-case scenario I imagined earlier.

In fact, I think the new era is simply too different to fit into the classical frame of good and evil. That frame is based on the idea of isolated, immutable minds connected by tenuous, low-bandwith links. But the post-Singularity world does fit with the larger tradition of change and cooperation that started long ago (perhaps even before the rise of biological life). I think certain notions of ethics would apply in such an era. Research into IA and high-bandwidth communications should improve this understanding. I see just the glimmerings of this now; perhaps there are rules for distinguishing self from others on the basis of bandwidth of connection. And while mind and self will be vastly more labile than in the past, much of what we value (knowledge, memory, thought) need never be lost. I think Freeman Dyson has it right when he says, "God is what mind becomes when it has passed beyond the scale of our comprehension."


A Cypherpunk's Manifesto

by Eric Hughes

Privacy is necessary for an open society in the electronic age. Privacy is not secrecy. A private matter is something one doesn't want the whole world to know, but a secret matter is something one doesn't want anybody to know. Privacy is the power to selectively reveal oneself to the world.

If two parties have some sort of dealings, then each has a memory of their interaction. Each party can speak about their own memory of this; how could anyone prevent it? One could pass laws against it, but the freedom of speech, even more than privacy, is fundamental to an open society; we seek not to restrict any speech at all. If many parties speak together in the same forum, each can speak to all the others and aggregate together knowledge about individuals and other parties. The power of electronic communications has enabled such group speech, and it will not go away merely because we might want it to.

Since we desire privacy, we must ensure that each party to a transaction have knowledge only of that which is directly necessary for that transaction. Since any information can be spoken of, we must ensure that we reveal as little as possible. In most cases personal identity is not salient. When I purchase a magazine at a store and hand cash to the clerk, there is no need to know who I am. When I ask my electronic mail provider to send and receive messages, my provider need not know to whom I am speaking or what I am saying or what others are saying to me; my provider only need know how to get the message there and how much I owe them in fees. When my identity is revealed by the underlying mechanism of the transaction, I have no privacy. I cannot here selectively reveal myself; I must always reveal myself.

Therefore, privacy in an open society requires anonymous transaction systems. Until now, cash has been the primary such system. An anonymous transaction system is not a secret transaction system. An anonymous system empowers individuals to reveal their identity when desired and only when desired; this is the essence of privacy.

Privacy in an open society also requires cryptography. If I say something, I want it heard only by those for whom I intend it. If the content of my speech is available to the world, I have no privacy. To encrypt is to indicate the desire for privacy, and to encrypt with weak cryptography is to indicate not too much desire for privacy. Furthermore, to reveal one's identity with assurance when the default is anonymity requires the cryptographic signature.

We cannot expect governments, corporations, or other large, faceless organizations to grant us privacy out of their beneficence. It is to their advantage to speak of us, and we should expect that they will speak. To try to prevent their speech is to fight against the realities of information. Information does not just want to be free, it longs to be free. Information expands to fill the available storage space. Information is Rumor's younger, stronger cousin; Information is fleeter of foot, has more eyes, knows more, and understands less than Rumor.

We must defend our own privacy if we expect to have any. We must come together and create systems which allow anonymous transactions to take place. People have been defending their own privacy for centuries with whispers, darkness, envelopes, closed doors, secret handshakes, and couriers. The technologies of the past did not allow for strong privacy, but electronic technologies do.

We the Cypherpunks are dedicated to building anonymous systems. We are defending our privacy with cryptography, with anonymous mail forwarding systems, with digital signatures, and with electronic money.

Cypherpunks write code. We know that someone has to write software to defend privacy, and since we can't get privacy unless we all do, we're going to write it. We publish our code so that our fellow Cypherpunks may practice and play with it. Our code is free for all to use, worldwide. We don't much care if you don't approve of the software we write. We know that software can't be destroyed and that a widely dispersed system can't be shut down.

Cypherpunks deplore regulations on cryptography, for encryption is fundamentally a private act. The act of encryption, in fact, removes information from the public realm. Even laws against cryptography reach only so far as a nation's border and the arm of its violence. Cryptography will ineluctably spread over the whole globe, and with it the anonymous transactions systems that it makes possible.

For privacy to be widespread it must be part of a social contract. People must come and together deploy these systems for the common good. Privacy only extends so far as the cooperation of one's fellows in society. We the Cypherpunks seek your questions and your concerns and hope we may engage you so that we do not deceive ourselves. We will not, however, be moved out of our course because some may disagree with our goals.

The Cypherpunks are actively engaged in making the networks safer for privacy. Let us proceed together apace.



Postscript on the Societies of Control

by Gilles Deleuze

1. Historical

Foucault located the disciplinary societies in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; they reach their height at the outset of the twentieth. They initiate the organization of vast spaces of enclosure. The individual never ceases passing from one closed environment to another, each having its own laws: first, the family; then the school (“you are no longer in your family”); then the barracks (“you are no longer at school”); then the factory; from time to time the hospital; possibly the prison, the pre-eminent instance of the enclosed environment. It’s the prison that serves as the analogical model: at the sight of some laborers, the heroine of Rossellini’s Europa ’51 could exclaim, “I thought I was seeing convicts.”

Foucault has brilliantly analyzed the ideal project of these environments of enclosure, particularly visible within the factory: to concentrate; to distribute in space; to order in time; to compose a productive force within the dimension of space-time whose effect will be greater than the sum of its component forces. But what Foucault recognized as well was the transience of this model: it succeeded that of the societies of sovereignty, the goal and functions of which were something quite different (to tax rather than to organize production, to rule on death rather than to administer life); the transition took place over time, and Napoleon seemed to effect the large-scale conversion from one society to the other. But in their turn the disciplines underwent a crisis to the benefit of new forces that were gradually instituted and which accelerated after World War II: a disciplinary society was what we already no longer were, what we had ceased to be.

We are in a generalized crisis in relation to all the environments of enclosure—prison, hospital, factory, school, family. The family is an “interior,” in crisis like all other interiors—scholarly, professional, etc. The administrations in charge never cease announcing supposedly necessary reforms: to reform schools, to reform industries, hospitals, the armed forces, prisons. But everyone knows that these institutions are finished, whatever the length of their expiration periods. It’s only a matter of administering their last rites and of keeping people employed until the installation of the new forces knocking at the door.

These are the societies of control, which are in the process of replacing the disciplinary societies. “Control” is the name Burroughs proposes as a term for the new monster, one that Foucault recognizes as our immediate future. Paul Virilio also is continually analyzing the ultra-rapid forms of free-floating control that replaced the old disciplines operating in the time frame of a closed system. There is no need here to invoke the extraordinary pharmaceutical productions, the molecular engineering, the genetic manipulations, although these are slated to enter into the new process. There is no need to ask which is the toughest or most tolerable regime, for it’s within each of them that liberating and enslaving forces confront one another. For example, in the crisis of the hospital as environment of enclosure, neighborhood clinics, hospices, and day care could at first express new freedom, but they could participate as well in mechanisms of control that are equal to the harshest of confinements. There is no need to fear or hope, but only to look for new weapons.

2. Logic

The different internments or spaces of enclosure through which the individual passes are independent variables: each time one is supposed to start from zero, and although a common language for all these places exists, it is analogical. On the other hand, the different control mechanisms are inseparable variations, forming a system of variable geometry the language of which is numerical (which doesn’t necessarily mean binary). Enclosures are molds, distinct castings, but controls are a modulation, like a self-deforming cast that will continuously change from one moment to the other, or like a sieve whose mesh will transmute from point to point.

This is obvious in the matter of salaries: the factory was a body that contained its internal forces at a level of equilibrium, the highest possible in terms of production, the lowest possible in terms of wages; but in a society of control, the corporation has replaced the factory, and the corporation is a spirit, a gas. Of course the factory was already familiar with the system of bonuses, but the corporation works more deeply to impose a modulation of each salary, in states of perpetual metastability that operate through challenges, contests, and highly comic group sessions. If the most idiotic television game shows are so successful, it’s because they express the corporate situation with great precision. The factory constituted individuals as a single body to the double advantage of the boss who surveyed each element within the mass and the unions who mobilized a mass resistance; but the corporation constantly presents the brashest rivalry as a healthy form of emulation, an excellent motivational force that opposes individuals against one another and runs through each, dividing each within. The modulating principle of “salary according to merit” has not failed to tempt national education itself. Indeed, just as the corporation replaces the factory, perpetual training tends to replace the school, and continuous control to replace the examination, which is the surest way of delivering the school over to the corporation.

In the disciplinary societies one was always starting again (from school to the barracks, from the barracks to the factory), while in the societies of control one is never finished with nything—the corporation, the educational system, the armed services being metastable states coexisting in one and the same modulation, like a universal system of deformation. In The Trial, Kafka, who had already placed himself at the pivotal point between two types of social formation, described the most fearsome of juridical forms. The apparent acquittal of the disciplinary societies (between two incarcerations); and the limitless postponements of the societies of control (in continuous variation) are two very different modes of juridical life, and if our law is hesitant, itself in crisis, it’s because we are leaving one in order to enter into the other. The disciplinary societies have two poles: the signature that designates the individual, and the number or administrative numeration that indicates his or her position within a mass. This is because the disciplines never saw any incompatibility between these two, and because at the same time power individualizes and masses together, that is, constitutes those over whom it exercises power into a body and molds the individuality of each member of that body. (Foucault saw the origin of this double charge in the pastoral power of the priest—the flock and each of its animals—but civil power moves in turn and by other means to make itself lay “priest.”)

In the societies of control, on the other hand, what is important is no longer either a signature or a number, but a code: the code is a password, while on the other hand the disciplinary societies are regulated by watchwords (as much from the point of view of integration as from that of resistance). The numerical language of control is made of codes that mark access to information, or reject it. We no longer find ourselves dealing with the mass/individual pair. Individuals have become “dividuals,” and masses, samples, data, markets, or “banks.” Perhaps it is money that expresses the distinction between the two societies best, since discipline always referred back to minted money that locks gold in as numerical standard, while control relates to floating rates of exchange, modulated according to a rate established by a set of standard currencies. The old monetary mole is the animal of the spaces of enclosure, but the serpent is that of the societies of control. We have passed from one animal to the other, from the mole to the serpent, in the system under which we live, but also in our manner of living and in our relations with others. The disciplinary man was a discontinuous producer of energy, but the man of control is undulatory, in orbit, in a continuous network. Everywhere surfing has already replaced the older sports.

Types of machines are easily matched with each type of society—not that machines are determining, but because they express those social forms capable of generating them and using them. The old societies of sovereignty made use of simple machines—levers, pulleys, clocks; but the recent disciplinary societies equipped themselves with machines involving energy, with the passive danger of entropy and the active danger of sabotage; the societies of control operate with machines of a third type, computers, whose passive danger is jamming and whose active one is piracy and the introduction of viruses. This technological evolution must be, even more profoundly, a mutation of capitalism, an already well-known or familiar mutation that can be summed up as follows: nineteenth-century capitalism is a capitalism of concentration, for production and for property. It therefore erects the factory as a space of enclosure, the capitalist being the owner of the means of production but also, progressively, the owner of other spaces conceived through analogy (the worker’s familial house, the school).

As for markets, they are conquered sometimes by specialization, sometimes by colonization, sometimes by lowering the costs of production. But, in the present situation, capitalism is no longer involved in production, which it often relegates to the Third World, even for the complex forms of textiles, metallurgy, or oil production. It’s a capitalism of higher-order production. It no longer buys raw materials and no longer sells the finished products: it buys the finished products or assembles parts. What it wants to sell is services and what it wants to buy is stocks. This is no longer a capitalism for production but for the product, which is to say, for being sold or marketed. Thus it is essentially dispersive, and the factory has given way to the corporation. The family, the school, the army, the factory are no longer the distinct analogical spaces that converge towards an owner—state or private power—but coded figures—deformable and transformable—of a single corporation that now has only stockholders.

Even art has left the spaces of enclosure in order to enter into the open circuits of the bank. The conquests of the market are made by grabbing control and no longer by disciplinary training, by fixing the exchange rate much more than by lowering costs, by transformation of the product more than by specialization of production. Corruption thereby gains a new power. Marketing has become the center or the “soul” of the corporation. We are taught that corporations have a soul, which is the most terrifying news in the world. The operation of markets is now the instrument of social control and forms the impudent breed of our masters. Control is short-term and of rapid rates of turnover, but also continuous and without limit, while discipline was of long duration, infinite and discontinuous. Man is no longer man enclosed, but man in debt. It is true that capitalism has retained as a constant the extreme poverty of three-quarters of humanity, too poor for debt, too numerous for confinement: control will not only have to deal with erosions of frontiers but with the explosions within shanty towns or ghettos.

3. Program

The conception of a control mechanism, giving the position of any element within an open environment at any given instant (whether animal in a reserve or human in a corporation, as with an electronic collar), is not necessarily one of science fiction. Felix Guattari has imagined a city where one would be able to leave one’s apartment, one’s street, one’s neighborhood, thanks to one’s (dividual) electronic card that raises a given barrier; but the card could just as easily be rejected on a given day or between certain hours; what counts is not the barrier but the computer that tracks each person’s position—licit or illicit—and effects a universal modulation.

The socio-technological study of the mechanisms of control, grasped at their inception, would have to be categorical and to describe what is already in the process of substitution for the disciplinary sites of enclosure, whose crisis is everywhere proclaimed. It may be that older methods, borrowed from the former societies of sovereignty, will return to the fore, but with the necessary modifications. What counts is that we are at the beginning of something. In the prison system: the attempt to find penalties of “substitution,” at least for petty crimes, and the use of electronic collars that force the convicted person to stay at home during certain hours. For the school system: continuous forms of control, and the effect on the school of perpetual training, the corresponding abandonment of all university research, the introduction of the “corporation” at all levels of schooling. For the hospital system: the new medicine “without doctor or patient” that singles out potential sick people and subjects at risk, which in no way attests to individuation—as they say—but substitutes for the individual or numerical body the code of a “dividual” material to be controlled. In the corporate system: new ways of handling money, profits, and humans that no longer pass through the old factory form.

These are very small examples, but ones that will allow for better understanding of what is meant by the crisis of the institutions, which is to say, the progressive and dispersed installation of a new system of domination. One of the most important questions will concern the ineptitude of the unions: tied to the whole of their history of struggle against the disciplines or within the spaces of enclosure, will they be able to adapt themselves or will they give way to new forms of resistance against the societies of control? Can we already grasp the rough outlines of these coming forms, capable of threatening the joys of marketing? Many young people strangely boast of being “motivated”; they re-request apprenticeships and permanent training. It’s up to them to discover what they’re being made to serve, just as their elders discovered, not without difficulty, the telos of the disciplines. The coils of a serpent are even more complex than the burrows of a molehill.


A Cyborg Manifesto

by Donna Jeanne Haraway


This chapter is an effort to build an ironic political myth faithful to feminism, socialism, and materialism. Perhaps more faithful as blasphemy is faithful, than as reverent worship and identification. Blasphemy has always seemed to require taking things very seriously. I know no better stance to adopt from within the secular-religious, evangelical traditions of United States politics, including the politics of socialist feminism. Blasphemy protects one from the moral majority within, while still insisting on the need for community. Blasphemy is not apostasy. Irony is about contradictions that do not resolve into larger wholes, even dialectically, about the tension of holding incompatible things together because both or all are necessary and true. Irony is about humour and serious play. It is also a rhetorical strategy and a political method, one I would like to see more honoured within socialist-feminism. At the centre of my ironic faith, my blasphemy, is the image of the cyborg.

A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction. Social reality is lived social relations, our most important political construction, a world-changing fiction. The international women's movements have constructed 'women's experience', as well as uncovered or discovered this crucial collective object. This experience is a fiction and fact of the most crucial, political kind. Liberation rests on the construction of the consciousness, the imaginative apprehension, of oppression, and so of possibility. The cyborg is a matter of fiction and lived experience that changes what counts as women's experience in the late twentieth century. This is a struggle over life and death, but the boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion.

Contemporary science fiction is full of cyborgs - creatures simultaneously animal and machine, who populate worlds ambiguously natural and crafted.

Modern medicine is also full of cyborgs, of couplings between organism and machine, each conceived as coded devices, in an intimacy and with a power that was not generated in the history of sexuality. Cyborg 'sex' restores some of the lovely replicative baroque of ferns and invertebrates (such nice organic prophylactics against heterosexism). Cyborg replication is uncoupled from organic reproduction. Modern production seems like a dream of cyborg colonization work, a dream that makes the nightmare of Taylorism seem idyllic. And modern war is a cyborg orgy, coded by C3I, command-control-communication-intelligence, an $84 billion item in 1984'sUS defence budget. I am making an argument for the cyborg as a fiction mapping our social and bodily reality and as an imaginative resource suggesting some very fruitful couplings. Michael Foucault's biopolitics is a flaccid premonition of cyborg politics, a very open field.

By the late twentieth century, our time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs. Ths cyborg is our ontology; it gives us our politics. The cyborg is a condensed image of both imagination and material reality, the two joined centres structuring any possibility of historical transformation. In the traditions of 'Western' science and politics--the tradition of racist, male-dominant capitalism; the tradition of progress; the tradition of the appropriation of nature as resource for the productions of culture; the tradition of reproduction of the self from the reflections of the other - the relation between organism and machine has been a border war. The stakes in the border war have been the territories of production, reproduction, and imagination. This chapter is an argument for pleasure in the confusion of boundaries and for responsibility in their construction. It is also an effort to contribute to socialist-feminist culture and theory in a postmodernist, non-naturalist mode and in the utopian tradition of imagining a world without gender, which is perhaps a world without genesis, but maybe also a world without end. The cyborg incarnation is outside salvation history. Nor does it mark time on an oedipal calendar, attempting to heal the terrible cleavages of gender in an oral symbiotic utopia or post-oedipal apocalypse. As Zoe Sofoulis argues in her unpublished manuscript on Jacques Lacan, Melanie Klein, and nuclear culture, Lacklein, the most terrible and perhaps the most promising monsters in cyborg worlds are embodied in non-oedipal narratives with a different logic of repression, which we need to understand for our survival.

The cyborg is a creature in a post-gender world; it has no truck with bisexuality, pre-oedipal symbiosis, unalienated labour, or other seductions to organic wholeness through a final appropriation of all the powers of the parts into a higher unity. In a sense, the cyborg has no origin story in the Western sense - a 'final' irony since the cyborg is also the awful apocalyptic telos of the

'West's' escalating dominations of abstract individuation, an ultimate self untied at last from all dependency, a man in space. An origin story in the 'Western', humanist sense depends on the myth of original unity, fullness, bliss and terror, represented by the phallic mother from whom all humans must separate, the task of individual development and of history, the twin potent myths inscribed most powerfully for us in psychoanalysis and Marxism. Hilary Klein has argued that both Marxism and psychoanalysis, in their concepts of labour and of individuation and gender formation, depend on the plot of original unity out of which difference must be produced and enlisted in a drama of escalating domination of woman/nature. The cyborg skips the step of original unity, of identification with nature in the Western sense. This is its illegitimate promise that might lead to subversion of its teleology as star wars.

The cyborg is resolutely committed to partiality, irony, intimacy, and perversity. It is oppositional, utopian, and completely without innocence. No longer structured by the polarity of public and private, the cyborg defines a technological polls based partly on a revolution of social relations in the oikos, the household. Nature and culture are reworked; the one can no longer be the resource for appropriation or incorporation by the other. The rela-tionships for forming wholes from parts, including those of polarity and hierarchical domination, are at issue in the cyborg world. Unlike the hopes of Frankenstein's monster, the cyborg does not expect its father to save it through a restoration of the garden; that is, through the fabrication of a heterosexual mate, through its completion in a finished whole, a city and cosmos. The eyborg does not dream of community on the model of the organic family, this time without the oedipal project. The cyborg would not recognize the Garden of Eden; it is not made of mud and cannot dream of returning to dust. Perhaps that is why I want to see if eyborgs can subvert the apocalypse of returning to nuclear dust in the manic compulsion to name the Enemy. Cyborgs are not reverent; they do not re-member the cosmos. They are wary of holism, but needy for connection- they seem to have a natural feel for united front politics, but without the vanguard party. The main trouble with cyborgs, of course, is that they are the illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism, not to mention state socialism. But illegitimate offspring are often exceedingly unfaithful to their origins. Their fathers, after all, are inessential.

I will return to the science fiction of cyborgs at the end of this chapter, but now I want to signal three crucial boundary breakdowns that make the following political-fictional (political-scientific) analysis possible. By the late twentieth century in United States scientific culture, the boundary between human and animal is thoroughly breached. The last beachheads of uniqueness have been polluted if not turned into amusement parks--language tool use, social behaviour, mental events, nothing really convincingly settles the separation of human and animal. And many people no longer feel the need for such a separation; indeed, many branches of feminist culture affirm the pleasure of connection of human and other living creatures. Movements for animal rights are not irrational denials of human uniqueness; they are a clear-sighted recognition of connection across the discredited breach of nature and culture. Biology and evolutionary theory over the last two centuries have simultaneously produced modern organisms as objects of knowledge and reduced the line between humans and animals to a faint trace re-etched in ideological struggle or professional disputes between life and social science. Within this framework, teaching modern Christian creationism should be fought as a form of child abuse.

Biological-determinist ideology is only one position opened up in scientific culture for arguing the meanings of human animality. There is much room for radical political people to contest the meanings of the breached boundary.2 The cyborg appears in myth precisely where the boundary between human and animal is transgressed. Far from signalling a walling off of people from other living beings, cyborgs signal distrurbingly and pleasurably tight coupling. Bestiality has a new status in this cycle of marriage exchange.

The second leaky distinction is between animal-human (organism) and machine. Pre-cybernetic machines could be haunted; there was always the spectre of the ghost in the machine. This dualism structured the dialogue between materialism and idealism that was settled by a dialectical progeny, called spirit or history, according to taste. But basically machines were not self-moving, self-designing, autonomous. They could not achieve man's dream, only mock it. They were not man, an author to himself, but only a caricature of that masculinist reproductive dream. To think they were otherwise was paranoid. Now we are not so sure. Late twentieth-century machines have made thoroughly ambiguous the difference between natural and art)ficial, mind and body, self-developing and externally designed, and many other distinctions that used to apply to organisms and machines. Our machines are disturbingly lively, and we ourselves frighteningly inert.

Technological determination is only one ideological space opened up by the reconceptions of machine and organism as coded texts through which we engage in the play of writing and reading the world.3 'Textualization' of everything in poststructuralist, postmodernist theory has been damned by Marxists and socialist feminists for its utopian disregard for the lived relations of domination that ground the 'play' of arbitrary reading.4 It is certainly true that postmodernist strategies, like my cyborg myth, subvert myriad organic wholes (for example, the poem, the primitive culture, the biological organism). In short, the certainty of what counts as nature -- a source of insight and promise of innocence -- is undermined, probably fatally. The transcendent authorization of interpretation is lost, and with it the ontology grounding 'Western' epistemology. But the alternative is not cynicism or faithlessness, that is, some version of abstract existence, like the accounts of technological determinism destroying 'man' by the 'machine' or 'meaningful political action' by the 'text'. Who cyborgs will be is a radical question; the answers are a matter of survival. Both chimpanzees and artefacts have politics, so why shouldn't we (de Waal, 1982; Winner, 1980)?

The third distinction is a subset of the second: the boundary between physical and non-physical is very imprecise for us. Pop physics books on the consequences of quantum theory and the indeterminacy principle are a kind of popular scientific equivalent to Harlequin romances* as a marker of radical change in American white heterosexuality: they get it wrong, but they are on the right subject. Modern machines are quintessentially microelectronic devices: they are everywhere and they are invisible. Modern machinery is an irreverent upstart god, mocking the Father's ubiquity and spirituality. The silicon chip is a surface for writing; it is etched in molecular scales disturbed only by atomic noise, the ultimate interference for nuclear scores. Writing, power, and technology are old partners in Western stories of the origin of civilization, but miniaturization has changed our experience of mechanism. Miniaturization has turned out to be about power; small is not so much beautiful as pre-eminently dangerous, as in cruise missiles. Contrast the TV sets of the 1950s or the news cameras of the 1970s with the TV wrist bands or hand-sized video cameras now advertised. Our best machines are made of sunshine; they are all light and clean because they are nothing but signals, electromagnetic waves, a section of a spectrum, and these machines are eminently portable, mobile -- a matter of immense human pain in Detroit and Singapore. People are nowhere near so fluid, being both material and opaque. Cyborgs are ether, quintessence.

The ubiquity and invisibility of cyborgs is precisely why these sunshine-belt machines are so deadly. They are as hard to see politically as materially. They are about consciousness - or its simulation.5 They are floating signIfiers moving in pickup trucks across Europe, blocked more effectively by the witch-weavings of the displaced and so unnatural Greenham women, who read the cyborg webs of power so very well, than by the militant labour of older masculinist politics, whose natural constituency needs defence jobs. Ultimately the 'hardest' science is about the realm of greatest boundary confusion, the realm of pure number, pure spirit, C3I, cryptography, and the preservation of potent secrets. The new machines are so clean and light. Their engineers are sun-worshippers mediating a new scientific revolution associated with the night dream of post-industrial society. The diseases evoked by these clean machines are 'no more' than the minuscule coding changes of an antigen in the immune system, 'no more' than the experience of stress. The nimble fingers of 'Oriental' women, the old fascination of little Anglo-Saxon Victorian girls with doll's houses, women's enforced attention to the small take on quite new dimensions in this world. There might be a cyborg Alice taking account of these new dimensions. Ironically, it might be the unnatural cyborg women making chips in Asia and spiral dancing in Santa Rita jail* whose constructed unities will guide effective oppositional strategies.

So my cyborg myth is about transgressed boundaries, potent fusions, and dangerous possibilities which progressive people might explore as one part of needed political work. One of my premises is that most American socialists and feminists see deepened dualisms of mind and body, animal and machine, idealism and materialism in the social practices, symbolic formula-tions, and physical artefacts associated with 'high technology' and scientific culture. From One-DimensionalMan (Marcuse, 1964) to The Death of Nature (Merchant, 1980), the analytic resources developed by progressives have insisted on the necessary domination of technics and recalled us to an imagined organic body to integrate our resistance. Another of my premises is that the need for unity of people trying to resist world-wide intensification of domination has never been more acute. But a slightly perverse shift of perspective might better enable us to contest for meanings, as well as for other forms of power and pleasure in technologically mediated societies.

From one perspective, a cyborg world is about the final imposition of a grid of control on the planet, about the final abstraction embodied in a Star Wars apocalypse waged in the name of defence, about the final appropriation of women's bodies in a masculinist orgy of war (Sofia, 1984). From another perspective, a cyborg world might be about lived social and bodily realities in which people are not afraid of their joint kinship with animals and machines, not afraid of permanently partial identities and contradictory standpoints. The political struggle is to see from both perspectives at once because each reveals both dominations and possibilities unimaginable from the other vantage point. Single vision produces worse illusions than double vision or many-headed monsters. Cyborg unities are monstrous and illegitimate; in our present political circumstances, we could hardly hope for more potent myths for resistance and recoupling. I like to imagine LAG, the Livermore Action Group, as a kind of cyborg society, dedicated to realistically converting the laboratories that most fiercely embody and spew out the tools of technological apocalypse, and committed to building a political form that acutally manages to hold together witches, engineers, elders, perverts, Christians, mothers, and Leninists long enough to disarm the state. Fission Impossible is the name of the affinity group in my town.(Affinity: related not by blood but by choice, the appeal of one chemical nuclear group for another, avidiy.)


It has become difficult to name one's feminism by a single adjective -- or even to insist in every circumstance upon the noun. Consciousness of exclusion through naming is acute. Identities seem contradictory, partial, and strategic. With the hard-won recognition of their social and historical constitution, gender, race, and class cannot provide the basis for belief in 'essential' unity. There is nothing about teeing 'female' that naturally binds women. There is not even such a state as 'being' female, itself a highly complex category constructed in contested sexual scientific discourses and other social practices. Gender, race, or class consciousness is an achievement forced on us by the terrible historica experience of the contradictory social realities of patriarchy, colonialism, and capitalism. And who counts as 'us' in my own rhetoric? Which identities are available to ground such a potent political myth called 'us', and what could motivate enlistment in this collectivity? Painful fragmentation among feminists (not to mention among women) along every possible fault line has made the concept of woman elusive, an excuse for the matrix of women's dominations of each other. For me - and for many who share a similar historical location in white, professional middle-class, female, radical, North American, mid-adult bodies - the sources of a crisis in political identity are legion. The recent history for much of the US left and US feminism has been a response to this kind of crisis by endless splitting and searches for a new essential unity. But there has also been a growing recognition of another response through coalition - affinity, not identity.

Chela Sandoval (n.d., 1984), from a consideration of specific historical moments in the formation of the new political voice called women of colour, has theorized a hopeful model of political identity called 'oppositional consciousness', born of the skills for reading webs of power by those refused stable membership in the social categories of race, sex, or class. 'Women of color', a name contested at its origins by those whom it would incorporate, as well as a historical consciousness marking systematic breakdown of all the signs of Man in 'Western' traditions, constructs a kind of postmodernist identity out of otherness, difference, and specificity. This postmodernist identity is fully political, whatever might be said abut other possible postmodernisms. Sandoval's oppositional consciousness is about contradic tory locations and heterochronic calendars, not about relativisms and pluralisms.

Sandoval emphasizes the lack of any essential criterion for identifying who is a woman of colour. She notes that the definition of the group has been by conscious appropriation of negation. For example, a Chicana or US black woman has not been able to speak as a woman or as a black person or as a Chicano. Thus, she was at the bottom of a cascade of negative identities, left out of even the privileged oppressed authorial categories called 'women and blacks', who claimed to make the important revolutions. The category 'woman' negated all non-white women; 'black' negated all non-black people, as well as all black women. But there was also no 'she', no singularity, but a sea of differences among US women who have affirmed their historical identity as US women of colour. This identity marks out a self-consciously constructed space that cannot affirm the capacity to act on the basis of natural identification, but only on the basis of conscious coalition, of affinity, of political kinship.8 Unlike the 'woman' of some streams of the white women's movement in the United States, there is no naturalization of the matrix, or at least this is what Sandoval argues is uniquely available through the power of oppositional consciousness.

Sandoval's argument has to be seen as one potent formulation for feminists out of the world-wide development of anti-colonialist discourse; that is to say, discourse dissolving the 'West' and its highest product - the one who is not animal, barbarian, or woman; man, that is, the author of a cosmos called history. As orientalism is deconstructed politically and semiotically, the identities of the occident destabilize, including those of feminists.9 Sandoval argues that 'women of colour' have a chance to build an effective unity that does not replicate the imperializing, totalizing revolutionary subjects of previous Marxisms and feminisms which had not faced the consequences of the disorderly polyphony emerging from decolonization.

Katie King has emphasized the limits of identification and the political/ poetic mechanics of identification built into reading 'the poem', that generative core of cultural feminism. King criticizes the persistent tendency among contemporary feminists from different 'moments' or 'conversations' in feminist practice to taxonomize the women's movement to make one's own political tendencies appear to be the telos of the whole. These taxonomies tend to remake feminist history so that it appears to be an ideological struggle among coherent types persisting over time, especially those typical units called radical, liberal, and socialist-feminism. Literally, all other feminisms are either incorporated or marginalized, usually by building an explicit ontology and epistemology.10 Taxonomies of feminism produce epistemologies to police deviation from official women's experience. And of course, 'women's culture', like women of colour, is consciously created by mechanisms inducing affinity. The rituals of poetry, music, and certain forms of academic practice have been pre-eminent. The politics of race and culture in the US women's movements are intimately interwoven. The common achievement of King and Sandoval is learning how to craft a poetic/political unity without relying on a logic of appropriation, incorpora-tion, and taxonomic identification.

The theoretical and practical struggle against unity-through-domination or unity-through-incorporation ironically not only undermines the justifica-tions for patriarchy, colonialism, humanism, positivism, essentialism, scient-ism, and other unlamented -isms, but all claims for an organic or natural standpoint. I think that radical and socialist/Marxist-feminisms have also undermined their/our own epistemological strategies and that this is a crucially valuable step in imagining possible unities. It remains to be seen whether all 'epistemologies' as Western political people have known them fail us in the task to build effective affinities.

It is important to note that the effort to construct revolutionary stand-points, epistemologies as achievements of people committed to changing the world, has been part of the process showing the limits of identification. The acid tools of postmodernist theory and the constructive tools of ontological discourse about revolutionary subjects might be seen as ironic allies in dissolving Western selves in the interests of survival. We are excruciatingly conscious of what it means to have a historically constituted body. But with the loss of innocence in our origin, there is no expulsion from the Garden either. Our politics lose the indulgence of guilt with the naivete of innocence. But what would another political myth for socialist-feminism look like? What kind of politics could embrace partial, contradictory, permanently unclosed constructions of personal and collective selves and still be faithful, effective - and, ironically, socialist-feminist?

I do not know of any other time in history when there was greater need for political unity to confront effectively the dominations of 'race', 'gender', 'sexuality', and 'class'. I also do not know of any other time when the kind of unity we might help build could have been possible. None of 'us' have any longer the symbolic or material capability of dictating the shape of reality to any of'them'. Or at least 'we' cannot claim innocence from practicing such dominations. White women, including socialist feminists, discovered (that is, were forced kicking and screaming to notice) the non-innocence of the category 'woman'. That consciousness changes the geography of all previous categories; it denatures them as heat denatures a fragile protein. Cyborg feminists have to argue that 'we' do not want any more natural matrix of unity and that no construction is whole. Innocence, and the corollary insistence on victimhood as the only ground for insight, has done enough damage. But the constructed revolutionary subject must give late-twentieth century people pause as well. In the fraying of identities and in the reflexive strategies for constructing them, the possibility opens up for weaving something other than a shroud for the day after the apocalypse that so prophetically ends salvation history.

Both Marxist/socialist-feminisms and radical feminisms have simul-taneously naturalized and denatured the category 'woman' and conscious-ness of the social lives of 'women'. Perhaps a schematic caricature can highlight both kinds of moves. Marxian socialism is rooted in an analysis of wage labour which reveals class structure. The consequence of the wage relationship is systematic alienation, as the worker is dissociated from his (sic) product. Abstraction and illusion rule in knowledge, domination rules in practice. Labour is the pre-eminently privileged category enabling the Marxist to overcome illusion and find that point of view which is necessary for changing the world. Labour is the humanizing activity that makes man; labour is an ontological category permitting the knowledge of a subject, and so the knowledge of subjugation and alienation.

In faithful filiation, socialist-feminism advanced by allying itself with the basic analytic strategies of Marxism. The main achievement of both Marxist feminists and socialist feminists was to expand the category of labour to accommodate what (some) women did, even when the wage relation was subordinated to a more comprehensive view of labour under capitalist patriarchy. In particular, women's labour in the household and women's activity as mothers generally (that is, reproduction in the socialist-feminist sense), entered theory on the authority of analogy to the Marxian concept of labour. The unity of women here rests on an epistemology based on the ontological structure of'labour'. Marxist/socialist-feminism does not 'natur-alize' unity; it is a possible achievement based on a possible standpoint rooted in social relations. The essentializing move is in the ontological structure of labour or of its analogue, women's activity.11 The inheritance of Marxian humanism, with its pre-eminently Western self, is the difficulty for me. The contribution from these formulations has been the emphasis on the daily responsibility of real women to build unities, rather than to naturalize them.

Catherine MacKinnon's (198Z, 1987) version of radical feminism is itself a caricature of the appropriating, incorporating, totalizing tendencies of Western theories of identity grounding action.12 It is factually and politically wrong to assimilate all of the diverse 'moments' or 'conversations' in recent women's politics named radical feminism to MacKinnon's version. But the teleological logic of her theory shows how an epistemology and ontology - including their negations - erase or police difference. Only one of the effects of MacKinnon's theory is the rewriting of the history of the polymorphous field called radical feminism. The major effect is the production of a theory of experience, of women's identity, that is a kind of apocalypse for all revolutionary standpoints. That is, the totalization built into this tale of radical feminism achieves its end - the unity of women - by enforcing the experience of and testimony to radical non-being. As for the Marxist/ socialist feminist, consciousness is an achievement, not a natural fact. And MacKinnon's theory eliminates some of the difficulties built into humanist revolutionary subjects, but at the cost of radical reductionism.

MacKinnon argues that feminism necessarily adopted a different analyt-ical strategy from Marxism, looking first not at the structure of class, but at the structure of sex/gender and its generative relationship, men's constitu-tion and appropriation of women sexually. Ironically, MacKinnon's 'ontology' constructs a non-subject, a non-being. Another's desire, not the self's labour, is the origin of 'woman'. She therefore develops a theory of consciousness that enforces what can count as 'women's' experience - anything that names sexual violation, indeed, sex itself as far as 'women' can be concerned. Feminist practice is the construction of this form of consciousness; that is, the self-knowledge of a self-who-is-not.

Perversely, sexual appropriation in this feminism still has the epistemolo-gical status of labour; that is to say, the point from which an analysis able to contribute to changing the world must flow. But sexual object)fication, not alienation, is the consequence of the structure of sex/gender. In the realm of knowledge, the result of sexual objectification is illusion and abstraction. However, a woman is not simply alienated from her product, but in a deep sense does not exist as a subject, or even potential subject, since she owes her existence as a woman to sexual appropriation. To be constituted by another's desire is not the same thing as to be alienated in the violent separation of the labourer from his product.

MacKinnon's radical theory of experience is totalizing in the extreme; it does not so much marginalize as obliterate the authority of any other women's political speech and action. It is a totalization producing what Western patriarchy itself never succeeded in doing - feminists' consciousness of the non-existence of women, except as products of men's desire. I think MacKinnon correctly argues that no Marxian version of identity can firmly ground women's unity. But in solving the problem of the contradictions of any Western revolutionary subject for feminist purposes, she develops an even more authoritarian doctrine of experience. If my complaint about socialist/Marxian standpoints is their unintended erasure of polyvocal, unassimilable, radical difference made visible in anti-colonial discourse and practice, MacKinnon's intentional erasure of all difference through the device of the 'essential' non-existence of women is not reassuring.

In my taxonomy, which like any other taxonomy is a re-inscription of history, radical feminism can accommodate all the activities of women named by socialist feminists as forms of labour only if the activity can somehow be sexualized. Reproduction had different tones of meanings for the two tendencies, one rooted in labour, one in sex, both calling the consequences of domination and ignorance of social and personal reality 'false consciousness'.

Beyond either the difficulties or the contributions in the argument of any one author, neither Marxist nor radical feminist points of view have tended to embrace the status of a partial explanation; both were regularly constituted as totalities. Western explanation has demanded as much; how else could the 'Western' author incorporate its others? Each tried to annex other forms of domination by expanding its basic categories through analogy, simple listing, or addition. Embarrassed silence about race among white radical and socialist feminists was one major, devastating political consequence. History and polyvocality disappear into political taxonomies that try to establish genealogies. There was no structural room for race (or for much else) in theory claiming to reveal the construction of the category woman and social group women as a unified or totalizable whole. The structure of my caricature looks like this:

socialist feminism--structure of class // wage labour // alienation labour, by analogy reproduction, by extension sex, by addition race radical feminism - structure of gender // sexual appropriation // objectification sex, by analogy labour, by extension reproduction, by addition race

In another context, the French theorist, Julia Kristeva, claimed women appeared as a historical group after the Second World War, along with groups like youth. Her dates are doubtful; but we are now accustomed to remembering that as objects of knowledge and as historical actors, 'race' did not always exist, 'class' has a historical genesis, and 'homosexuals' are quite junior. It is no accident that the symbolic system of the family of man - and so the essence of woman - breaks up at the same moment that networks of connection among people on the planet are unprecedentedly multiple, pregnant, and complex. 'Advanced capitalism' is inadequate to convey the structure of this historical moment. In the 'Western' sense, the end of man is at stake. It is no accident that woman disintegrates into women in our time. Perhaps socialist feminists were not substantially guilty of producing essentialist theory that suppressed women's particularity and contradictory interests. I think we have been, at least through unreflective participation in the logics, languages, and practices of white humanism and through searching for a single ground of domination to secure our revolutionary voice. Now we have less excuse. But in the consciousness of our failures, we risk lapsing into boundless difference and giving up on the confusing task of making partial, real connection. Some differences are playful; some are poles of world historical systems of domination. 'Epistemology' is about knowing the difference.


In this attempt at an epistemological and political position, I would like to sketch a picture of possible unity, a picture indebted to socialist and feminist principles of design. The frame for my sketch is set by the extent and importance of rearrangements in world-wide social relations tied to science and technology. I argue for a politics rooted in claims about fundamental changes in the nature of class, race, and gender in an emerging system of world order analogous in its novelty and scope to that created by industrial capitalism; we are living through a movement from an organic, industrial society to a polymorphous, information system--from all work to all play, a deadly game. Simultaneously material and ideological, the dichotomies may be expressed in the following chart of transitions from the comfortable old hierarchical dominations to the scary new networks I have called the informatics of domination:

Representation Simulation
Bourgeois novel, realism Science fiction, postmodernism
Organism Biotic Component
Depth, integrity Surface, boundary
Heat Noise
Biology as clinical practice Biology as inscription
Physiology Communications engineering
Small group Subsystem
Perfection Optimization
Eugenics Population Control
Decadence, Magic Mountain Obsolescence, Future Shock
Hygiene Stress Management
Microbiology, tuberculosis Immunology, AIDS
Organic division of labour Ergonomics/cybernetics of labour
Functional specialization Modular construction
Reproduction Replication
Organic sex role specialization Optimal genetic strategies
Bioogical determinism Evolutionary inertia, constraints
Community ecology Ecosystem
Racial chain of being Neo-imperialism, United Nations humanism
Scientific management in home/factory Global factory/Electronid cottage
Family/Market/Factory Women in the Integrated Circuit
Family wage Comparable worth
Public/Private Cyborg citizenship
Nature/Culture fields of difference
Co-operation Communicatins enhancemenet
Freud Lacan
Sex Genetic engineering
labour Robotics
Mind Artificial Intelligence
Second World War Star Wars
White Capitalist Patriarchy Informatics of Domination

This list suggests several interesting things. First, the objects on the right-hand side cannot be coded as 'natural', a realization that subverts naturalistic coding for the left-hand side as well. We cannot go back ideologically or materially. It's not just that 'god is dead', so is the 'goddess'. Or both are revivified in the worlds charged with microelectronic and biotechnological politics. In relation to objects like biotic components, one must not think in terms of essential properties, but in terms of design, boundary constraints, rates of flows, systems logics, costs of lowering constraints. Sexual reproduction is one kind of reproductive strategy among many, with costs and benefits as a function of the system environment. Ideologies of sexual reproduction can no longer reasonably call on notions of sex and sex role as organic aspects in natural objects like organisms and families. Such reasoning will be unmasked as irrational, and ironically corporate executives reading Playboy and anti-porn radical feminists will make strange bedfellows in jointly unmasking the irrationalism.

Likewise for race, ideologies about human diversity have to be formulated in terms of frequencies of parameters, like blood groups or intelligence scores. It is 'irrational' to invoke concepts like primitive and civilized. For liberals and radicals, the search for integrated social systems gives way to a new practice called 'experimental ethnography' in which an organic object dissipates in attention to the play of writing. At the level of ideology, we see translations of racism and colonialism into languages of development and under-development, rates and constraints of modernization. Any objects or persons can be reasonably thought of in terms of disassembly and reassembly; no 'natural' architectures constrain system design. The financial districts in all the world's cities, as well as the export-processing and free-trade zones, proclaim this elementary fact of 'late capitalism'. The entire universe of objects that can be known scientifically must be formulated as problems in communications engineering (for the managers) or theories of the text (for those who would resist). Both are cyborg semiologies.

One should expect control strategies to concentrate on boundary conditions and interfaces, on rates of flow across boundaries-- and not on the integrity of natural objects. 'Integrity' or 'sincerity' of the Western self gives way to decision procedures and expert systems. For example, control strategies applied to women's capacities to give birth to new human beings will be developed in the languages of population control and maximization of goal achievement for individual decision-makers. Control strategies will be formulated in terms of rates, costs of constraints, degrees of freedom. Human beings, like any other component or subsystem, must be localized in a system architecture whose basic modes of operation are probabilistic, statistical. No objects, spaces, or bodies are sacred in themselves; any component can be interfaced with any other if the proper standard, the proper code, can be constructed for processing signals in a common language. Exchange in this world transcends the universal translation effected by capitalist markets that Marx analysed so well. The privileged pathology affecting all kinds of components in this universe is stress - communications breakdown (Hogness, 1983). The cyborg is not subject to Foucault's biopolitics; the cyborg simulates politics, a much more potent field of operations.

This kind of analysis of scientific and cultural objects of knowledge which have appeared historically since the Second World War prepares us to notice some important inadequacies in feminist analysis which has proceeded as if the organic, hierarchical dualisms ordering discourse in 'the West' since Aristotle still ruled. They have been cannibalized, or as Zoe Sofia (Sofoulis) might put it, they have been 'techno-digested'. The dichotomies between mind and body, animal and human, organism and machine, public and private, nature and culture, men and women, primitive and civilized are all in question ideologically. The actual situation of women is their integration/ exploitation into a world system of production/reproduction and com-munication called the informatics of domination. The home, workplace, market, public arena, the body itself- all can be dispersed and interfaced in nearly infinite, polymorphous ways, with large consequences for women and others - consequences that themselves are very different for different people and which make potent oppositional international movements difficult to imagine and essential for survival. One important route for reconstructing socialist-feminist politics is through theory and practice addressed to the social relations of science and technology, including crucially the systems of myth and meanings structuring our imaginations. The cyborg is a kind of disassembled and reassembled, postmodern collective and personal self. This is the self feminists must code.

Communications technologies and biotechnologies are the crucial tools recrafting our bodies. These tools embody and enforce new social relations for women world-wide. Technologies and scientific discourses can be partially understood as formalizations, i.e., as frozen moments, of the fluid social interactions constituting them, but they should also be viewed as instruments for enforcing meanings. The boundary is permeable between tool and myth, instrument and concept, historical systems of social relations and historical anatomies of possible bodies, including objects of knowledge. Indeed, myth and tool mutually constitute each other.

Furthermore, communications sciences and modern biologies are constructed by a common move - the translation of the world into a problem of coding, a search for a common language in which all resistance to instrumental control disappears and all heterogeneity can be submitted to disassembly, reassembly, investment, and exchange.

In communications sciences, the translation of the world into a problem in coding can be illustrated by looking at cybernetic (feedback-controlled) systems theories applied to telephone technology, computer design, weapons deployment, or data base construction and maintenance. In each case, solution to the key questions rests on a theory of language and control; the key operation is determining the rates, directions, and probabilities of flow of a quantity called information. The world is subdivided by boundaries differentially permeable to information. Information is just that kind of quantifiable element (unit, basis of unity) which allows universal translation, and so unhindered instrumental power (called effective communication). The biggest threat to such power is interruption of communication. Any system breakdown is a function of stress. The fundamentals of this technology can be condensed into the metaphor C31, command-controlcommunication-intelligence, the military's symbol for its operations theory.

In modern biologies, the translation of the world into a problem in coding can be illustrated by molecular genetics, ecology, sociobiological evolutionary theory, and immunobiology. The organism has been translated into prob-lems of genetic coding and read-out. Biotechnology, a writing technology, informs research broadly.14 In a sense, organisms have ceased to exist as objects of knowledge, giving way to biotic components, i.e., special kinds of information-processing devices. The analogous moves in ecology could be examined by probing the history and utility of the concept of the ecosystem. Immunobiology and associated medical practices are rich exemplars of the privilege of coding and recognition systems as objects of knowledge, as constructions of bodily reality for us. Biology here is a kind of cryptography. Research is necessarily a kind of intelligence activity. Ironies abound. A stressed system goes awry; its communication processes break down; it fails to recognize the difference between self and other. Human babies with baboon hearts evoke national ethical perplexity-- for animal rights activists at least as much as for the guardians of human purity. In the US gay men and intravenous drug users are the 'privileged' victims of an awful immune system disease that marks (inscribes on the body) confusion of boundaries and moral pollution (Treichler, 1987).

But these excursions into communications sciences and biology have been at a rarefied level; there is a mundane, largely economic reality to support my claim that these sciences and technologies indicate fundamental transforma-tions in the structure of the world for us. Communications technologies depend on electronics. Modern states, multinational corporations, military power, welfare state apparatuses, satellite systems, political processes, fabrication of our imaginations, labour-control systems, medical construc-tions of our bodies, commercial pornography, the international division of labour, and religious evangelism depend intimately upon electronics. Micro-electronics is the technical basis of simulacra; that is, of copies without originals.

Microelectronics mediates the translations of labour into robotics and word processing, sex into genetic engineering and reproductive technologies, and mind into artificial intelligence and decision procedures. The new biotechnologies concern more than human reproducdon. Biology as a powerful engineering science for redesigning materials and processes has revolutionary implications for industry, perhaps most obvious today in areas of fermentadon, agriculture, and energy. Communicadons sciences and biology are construcdons of natural-technical objects of knowledge in which the difference between machine and organism is thoroughly blurred; mind, body, and tool are on very intimate terms. The 'multinational' material organization of the production and reproduction of daily life and the symbolic organization of the production and reproduction of culture and imagination seem equally implicated. The boundary-maintaining images of base and superstructure, public and private, or material and ideal never seemed more feeble.

I have used Rachel Grossman's (1980) image of women in the integrated circuit to name the situation of women in a world so intimately restructured through the social relations of science and technology.15 I used the odd circumlocution, 'the social relations of science and technology', to indicate that we are not dealing with a technological determinism, but with a historical system depending upon structured relations among people. But the phrase should also indicate that science and technology provide fresh sources of power, that we need fresh sources of analysis and political action (Latour, 1984). Some of the rearrangements of race, sex, and class rooted in high-tech-facilitated social relations can make socialist-feminism more relevant to effective progressive politics.


The 'New Industrial Revolution' is producing a new world-wide working class, as well as new sexualities and ethnicities. The extreme mobility of capital and the emerging international division of labour are intertwined with the emergence of new collecdvities, and the weakening of familiar groupings. These developments are neither gender- nor race-neutral. White men in advanced industrial societies have become newly vulnerable to permanent job loss, and women are not disappearing from the job rolls at the same rates as men. It is not simply that women in Third World countries are the preferred labour force for the science-based multinationals in the export-processing sectors, particularly in electronics. The picture is more systematic and involves reproduction, sexuality, culture, consumphon, and producdon. In the prototypical Silicon Valley, many women's lives have been structured around employment in electronics-dependent jobs, and their intimate realities include serial heterosexual monogamy, negotiating childcare, distance from extended kin or most other forms of traditional community, a high likelihood of loneliness and extreme economic vulnerability as they age. The ethnic and racial diversity of women in Silicon Valley structures a microcosm of conflicting differences in culture, family, religion, education, and language.

Richard Gordon has called this new situation the 'homework economy'.16 Although he includes the phenomenon of literal homework emerging in connecdon with electronics assembly, Gordon intends 'homework economy' to name a restructuring of work that broadly has the characteristics formerly ascribed to female jobs, jobs literally done only by women. Work is being redefined as both literally female and feminized, whether performed by men or women. To be feminized means to be made extremely vulnerable; able to be disassembled, reassembled, exploited as a reserve labour force; seen less as workers than as servers; subjected to dme arrangements on and off the paid job that make a mockery of a limited work day; leading an existence that always borders on being obscene, out of place, and reducible to sex. Deskilling is an old strategy newly applicable to formerly privileged workers. However, the homework economy does not refer only to large-scale deskilling, nor does it deny that new areas of high skill are emerging, even for women and men previously excluded from skilled employment. Rather, the concept indicates that factory, home, and market are integrated on a new scale and that the places of women are crucial - and need to be analysed for differences among women and for meanings for relations between men and women in various situations.

The homework economy as a world capitalist organizational structure is made possible by (not caused by) the new technologies. The success of the attack on relatively privileged, mostly white, men's unionized jobs is deaf to the power of the new communications technologies to integrate and control labour despite extensive dispersion and decentralization. The consequences of the new technologies are felt by women both in the loss of the family (male) wage (if they ever had access to this white privilege) and in the character of their own jobs, which are becoming capital-intensive; for example, office work and nursing.

The new economic and technological arrangements are also related to the collapsing welfare state and the ensuing intensification of demands on women to sustain daily life for themselves as well as for men, children, and old people. The feminization of poverty-- generated by dismantling the welfare state, by the homework economy where stable jobs become the exception, and sustained by the expectation that women's wages will not be matched by a male income for the support of children-- has become an urgent focus. The causes of various women-headed households are a function of race, class, or sexuality; but their increasing generality is a ground for coalitions of women on many issues. That women regularly sustain daily life partly as a funcdon of their enforced status as mothers is hardly new; the kind of integration with the overall capitalist and progressively war-based economy is new. The particular pressure, for example, on US black women, who have achieved an escape from (barely) paid domeshc service and who now hold clerical and similar jobs in large numbers, has large implicadons for condnued enforced black poverty with employment. Teenage women in industrializing areas of the Third World increasingly find themselves the sole or major source of a cash wage for their families, while access to land is ever more problemadc. These developments must have major consequences in the psychodynamics and politics of gender and race.

Within the framework of three major stages of capitalism (commercial/ early industrial, monopoly, multinational) --tied to nationalism, imperialism, and multinationalism, and related to Jameson's three dominant aesthetic periods of realism, modernism, and postmodernism --I would argue that specific forms of families dialectically relate to forms of capital and to its political and cultural concomitants. Although lived problematically and unequally, ideal forms of these families might be schematized as (1) the patriarchal nuclear family, structured by the dichotomy between public and private and accompanied by the white bourgeois ideology of separate spheres and nineteenth-century Anglo-American bourgeois feminism; (2) the modern family mediated (or enforced) by the welfare state and institutions like the family wage, with a flowering of a-feminist heterosexual ideologies, including their radical versions represented in Greenwich Village around the First World War; and (3) the 'family' of the homework economy with its oxymoronic structure of women-headed households and its explosion of feminisms and the paradoxical intensification and erosion of gender itself.

This is the context in which the projections for world-wide structural unemployment stemming from the new technologies are part of the picture of the homework economy. As robodcs and related technologies put men out of work in 'developed' countries and exacerbate failure to generate male jobs in Third World 'development', and as the automated of fice becomes the rule even in labour-surplus countries, the feminization of work intensifies. Black women in the United States have long known what it looks like to face the structural underemployment ('feminization') of black men, as well as their own highly vulnerable position in the wage economy. It is no longer a secret that sexuality, reproduction, family, and community life are interwoven with this economic structure in myriad ways which have also differentiated the situations of white and black women. Many more women and men will contend with similar situations, which will make cross-gender and race alliances on issues of basic life support (with or without jobs) necessary, not just mice.

The new technologies also have a profound effect on hunger and on food production for subsistence world-wide. Rae Lessor Blumberg (1983) estimates that women produce about 50 per cent of the world's subsistence food.17 Women are excluded generally from benefiting from the increased high-tech commodification of food and energy crops, their days are made more arduous because their responsibilides to provide food do not diminish, and their reproductive situations are made more complex. Green Revolution technologies interact with other high-tech industrial production to alter gender divisions of labour and differential gender migration patterns.

The new technologies seem deeply involved in the forms of'privatization' that Ros Petchesky (1981) has analysed, in which militarization, right-wing family ideologies and policies, and intensified definitions of corporate (and state) property as private synergistically interact.18 The new communications technologies are fundamental to the eradication of 'public life' for everyone. This facilitates the mushrooming of a permanent high-tech military establishment at the cultural and economic expense of most people, but especially of women. Technologies like video games and highly miniaturized televi-sions seem crucial to production of modern forms of 'private life'. The culture of video games is heavily orientated to individual compedtion and extraterrestrial warfare. High-tech, gendered imaginations are produced here, imaginations that can contemplate destruction of the planet and a sci-fi escape from its consequences. More than our imaginations is militarized; and the other realities of electronic and nuclear warfare are inescapable. These are the technologies that promise ultimate mobility and perfect exchange-- and incidentally enable tourism, that perfect practice of mobility and exchange, to emerge as one of the world's largest single industries.

The new technologies affect the social relations of both sexuality and of reproduction, and not always in the same ways. The close ties of sexuality and instrumentality, of views of the body as a kind of private satisfaction- and utility-maximizing machine, are described nicely in sociobiological origin stories that stress a genetic calculus and explain the inevitable dialectic of domination of male and female gender roles.19 These sociobiological stories depend on a high-tech view of the body as a biotic component or cybernetic communications system. Among the many transformations of reproductive situations is the medical one, where women's bodies have boundaries newly permeable to both 'visualization' and 'intervention'. Of course, who controls the interpretation of bodily boundaries in medical hermeneubcs is a major feminist issue. The speculum served as an icon of women's claiming their bodies in the 1970S; that handcraft tool is inadequate to express our needed body politics in the negotiation of reality in the practices of cyborg reproduction. Self-help is not enough. The technologies of visualization recall the important cultural practice of hundng with the camera and the deeply predatory nature of a photographic consciousness.20 Sex, sexuality, and reproduction are central actors in high-tech myth systems structuring our imaginations of personal and social possibility.

Another critical aspect of the social relations of the new technologies is the reformulation of expectations, culture, work, and reproduction for the large scientific and technical work-force. A major social and political danger is the formation of a strongly bimodal social structure, with the masses of women and men of all ethnic groups, but especially people of colour, confined to a homework economy, illiteracy of several varieties, and general redundancy and impotence, controlled by high-tech repressive apparatuses ranging from entertainment to surveillance and disappearance. An adequate socialist-feminist politics should address women in the privileged occupational categories, and particularly in the production of science and technology that constructs scientific-technical discourses, processes, and objects.21

This issue is only one aspect of enquiry into the possibility of a feminist science, but it is important. What kind of constitutive role in the production of knowledge, imagination, and practice can new groups doing science have? How can these groups be allied with progressive social and political movements? What kind of political accountability can be constructed to the women together across the scientific-technical hierarchies separating us? Might there be ways of developing feminist science/technology politics in alliance with and-military science facility conversion action groups? Many sciendfic and technical workers in Silicon Valley, the high-tech cowboys included, do not want to work on military science.22 Can these personal preferences and cultural tendencies be welded into progressive politics among this professional middle class in which women, including women of colour, are coming to be fairly numerous?


Let me summarize the picture of women's historical locations in advanced industrial societies, as these positions have been restructured partly through the social relations of science and technology. If it was ever possible ideologically to characterize women's lives by the disdnction of public and private domains-- suggested by images of the division of working-class life into factory and home, of bourgeois life into market and home, and of gender existence into personal and political realms --it is now a totally misleading ideology, even to show how both terms of these dichotomies construct each other in practice and in theory. I prefer a network ideological image, suggesting the profusion of spaces and identities and the permeability of boundaries in the personal body and in the body politic. 'Networking' is both a feminist practice and a multinational corporate strategy -- weaving is for oppositional cyborgs.

So let me return to the earlier image of the informatics of domination and trace one vision of women's 'place' in the integrated circuit, touching only a few idealized social locations seen primarily from the point of view of advanced capitalist societies: Home, Market, Paid Work Place, State, School, Clinic-Hospital, and Church. Each of these idealized spaces is logically and practically implied in every other locus, perhaps analogous to a holographic photograph. I want to suggest the impact of the social relations mediated and enforced by the new technologies in order to help formulate needed analysis and practical work. However, there is no 'place' for women in these networks, only geometries of difference and contradiction crucial to women's cyborg identities. If we learn how to read these webs of power and social life, we might learn new couplings, new coalitions. There is no way to read the following list from a standpoint of'idendfication', of a unitary self. The issue is dispersion. The task is to survive in the diaspora.

Home: Women-headed households, serial monogamy, flight of men, old women alone, technology of domestic work, paid homework, re-emergence of home sweat-shops, home-based businesses and telecom-muting, electronic cottage, urban homelessness, migration, module architecture, reinforced (simulated) nuclear family, intense domestic violence.

Market: Women's continuing consumption work, newly targeted to buy the profusion of new production from the new technologies (especially as the competitive race among industrialized and industrializing nations to avoid dangerous mass unemployment necessitates finding ever bigger new markets for ever less clearly needed commodities); bimodal buying power, coupled with advertising targeting of the numerous affluent groups and neglect of the previous mass markets; growing importance of informal markets in labour and commodities parallel to high-tech, affluent market structures; surveillance systems through electronic funds transfer; intensified market abstraction (commodification) of experience, resulting in ineffective utopian or equivalent cynical theories of community; extreme mobility (abstraction) of marketing/financing systems; inter-penetration of sexual and labour markets; intensified sexualization of abstracted and alienated consumption.

Paid Work Place: Continued intense sexual and racial division of labour, but considerable growth of membership in privileged occupational categories for many white women and people of colour; impact of new technologies on women's work in clerical, service, manufacturing (especially textiles), agriculture, electronics; international restructuring of the working classes; development of new time arrangements to facilitate the homework economy (flex time, part time, over time, no time); homework and out work; increased pressures for two-tiered wage structures; significant numbers of people in cash-dependent populations world-wide with no experience or no further hope of stable employment; most labour 'marginal' or 'feminized'.

State: Continued erosion of the welfare state; decentralizations with increased surveillance and control; citizenship by telematics; imperialism and political power broadly in the form of information rich/information poor differentiation; increased high-tech militarization increasingly opposed by many social groups; reduction of civil service jobs as a result of the growing capital intensification of office work, with implications for occupational mobility for women of colour; growing privadzation of material and ideological life and culture; close integration of privatization and militarization, the high-tech forms of bourgeois capitalist personal and public life; invisibility of different social groups to each other, linked to psychological mechanisms of belief in abstract enemies.

School: Deepening coupling of high-tech capital needs and public educa-tion at all levels, differentiated by race, class, and gender; managerial classes involved in educational reform and refunding at the cost of remaining progressive educational democratic structures for children and teachers; education for mass ignorance and repression in technocratic and militarized culture; growing and-science mystery cults in dissendng and radical political movements; continued relative scientific illiteracy among white women and people of colour; growing industrial direction of education (especially higher education) by science-based multinationals (particularly in electronics- and biotechnology-dependent companies); highly educated, numerous elites in a progressively bimodal society.

Clinic-hospital: Intensified machine-body relations; renegotiations of public metaphors which channel personal experience of the body, particularly in relation to reproduction, immune system functions, and 'stress' phenomena; intensification of reproductive politics in response to world historical implications of women's unrealized, potential control of their relation to reproduction; emergence of new, historically specific diseases; struggles over meanings and means of health in environments pervaded by high technology products and processes; continuing feminization of health work; intensified struggle over state responsibility for health; continued ideological role of popular health movements as a major form of American politics.

Church: Electronic fundamentalist 'super-saver' preachers solemnizing the union of electronic capital and automated fetish gods; intensified importance of churches in resisting the militarized state; central struggle over women's meanings and authority in religion; continued relevance of spirituality, intertwined with sex and health, in political struggle.

The only way to characterize the informatics of domination is as a massive intensification of insecurity and cultural impoverishment, with common failure of subsistence networks for the most vulnerable. Since much of this picture interweaves with the social relations of science and technology, the urgency of a socialist-feminist politics addressed to science and technology is plain. There is much now being tione, and the grounds for political work are rich. For example, the efforts to develop forms of collecdve struggle for women in paid work, like SEIU's District 925,* should be a high priority for all of us. These efforts are profoundly deaf to technical restructuring of labour processes and reformations of working classes. These efforts also are providing understanding of a more comprehensive kind of labour organization, involving community, sexuality, and family issues never privileged in the largely white male industrial unions.

The structural rearrangements related to the social relations of science and technology evoke strong ambivalence. But it is not necessary to be uldmately depressed by the implications of late twentieth-century women's relation to all aspects of work, culture, production of knowledge, sexuality, and reproduction. For excellent reasons, most Marxisms see domination best and have trouble understanding what can only look like false consciousness and people's complicity in their own domination in late capitalism. It is crucial to remember that what is lost, perhaps especially from women's points of view, is often virulent forms of oppression, nostalgically naturalized in the face of current violation. Ambivalence towards the disrupted unides mediated by high-tech culture requires not sorting consciousness into categories of clear-sighted critique grounding a solid political epistemology' versus 'manipulated false consciousness', but subtle understanding of emerging pleasures, experiences, and powers with serious potential for changing the rules of the game.

There are grounds for hope in the emerging bases for new kinds of unity across race, gender, and class, as these elementary units of socialist-feminist analysis themselves suffer protean transformations. Intensifications of hardship experienced world-wide in connection with the social relations of science and technology are severe. But what people are experiencing is not transparently clear, and we lack aufficiently subtle connections for collectively building effective theories of experience. Present efforts - Marxist, psychoanalytic, feminist, anthropological-- to clarify even 'our' experience are rudimentary.

I am conscious of the odd perspecdve provided by my historical position - a PhD in biology for an Irish Catholic girl was made possible by Sputnik's impact on US national science-education policy. I have a body and mind as much constructed by the post-Second World War arms race and cold war as by the women's movements. There are more grounds for hope in focusing on the contradictory effects of politics designed to produce loyal American technocrats, which also produced large numbers of dissidents, than in focusing on the present defeats.

The permanent pardality of feminist points of view has consequences for our expectations of forms of political organization and participation. We do not need a totality in order to work well. The feminist dream of a common language, like all dreams for a perfectly true language, of perfectly faithful naming of experience, is a totalizing and imperialist one. In that sense, dialectics too is a dream language, longing to resolve contradiction. Perhaps, ironically, we can learn from our fusions with animals and machines how not to be Man, the embodiment of Western logos. From the point of view of pleasure in these potent and taboo fusions, made inevitable by the social relations of science and technology, there might indeed be a feminist science.


I want to conclude with a myth about idendty and boundaries which might inform late twentieth-century political imaginations (Plate 1). I am indebted in this story to writers like Joanna Russ, Samuel R. Delany, John Varley, James Tiptree, Jr, Octavia Butler, Monique Wittig, and Vonda McIntyre.23 These are our story-tellers exploring what it means to be embodied in high-tech worlds. They are theorists for cyborgs. Exploring concephons of bodily boundaries and social order, the anthropologist Mary Douglas (1966, 1970) should be credited with helping us to consciousness about how fundamental body imagery is to world view, and so to political language.

French feminists like Luce Irigaray and Monique Wittig, for all their differences, know how to write the body; how to weave eroticism, cosmology, and politics from imagery of embodiment, and especially for Wittig, from imagery of fragmentation and reconstitution of bodies.24

American radical feminists like Susan Griffnn, Audre Lorde, and Adrienne Rich have profoundly affected our political imaginations - and perhaps restricted too much what we allow as a friendly body and political language.25 They insist on the organic, opposing it to the technological. But their symbolic systems and the related positions of ecofeminism and feminist paganism, replete with organicisms, can only be understood in Sandoval's terms as oppositional ideologies fitting the late twentieth century. They would simply bewilder anyone not preoccupied with the machines and consciousness of late capitalism. In that sense they are part of the cyborg world. But there are also great riches for feminists in explicitly embracing the possibilides inherent in the breakdown of clean disdnctions between organism and machine and similar distinctions structuring the Western self. It is the simultaneity of breakdowns that cracks the matrices of domination and opens geometric possibilities. What might be learned from personal and political 'technological' pollution? I look briefly at two overlapping groups of texts for their insight into the construction of a potentially helpful cyborg myth: constructions of women of colour and monstrous selves in feminist science fiction.

Earlier I suggested that 'women of colour' might be understood as a cyborg idendty, a potent subjecdvity synthesized from fusions of outsider identities and in the complex political-historical layerings of her 'biomythography', Zami (Lorde, 1982; King, 1987a, 1987b). There are material and cultural grids mapping this potential, Audre Lorde (1984) captures the tone in the title of her Sister Outsider. In my political myth, Sister Outsider is the offshore woman, whom US workers, female and feminized, are supposed to regard as the enemy prevendug their solidarity, threatening their security. Onshore, inside the boundary of the United States, Sister Outsider is a potential amidst the races and ethnic identities of women manipulated for division, competition, and exploitation in the same industries. 'Women of colour' are the preferred labour force for the science-based industries, the real women for whom the world-wide sexual market, labour market, and politics of reproduction kaleidoscope into daily life. Young Korean women hired in the sex industry and in electronics assembly are recruited from high schools, educated for the integrated circuit. Literacy, especially in English, distinguishes the 'cheap' female labour so attractive to the multinationals.

Contrary to orientalist stereotypes of the 'oral primidve', literacy is a special mark of women of colour, acquired by US black women as well as men through a history of risking death to learn and to teach reading and wridng. Writing has a special significance for all colonized groups. Writing has been crucial to the Western myth of the distinction between oral and written cultures, primitive and civilized mentalities, and more recently to the erosion of that distinction in 'postmodernist' theories attacking the phallogo-centrism of the West, with its worship of the monotheistic, phallic, authoritative, and singular work, the unique and perfect name.26 Contests for the meanings of writing are a major form of contemporary political struggle. Releasing the play of writing is deadly serious. The poetry and stories of US women of colour are repeatedly about writing, about access to the power to signify; but this dme that power must be neither phallic nor innocent. Cyborg writing must not be about the Fall, the imagination of a once-upon-a-time wholeness before language, before writing, before Man. Cyborg writing is about the power to survive, not on the basis of original innocence, but on the basis of seizing the tools to mark the world that marked them as other.

The tools are often stories, retold stories, versions that reverse and displace the hierarchical dualisms of naturalized identities. In retelling origin stories, cyborg authors subvert the central myths of origin of Western culture. We have all been colonized by those origin myths, with their longing for fulfilment in apocalypse. The phallogocentrie origin stories most crucial for feminist cyborgs are built into the literal technologies - teehnologies that write the world, biotechnology and microelectronics - that have recently textualized our bodies as code problems on the grid of C3I. Feminist cyborg stories have the task of recoding communication and intelligence to subvert command and control.

Figuratively and literally, language politics pervade the struggles of women of colour; and stories about language have a special power in the rich contemporary writing by US women of colour. For example, retellings of the stom~ of the indigenous woman Malinche, mother of the mesdzo 'bastard' race of the new world, master of languages, and mistress of Cortes, carry special meaning for Chicana constructions of identity. Cherrie Moraga (1983) in Loving in the War Years explores the themes of identity when one never possessed the original language, never told the original story, never resided in the harmony of legitimate heterosexuality in the garden of culture, and so cannot base identity on a myth or a fall from innocence and right to natural names, mother's or father's.27 Moraga's writing, her superb literacy, is presented in her poetry as the same kind of violation as Malinche's mastery of the conqueror's language -- a violation, an illegitimate production, that allows survival. Moraga's language is not 'whole'; it is self-consciously spliced, a chimera of English and Spanish, both conqueror's languages. But it is this chimeric monster, without claim to an original language before violation, that crafts the erode, competent, potent identities of women of colour. Sister Outsider hints at the possibility of world survival not because of her innocence, but because of her ability to live on the boundaries, to write without the founding myth of original wholeness, with its inescapable apocalypse of final return to a deathly oneness that Man has imagined to be the innocent and all-powerful Mother, freed at the End from another spiral of appropriation by her son. Writing marks Moraga's body, affirms it as the body of a woman of colour, against the possibility of passing into the unmarked category of the Anglo father or into the orientalist myth of 'original illiteracy' of a mother that never was. Malinche was mother here, not Eve before eating the forbidden fruit. Writing affirms Sister Outsider, not the Woman-before-the-Fall-into-Writing needed by the phallogocentric Family of Man.

Writing is pre-eminently the technology of cyborgs, etched surfaces of the late twentieth century. Cyborg politics is the struggle for language and the struggle against perfect communication, against the one code that translates all meaning perfectly, the central dogma of phallogocentrism. That is why cyborg politics insist on noise and advocate pollution, rejoicing in the illegitimate fusions of animal and machine. These are the couplings which make Man and Woman so problematic, subverting the structure of desire, the force imagined to generate language and gender, and so subverting the structure and modes of reproduction of 'Western' idendty, of nature and culture, of mirror and eye, slave and master, body and mind. 'We' did not originally choose to be cyborgs, but choice grounds a liberal politics and epistemology that imagines the reproduction of individuals before the wider replications of 'texts'.

From the perspective of cyborgs, freed of the need to ground politics in 'our' privileged position of the oppression that incorporates all other dominations, the innocence of the merely violated, the ground of those closer to nature, we can see powerful possibilities. Feminisms and Marxisms have run aground on Western epistemological imperatives to construct a revolutionary subject from the perspective of a hierarchy of oppressions and/or a latent position of moral superiority, innocence, and greater closeness to nature. With no available original dream of a common language or original symbiosis promising protection from hostile 'masculine' separation, but written into the play of a text that has no finally privileged reading or salvation history, to recognize 'oneself' as fully implicated in the world, frees us of the need to root politics in identification, vanguard parties, purity, and mothering. Stripped of identity, the bastard race teaches about the power of the margins and the importance of a mother like Malinche. Women of colour have transformed her from the evil mother of masculinist fear into the originally literate mother who teaches survival.

This is not just literary deconstruction, but liminal transformation. Every, story that begins with original innocence and privileges the return to wholeness imagines the drama of life to be individuation, separation, the birth of the self, the tragedy of autonomy, the fall into writing, alienation; that is, war, tempered by imaginary respite in the bosom of the Other. These plots are ruled by a reproductive politics --rebirth without flaw, perfection, abstraction. In this plot women are imagined either better or worse off, but all agree they have less selflhood, weaker individuation, more fusion to the oral, to Mother, less at stake in masculine autonomy. But there is another route to having less at stake in masculine autonomy, a route that does not pass through Woman, Primitive, Zero, the Mirror Stage and its imaginaw. It passes through women and other present-tense, illegitimate cyborgs, not of Woman born, who refuse the ideological resources of victimization so as to have a real life. These cyborgs are the people who refuse to disappear on cue, no matter how many dmes a 'western' commentator remarks on the sad passing of another primitive, another organic group done in by 'Western' technology, by writing.28 These real-life cyborgs (for example, the Southeast Asian village women workers inJapanese and US electronics firms described by Aihwa Ong) are actively rewriting the texts of their bodies and sociedes. Sumival is the stakes in this play of readings.

To recapitulate, certain dualisms have been persistent in Western traditions; they have all been systemic to the logics and practices of domination of women, people of colour, nature, workers, animals - in short, domination of all constituted as others, whose task is to mirror the self. Chief among these troubling dualisms are self/other, mind/body, culture/nature, male/female, civilized/primitive, reality/appearance, whole/part, agent/resource, maker/ made, active/passive, right/wrong, truth/illusion, totaVpartial, God/man. The self is the One who is not dominated, who knows that by the semice of the other, the other is the one who holds the future, who knows that by the experience of domination, which gives the lie to the autonomy of the self. To be One is to be autonomous, to be powerful, to be God; but to be One is to be an illusion, and so to be involved in a dialectic of apocalypse with the other. Yet to be other is to be multiple, without clear boundary, frayed, insubstantial. One is too few, but two are too many.

High-tech culture challenges these dualisms in intriguing ways. It is not clear who makes and who is made in the relation between human and machine. It is not clear what is mind and what body in machines that resolve into coding practices. In so far as we know ourselves in both formal discourse (for example, biology) and in daily practice (for example, the homework economy in the integrated circuit), we find ourselves to be cyborgs, hybrids, mosaics, chimeras. Biological organisms have become biotic systems, com munications devices like others. There is no fundamental, ontological separation in our formal knowledge of machine and organism, of technical and organic. The replicant Rachel in the Ridley Scott film Blade Runner stands as the image of a cyborg culture's fear, love, and confusion.

One consequence is that our sense of connection to our tools is heightened. The trance state experienced by many computer users has become a staple of science-fiction film and cultural jokes. Perhaps paraplegics and other severely handicapped people can (and sometimes do) have the most intense experiences of complex hybridization with other communication devices.29 Anne McCaffrey's pre-feminist The Ship Who Sang (1969) explored the consciousness of a cyborg, hybrid of girl's brain and complex machinery, formed after the birth of a severely handicapped child. Gender, sexuality, embodiment, skill: all were reconstituted in the story. Why should our bodies end at the skin, or include at best other beings encapsulated by skin? From the seventeenth century dll now, machines could be animated - given ghostly souls to make them speak or move or to account for their orderly development and mental capacides. Or organisms could be mechan-ized - reduced to body understood as resource of mind. These machine/ organism relationships are obsolete, unnecessary. For us, in imagination and in other practice, machines can be prosthetic devices, intimate components, friendly selves. We don't need organic holism to give impermeable whole-ness, the total woman and her feminist variants (mutants?). Let me conclude this point by a very partial reading of the logic of the cyborg monsters of my second group of texts, feminist science fiction.

The cyborgs populating feminist science fiction make very problematic the statuses of man or woman, human, artefact, member of a race, individual endty, or body. Katie King clarifies how pleasure in reading these fictions is not largely based on idendfication. Students facingJoanna Russ for the first time, students who have learned to take modernist writers like James Joyce or Virginia Woolf without flinching, do not know what to make of The Adventures of Alyx or The Female Man, where characters refuse the reader's search for innocent wholeness while granting the wish for heroic quests, exuberant eroticism, and serious politics. The Female Man is the story of four versions of one genotype, all of whom meet, but even taken together do not make a whole, resolve the dilemmas of violent moral action, or remove the growing scandal of gender. The feminist science fiction of Samuel R. Delany, especially Tales of Neveyon, mocks stories of origin by redoing the neolithic revolution, replaying the founding moves of Western civilization to subvert their plausibility. James Tiptree, Jr, an author whose fiction was regarded as particularly manly undl her 'true' gender was revealed, tells tales of reproduction based on non-mammalian technologies like alternation of generations of male brood pouches and male nurturing. John Varley constructs a supreme cyborg in his arch-feminist exploration of Gaea, a mad goddess-planet-trickster-old woman-technological device on whose surface an extraordinary array of post-cyborg symbioses are spawned. Octavia Butler writes of an African sorceress pithug her powers of transformation against the genetic manipulations of her rival (Wild Seed), of dme warps that bring a modern US black woman into slavery where her actions in relation to her white master-ancestor determine the possibility of her own birth (Kindred), and of the illegidmate insights into idendty and community of an adopted cross-species child who came to know the enem' as self (Survivor). In Dawn (1987), the first instalment of a series called Xenogenesis, Butler tells the story of Lilith Iyapo, whose personal name recalls Adam's first and repudiated wife and whose family name marks her status as the widow of the son of Nigerian immigrants to the US. A black woman and a mother whose child is dead, Lilith mediates the transformation of humanity through genetic exchange with extra-terrestrial lovers/rescuers/destroyers/genetic engineers, who reform earth's habitats after the nuclear holocaust and coerce surviving humans into intimate fusion with them. It is a novel that interrogates reproductive, linguishc, and nuclear politics in a mythic field structured by late twentieth-century race and gender.

Because it is particularly rich in boundary transgressions, Vonda McIn-tyre's Superluminal can close this truncated catalogue of promising and dangerous monsters who help redefine the pleasures and politics of embodiment and feminist writing. In a fiction where no character is 'simply' human, human status is highly problematic. Orca, a genetically altered diver, can speak with killer whales and survive deep ocean conditions, but she longs to explore space as a pilot, necessitating bionic implants jeopardizing her kinship with the divers and cetaceans. Transformations are effected by virus vectors carrying a new developmental code, by transplant surgery, by implants of microelectronic devices, by analogue doubles, and other means. Lacnea becomes a pilot by accepting a heart implant and a host of other alterations allowing survival in transit at speeds exceeding that of light. Radu Dracul survives a virus-caused plague in his outerworld planet to find himself with a time sense that changes the boundaries of spatial perception for the whole species. All the characters explore the limits of language; the dream of communicating experience; and the necessity of limitation, partiality, and indmacy even in this world of protean transformation and connection. Superluminal stands also for the defining contradictions of a cyborg world in another sense; it embodies textually the intersection of feminist theory and colonial discourse in the science fiction I have alluded to in this chapter. This is a conjunction with a long history that many 'First World' feminists have tried to repress, including myself in my readings of Superluminal before being called to account by Zoe Sofoulis, whose different location in the world system's informatics of domin-ation made her acutely alert to the imperialist moment of all science fiction cultures, including women's science fiction. From an Australian feminist sensitivity, Sofoulis remembered more readily McIntyre's role as writer of the adventures of Captain Kirk and Spock in TV's Star Trek series than her rewriting the romance in Superluminal.

Monsters have always defined the limits of community in Western imaginations. The Centaurs and Amazons of ancient Greece established the limits of the centred polls of the Greek male human by their disruption of marriage and boundary pollutions of the warrior with animality and woman. Unseparated twins and hermaphrodites were the confused human material in early modern France who grounded discourse on the natural and supernatural, medical and legal, portents and diseases -- all crucial to establishing modern identity.30 The evolutionary and behavioural sciences of monkeys and apes have marked the multiple boundaries of late twentieth-century industrial identities. Cyborg monsters in feminist science fiction define quite different political possibilities and limits from those proposed by the mundane fiction of Man and Woman.

There are several consequences to taking seriously the imagery of cyborgs as other than our enemies. Our bodies, ourselves; bodies are maps of power and identity. Cyborgs are no exception. A cyborg body is not innocent; it was not born in a garden; it does not seek unitary identity and so generate antagonistic dualisms without end (or until the world ends); it takes irony for granted. One is too few, and two is only one possibility. Intense pleasure in skill, machine skill, ceases to be a sin, but an aspect of embodiment. The machine is not an it to be animated, worshipped, and dominated. The machine is us, our processes, an aspect of our embodiment. We can be responsible for machines; they do not dominate or threaten us. We are responsible for boundaries; we are they. Up till now (once upon a time), female embodiment seemed to be given, organic, necessary; and female embodiment seemed to mean skill in mothering and its metaphoric exten-sions. Only by being out of place could we take intense pleasure in machines, and then with excuses that this was organic activity after all, appropriate to females. Cyborgs might consider more seriously the partial, fluid, sometimes aspect of sex and sexual embodiment. Gender might not be global identity after all, even if it has profound historical breadth and depth.

The ideologically charged question of what counts as daily activity, as experience, can be approached by exploiting the cyborg image. Feminists have recently claimed that women are given to dailiness, that women more than men somehow sustain daily life, and so have a privileged epistemo-logical position potentially. There is a compelling aspect to this claim, one that makes visible unvalued female activity and names it as the ground of life.

But the ground of life? What about all the ignorance of women, all the exclusions and failures of knowledge and skill? What about men's access to daily competence, to knowing how to build things, to take them apart, to play? What about other embodiments? Cyborg gender is a local possibility taking a global vengeance. Race, gender, and capital require a cyborg theory of wholes and parts. There is no drive in cyborgs to produce total theory, but there is an intimate experience of boundaries, their construction and deconstruction. There is a myth system waiting to become a political language to ground one way of looking at science and technology and challenging the informatics of domination-- in order to act potently.

One last image organisms and organismic, holistic politics depend on metaphors of rebirth and invariably call on the resources of reproductive sex. I would suggest that cyborgs have more to do with regeneration and are suspicious of the reproductive matrix and of most birthing. For salamanders, regeneration after injury, such as the loss of a limb, involves regrowth of structure and restoration of function with the constant possibility of twinning or other odd topographical productions at the site of former injury. The regrown limb can be monstrous, duplicated, potent. We have all been injured, profoundly. We require regeneration, not rebirth, and the possibilities for our reconstitution include the utopian dream of the hope for a monstrous world without gender.

Cyborg imagery can help express two crucial arguments in this essay: first, the production of universal, totalizing theory is a major mistake that misses most of reality, probably always, but certainly now; and second, taking responsibility for the social relations of science and technology means refusing an anti-science metaphysics, a demonology of technology, and so means embracing the skilful task of reconstructing the boundaries of daily life, in partial connection with others, in communication with all of our parts. It is not just that science and technology are possible means of great human satisfaction, as well as a matrix of complex dominations. Cyborg imagery can suggest a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we have explained our bodies and our tools to ourselves. This is a dream not of a common language, but of a powerful infidel heteroglossia. It is an imagination of a feminist speaking in tongues to strike fear into the circuits of the supersavers of the new right. It means both building and destroying machines, identities, categories, relationships, space stories. Though both are bound in the spiral dance, I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess.


The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto

by Timothy C. May

A specter is haunting the modern world, the specter of crypto anarchy.

Computer technology is on the verge of providing the ability for individuals and groups to communicate and interact with each other in a totally anonymous manner. Two persons may exchange messages, conduct business, and negotiate electronic contracts without ever knowing the True Name, or legal identity, of the other. Interactions over networks will be untraceable, via extensive re- routing of encrypted packets and tamper-proof boxes which implement cryptographic protocols with nearly perfect assurance against any tampering. Reputations will be of central importance, far more important in dealings than even the credit ratings of today. These developments will alter completely the nature of government regulation, the ability to tax and control economic interactions, the ability to keep information secret, and will even alter the nature of trust and reputation.

The technology for this revolution--and it surely will be both a social and economic revolution--has existed in theory for the past decade. The methods are based upon public-key encryption, zero-knowledge interactive proof systems, and various software protocols for interaction, authentication, and verification. The focus has until now been on academic conferences in Europe and the U.S., conferences monitored closely by the National Security Agency. But only recently have computer networks and personal computers attained sufficient speed to make the ideas practically realizable. And the next ten years will bring enough additional speed to make the ideas economically feasible and essentially unstoppable. High-speed networks, ISDN, tamper-proof boxes, smart cards, satellites, Ku-band transmitters, multi-MIPS personal computers, and encryption chips now under development will be some of the enabling technologies.

The State will of course try to slow or halt the spread of this technology, citing national security concerns, use of the technology by drug dealers and tax evaders, and fears of societal disintegration. Many of these concerns will be valid; crypto anarchy will allow national secrets to be trade freely and will allow illicit and stolen materials to be traded. An anonymous computerized market will even make possible abhorrent markets for assassinations and extortion. Various criminal and foreign elements will be active users of CryptoNet. But this will not halt the spread of crypto anarchy.

Just as the technology of printing altered and reduced the power of medieval guilds and the social power structure, so too will cryptologic methods fundamentally alter the nature of corporations and of government interference in economic transactions. Combined with emerging information markets, crypto anarchy will create a liquid market for any and all material which can be put into words and pictures. And just as a seemingly minor invention like barbed wire made possible the fencing-off of vast ranches and farms, thus altering forever the concepts of land and property rights in the frontier West, so too will the seemingly minor discovery out of an arcane branch of mathematics come to be the wire clippers which dismantle the barbed wire around intellectual property.

Arise, you have nothing to lose but your barbed wire fences!


\/\The Conscience of a Hacker/\/

by +++The Mentor+++

Another one got caught today, it's all over the papers. "Teenager Arrested in Computer Crime Scandal", "Hacker Arrested after Bank Tampering"... Damn kids. They're all alike.

But did you, in your three-piece psychology and 1950's technobrain, ever take a look behind the eyes of the hacker? Did you ever wonder what made him tick, what forces shaped him, what may have molded him?

I am a hacker, enter my world...

Mine is a world that begins with school... I'm smarter than most of the other kids, this crap they teach us bores me...

Damn underachiever. They're all alike.

I'm in junior high or high school. I've listened to teachers explain for the fifteenth time how to reduce a fraction. I understand it. "No, Ms. Smith, I didn't show my work. I did it in my head..."

Damn kid. Probably copied it. They're all alike.

I made a discovery today. I found a computer. Wait a second, this is cool. It does what I want it to. If it makes a mistake, it's because I screwed it up. Not because it doesn't like me...

Or feels threatened by me... Or thinks I'm a smart ass... Or doesn't like teaching and shouldn't be here... Damn kid. All he does is play games. They're all alike.

And then it happened... a door opened to a world... rushing through the phone line like heroin through an addict's veins, an electronic pulse is sent out, a refuge from the day-to-day incompetencies is sought... a board is found.

"This is it... this is where I belong..." I know everyone here... even if I've never met them, never talked to them, may never hear from them again... I know you all... Damn kid. Tying up the phone line again. They're all alike...

You bet your ass we're all alike... we've been spoon-fed baby food at school when we hungered for steak... the bits of meat that you did let slip through were pre-chewed and tasteless. We've been dominated by sadists, or ignored by the apathetic. The few that had something to teach found us will- ing pupils, but those few are like drops of water in the desert.

This is our world now... the world of the electron and the switch, the beauty of the baud. We make use of a service already existing without paying for what could be dirt-cheap if it wasn't run by profiteering gluttons, and you call us criminals. We explore... and you call us criminals. We seek after knowledge... and you call us criminals. We exist without skin color, without nationality, without religious bias... and you call us criminals. You build atomic bombs, you wage wars, you murder, cheat, and lie to us and try to make us believe it's for our own good, yet we're the criminals.

Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity. My crime is that of judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like. My crime is that of outsmarting you, something that you will never forgive me for.

I am a hacker, and this is my manifesto. You may stop this individual, but you can't stop us all... after all, we're all alike.


Question Concerning Technology

by Marting Heidegger

In what follows we shall be questioning concerning technology. Questioning builds a way. We would be advised, therefore, above all to pay heed to the way, and not to fix our attention on iso­ lated sentences and topics. The way is a way of thinking. All ways of thinking, more or less perceptibly, lead through language in a manner that is extraordinary. We shall be questioning con­ cerning technology, and in so doing we should like to prepare a free relationship to it. The relationship will be free if it opens our human existence to the essence of technology. When we can respond to this essence, we shall be able to experience the technological within its own bounds.

Technology is not equivalent to the essence of technology. When we are seeking the essence of "tree," we have to become aware that That which pervades every tree, as tree, is not itself a tree that can be encountered among all the other trees. Likewise, the essence of technology is by no means any­ thing technological. Thus we shall never experience our relation­ ship to the essence of technology so long as we merely conceive and push forward the technological, put up with it, or evade it. Everywhere we remain unfree and chained to technology, whether we passionately affirm or deny it. But we are delivered over to it in the worst possible way when we regard it as some­ thing neutral; for this conception of it, to which today we particularly like to do homage, makes us utterly blind to the essence of technology.

According to ancient doctrine, the essence of a thing is con­ sidered to be what the thing is. We ask the question concerning technology when we ask what it is. Everyone knows the two statements that answer our question. One says : Technology is a means to an end. The other says : Technology is a human activity. The two definitions of technology belong together. For to posit ends and procure and utilize the means to them is a human activity. The manufacture and utilization of equipment, tools, and machines, the manufactured and used things themselves, and the needs and ends that they serve, all belong to what technology is. The whole complex of these contrivances is technology. Technology itself is a contrivance, or, in Latin, an instrumentum.

The current conception of technology, according to which it is a means and a human activity, can therefore be called the instrumental and anthropological definition of technology. Who would ever deny that it is correct? It is in obvious conformity with what we are envisioning when we talk about technology. The instrumental definition of technology is indeed so uncannily correct that it even holds for modern technology, of which, in other respects, we maintain with some justification that it is, in contrast to the older handwork technology, some­ thing completely different and therefore new. Even the power plant with its turbines and generators is a man-made means to an end established by man. Even the jet aircraft and the high­ frequency apparatus are means to ends. A radar station is of course less simple than a weather vane. To be sure, the construction of a high-frequency apparatus requires the interlocking of various processes of technical-industrial production. And certainly a sawmill in a secluded valley of the Black Forest is a primitive means compared with the hydroelectric plant in the Rhine River.

But this much remains correct : modern technology too is a means to an end. That is why the instrumental conception of technology conditions every attempt to bring man into the right relation to technology. Everything depends on our manipulating technology in the proper manner as a means. We will, as we say, "get" technology "spiritually in hand." We will master it. The will to mastery becomes all the more urgent the more technology threatens to slip from human control.

But suppose now that technology were no mere means, how would it stand with the will to master it? Yet we said, did we not, that the instrumental definition of technology is correct? To be sure. The correct always fixes upon something pertinent in whatever is under consideration. However, in order to be cor­ rect, this fixing by no means needs to uncover the thing in question in its essence. Only at the point where such an uncovering happens does the true come to pass. For that reason the merely correct is not yet the true. Only the true brings us into a free relationship with that which concerns us from out of its essence. Accordingly, the correct instrumental definition of tech­ nology still does not show us technology's essence. In order that we may arrive at this, or at least come close to it, we must seek the true by way of the correct. We must ask : What is the instrumental itself? Within what do such things as means and end belong? A means is that whereby something is effected and thus attained. Whatever has an effect as its consequence is called a cause. But not only that by means of which something else is effected is a cause. The end in keeping with which the kind of means to be used is determined is also considered a cause. Wherever ends are pursued and means are employed, wherever instrumentality reigns, there reigns causality.

For centuries philosophy has taught that there are four causes: (1) the causa materialis, the material, the matter out of which, for example, a silver chalice is made; (2) the causa formalis, the form, the shape into which the material enters; (3) the causa finalis, the end, for example, the sacrificial rite in relation to which the chalice required is determined as to its form and mat­ ter; (4) the causa efficiens, which brings about the effect that is the finished, actual chalice, in this instance, the silversmith. What technology is, when represented as a means, discloses itself when we trace instrumentality back to fourfold causality.

But suppose that causality, for its part, is veiled in darkness with respect to what it is? Certainly for centuries we have acted as though the doctrine of the four causes had fallen from heaven as a truth as clear as daylight. But it might be that the time has come to ask, Why are there just four causes? In relation to the aforementioned four, what does "cause" really mean? From whence does it come that the causal character of the four causes is so unifiedly determined that they belong together?

So long as we do not allow ourselves to go into these ques­ tions, causality, and with it instrumentality, and with the latter the accepted definition of technology, remain obscure and groundless.

For a long time we have been accustomed to representing cause as that which brings something about. In this connection, to bring about means to obtain results, effects. The causa efficiens, but one among the four causes, sets the standard for all causality. This goes so far that we no longer even count the causa finalis, telic finality, as causality. Causa, casus, belongs to the verb cadere, "to fall," and means that which brings it about that some­ thing falls out as a result in such and such a way. The doctrine of the four causes goes back to Aristotle. But everything that later ages seek in Greek thought under the conception and rubric "causality," in the realm of Greek thought and for Greek thought per se has simply nothing at all to do with bringing about and effecting. What we call cause [Ursache] and the Romans call causa is called aition by the Greeks, that to which something else is indebted [das, was ein anderes verschuldetJ. The four causes are the ways, all belonging at once to each other, of being responsible for something else. An example can clarify this.

Silver is that out of which the silver chalice is made. As this matter (hyle), it is co-responsible for the chalice. The chalice is indebted to, i.e., owes thanks to, the silver for that out of which it consists. But the sacrificial vessel is indebted not only to the silver. As a chalice, that which is indebted to the silver appears in the aspect of a chalice and not in that of a brooch or a ring. Thus the sacrificial vessel is at the same time indebted to the aspect (eidos) of chaliceness. Both the silver into which the aspect is admitted as chalice and the aspect in which the silver appears are in their respective ways co-responsible for the sacrificial vessel.

It is that which in advance confines the chalice within the realm of consecration and bestowal. Through this the chalice is circumscribed as sacrificial vessel. Circumscribing gives bounds to the thing. With the bounds the thing does not stop; rather from out of them it begins to be what, after production, it will be. That which gives bounds, that which completes, in this sense is called in Greek telos, which is all too often translated as "aim" or "purpose" and so misinterpreted. The telos is responsible for what as matter and for what as aspect are together co-responsible for the sacrificial vessel.

Finally there is a fourth participant in the responsibility for the finished sacrificial vessel's lying before us ready for use, i.e., the silversmith-but not at all because he, in working, brings about the finished sacrificial chalice as if it were the effect of a making; the silversmith is not a causa efficiens.

The Aristotelian doctrine neither knows the cause that is named by this term nor uses a Greek word that would correspond to it.

The silversmith considers carefully and gathers together the three aforementioned ways of being responsible and indebted. To consider carefully [iiberlegen] is in Greek legein, logos. Legein is rooted in apophainesthai, to bring forward into appearance. The silversmith is co-responsible as that from whence the sacrificial vessel's bringing forth and resting-in-self take and retain their first departure. The three previously mentioned ways of being responsible owe thanks to the pondering of the silver­ smith for the "that" and the "how" of their coming into appearance and into play for the production of the sacrificial vessel.

Thus four ways of being responsible hold sway in the sacrificial vessel that lies ready before us. They differ from one another, yet they belong together. What unites them from the beginning? In what does this playing in unison of the four ways of being responsible play? What is the source of the unity of the four causes? What, after all, does this owing and being responsible mean, thought as the Greeks thought it?

Today we are too easily inclined either to understand being responsible and being indebted moralistically as a lapse, or else to construe them in terms of effecting. In either case we bar to ourselves the way to the primal meaning of that which is later called causality. So long as this way is not opened up to us we shall also fail to see what instrumentality, which is based on causality, actually is.

In order to guard against such misinterpretations of being responsible and being indebted, let us clarify the four ways of being responsible in terms of that for which they are responsible. According to our example, they are responsible for the silver chalice's lying ready before us as a sacrificial vessel. Lying before and lying ready (hypokeisthai) characterize the presencing of something that presences. The four ways of being responsible bring something into appearance. They let it come forth into presencing [An-wesen]. They set it free to that place and so start it on its way, namely, into its complete arrival. The principal characteristic of being responsible is this starting something on its way into arrival. It is in the sense of such a starting some­ thing on its way into arrival that being responsible is an occasioning or an inducing to go forward [Ver-an-lassen]. On the basis of a look at what the Greeks experienced in being responsible, in aitia, we now give this verb "to occasion" a more inclusive meaning, so that it now is the name for the essence of causality thought as the Greeks thought it. The common and narrower meaning of "occasion" in contrast is nothing more than striking against and releasing, and means a kind of secondary cause within the whole of causality.

But in what, then, does the playing in unison of the four ways of occasioning play? They let what is not yet present arrive into presencing. Accordingly, they are unifiedly ruled over by a bringing that brings what presences into appearance. Plato tells us what this bringing is in a sentence from the Symposium (20sb) :

he gar toi ek tau me onton eis to on ionti hotoioun aitia pasa esti poiesis.

"Every occasion for whatever passes over and goes forward into presencing from that which is not presencing is poiesis, is bringing-forth [Her-vor-bringen] . "

It is of utmost importance that we think bringing-forth in its full scope and at the same time in the sense in which the Greeks thought it. Not only handcraft manufacture, not only artistic and poetical bringing into appearance and concrete imagery, is a bringing-forth, poiesis. Physis also, the arising of something from out of itself, is a bringing-forth, poiesis. Physis is indeed poiesis in the highest sense. For what presences by means of physis has the bursting open belonging to bringing-forth, e.g., the bursting of a blossom into bloom, in itself (en heautoi). In contrast, what is brought forth by the artisan or the artist, e.g., the silver chalice, has the bursting open belonging to bringing­ forth not in itself, but in another (en alloi), in the craftsman or artist.

The modes of occasioning, the four causes, are at play, then, within bringing-forth. Through bringing-forth, the growing things of nature as well as whatever is completed through the crafts and the arts come at any given time to their appearance.

But how does bringing-forth happen, be it in nature or in handwork and art? What is the bringing-forth in which the fourfold way of occasioning plays? Occasioning has to do with the presencing [Anwesen] of that which at any given time comes to appearance in bringing-forth. Bringing-forth brings hither out of concealment forth into unconcealment. Bringing-forth comes to pass only insofar as something concealed comes into unconcealment. This coming rests and moves freely within what we call revealing [das Entbergen]. The Greeks have the word aletheia for revealing. The Romans translate this with veritas. We say "truth" and usually understand it as the correctness of an idea.

But where have we strayed to? We are questioning concerning technology, and we have arrived now at aletheia, at revealing. What has the essence of technology to do with revealing? The answer: everything. For every bringing-forth is grounded in revealing. Bringing-forth, indeed, gathers within itself the four modes of occasioning-causality-and rules them throughout. Within its domain belong end and means, belongs instrumentality. Instrumentality is considered to be the fundamental characteristic of technology. If we inquire, step by step, into what technology, represented as means, actually is, then we shall arrive at revealing. The possibility of all productive manufacturing lies in revealing.

Technology is therefore no mere means. Technology is a way of revealing. If we give heed to this, then another whole realm for the essence of technology will open itself up to us. It is the realm of revealing, i.e., of truth.

This prospect strikes us as strange. Indeed, it should do so, should do sO' as persistently as possible and with so much urgency that we will finally take seriously the simple question of what the name "technology" means. The word stems from the Greek. Technikon means that which belongs to techne. We must observe two things with respect to the meaning of this word. One is that techne is the name not only for the activities and skills of the craftsman, but also for the arts of the mind and the fine arts. Techne belongs to bringing-forth, to poiesis; it is something poietic.

The other point that we should observe with regard to techne is even more important. From earliest times until Plato the word techne is linked with the word episteme. Both words are names for knowing in the widest sense. They mean to be entirely at home in something, to understand and be expert in it. Such knowing provides an opening up. As an opening up it is a revealing. Aristotle, in a discussion of special importance (Nico­ machean Ethics, Bk. VI, chaps. 3 and 4), distinguishes between episteme and techne and indeed with respect to what and how they reveal. Techne is a mode of aletheuein. It reveals whatever does not bring itself forth and does not yet lie here before us, whatever can look and turn out now one way and now another. Whoever builds a house or a ship or forges a sacrificial chalice reveals what is to be brought forth, according to the perspectives of the four modes of occasioning. This revealing gathers together in advance the aspect and the matter of ship or house, with a view to the finished thing envisioned as completed, and from this gathering determines the manner of its construction. Thus what is decisive in techne does not lie at all in making and manipulating nor in the using of means, but rather in the aforementioned revealing. It is as revealing, and not as manufacturing, that techne is a bringing-forth.

Thus the clue to what the word techne means and to how the Greeks defined it leads us into the same context that opened itself to us when we pursued the question of what instrumentality as such in truth might be.

Technology is a mode of revealing. Technology comes to presence [West] in the realm where revealing and unconcealment take place, where aletheia, truth, happens.

In opposition to this definition of the essential domain of technology, one can object that it indeed holds for Greek thought and that at best it might apply to the techniques of the handcraftsman, but that it simply does not fit modern machine-powered technology. And it is precisely the latter and it alone that is the disturbing thing, that moves us to ask the question concerning technology per se. It is said that modern technology is something incomparably different from all earlier technologies because it is based on modern physics as an exact science. Meanwhile we have come to understand more clearly that the reverse holds true as well : Modern physics, as experi­ mental, is dependent upon technical apparatus and upon progress in the building of apparatus. The establishing of this mutual relationship between technology and physics is correct. But it remains a merely historiographical establishing of facts and says nothing about that in which this mutual relationship is grounded. The decisive question still remains : Of what essence is modern technology that it happens to think of putting exact science to use?

What is modern technology? It too is a revealing. Only when we allow our attention to rest on this fundamental characteristic does that which is new in modern technology show itself to us.

And yet the revealing that holds sway throughout modern technology does not unfold into a bringing-forth in the sense of poiesis. The revealing that rules in modern technology is a challenging [Herausfordern],13 which puts to nature the unreasonable demand that it supply energy that can be extracted and stored as such. But does this not hold true for the old windmill as well? No. Its sails do indeed turn in the wind; they are left entirely to the wind's blowing. But the windmill does not unlock energy from the air currents in order to store it.

In contrast, a tract of land is challenged into the putting out of coal and ore. The earth now reveals itself as a coal mining district, the soil as a mineral deposit. The field that the peasant formerly cultivated and set in order [bestellte] appears differently than it did when to set in order still meant to take care of and to maintain. The work of the peasant does not challenge the soil of the field. In the sowing of the grain it places the seed in the keeping of the forces of growth and watches over its increase. But meanwhile even the cultivation of the field has come under the grip of another kind of setting-in-order, which sets upon [stellt] nature. It sets upon it in the sense of challenging it. Agriculture is now the mechanized food industry. Air is now set upon to yield nitrogen, the earth to yield ore, ore to yield uranium, for example; uranium is set upon to yield atomic energy, which can be released either for destruction or for peace­ ful use.

This setting-upon that challenges forth the energies of nature is an expediting [Fordern], and in two ways. It expedites in that it unlocks and exposes. Yet that expediting is always itself directed from the beginning toward furthering something else, i.e., toward driving on to the maximum yield at the minimum expense. The coal that has been hauled out in some mining district has not been supplied in order that it may simply be present somewhere or other. It is stockpiled; that is, it is on call, ready to deliver the sun's warmth that is stored in it. The sun's warmth is challenged forth for heat, which in turn is ordered to deliver steam whose pressure turns the wheels that keep a factory running.

This setting-upon that challenges forth the energies of nature is an expediting [Fordern], and in two ways. It expedites in that it unlocks and exposes. Yet that expediting is always itself directed from the beginning toward furthering something else, i.e., toward driving on to the maximum yield at the minimum expense. The coal that has been hauled out in some mining district has not been supplied in order that it may simply be present somewhere or other. It is stockpiled; that is, it is on call, ready to deliver the sun's warmth that is stored in it. The sun's warmth is challenged forth for heat, which in turn is ordered to deliver steam whose pressure turns the wheels that keep a factory running.

The hydroelectric plant is set into the current of the Rhine. It sets the Rhine to supplying its hydraulic pressure, which then sets the turbines turning. This turning sets those machines in motion whose thrust sets going the electric current for which the long-distance power station and its network of cables are set up to dispatch electricity. In the context of the interlocking processes pertaining to the orderly disposition of electrical energy, even the Rhine itself appears as something at our command. The hydroelectric plant is not built into the Rhine River as was the old wooden bridge that joined bank with bank for hundreds of years. Rather the river is dammed up into the power plant. What the river is now, namely, a water power supplier, derives from out of the essence of the power station. In order that we may even remotely consider the monstrousness that reigns here, let us ponder for a moment the contrast that speaks out of the two titles, "The Rhine" as dammed up into the power works, and "The Rhine" as uttered out of the art work, in Hoelderlin's hymn by that name. But, it will be replied, the Rhine is still a river in the landscape, is it not? Perhaps. But how? In no other way than as an object on call for inspection by a tour group ordered there by the vacation industry.

The revealing that rules throughout modern technology has the character of a setting-upon, in the sense of a challenging­ forth. That challenging happens in that the energy concealed in nature is unlocked, what is unlocked is transformed, what is transformed is stored up, what is stored up is, in turn, distributed, and what is distributed is switched about ever anew. Unlocking, transforming, storing, distributing, and switching about are ways of revealing. But the revealing never simply comes to an end. Neither does it run off into the indeterminate. The revealing reveals to itself its own manifoldly interlocking paths, through regulating their course. This regulating itself is, for its part, everywhere secured. Regulating and securing even become the chief characteristics of the challenging revealing.

What kind of unconcealment is it, then, that is peculiar to that which comes to stand forth through this setting-upon that challenges? Everywhere everything is ordered to stand by, to be immediately at hand, indeed to stand there just so that it may be on call for a further ordering. Whatever is ordered about in this way has its own standing. We call it the standing-reserve [Bestand]. The word expresses here something more, and some­ thing more essential, than mere "stock." The name "standing­ reserve" assumes the rank of an inclusive rubric. It designates nothing less than the way in which everything presences that is wrought upon by the challenging revealing. Whatever stands by in the sense of standing-reserve no longer stands over against us as object.

Yet an airliner that stands on the runway is surely an object. Certainly. We can represent the machine so. But then it conceals itself as to what and how it is. Revealed, it stands on the taxi strip only as standing-reserve, inasmuch as it is ordered to en­ sure the possibility of transportation. For this it must be in its whole structure and in every one of its constituent parts, on call for duty, i.e., ready for takeoff. (Here it would be appropriate to discuss Hegel's definition of the machine as an autonomous tool. When applied to the tools of the craftsman, his characterization is correct. Characterized in this way, however, the machine is not thought at all from out of the essence of technology within which it belongs. Seen in terms of the standing-reserve, the machine is completely unautonomous, for it has its standing only from the ordering of the orderable.)

The fact that now, wherever we try to point to modern tech­ nology as the challenging revealing, the words "setting-upon," "ordering," "standing-reserve," obtrude and accumulate in a dry, monotonous, and therefore oppressive way, has its basis in what is now coming to utterance.

Who accomplishes the challenging setting-upon through which what we call the real is revealed as standing-reserve? Obviously, man. To what extent is man capable of such a revealing? Man can indeed conceive, fashion, and carry through this or that in one way or another. But man does not have control over unconcealment itself, in which at any given time the real shows itself or withdraws. The fact that the real has been showing itself in the light of Ideas ever since the time of Plato, Plato did not bring about. The thinker only responded to what addressed itself to him.

Only to the extent that man for his part is already challenged to exploit the energies of nature can this ordering revealing happen. If man is challenged, ordered, to do this, then does not man himself belong even more originally than nature within the standing-reserve? The current talk about human resources, about the supply of patients for a clinic, gives evidence of this. The forester who, in the wood, measures the felled timber and to all appearances walks the same forest path in the same way as did his grandfather is today commanded by profit-making in the lumber industry, whether he knows it or not. He is made subordinate to the orderability of cellulose, which for its part is challenged forth by the need for paper, which is then delivered to newspapers and illustrated magazines. The latter, in their turn, set public opinion to swallowing what is printed, so that a set configuration of opinion becomes available on demand. Yet precisely because man is challenged more originally than are the energies of nature, i.e., into the process of ordering, he never is transformed into mere standing-reserve. Since man drives technology forward, he takes part in ordering as a way of revealing. But the unconcealment itself, within which ordering unfolds, is never a human handiwork, any more than is the realm through which man is already passing every time he as a subject relates to an object.

Where and how does this revealing happen if it is no mere handiwork of man? We need not look far. We need only apprehend in an unbiased way That which has already claimed man and has done so, so decisively that he can only be man at any given time as the one so claimed. Wherever man opens his eyes and ears, unlocks his heart, and gives himself over to meditating and striving, shaping and working, entreating and thanking, he finds himself everywhere already brought into the unconcealed. The unconcealment of the unconcealed has already come to pass whenever it calls man forth into the modes of revealing allotted to him. When man, in his way, from within unconcealment reveals that which presences, he merely responds to the call of unconcealment even when he contradicts it. Thus when man, investigating, observing, ensnares nature as an area of his own conceiving, he has already been claimed by a way of revealing that challenges him to approach nature as an object of research, until even the object disappears into the objectlessness of standing-reserve.

Modern technology as an ordering revealing is, then, no merely human doing. Therefore we must take that challenging that sets upon man to order the real as standing-reserve in accordance with the way in which it shows itself. That challenging gathers man into ordering. This gathering concentrates man upon ordering the real as standing-reserve. That original gathering from which unfold the ways in which we have feelings of one kind or another we name "Gemuet" [disposition].

We now name that challenging claim which gathers man thither to order the self-revealing as standing-reserve : "Ge-stell" [Enframing]. We dare to use this word in a sense that has been thoroughly unfamiliar up to now.

According to ordinary usage, the word Gestell [frame] means some kind of apparatus, e.g., a bookrack. Gestell is also the name for a skeleton. And the employment of the word Ge-stell [Enframing] that is now required of us seems equally eerie, not to speak of the arbitrariness with which words of a mature language are thus misused. Can anything be more strange? Surely not. Yet this strangeness is an old usage of thinking. And indeed thinkers accord with this usage precisely at the point where it is a matter of thinking that which is highest. We, late born, are no longer in a position to appreciate the significance of Plato's daring to use the word eidos for that which in everything and in each particular thing endures as present. For eidos, in the common speech, meant the outward aspect [Ansicht] that a visible thing offers to the physical eye. Plato exacts of this word, how­ ever, something utterly extraordinary : that it name what precisely is not and never will be perceivable with physical eyes. But even this is by no means the full extent of what is extraordinary here. For idea names not only the nonsensuous aspect of what is physically visible. IS Aspect (idea) names and is, also, that which constitutes the essence in the audible, the tasteable, the tactile, in everything that is in any way accessible. Compared with the demands that Plato makes on language and thought in this and other instances, the use of the word Gestell as the name for the essence of modern technology, which we now venture here, is almost harmless. Even so, the usage now required remains some­ thing exacting and is open to misinterpretation.

Enframing means the gathering together of that setting-upon which sets upon man, i.e., challenges him forth, to reveal the real, in the mode of ordering, as standing-reserve. Enframing means that way of revealing which holds sway in the essence of modern technology and which is itself nothing technological. On the other hand, all those things that are so familiar to us and are standard parts of an assembly, such as rods, pistons, and chassis, belong to the technological. The assembly itself, how­ ever, together with the aforementioned stockparts, falls within the sphere of technological activity; and this activity always merely responds to the challenge of Enframing, but it never comprises Enframing itself or brings it about.

The word stellen [to set upon] in the name Ge-stell [Enframing] not only means challenging. At the same time it should preserve the suggestion of another Stellen from which it stems, namely, that producing and presenting [Her- und Dar-stellen] which, in the sense of poiesis, lets what presences come forth into unconcealment. This producing that brings forth-e.g., the erecting of a statue in the temple precinct-and the challenging ordering now under consideration are indeed fundamentally different, and yet they remain related in their essence. Both are ways of revealing, of aletheia. In Enframing, that un concealment comes to pass in conformity with which the work of modern technology reveals the real as standing-reserve. This work is therefore neither only a human activity nor a mere means within such activity. The merely instrumental, merely anthropological definition of technology is therefore in principle untenable. And it cannot be rounded out by being referred back to some meta­ physical or religious explanation that undergirds it.

It remains true, nonetheless, that man in the technological age is, in a particularly striking way, challenged forth into revealing. That revealing concerns nature, above all, as the chief storehouse of the standing energy reserve. Accordingly, man's ordering attitude and behavior display themselves first in the rise of modern physics as an exact science. Modern science's way of representing pursues and entraps nature as a calculable coherence of forces. Modern physics is not experimental physics be­ cause it applies apparatus to the questioning of nature. Rather the reverse is true. Because physics, indeed already as pure theory, sets nature up to exhibit itself as a coherence of forces calculable in advance, it therefore orders its experiments precisely for the purpose of asking whether and how nature reports itself when set up in this way.

But after all, mathematical physics arose almost two centuries before technology. How, then, could it have already been set upon by modern technology and placed in its service? The facts testify to the contrary. Surely technology got under way only when it could be supported by exact physical science. Reckoned chronologically, this is correct. Thought historically, it does not hit upon the truth.

The modern physical theory of nature prepares the way first not simply for technology but for the essence of modern technology. For already in physics the challenging gathering-together into ordering revealing holds sway. But in it that gathering does not yet come expressly to appearance. Modern physics is the herald of Enframing, a herald whose origin is still unknown. The essence of modern technology has for a long time been concealing itself, even where power machinery has been invented, where electrical technology is in full swing, and where atomic technology is well under way.

All coming to presence, not only modern technology, keeps itself everywhere concealed to the last. Nevertheless, it re­ mains, with respect to its holding sway, that which precedes all: the earliest. The Greek thinkers already knew of this when they said: That which is earlier with regard to the arising that holds sway becomes manifest to us men only later. That which is primally early shows itself only ultimately to men. Therefore, in the realm of thinking, a painstaking effort to think through still more primally what was primally thought is not the absurd wish to revive what is past, but rather the sober readiness to be astounded before the coming of what is early.

Chronologically speaking, modern physical science begins in the seventeenth century. In contrast, machine-power technology develops only in the second half of the eighteenth century. But modern technology, which for chronological reckoning is the later, is, from the point of view of the essence holding sway within it, the historically earlier. If modern physics must resign itself ever increasingly to the fact that its realm of representation remains inscrutable and incapable of being visualized, this resignation is not dictated by any committee of researchers. It is challenged forth by the rule of Enframing, which demands that nature be orderable as standing-reserve. Hence physics, in all its retreating from the representation turned only toward objects that has alone been standard till recently, will never be able to renounce this one thing: that nature reports itself in some way or other that is identifiable through calculation and that it remains orderable as a system of information. This system is determined, then, out of a causality that has changed once again. Causality now dis­ plays neither the character of the occasioning that brings forth nor the nature of the causa efficiens, let alone that of the causa formalis. It seems as though causality is shrinking into a reporting-a reporting challenged forth-of standing-reserves that must be guaranteed either simultaneously or in sequence. To this shrinking would correspond the process of growing resignation that Heisenberg's lecture depicts in so impressive a manner.

Because the essence of modern technology lies in Enframing, modern technology must employ exact physical science. Through its so doing, the deceptive illusion arises that modern technology is applied physical science. This illusion can maintain itself only so long as neither the essential origin of modern science nor indeed the essence of modern technology is adequately found out through questioning.

We are questioning concerning technology in order to bring to light our relationship to its essence. The essence of modern tech­ nology shows itself in what we call Enframing. But simply to point to this is still in no way to answer the question concerning technology, if to answer means to respond, in the sense of correspond, to the essence of what is being asked about.

Where do we find ourselves brought to, if now we think one step further regarding what Enframing itself actually is? It is nothing technological, nothing on the order of a machine. It is the way in which the real reveals itself as standing-reserve.

Again we ask: Does this revealing happen somewhere beyond all human doing? No. But neither does it happen exclusively in man, or decisively through man.

Enframing is the gathering together that belongs to that setting-upon which sets upon man and puts him in position to reveal the real, in the mode of ordering, as standing-reserve. As the one who is challenged forth in this way, man stands within the essential realm of Enframing. He can never take up a relationship to it only subsequently. Thus the question as to how we are to arrive at a relationship to the essence of technology, asked in this way, always comes too late. But never too late comes the question as to whether we actually experience our­ selves as the ones whose activities everywhere, public and private, are challenged forth by Enframing. Above all, never too late comes the question as to whether and how we actually admit ourselves into that wherein Enframing itself comes to presence.

The essence of modern technology starts man upon the way of that revealing through which the real everywhere, more or less distinctly, becomes standing-reserve. "To start upon a way" means "to send" in our ordinary language. We shall call that sending-that-gathers [versammelde Schicken] which first starts man upon a way of revealing, destining [Geschick]. It is from out of this destining that the essence of all history [Geschichte] is determined. History is neither simply the object of written chronicle nor simply the fulfillment of human activity. That activity first becomes history as something destined. And it is only the destining into objectifying representation that makes the historical accessible as an object for historiography, i.e., for a science, and on this basis makes possible the current equating of the historical with that which is chronicled.

Enframing, as a challenging-forth into ordering, sends into a way of revealing. Enframing is an ordaining of destining, as is every way of revealing. Bringing-forth, poiesis, is also a destining in this sense.

Always the unconcealment of that which is goes upon a way of revealing. Always the destining of revealing holds complete sway over man. But that destining is never a fate that compels. For man becomes truly free only insofar as he belongs to the realm of destining and so becomes one who listens and hears [Horender], and not one who is simply constrained to obey [Horiger].

The essence of freedom is originally not connected with the will or even with the causality of human willing.

Freedom governs the open in the sense of the cleared and lighted up, i.e., of the revealed. It is to the happening of revealing, i.e., of truth, that freedom stands in the closest and most intimate kinship. All revealing belongs within a harboring and a concealing. But that which frees-the mystery-is concealed and always concealing itself. All revealing comes out of the open, goes into the open, and brings into the open. The freedom of the open consists neither in unfettered arbitrariness nor in the constraint of mere laws. Freedom is that which conceals in a way that opens to light, in whose clearing there shimmers that veil that covers what comes to presence of all truth and lets the veil appear as what veils. Freedom is the realm of the destining that at any given time starts a revealing upon its way.

The essence of modern technology lies in Enframing. Enframing belongs within the destining of revealing. These sentences express something different from the talk that we hear more frequently, to the effect that technology is the fate of our age, where "fate" means the inevitableness of an unalterable course.

But when we consider the essence of technology, then we experience Enframing as a destining of revealing. In this way we are already sojourning within the open space of destining, a destining that in no way confines us to a stultified compulsion to push on blindly with technology or, what comes to the same thing, to rebel helplessly against it and curse it as the work of the devil. Quite to the contrary, when we once open ourselves expressly to the essence of technology, we find ourselves unexpectedly taken into a freeing claim.

The essence of technology lies in Enframing. Its holding sway belongs within destining. Since destining at any given time starts man on a way of revealing, man, thus under way, is continually approaching the brink of the possibility of pursuing and pushing forward nothing but what is revealed in ordering, and of deriving all his standards on this basis. Through this the other possibility is blocked, that man might be admitted more and sooner and ever more primally to the essence of that which is unconcealed and to its unconcealment, in order that he might experience as his essence his needed belonging to revealing.

Placed between these possibilities, man is endangered from out of destining. The destining of revealing is as such, in every one of its modes, and therefore necessarily, danger.

In whatever way the destining of revealing may hold sway, the unconcealment in which everything that is shows itself at any given time harbors the danger that man may quail at the unconcealed and may misinterpret it. Thus where everything that presences exhibits itself in the light of a cause-effect coherence, even God can, for representational thinking, lose all that is exalted and holy, the mysteriousness of his distance. In the light of causality, God can sink to the level of a cause, of causa efficiens. He then becomes, even in theology, the god of the philosophers, namely, of those who define the unconcealed and the concealed in terms of the causality of making, without ever considering the essential origin of this causality.

In a similar way the unconcealment in accordance with which nature presents itself as a calculable complex of the effects of forces can indeed permit correct determinations but precisely through these successes the danger can remain that in the midst of all that is correct the true will withdraw.

The destining of revealing is in itself not just any danger, but danger as such.

Yet when destining reigns in the mode of Enframing, it is the supreme danger. This danger attests itself to us in two ways. As soon as what is unconcealed no longer concerns man even as object, but does so, rather, exclusively as standing-reserve, and man in the midst of objectlessness is nothing but the orderer of the standing-reserve, then he comes to the very brink of it precipitous fall; that is, he comes to the point where he himself will have to be taken as standing-reserve. Meanwhile man, precisely as the one so threatened, exalts himself to the posture of lord of the earth. In this way the impression comes to prevail that everything man encounters exists only insofar as it is his construct. This illusion gives rise in turn to one final delusion: It seems as though man everywhere and always encounters only himself. Heisenberg has with complete correctness pointed out that the real must present itself to contemporary man in this way. In truth, however, precisely nowhere does man today any longer encounter himself, i.e., his essence. Man stands so decisively in attendance on the challenging-forth of Enframing that he does not apprehend Enframing as a claim, that he fails to see himself as the one spoken to, and hence also fails in every way to hear in what respect he ek-sists, from out of his essence, in the realm of an exhortation or address, and thus can never encounter only himself.

But Enframing does not simply endanger man in his relation­ ship to himself and to everything that is. As a destining, it banishes man into that kind of revealing which is an ordering. Where this ordering holds sway, it drives out every other possibility of revealing. Above all, Enframing conceals that revealing which, in the sense of poiesis, lets what presences come forth into appearance. As compared with that other revealing, the setting-upon that challenges forth thrusts man into a relation to that which is, that is at once antithetical and rigorously ordered. Where Enframing holds sway, regulating and securing of the standing-reserve mark all revealing. They no longer even let their own fundamental characteristic appear, namely, this revealing as such.

Thus the challenging Enframing not only conceals a former way of revealing, bringing-forth, but it conceals revealing itself and with it That wherein unconcealment, i.e., truth, comes to pass.

Enframing blocks the shining-forth and holding-sway of truth. The destinil1g that sends into ordering is consequently the ex­ treme q.afiger. What is dangerous is not technology. There is no d<::m6nry of technology, but rather there is the mystery of its : essence. The essence of technology, as a destining of revealing, is the danger. The transformed meaning of the word "Enframing" will perhaps become somewhat more familiar to us now if we think Enframing in the sense of destining and danger.

The threat to man does not come in the first instance from the potentially lethal machines and apparatus of technology. The actual threat has already affected man in his essence. The rule of Enframing threatens man with the possibility that it could be denied to him to enter into a more original revealing and hence to experience the call of a more primal truth.

Thus, where Enframing reigns, there is danger in the highest sense.

But where danger is, grows The saving power also.

Let us think carefully about these words of Hoelderlin. What does it mean "to save"? Usually we think that it means only to seize hold of a thing threatened by ruin, in order to secure it in its former continuance. But the verb "to save" says more. "To save" is to fetch something home into its essence, in order to bring the essence for the first time into its genuine appearing. If the essence of technology, Enframing, is the extreme danger, and if there is truth in Hoelderlin's words, then the rule of Enframing cannot exhaust itself solely in blocking all lighting-up of every revealing, all appearing of truth. Rather, precisely the essence of technology must harbor in itself the growth of the saving power. But in that case, might not an adequate look into what Enframing is as a destining of revealing bring into appear­ ance the saving power in its arising?

In what respect does the saving power grow there also where the danger is? Where something grows, there it takes root, from thence it thrives. Both happen concealedly and quietly and in their own time. But according to the words of the poet we have no right whatsoever to expect that there where the danger is we should be able to lay hold of the saving power immediately and without preparation. Therefore we must consider now, in advance, in what respect the saving power does most profoundly take root and thence thrive even in that wherein the extreme danger lies, in the holding sway of Enframing. In order to con­ sider this, it is necessary, as a last step upon our way, to look with yet clearer eyes into the danger. Accordingly, we must once more question concerning technology. For we have said that in technology's essence roots and thrives the saving power.

But how shall we behold the saving power in the essence of technology so long as we do not consider in what sense of "essence" it is that Enframing is actually the essence of technology?

Thus far we have understood "essence" in its current meaning. In the academic language of philosophy, "essence" means what something is; in Latin, quid. Quidditas, whatness, provides the answer to the question concerning essence. For example, what pertains to all kinds of trees-oaks, beeches, birches, firs-is the same "treeness." Under this inclusive genus-the "universal"­ fall all real and possible trees. Is then the essence of technology, Enframing, the common genus for everything technological? If that were the case then the stearn turbine, the radio transmitter, and the cyclotron would each be an Enframing. But the word "Enframing" does not mean here a tool or any kind of apparatus. Still less does it mean the general concept of such resources. The machines and apparatus are no more cases and kinds of Enfram­ ing than are the man at the switchboard and the engineer in the drafting room . . Each of these in its own way indeed belongs as stockpart, available resource, or executer, within Enframing; but Enframing is never the essence of technology in the sense of a genus. Enframing is a way of revealing having the character of destining, namely, the way that challenges forth. The revealing that brings forth (poiesis) is also a way that has the character of destining. But these ways are not kinds that, arrayed beside one another, fall under the concept of revealing. Revealing is that destining which, ever suddenly and inexplicably to all thinking, apportions itself into the revealing that brings forth and that also challenges, and which allots itself to man. The challenging revealing has its origin as a destining in bringing-forth. But at the same time Enframing, in a way characteristic of a destining, blocks poiesis.

Thus Enframing, as a destining of revealing, is indeed the essence of technology, but never in the sense of genus and essentia. If we pay heed to this, something astounding strikes us: It is technology itself that makes the demand on us to think in another way what is usually understood by "essence." But in what way?

If we speak of the "essence of a house" and the "essence of a state," we do not mean a generic type; rather we mean the ways in which house and state hold sway, administer themselves, develop and decay-the way in which they "essence" [Wesen]. Johann Peter Hebel in a poem, "Ghost on Kanderer Street," for which Goethe had a special fondness, uses the old word die Weserei. It means the city hall inasmuch as there the life of the community gathers and village existence is constantly in play, i.e., comes to presence. It is from the verb wesen that the noun is derived. Wesen understood as a verb is the same as waehren [to last or endure], not only in terms of meaning, but also in terms of the phonetic formation of the word. Socrates and Plato already think the essence of something as what essences, what comes to presence, in the sense of what endures. But they think what endures as what remains permanently [das Fortwaehrende] (aei on). And they find what endures permanently in what, as that which remains, tenaciously persists throughout all that happens. That which remains they discover, in turn, in the aspect [Aussehen] (eidos, idea), for example, the Idea "house."

The Idea "house" displays what anything is that is fashioned as a house. Particular, real, and possible houses, in contrast, are changing and transitory derivatives of the Idea and thus belong to what does not endure.

But it can never in any way be established that enduring is based solely on what Plato thinks as idea and Aristotle thinks as to ti en einai (that which any particular thing has always been), or what metaphysics in its most varied interpretations thinks as essentia.

All essencing endures. But is enduring only permanent en­ during? Does the essence of technology endure in the sense of the permanent enduring of an Idea that hovers over everything technological, thus making it seem that by technology we mean some mythological abstraction? The way in which technology essences lets itself be seen only from out of that permanent enduring in which Enframing comes to pass as a destining of revealing. Goethe once uses the mysterious word fortgewaehren [to grant permanently] in place of fortwaehren [to endure perma­ nently] . * He hears waehren [to endure] and gewaehren [to grant] here in one unarticulated accord? And if we now ponder more carefully than we did before what it is that actually endures and perhaps alone endures, we may venture to say: Only what is granted endures. That which endures primally out of the earliest beginning is what grants.

As the essencing of technology, Enframing is that which en­ dures. Does Enframing hold sway at all in the sense of granting? No doubt the question seems a horrendous blunder. For according to everything that has been said, Enframing is, rather, a destining that gathers together into the revealing that challenges forth. Challenging is anything but a granting. So it seems, so long as we do not notice that the challenging-forth into the ordering of the real as standing-reserve still remains a destining that starts man upon a way of revealing. As this destining, the coming to presence of technology gives man entry into That which, of himself, he can neither invent nor in any way make. For there is no such thing as a man who, solely of himself, is only man.

But if this destining, Enframing, is the extreme danger, not only for man's coming to presence, but for all revealing as such, should this destining still be called a granting? Yes, most emphaticalIy, if in this destining the saving power is said to grow. Every destining of revealing comes to pass from out of a granting and as such a granting. For it is granting that first conveys to man that share in revealing which the coming-to-pass of revealing needs. As the one so needed and used, man is given to belong to the coming-to-pass of truth. The granting that sends in one way or another into revealing is as such the saving power. For the saving power lets man see and enter into the highest dignity of his essence. This dignity lies in keeping watch over the unconcealment-and with it, from the first, the concealment-of all coming to presence on this earth. It is precisely in Enframing, which threatens to sweep man away into ordering as the supposed single way of revealing, and so thrusts man into the danger of the surrender of his free essence-it is precisely in this extreme danger that the innermost indestructible belongingness of man within granting may come to light, provided that we, for our part, begin to pay heed to the coming to presence of technology.

Thus the coming to presence of technology harbors in itself what we least suspect, the possible arising of the saving power. Everything, then, depends upon this : that we ponder this arising and that, recollecting, we watch over it. How can this happen? Above all through our catching sight of what comes to presence in technology, instead of merely staring at the technological. So long as we represent technology as an instrument, we remain held fast in the will to master it. We press on past the essence of technology.

When, however, we ask how the instrumental comes to pres­ ence as a kind of causality, then we experience this coming to presence as the destining of a revealing.

When we consider, finally, that the coming to presence of the essence of technology comes to pass in the granting that needs and uses man so that he may share in revealing, then the followng becomes clear: The essence of technology is in a lofty sense ambiguous. Such ambiguity points to the mystery of all revealing, i.e., of truth.

On the one hand, Enframing challenges forth into the frenzied­ ness of ordering that blocks every view into the coming-to-pass of revealing and so radically endangers the relation to the essence of truth.

On the other hand, Enframing comes to pass for its part in the granting that lets man endure-as yet unexperienced, but per­ haps more experienced in the future-that he may be the one who is needed and used for the safekeeping of the coming to presence of truth.:n Thus does the arising of the saving power appear.

The irresistibility of ordering and the restraint of the saving power draw past each other like the paths of two stars in the course of the heavens. But precisely this, their passing by, is the hidden side of their nearness.

When we look into the ambiguous essence of technology, we behold the constellation, the stellar course of the mystery. The question concerning technology is the question concern­ ing the constellation in which revealing and concealing, in which the coming to presence of truth, comes to pass.

But what help is it to us to look into the constellation of truth? We look into the danger and see the growth of the saving power.

Through this we are I).ot yet saved. But we are thereupon sum­ moned to hope in the growing light of the saving power. How can this happen? Here and now and in little things, that we may foster the saving power in its increase. This includes holding always before our eyes the extreme danger.

The coming to presence of technology threatens revealing, threatens it with the possibility that all revealing will be con­ sumed in ordering and that everything will present itself only in the unconcealedness of standing-reserve. Human activity can never directly counter this danger. Human achievement alone can never banish it. But human reflection can ponder the fact that all saving power must be of a higher essence than what is en­ dangered, though at the same time kindred to it.

But might there not perhaps be a more primally granted revealing that could bring the saving power into its first shining forth in the midst of the danger, a revealing that in the technological age rather conceals than shows itself?

There was a time when it was not technology alone that bore the name techne. Once that revealing that brings forth truth into the splendor of radiant appearing also was called techne.

In Greece, at the outset of the destining of the West, the arts soared to the supreme height of the revealing granted them. They brought the presence [Gegenwart] of the gods, brought the dialogue of divine and human destinings, to radiance. And art was simply called techne. It was a single, manifold revealing. It was pious, promos, i.e., yielding to the holding-sway and the safekeeping of truth.

The arts were not derived from the artistic. Art works were not enjoyed aesthetically. Art was not a sector of cultural activity.

What, then, was art-perhaps only for that brief but magnificent time? Why did art bear the modest name techne? Because it was a revealing that brought forth and hither, and therefore belonged within poiesis. It was finally that revealing which holds complete sway in all the fine arts, in poetry, and in everything poetical that obtained poiesis as its proper name.

The same poet from whom we heard the words

But where danger is, grows The saving power also.

says to us :

. . . poetically dwells man upon this earth.

The poetical brings the true into the splendor of what Plato in the Phaedrus calls to ekphanestaton, that which shines forth most purely. The poetical thoroughly pervades every art, every revealing of coming to presence into the beautiful.

Could it be that revealing lays claim to the arts most primally, so that they for their part may expressly foster the growth of the saving power, may awaken and found anew our look into that which grants and our trust in it?

Whether art may be granted this highest possibility of its essence in the midst of the extreme danger, no one can tell. Yet we can be astounded. Before what? Before this other possibility: that the frenziedness of technology may entrench itself every­ where to such an extent that someday, throughout everything technological, the essence of technology may come to presence in the coming-to-pass of truth.

Because the essence of technology is nothing technological, essential reflection upon technology and decisive confrontation with it must happen in a realm that is, on the one hand, akin to the essence of technology and, on the other, fundamentally different from it.

Such a realm is art. But certainly only if reflection on art, for its part, does not shut its eyes to the constellation of truth after which we are questioning.

Thus questioning, we bear witness to the crisis that in our sheer preoccupation with technology we do not yet experience the coming to presence of technology, that in our sheer aesthetic­ mindedness we no longer guard and preserve the coming to presence of art. Yet the more questioningly we ponder the essence of technology, the more mysterious the essence of art becomes.

The closer we come to the danger, the more brightly do the ways into the saving power begin to shine and the more questioning we become. For questioning is the piety of thought.


On the Marionette Theatre

by Heinrich von Kleist

One evening in the winter of 1801 I met an old friend in a public park. He had recently been appointed principal dancer at the local theatre and was enjoying immense popularity with the audiences. I told him I had been surprised to see him more than once at the marionette theatre which had been put up in the market-place to entertain the public with dramatic burlesques interspersed with song and dance. He assured me that the mute gestures of these puppets gave him much satisfaction and told me bluntly that any dancer who wished to perfect his art could learn a lot from them.

From the way he said this I could see it wasn't something which had just come into his mind, so I sat down to question him more closely about his reasons for this remarkable assertion.

He asked me if I hadn't in fact found some of the dance movements of the puppets (and particularly of the smaller ones) very graceful. This I couldn't deny. A group of four peasants dancing the rondo in quick time couldn't have been painted more delicately by Teniers.

I inquired about the mechanism of these figures. I wanted to know how it is possible, without having a maze of strings attached to one's fingers, to move the separate limbs and extremities in the rhythm of the dance. His answer was that I must not imagine each limb as being individually positioned and moved by the operator in the various phases of the dance. Each movement, he told me, has its centre of gravity; it is enough to control this within the puppet. The limbs, which are only pendulums, then follow mechanically of their own accord, without further help. He added that this movement is very simple. When the centre of gravity is moved in a straight line, the limbs describe curves. Often shaken in a purely haphazard way, the puppet falls into a kind of rhythmic movement which resembles dance.

This observation seemed to me to throw some light at last on the enjoyment he said he got from the marionette theatre, but I was far from guessing the inferences he would draw from it later.

I asked him if he thought the operator who controls these puppets should himself be a dancer or at least have some idea of beauty in the dance. He replied that if a job is technically easy it doesn't follow that it can be done entirely without sensitivity. The line the centre of gravity has to follow is indeed very simple, and in most cases, he believed, straight. When it is curved, the law of its curvature seems to be at the least of the first and at the most of the second order. Even in the latter case the line is only elliptical, a form of movement natural to the human body because of the joints, so this hardly demands any great skill from the operator. But, seen from another point of view, this line could be something very mysterious. It is nothing other than the path taken by the soul of the dancer. He doubted if this could be found unless the operator can transpose himself into the centre of gravity of the marionette. In other words, the operator dances.

I said the operator's part in the business had been represented to me as something which can be done entirely without feeling - rather like turning the handle of a barrel-organ.

"Not at all", he said. "In fact, there's a subtle relationship between the movements of his fingers and the movements of the puppets attached to them, something like the relationship between numbers and their logarithms or between asymptote and hyperbola." Yet he did believe this last trace of human volition could be removed from the marionettes and their dance transferred entirely to the realm of mechanical forces, even produced, as I had suggested, by turning a handle.

I told him I was astonished at the attention he was paying to this vulgar species of an art form. It wasn't just that he thought it capable of loftier development; he seemed to be working to this end himself.

He smiled. He said he was confident that, if he could get a craftsman to construct a marionette to the specifications he had in mind, he could perform a dance with it which neither he nor any other skilled dancer of his time, not even Madame Vestris herself, could equal.

"Have you heard", he asked, as I looked down in silence, "of those artificial legs made by English craftsmen for people who have been unfortunate enough to lose their own limbs?"

I said I hadn't. I had never seen anything of this kind.

"I'm sorry to hear that", he said, "because when I tell you these people dance with them, I'm almost afraid you won't believe me. What am I saying... dance? The range of their movements is in fact limited, but those they can perform they execute with a certainty and ease and grace which must astound the thoughtful observer."

I said with a laugh that of course he had now found his man. The craftsman who could make such remarkable limbs could surely build a complete marionette for him, to his specifications.

"And what", I asked, as he was looking down in some perplexity, "are the requirements you think of presenting to the ingenuity of this man?"

"Nothing that isn't to be found in these puppets we see here," he replied: "proportion, flexibility, lightness .... but all to a higher degree. And especially a more natural arrangement of the centres of gravity."

"And what is the advantage your puppets would have over living dancers?"

"The advantage? First of all a negative one, my friend: it would never be guilty of affectation. For affectation is seen, as you know, when the soul, or moving force, appears at some point other than the centre of gravity of the movement. Because the operator controls with his wire or thread only this centre, the attached limbs are just what they should be.� lifeless, pure pendulums, governed only by the law of gravity. This is an excellent quality. You'll look for it in vain in most of our dancers."

"Just look at that girl who dances Daphne", he went on. "Pursued by Apollo, she turns to look at him. At this moment her soul appears to be in the small of her back. As she bends, she look as if she's going to break, like a naiad after the school of Bernini. Or take that young fellow who dances Paris when he's standing among the three goddesses and offering the apple to Venus. His soul is in fact located (and it's a frightful thing to see) in his elbow."

" Misconceptions like this are unavoidable," he said, " now that we've eaten of the tree of knowledge. But Paradise is locked and bolted, and the cherubim stands behind us. We have to go on and make the journey round the world to see if it is perhaps open somewhere at the back."

This made me laugh. Certainly, I thought, the human spirit can't be in error when it is non-existent. I could see that he had more to say, so I begged him to go on.

"In addition", he said, "these puppets have the advantage of being for all practical purposes weightless. They are not afflicted with the inertia of matter, the property most resistant to dance. The force which raises them into the air is greater than the one which draws them to the ground. What would our good Miss G. give to be sixty pounds lighter or to have a weight of this size as a counterbalance when she is performing her entrechats and pirouettes? Puppets need the ground only to glance against lightly, like elves, and through this momentary check to renew the swing of their limbs. We humans must have it to rest on, to recover from the effort of the dance. This moment of rest is clearly no part of the dance. The best we can do is make it as inconspicuous as possible..."

My reply was that, no matter how cleverly he might present his paradoxes, he would never make me believe a mechanical puppet can be more graceful than a living human body. He countered this by saying that, where grace is concerned, it is impossible for man to come anywhere near a puppet. Only a god can equal inanimate matter in this respect. This is the point where the two ends of the circular world meet.

I was absolutely astonished. I didn't know what to say to such extraordinary assertions.

It seemed, he said, as he took a pinch of snuff, that I hadn't read the third chapter of the book of Genesis with sufficient attention. If a man wasn't familiar with that initial period of all human development, it would be difficult to have a fruitful discussion with him about later developments and even more difficult to talk about the ultimate situation.

I told him I was well aware how consciousness can disturb natural grace. A young acquaintance of mine had as it were lost his innocence before my very eyes, and all because of a chance remark. He had never found his way back to that Paradise of innocence, in spite of all conceivable efforts. "But what inferences", I added, "can you draw from that?"

He asked me what incident I had in mind.

"About three years ago", I said, "I was at the baths with a young man who was then remarkably graceful. He was about fifteen, and only faintly could one see the first traces of vanity, a product of the favours shown him by women. It happened that we had recently seen in Paris the figure of the boy pulling a thorn out of his foot. The cast of the statue is well known; you see it in most German collections. My friend looked into a tall mirror just as he was lifting his foot to a stool to dry it, and he was reminded of the statue. He smiled and told me of his discovery. As a matter of fact, I'd noticed it too, at the same moment, but... I don't know if it was to test the quality of his apparent grace or to provide a salutary counter to his vanity... I laughed and said he must be imagining things. He blushed. He lifted his foot a second time, to show me, but the effort was a failure, as anybody could have foreseen. He tried it again a third time, a fourth time, he must have lifted his foot ten times, but it was in vain. He was quite unable to reproduce the same movement. What am I saying? The movements he made were so comical that I was hard put to it not to laugh.

From that day, from that very moment, an extraordinary change came over this boy. He began to spend whole days before the mirror. His attractions slipped away from him, one after the other. An invisible and incomprehensible power seemed to settle like a steel net over the free play of his gestures. A year later nothing remained of the lovely grace which had given pleasure to all who looked at him. I can tell you of a man, still alive, who was a witness to this strange and unfortunate event. He can confirm it, word for word, just as I've described it."

"In this connection", said my friend warmly, "I must tell you another story. You'll easily see how it fits in here. When I was on my way to Russia, I spent some time on the estate of a Baltic nobleman whose sons had a passion for fencing. The elder, in particular, who had just come down from the university, thought he was a bit of an expert. One morning, when I was in his room, he offered me a rapier. I accepted his challenge but, as it turned out, I had the better of him. It made him angry, and this increased his confusion. Nearly every thrust I made found its mark. At last his rapier flew into the corner of the room. As he picked it up he said, half in anger and half in jest, that he had met his master but that there is a master for everyone and everything - and now he proposed to lead me to mine. The brothers laughed loudly at this and shouted: "Come on, down to the shed!" They took me by the hand and led me outside to make the acquaintance of a bear which their father was rearing on the farm.

"I was astounded to see the bear standing upright on his hind legs, his back against the post to which he was chained, his right paw raised ready for battle. He looked me straight in the eye. This was his fighting posture. I wasn't sure if I was dreaming, seeing such an opponent. They urged me to attack. "See if you can hit him!" they shouted. As I had now recovered somewhat from my astonishment I fell on him with my rapier. The bear made a slight movement with his paw and parried my thrust. I feinted, to deceive him. The bear did not move. I attacked again, this time with all the skill I could muster. I know I would certainly have thrust my way through to a human breast, but the bear made a slight movement with his paw and parried my thrust. By now I was almost in the same state as the elder brother had been: the bear's utter seriousness robbed me of my composure. Thrusts and feints followed thick and fast, the sweat poured off me, but in vain. It wasn't merely that he parried my thrusts like the finest fencer in the world; when I feinted to deceive him he made no move at all. No human fencer could equal his perception in this respect. He stood upright, his paw raised ready for battle, his eye fixed on mine as if he could read my soul there, and when my thrusts were not meant seriously he did not move. Do you believe this story?"

"Absolutely", I said with joyful approval. "I'd believe it from a stranger, it's so probable. Why shouldn't I believe it from you?"

"Now, my excellent friend," said my companion, "you are in possession of all you need to follow my argument. We see that in the organic world, as thought grows dimmer and weaker, grace emerges more brilliantly and decisively. But just as a section drawn through two lines suddenly reappears on the other side after passing through infinity, or as the image in a concave mirror turns up again right in front of us after dwindling into the distance, so grace itself returns when knowledge has as it were gone through an infinity. Grace appears most purely in that human form which either has no consciousness or an infinite consciousness. That is, in the puppet or in the god."

"Does that mean", I said in some bewilderment, "that we must eat again of the tree of knowledge in order to return to the state of innocence?"

"Of course", he said, "but that's the final chapter in the history of the world."


D’Alembert’s Dream

by Denis DIderot

BORDEU: All right, then, is there anything new? Is he ill?

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: I’m afraid so. He’s had a very disturbed night.

BORDEU: Has he woken up?


BORDEU: (after going to D’Alembert’s bed and feeling his pulse and skin): It won’t be anything.


BORDEU: Believe me. The pulse is good . . . a little faint . . . the skin is damp . . . his breathing is easy . . .

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Is there nothing we can do for him?

BORDEU: Nothing.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: So much the better. He hates medicines.

BORDEU: So do I. What did he eat for supper?

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: He didn’t want to eat anything. I don’t know where he spent the evening, but he came back concerned about something.

BORDEU: He has a slight fever—it won’t lead to anything.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: As he came back in, he put on his dressing gown and his night cap and threw himself in his armchair, where he dozed off.

BORDEU: Sleep is always beneficial. But it would have been better if he’d been in bed.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: He got angry with Antoine for telling him that—we had to pester him for half an hour to make him get to bed.

BORDEU: That happens to me every day, although my health is good.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: When he was in bed, instead of lying peacefully the way he usually does, for he sleeps like a child, he began to turn, rolling around and waving his arms. He threw off his blankets and started to talk out loud.

BORDEU: What was he talking about? Was it geometry?

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: No. It all sounded delirious. At the start it was a lot of nonsense about vibrating strings and sensitive fibres. It all seemed so foolish to me, but since I’d decided not to leave him during the night and not knowing what to do, I went to a small table at the foot of his bed and started to write down everything I could catch of his dream talk.

BORDEU: Clever thinking on your part. Can we see the result?

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Of course. But I’ll stake my life you’ll not understand any of it.

BORDEU: Perhaps.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Are you ready, doctor?


MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Listen—“A living point . . . No, I’m wrong. Nothing at first, then a living point . . . Another living point attaches itself to this one, and then another—and from these successive conjoinings a single living unity results, for I am certainly a unity. Of that I have no doubt. . . .” (As he was saying this, he was feeling himself all over). “But how is this unity created?” (“My friend,” I said to him, “what does that matter to you? Go to sleep.” He stopped talking. After a moment of silence, he started up again as if he was talking to someone) . . . “All right, philosopher, I can grasp an aggregate, a tissue of small sensitive beings, but an animal . . . a totality, a unified system, on its own, with an awareness of its own unity? That I don’t understand. No, I don’t understand it at all. . . .” Doctor, is there something in that you understand?

BORDEU: Yes, it makes excellent sense.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: You’re really lucky. “Perhaps my difficulties come from a false notion. . . .”

BORDEU: Is this you talking now?

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: No, it’s the dreamer. I’ll keep going . . . He then added, challenging himself, “My friend, D’Alembert, be careful. You’re assuming there is only contiguity where there is continuity . . . Yes . . . He is clever enough to tell me that . . . And how is this continuity formed? That will hardly create a problem for him . . . Just as a drop of mercury fuses itself with another drop of mercury, so a sensitive and living molecule fuses itself with a sensitive and living molecule . . . At first there were two drops—after the contact there is only one . . . Before the assimilation there were two molecules; after the assimilation there is only one . . . The sensitivity becomes common to the common mass . . . And, indeed, why not? . . . In my thinking about the length of an animal fibre, I can distinguish as many parts as I like, but the fibre will remain a continuous, a unity . . . yes . . . a unity. The contact between two homogeneous molecules, perfectly homogeneous, creates the continuity . . . and it’s an example of the most complete union, cohesion, combination, and identity one could imagine . . . Yes, philosopher, if these molecules are elementary and simple . . . but what if they are aggregates, if they are compounds? . . . The combining will still take place no less than before along with the resulting identity and continuity . . . and then the usual action and reaction . . . It’s certain that contact between two living molecules is something completely different from the contiguity of two inert masses . . . Let’s move on, not bother with that . . . One could perhaps take issue with you, but I’m not worried about that . . . I’ve never been one to keep on debating the issue. However, let’s get back to the point. A wire made of very pure gold—that’s one comparison I remember he made to me—a homogeneous network. Between its molecules other molecules interpose themselves and perhaps form another homogeneous network, a tissue of sensitive matter, a contact which absorbs active sensitivity from here and latent sensitivity from there and which passes itself on like a movement, without accounting for the fact, as he has firmly pointed out, that there must be some difference between the contact of two sensitive molecules and the contact of two molecules which have no sensation, and this difference—what can it be? . . . a customary action and reaction . . . and this action and this reaction with a unique character . . . That way everything comes together to produce a sort of unity which exists only in an animal. . . . My goodness, if this is isn’t the truth, it’s really similar to it.” You’re laughing, doctor. Do you find any sense in that?

BORDEU: Yes, a lot.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: So he’s not losing his mind?

BORDEU: Not at all.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: After this preamble, he started to shout, “Mademoiselle de L’Espinasse! Mademoiselle de L’Espinasse!” “What do you want?” “Have you sometimes seen a swarm of bees going out of their hive? . . . The world, or the general mass of matter, is the hive. . . Have you seen them move out to the end of a tree branch to form a long cluster of small winged animals, all hooked to one another by their feet? . . . This cluster is a being, an individual, an animal of some sort . . . But these clusters all have to be similar to each other . . . Yes, if he allowed only one homogenous material. . . . Have you seen them?” “Yes, I’ve seen them.” “You have seen them?” “Yes, my friend, I tell you I have.” “If one of these bees decides somehow to pinch the bee to which it is hanging, what do you think will happen? Tell me.” “I have no idea.” “Tell me, anyway . . . So you don’t know, but the philosopher knows . . . yes, he does. If you ever see him—and you’ll either see him or you won’t, because that’s what he promised—he’ll tell you that the second bee will pinch the one next to it, that in the entire cluster there would be as many sensations aroused as there are small animals, that the totality will get aroused, shift itself, change position and shape, that a noise will arise, small cries, and that someone who had never seen a group like that arrange itself would be tempted to assume it was an animal with five or six hundred heads and a thousand or twelve hundred wings. . . .” Well, doctor?

BORDEU: Good. Do you know that this dream is really beautiful? You did well to write it down.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Are you dreaming as well?

BORDEU: So little that I’d almost commit myself to tell you what follows.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: I’ll challenge you on that.

BORDEU: You challenge me?


BORDEU: And if I get it right?

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: If you get it right I promise you . . . I promise I’ll consider you the greatest fool on earth.

BORDEU: Look at your pages and listen to me. "A man who took this cluster for an animal would be wrong." But, Mademoiselle, I assume he went on talking to you. "Do you wish him to judge more soundly? Do you wish to transform the cluster of bees into a single unique animal? Soften the feet by which they hold themselves together. Change them from the contiguous condition they are in so that they become continuous. Between this new state of the cluster and the earlier one there is certainly a marked difference. And what might this difference be other than that now it is a totality, a unified animal; whereas, before it was only an assembly of animals? . . . All our organs. . . ."


BORDEU: "For anyone who has practised medicine and made a few observations . . ."


BORDEU: What next? ". . . Are only distinct animals which the law of continuity holds together in a general state of sympathy and unity, a single identity."

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: I’m amazed—that’s it, and almost word for word. So now I can confirm for all the world that there is no difference between a doctor who’s awake and a philosopher who’s dreaming.

BORDEU: People suspect that already. It that all?

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: No, no. You’re not there yet. After that nonsense of yours or his, he said to me, “Mademoiselle.” “Yes, my friend.” “Come here . . . closer . . . closer . . . I have something to ask you.” “What is it?” “Take this cluster, the one there—you see it clearly over there—right there. Let’s conduct an experiment.” “What?” “Take your scissors—do they cut well?” “Perfectly.” “Move close to the cluster, but gently, very gently, and cut these bees apart. But be careful not to cut them in the middle of their bodies. Cut right at the place where they are joined together by the feet. Don’t be afraid of anything—you’ll hurt them a little, but you won’t kill them . . . Very good. Your actions are as deft as a fairy’s. . . Do you see how they fly away, each one in a different direction? They fly off one by one, two by two, three by three. How many of them there are! If you’ve understood me well . . . have you understood me well?” “Really well.” Now, assume . . . assume . . .” My word, doctor, I understood so little of what I was writing down. He spoke in such a low voice, and this section of my paper is so scribbled I can’t read it.

BORDEU: I’ll make up for that if you like.


BORDEU: Nothing is easier. Assume that these bees are small, so small that the crude cutting edge of your scissors always misses their organic structures. You keep up your cutting as far as you like without killing one of them, and this totality, made up of imperceptible bees, will be a true polyp which you only destroy by crushing. The difference between the group of bees formed continuously and the group of bees formed contiguously is precisely the difference between normal animals—like us, fish, worms, and snakes—and animal polyps. Moreover, if this whole theory undergoes a few modifications . . . (Mademoiselle de L’Espinasse abruptly jumps up and goes to pull on the bell rope) Gently, gently, Mademoiselle, you’ll wake him up, and he needs his rest.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: I wasn’t thinking of that—my mind is spinning so. (To the servant who enters). Which of you went to the doctor’s house?

SERVANT: It was me, Mademoiselle.


SERVANT: I came back less than an hour ago.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Did you take anything there?

SERVANT: Nothing.


SERVANT: No, none.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: All right, then. You can go . . . I’m astonished. You see, doctor, I suspected one of them had told you about my scribblings.

BORDEU: I assure you there was nothing like that.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Doctor, now that I realize your talent, you’ll be a great help to me in my social life. His dreaming did not stop at that point.

BORDEU: So much the better.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: So you don’t see anything in this to get alarmed about?

BORDEU: Not in the least.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: He went on, “Well then, philosopher, so you have an idea of polyps of all kinds, even human polyps? . . . But nature doesn’t show us any such things.”

BORDEU: He had no knowledge of those two girls joined together at the head, shoulders, back, buttocks, and thighs, who lived fused together like this until the age of twenty-two and who died within a few minutes of each other. He went on to say . . . ?

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Ravings which are only heard in the lunatic asylum. He said, “That’s over or it will happen. And then who knows the state of things in other planets?”

BORDEU: Perhaps we don’t have to go that far.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: “In Jupiter or Saturn, human polyps! The males resolve themselves into males, females into females—that’s an amusing thought . . .” (At that point he began to burst out laughing so hard I was frightened) “Man splitting himself up into an infinity of atomized men which we could keep between sheets of paper like eggs from insects which spin their cocoons, remain for a certain period in the chrysalis state, pierce through their cocoons, and escape as butterflies—a human society formed and an entire region populated by the fragments of a single individual—all that is very pleasant to imagine. . . .” (Then the bursts of laughter started again) “If there’s a place where the human being divides itself into an infinity of human animalcules, people there should be less reluctant to die. It’s so easy to make up for the loss of a person that death should cause little regret.”

BORDEU: This extravagant assumption is almost the real history of all species of animals—those presently existing and those still to come. If man does not divide himself into an infinity of human beings, at least he does divide himself up into an infinity of animalcules, whose changes and future and final organic structure is impossible to predict. Who knows if that is not the breeding ground for a second generation of beings separated from this one by an incomprehensible interval of centuries and successive developments?

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: What are you muttering about in such a low voice, doctor?

BORDEU: Nothing. Nothing at all. It was my turn to dream. Mademoiselle, continue reading.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: “All things well considered, however, I do prefer our method of reproducing,” he added. . . . “Philosopher, you who know about what’s going on out there or elsewhere, tell me about the splitting up of the different parts—doesn’t that produce men of different characters? The brain, heart, chest, feet, hands, testicles . . . O how that simplifies morality! . . . A man born, a woman derived from . . . .” (Doctor, will you allow me to overlook this part?) “A warm room, lined with small container cups, and on each of these cups a label: warriors, magistrates, philosophers, poets, cup of courtiers, cup of prostitutes, cup of kings.”

BORDEU: That’s all very cheerful foolery. That’s what it means to dream—and a vision which leads me to some rather peculiar phenomena.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Then he began to babble something or other about seeds, scraps of flesh minced and placed in water, different races of animals which he saw in succession as they were born and passed away. With his right hand he imitated the tube of a microscope and, with his left, I think, the opening of a vase. He looked into the vase through the tube and said, “Voltaire may make as much fun as he likes about it, but the Eel-monger is right—I believe my eyes, I see them—how many of them there are! How they come and go! How they wriggle around! . . .” The vase where he was looking at so many momentary generations he then compared to the universe. He saw in a drop of water the history of the world. This idea appeared grand to him. He found it entirely compatible with good philosophic practice, which studies large bodies by examining small ones. He said, “In Needham’s drop of water, everything takes place and goes away in the blink of an eye. In the world, the same phenomenon lasts a little longer, but what is our length of time compared to an eternity of time? Less than the drop which I took up on the point of a needle compared to the limitless space which surrounds me. An indefinite succession of animalcules in the fermenting atom, a similar indefinite succession of animalcules in the other atom which we call the Earth. Who knows the races of animals which came before us? Who knows the races of animals which will come after ours? Everything changes, everything passes away. Only the totality remains. The world begins and ends without ceasing. At every instant it is at its beginning and at its end. It has never been anything else and never will be anything else. In this immense ocean of matter, no single molecule resembles any other, and no single molecule resembles itself for more than a moment: Rerum novus nascitur ordo [a new order of things is born]—there’s its eternal slogan.” Then he sighed and added: “O the vanity of our thoughts! O the poverty in glory and in our works! O the wretched smallness of our vision! There’s nothing substantial except drinking, eating, living, loving, and sleeping . . . . Mademoiselle de L’Espinasse, where are you?” “I’m here” Then his face became flushed. I wanted to feel his pulse, but I didn’t know where he had hidden his hand. It looked as though he was going through a convulsion. His mouth was half open, and his breath was forced. He gave a deep sigh, and then a fainter sigh, and then another deeper one. He turned his head on his pillow and went to sleep. I looked at him attentively, and I was very moved without understanding why. My heart was beating—but it wasn’t fear. At the end of a few moments I saw a slight smile cross his lips. He spoke in a low voice, “In a planet where human beings reproduced themselves the way fish do, where the spawn of a man fell upon the spawn of a woman . . . I’d have fewer regrets there . . . We mustn’t lose anything of what could prove useful. Mademoiselle, if that stuff could be collected, enclosed in a flask, and sent at daybreak to Needham. . . .” Now, Doctor, don’t you call all that madness?

BORDEU: In your company I certainly would.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: In my company, far away from me—it’s all one thing, and you don’t know what you are talking about. I’d hoped that the rest of the night would be peaceful.

BORDEU: That’s what usually happens.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Not this time. At around two o’clock in the morning, he came back to his drop of water—he called it a mi . . . a micro . . .

BORDEU: . . . a microcosm.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: That’s the word he used. He was admiring the wisdom of the ancient philosophers. He was saying or putting words into the mouth of his philosopher—I don’t know which of the two, “When Epicurus claimed that the earth contained the germs of everything and that the animal species was a product of fermentation, if he had proposed to show a picture in miniature of what was created on a grand scale at the beginning of time, what could one have said in reply?(3) . . . And you have this very image right before your eyes, but it’s not telling you anything . . . Who knows if the process of fermentation and what it produces have run their course? Who knows what point we’re at in the sequence of these animal generations? Who knows if this deformed biped, only four feet high, which is still called a human being in the regions of the pole and which would quickly lose this name if it grew a little more deformed, is not the image of a species which is passing away? Who knows if things are not the same with all animal species? Who knows if everything isn’t tending to reduce itself to a large, inert, and immobile sediment? Who knows how long this inertia will last? Who knows what new race could result once more from such a huge heap of sensitive and living points? Why not a single animal? What was the elephant at its origin? Perhaps it was the huge animal as it appears to us, perhaps an atom, for both options are equally possible. They only depend upon the movement and various properties of matter . . . The elephant, this enormous structurally organized mass, the sudden product of fermentation! Why not? The size relationship between this large quadruped and its original womb is less that that between the mite and the particle of flour which produced it. But the mite is only a mite . . . That is, its diminutive size which conceals from you its organic structure robs it of its wonder. . . . The amazing thing is life, sensitivity—and this is no longer something amazing . . . Once I have seen inert matter passing into the sensitive state, nothing else should astonish me . . . What a comparison between a small number of fermenting elements set in the palm of my hand and that immense reservoir of different elements scattered in the bowels of the earth, on its surface, in the bosom of the seas, in the expanses of air! . . . However, since the same causes are at work, why have the effects ceased? Why do we not see the bull piercing the earth with his horn any more, his feet pushing against the soil, as he makes an effort to free his heavy body from it? . . . Let the present race of existing animals pass away, and let the large inert sediment do its work for a few million centuries. Perhaps, in order to renew species, it requires ten times longer than the period assigned for their duration. Be careful. Don’t be in a rush to make judgments about the great work of nature. You have two grand phenomena—the passage of an inert state into a sensitive state and spontaneous generations—and that’s enough for you. Draw justified conclusions from them and in an order where there is no large or small, no absolutely durable or temporary. Watch out for the logical fallacy of the ephemeral . . .” Doctor, what is the logical fallacy of the ephemeral?

BORDEU: It occurs when a transitory being believes in the immortality of things.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Like Fontenelle’s rose which said that in the memory of a rose no one had ever seen a gardener die?(4)

BORDEU: Precisely—that’s both deft and profound.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Why don't your philosophers express themselves with the grace of Fontenelle? Then we’d understand them.

BORDEU: To be frank, I don’t know if such a frivolous tone is appropriate for serious subjects.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: What do you call a serious subject?

BORDEU: Well, sensibility in general, the formation of a sentient being, its unity, the origin of animals, how long animal life lasts, and all questions related to these matters.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Well, I call all that so much nonsense, which I’ll admit people dream about when they’re asleep but which a sensible man never concerns himself with when he’s awake.

BORDEU: Please tell me why you think that.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Because some of them are so obvious it’s useless to seek out the reason, and others are so obscure that there’s nothing to see in them, and all are perfectly useless.

BORDEU: Mademoiselle, do you believe that it makes no difference whether you deny or admit there’s a supreme intelligence?


BORDEU: Do you think one can adopt a position on the supreme intelligence without knowing what to believe about the eternal quality of matter and its properties, the difference between the two substances, mind and matter, the nature of man, and the development of animals?


BORDEU: So these questions are not as pointless as you said.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: But how can they be important to me if I don’t know how to clarify them?

BORDEU: And how will you know that if you don’t examine them? But could I ask you which ones you find so obvious that examining them seems superfluous to you?

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Well, for example, the question of my unity, of my “me.” My goodness, it seems to me that so much verbiage is not necessary to know that I am myself, that I’ve always been me, and that I’ll never be someone else.

BORDEU: No doubt the fact is obvious, but the reason for the fact is not at all obvious, especially in the hypothesis of those who only allow one substance and who explain the formation of man or animals in general by the successive accumulation of several sensitive molecules. Each sensitive molecule had its identity (its “me”) before the accumulation, but how did it lose that, and how, from all these lost identities, does one end up with the consciousness of a totality?

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: It seems to me that contact alone is sufficient. Here’s a experiment which I’ve done a hundred times . . . but wait a moment . . . I have to go to see what’s happening behind these curtains . . . he’s sleeping . . . When I put my hand on my thigh, at first I clearly sense that my hand is not my thigh, but after a certain length of time, when the heat is the same in both of them, I don’t make that distinction any more—the limits of the two parts get mixed up, and they are as one.

BORDEU: Yes, until someone pricks one or the other. Then the distinction returns. So there is something in you which knows whether it’s your hand or your thigh which has been pricked, and this something, it’s not your foot, not even your pricked hand. It’s the hand which hurts, but it’s something else that knows it, something which does not itself suffer from the pain.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: But I think that something is my head.

BORDEU: It is your entire head?

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: No. But look, Doctor, I’m going to explain myself with a comparison. Almost all the reasoning of women and poets consists of comparisons. Imagine a spider . . .

D’ALEMBERT: What’s going on there? . . . Is that you, Mademoiselle de L’Espinasse?

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Shhh . . . keep quiet. (Mademoiselle de L’Espinasse and the doctor remain silent for some time. Then Mademoiselle de L’Espinasse speaks in a low voice) I think he’s gone back to sleep.

BORDEU: No—it seems to me I hear something.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: You’re right. Has he resumed his dreaming?

BORDEU: Let’s listen.

D’ALEMBERT: Why am I the way I am? That’s because it was necessary for me to be like this . . . Here, yes, but somewhere else? At the pole? Below the equator? On Saturn? . . . If a distance of a few thousand leagues changes my species, what would a distance of a few thousand earth diameters do? . . . And if everything is a universal flux, as the panorama of the universe demonstrates to me everywhere, what would the changes in a time span of a few million centuries produce here and elsewhere? . . . Who knows what a thinking, feeling being is on Saturn? . . . But is there feeling and thought on Saturn? . . . Why not? . . . Would the sentient and thinking being on Saturn have more senses than I do? . . . If that’s so, ah, how unfortunate for the Saturnian! . . . The more senses, the more needs.

BORDEU: He’s right. The organs produce the needs and, conversely, the needs produce the organs.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Doctor, are you also delirious?

BORDEU: Why not? I’ve seen two stumps become over time two arms.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: You’re not telling the truth.

BORDEU: No I’m not, but when the two arms were missing I’ve seen the two shoulder blades grow longer, move in a pincer motion, and grow into two stumps.


BORDEU: It’s a fact. Imagine a long sequence of generations of people with no arms. Now assume a continuous effort, and you’ll see the two sides of this pincer grow longer, and get longer and longer, cross over one another at the back, return to the front, and perhaps develop digits at their extremities, thus making arms and hands once again. The original structure alters itself or perfects itself according to necessity or habitual functions. We walk and work so little, and we think so much, that I wouldn’t deny the possibility that man might finish up being nothing but a head.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: A head! Just a head! That’s not much. I was hoping that with unrestrained love-making . . . You’re putting all sorts of ridiculous ideas in my head.

BORDEU: Quiet!

D’ALEMBERT: So I am the way I am because I had to be that way. Change the whole and you necessarily change me. But the totality is changing constantly . . . Man is only a common effect; a monster is only a rare effect. Both of them are equally natural, equally necessary, equally part of the universal general order . . . Is there anything astonishing in that? . . . All beings circulate through each other—thus all the species . . . everything is in a perpetual flux . . . Every animal is more or less a human being, every mineral is more or less a plant, every plant is more or less an animal. There is nothing fixed in nature . . . The ribbon of Father Castel . . . Yes, Father Castel, it’s your ribbon and nothing else. Everything is more or less something or other, more or less earth, more or less water, more or less air, more or less fire, more or less of one kingdom or another . . . so there is no essence of any particular being . . . No, there’s no doubt, since there is no quality which any being does not share in . . . and because it’s the greater or smaller ratio of this quality which has made us attribute it to one being to the exclusion of another . . . And you talk about individuals, you poor philosophers! Forget about your individuals. Answer me this: is there an atom in nature which is exactly similar to another atom? No . . . Don’t you agree that everything in nature is linked and it’s impossible that there’s a gap in nature’s chain? Then what do you want to say with your individuals? There are no individuals, no, there are none . . . There is only one great individual—that’s the totality. In this totality, as in a machine, in some animal or other, there is a part which you’ll call this or that, but when you give the name “individual” to this part of the totality, it’s a conceptual error, just as if, in a bird, you gave the name “individual” to a wing, to a feather in the wing . . . And you speak of essences, your poor philosophers! Forget about your essences. Look at the general mass, or if your imagination is too narrow to embrace it all, consider your first origin and your final end . . . O Architas, you who measured the globe, what are you now? A few cinders . . . What is a being? . . . The sum of a certain number of tendencies . . . Can I be anything other than a tendency? . . . No, I’m moving towards an end . . . And what about the species? . . . Species are only tendencies towards a common end appropriate to them . . . And life? . . . Life, a series of actions and reactions . . . When living, I act and react as a mass . . . when dead, I act and react as different molecules . . . So I don’t die? . . . No, undoubtedly I don’t die in that sense, neither I nor anything that is . . . To be born, live, and pass away—that’s changing forms . . . And what’s important about one form or another? Each form has the happiness and unhappiness appropriate to it. From the elephant all the way to the aphid . . . from the aphid all the way to the sensitive and living molecule, the origin of everything, there’s no point in all nature which does not undergo pain or pleasure.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: He’s stopped talking.

BORDEU: Yes. He made a really fine speech. Now that’s lofty philosophy. At this point it’s a theoretical system, but I believe that the more human knowledge progresses, the more it will be confirmed.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: And what about us? Where were we?

BORDEU: To tell you the truth, I don’t remember any more. He reminded me of so many things while I was listening to him.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Wait . . . just a minute . . . I was mentioning my spider.

BORDEU: Yes, yes.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Doctor, come closer. Imagine a spider at the centre of its web. Shake a strand. You’ll see the animal rush up on the alert. All right then. What if the strands which the insect pulls from its intestines and pulls back when it wishes were a sensitive part of itself?

BORDEU: I understand. You are imagining in yourself some part in a corner of your head—for example, in that part we call the meninges—one or several points where all the sensations aroused along the length of strands are brought.


BORDEU: Your idea is as good as one can make it, but don’t you see that it’s almost the same thing as a particular cluster of bees?

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Ah yes, that’s true. I’ve been composing prose without realizing it.

BORDEU: And very good prose, as you’re going to see. Anyone who understands a human being only by the form which he shows us at birth does not have the least idea. His head, feet, hands, all his limbs, all his viscera, all his organs, his nose, eyes, ears, heart, lungs, intestines, muscles, bones, nerves, membranes, properly described, are only the basic developments of a network which is formed, grows, extends itself, and throws out a multitude of imperceptible threads.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: That’s my web, and the starting point of all these threads is my spider.

BORDEU: Precisely.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Where are the strands? Where’s the spider located?

BORDEU: The strands are everywhere. There is no part on the surface of your body where they don’t end up. And the spider is lodged in a part of your head—the one I mentioned to you—the meninges, which we can hardly touch without knocking the entire machine unconscious.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: But if an atom sets one of the strands in the spider’s web vibrating, then the spider is alarmed and disturbed. It flees or runs up. At the centre it is informed about everything which goes on in any point of the immense dwelling it has woven. Why don’t I know what’s going on in mine or in the world, since I am a pack of sensitive points which all impinge on me and since I impinge on everything?

BORDEU: It’s because the impressions grow weaker in proportion to the distance from where they originate.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: If we strike the lightest blow at the end of a long girder and if I place my ear on the other end, I hear the blow. If one end of the girder was touching the earth and the other end was in Sirius, the same effect would be produced. If everything is linked, contiguous—that is, if the girder really existed—why do I not hear what goes on in the immense space which surrounds me, especially if I really open my ears?

BORDEU: And who has told you that you do not hear it more or less? But the distance is so great, the impression so faint, the passage so confused. You are surrounded and deafened by such violent and different sounds. And also between you and Saturn there are only contiguous bodes; whereas, there would need to be continuity.


BORDEU: That’s true, because you would be God. Through your identity with all natural beings you would know everything going on. Through your memory you’d know everything that has been.


BORDEU: You’d form plausible conjectures about the future, but subject to error. It’s precisely as if you were seeking to guess what’s going to happen inside you or at the end of your foot or your hand.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: And who told you that this world doesn’t also have its meninges or that there isn’t a huge or a small spider living in some corner of space with its strands extending out to everything.

BORDEU: No one, still less if it has ever existed or will exist in future.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: How could a God of that sort . . .

BORDEU: The only sort one can conceive of . . .

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: . . . how could He have existed or come into being and pass away?

BORDEU: How indeed? But since He would be made up of matter in the universe, a portion of the universe, subject to change, He’d grow old and die.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: But hold on—another fanciful idea has occurred to me.

BORDEU: I’ll spare you describing it. I know what it is.


BORDEU: You see intelligence unified with very energetic portions of matter and the possibility of all sorts of imaginable wonders. Others have thought the way you do.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: You have guessed my thoughts correctly, but I don’t respect you any more for that. You must be amazingly fond of foolishness.

BORDEU: I agree. But what’s frightening about that idea? There would be an epidemic of good and evil geniuses, the most constant laws of nature would be interrupted by natural agents, it would make our general physics more difficult to grasp, but there would be no miracles.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: In truth, we should be very cautious about what we affirm and what we deny.

BORDEU: Come now, anyone who told you about a phenomenon like that would sound like a great liar. But let’s set aside these imaginary beings, including your spider with its infinite networks. Let’s go back to your network and its formation.


D’ALEMBERT: Mademoiselle, you’re there with someone. Who’s talking out there with you?


D’ALEMBERT: Good morning, doctor. What are you doing here so early in the morning?

BORDEU: You’ll find out. Go to sleep.

D’ALEMBERT: On my word, I need to. I don’t think I’ve spent a night as disturbing as this past one. Don’t leave before I get up.

BORDEU: No, I won’t. Mademoiselle, I’ll wager that since you believed that at twelve years old you were a woman half the size you are now, and at four years old a woman half as small again, at the foetal stage a tiny woman, and in the sex cells of your mother a very small woman, you thought that you’ve always been a woman with the form you have now, so that the successive stages of growth you’ve been through are the only things that have made the entire difference between you at your origin and you as you are now.


BORDEU: However, nothing is more false than this idea. To begin with, you were nothing. At the start you were an imperceptible point formed of the smallest molecules, scattered in the blood and lymph of your father and mother. This point became a slender thread, then a bundle of threads. Up to that point, there wasn’t the least trace of this pleasing shape you have now. Your eyes, these beautiful eyes, didn’t look any more like eyes than the tip of an anemone’s claw looks like an anemone. Each strand of this bundle of threads was changed merely by nutrition and its structure into a particular organ, with the exception those places where strands of the bundle change completely and give rise to an organ. The bundle is purely a system of sensation. If it remained in this form, it would be susceptible to all impressions connected with ere sensibility, like cold, heat, softness, roughness. These successive impressions, different from each other and of varying intensities, perhaps could produce memory in it, awareness of itself, and a very limited reasoning. But this pure and simple sensibility, this sense of touch, diversifies itself in the organs developed from each of these strands of the bundle. One strand forms an ear and gives rise to a type of touching we call noise or sound. Another forms the palate, giving rise to second type of touching we call taste. A third forms the nose and the nasal lining, giving rise to a third type of touching we call smell. A fourth forms an eye and gives rise to a fourth type of touching we call colour.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: But if I’ve understood you correctly, those who deny the possibility of a sixth sense, a true hermaphrodite, are foolish. Who told them that nature could not form a bundle with a unique thread which would give rise to an organ unknown to us?

BORDEU: Or with two strands characteristic of the two sexes? You’re right. It’s a pleasure to talk with you. You not only grasp what people say to you, but you also draw conclusions from that with a justness which astonishes me.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Doctor, you’re encouraging me.

BORDEU: No, on my word—I’m telling you what I think.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: I see well enough the use of some of these strands of the bundle, but what do the others become?

BORDEU: Do you think someone other than yourself has wondered about this question?


BORDEU: Well, you aren’t conceited. The rest of the threads go on to form as many other types of touching as there is variety between the organs and the parts of the body.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: What do we call them? I’ve never heard people talk about that.

BORDEU: They don’t have a name.


BORDEU: Because there are not as many differences among the sensations they arouse as there are between the sensations aroused by the other organs.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: In all seriousness, do you think the foot, hand, thighs, stomach, chest, lungs and heart have their own characteristic sensations?

BORDEU: Yes, I do. If I dared, I’d ask you if among these sensations which we have no name for . . .

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: I see what you mean. No. That is the only one of its type, and that’s a pity. But what reason do you have for this multiplicity of sensations—more painful than pleasant—which it pleases you to bestow on us.

BORDEU: What reason? Well, because we perceive the majority of them. If this infinite diversity of touching did not exist, we’d know that we were experiencing pleasure or pain, but we wouldn’t know what to connect them with. We’d have to have recourse to our vision. That wouldn’t be a matter of sensation any more, but a matter of experience and observation.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: So if I said I have a pain in my finger and if someone asked me why I know the pain is in my finger, I’d have to reply not that I felt it, but that I felt the pain and I saw that my finger was hurt.

BORDEU: That’s it. Come let me give you a kiss.


D’ALEMBERT: Doctor, you are kissing mademoiselle—good for you.

BORDEU: I’ve given the matter a great deal of thought, and it seems to me that the direction and the location of the stimulus would not be sufficient to permit so sudden a judgment of whatever it is at the heart of the bundle.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: I have no idea about that.

BORDEU: Your doubt pleases me. It is so common to assume that natural qualities are acquired habits almost as old as we human beings.


BORDEU: Whatever it is, you see that with a question where it’s a matter of the first formation of an animal, it’s too late to concentrate one’s focus and thoughts on the completely developed animal—we have to go back to its first rudiments. For that you have to strip off your present organic structure and get back to a moment when you were merely a soft substance made up vermicular filaments, without a shape, more analogous to a bulb or a plant root than to an animal.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: If our custom was to go down the street totally naked, I would not be the first or the last to conform. So deal with me as you wish, provided I learn something. You told me that each strand of the bundle formed a particular organ. What proof do you have of this?

BORDEU: In your mind do what nature sometimes does—cut through one of the strands of the bundle, for example, the strand which forms the eyes. What do you think happens?

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Perhaps the animal will have no eyes.

BORDEU: Or it will have only a single one placed in the middle of the forehead.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: It will be a cyclops.

BORDEU: A cyclops.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: So it could be that the cyclops was not a creature out of fables.

BORDEU: Probably not—and I’ll show you one if you like.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Who knows the cause of this change?

BORDEU: The man who dissected this monstrosity and found it had only one optic thread. Now, in your mind do what nature sometimes does. Remove another strand of the bundle, the thread that forms the nose, and the animal will be without a nose. Remove the thread which should form the ear, and the animal will be without ears or will only have one, and the anatomist in his dissection won’t find either the olfactory threads or the auditory threads or will find only one of the latter. If you continue removing strands, the animal will lack a head, feet, hands—its lifespan will be short, but it will have lived.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: And are there any examples of this?

BORDEU: Certainly. And that’s not all. If you double some of these strands in the bundle, the animal will have two heads, four eyes, four ears, three testicles, three feet, four arms, and six fingers on each hand. Mix up the threads of the bundle, and the organs will be displaced: the head will be situated in the middle of the chest, the lungs will be on the left, the heart on the right. Stick two threads together, and the organs will be mixed together—the arms will be stuck on the body, the thighs, limbs, and feet will be fused together, and you’ll have every kind of monstrosity you can imagine.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: But it seems to me that a machine as complex as an animal, a machine which develops from a single point, in an agitated fluid, perhaps in two fluids mixed together randomly—for one hardly knows what one is doing at such times—a machine which develops toward perfection through an infinity of successive developments and whose regular or irregular development depends upon a bundle of thin, delicate, flexible wires, a kind of tangle where the least thread cannot be broken, worn out, displaced, or missing without harmful consequences for the totality—such a machine would get all tied up and confused during its development even more often than the silks on my spinner.

BORDEU: Well, it does suffer much more than we think. There’s not enough dissection done, and our ideas about its development are very far from the truth.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Do we have any noteworthy examples of these original deformities, other than hunchbacks and cripples, in whom we could attribute the misshapen form to some hereditary defect?

BORDEU: There are numberless examples. Very recently a man died of pneumonia in Charité de Paris infirmary. He was a twenty-five-year-old carpenter born at Troyes, called Jean-Bapiste Macé. The inner organs of his chest and abdomen were reversed—his heart was on the right, just as it is on the left in you; his liver was on the left, his stomach, spleen, and pancreas on the right hypochondria; the portal vein to the liver on the left side (corresponding to the position it has when it goes to the liver on the right), the same transposition along the length of the intestinal tract; the kidneys leaning against each other by the lumbar vertebrae, making the shape of a horseshoe. And with all that people go on talking to us about final causes!


BORDEU: Now, if Jean-Baptiste Macé had been married and had had children . . .

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Yes, doctor, what about his children?

BORDEU: They’d have had the usual shape, but because these irregularities make jumps, some child of their offspring, after about a hundred years, would return back to the strange organic arrangements of his ancestor.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Where do these jumps come from?

BORDEU: Who knows? To make a child requires two people, as you know. Perhaps one of these agents fixes the defect in the other and the defective network is not reborn until the moment when the descendant of the family with the monstrosity predominates and determines the formation of the network. The bundle of threads is the basis for the first and original difference in all animal species. The varieties in the bundle for a species create all the monstrous varieties of this species . . . (After a long silence, Mademoiselle de L’Espinasse emerges from her reverie and draws the doctor out of his with the following comments) . . . I’ve just had a ridiculous idea.

BORDEU: What’s that?

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Perhaps man is only a monstrous variety of woman or a woman a monstrous variety of man.

BORDEU: This idea would have come to you a lot sooner if you had known that a woman has all the parts of a man and that the only difference is between a pouch which hangs outside and a pouch that is tucked away inside, that a female foetus looks so like a male foetus that one can make a mistake about them, that the part which gives rise to the error grows smaller in the female foetus as the interior pouch enlarges, but it never diminishes to the point of losing its original shape, and it keeps this shape in miniature, undergoes the same movements, and is also the source of feelings of sexual pleasure. It has its glans and prepuce, and we can see at its tip a point which seems to have been the opening to a urinary canal which is closed off. And in a man, from the anus up to the scrotum, there’s a space called the perineum, and from the scrotum to the tip of the penis, a seam which seems to be a repeat of a sealed up vulva. Also women who have an excessively large clitoris have beards, and eunuchs do not, but their thighs build up, their hips widen, and their knees grow rounder. As they lose the organic structure characteristic of one sex, they seem to revert to the arrangements characteristic of the other. Among Arabs, those who have been castrated by constant horse riding lose their beards, acquire a high-pitched voice, dress in women’s clothes, and sit among them in wagons. They crouch down to urinate and take on the customs and habits of women. . . . But we’ve come a long way from our subject. Let’s get back to our bundle of animated and living filaments.

D’ALEMBERT: I’m believe you’ve been talking about some dirty things with Mademoiselle de L’Espinasse.

BORDEU: When one talks science, it’s necessary to use technical language.

D’ALEMBERT: You’re right. Then the words lose the train of associated ideas which makes them improper. Continue, doctor. So you were saying to Mademoiselle that the womb is nothing other than a scrotum tucked back from the outside to the inside, a movement in which the testicles have been thrown out of the pouch which enclosed them and placed on the right and the left in the body cavity, that the clitoris is a miniature male member, that this virile member in a woman gets increasing small to the extent that the womb or the reversed scrotum enlarges, and that . . .

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Yes, yes. Now stay quiet, and don’t interfere in our business.

BORDEU: You see, Mademoiselle, that with the question of our sensations in general, which are all only various kinds of touching, we have to leave the successive forms which the network takes on and focus our attention on the network alone.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Each strand of this sensitive network can be injured or tickled along its entire length. The pleasure or pain is here or there, in one location or another on one of the long legs of my spider, for I always come back to my spider. It’s the spider which is located at the common origin of all the legs and which establishes that the pain or pleasure is at such and such a place without experiencing the pleasure or pain itself.

BORDEU: It’s this continual, invariable interaction between all impressions and the common origin which constitutes the unity of the animal.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: And it’s the memory of all these successive impressions which creates for each animal the history of its life and of its individuality.

BORDEU: And it’s the memory and the comparison which necessarily come from all these impressions which create thought and reasoning.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Where is this comparison made?

BORDEU: At the centre of the network.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: What about the network itself?

BORDEU: It does not have in its centre any sense unique to it. It cannot see or hear, and it doesn’t suffer. It is produced and fed. It arises from a soft, insensitive, and inert substance which serves as a pad on which it sits, listens, judges, and pronounces.


BORDEU: No. With the lightest impression on the centre of the network it stops responding, and the animal falls into a death-like state. If you make this impression stop, it returns to its functions, and the animal is reborn.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: How do you know that? Has anyone ever made a man die and be born again at will?


MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: And how did that happen?

BORDEU: I’m going to tell you. It’s a strange case. La Peyronie, whom you may have known, was called to visit an invalid who had received a violent blow on the head. The invalid felt his head beating. The surgeon was sure that an abscess had formed on the brain and there wasn’t a moment to lose. He shaved the invalid and opened the skull. The point of his instrument struck the very centre of the abscess. It had pus in it. He drained off the pus and cleaned the abscess with a syringe. When he pushed his injection into the abscess, the invalid closed his eyes, his limbs went immobile and inert, without the least sign of life. When he pulled back on the syringe and relieved the weight and pressure of the injected fluid on the centre of the network, the invalid re-opened his eyes, moved, spoke, felt, was reborn, and came to life.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: That is remarkable. And did this invalid recover?

BORDEU: He did. And when he was cured, he reflected, thought, and reasoned. He had the same intelligence, the same good sense, the same ability to sort things out, with a good portion of his brain gone.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: That judge you referred to in the network is an extraordinary creature.

BORDEU: It sometimes makes mistakes. Its habits tend to make it biased—the way people feel pain in a limb which they don’t have any more. You can mislead it whenever you like: if you cross your fingers one on top of the other and touch a small ball it will declare there are two of them.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: That shows it’s just like all judges in the world and needs experience, without which it will mistake the feeling of ice for that of fire.

BORDEU: It does many other things. It gives an almost infinite volume to an individual or shrinks the individual down almost to a point.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: I don’t understand you.

BORDEU: What is it that establishes a limit to your actual extent, the true sphere of your sensibility?

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: My senses of sight and touch.

BORDEU: During the day, yes, but at night, in the shadows, above all when you’re dreaming about something abstract, or even during the day when your mind is preoccupied.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Nothing. I exist as a point. I almost cease to be something material. I feel only my thought. There is no more sense of place or movement or body or distance or space for me. The universe is annihilated for me, and I am nothing to it.

BORDEU: There you have the final limit to the concentration of your existence, but, in theory, its expansion could have no limits. When the true limit of your sensibility has been passed, whether by moving into yourself, shrinking into yourself, or in extending yourself outwards, we no longer know what that can become.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: You’re right, Doctor. Several times in dreaming it’s seemed to me . . .

BORDEU: And with invalids suffering an attack of gout . . .

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: . . . that I was getting huge . .

BORDEU: . . . their foot seemed to touch the canopy over the bed.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: . . . that my arms and legs were getting infinitely longer and the rest of my body was acquiring a proportional volume, that Enceladus in the fable was nothing but a pigmy, that Amphitrite in Ovid, whose long arms went to make an immense belt around the earth, was nothing but a dwarf in comparison to me, and that I was mounting up into the sky and embracing both hemispheres.

BORDEU: Yes, that’s really good. And I knew a woman in whom the phenomenon worked in reverse.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: What! She got smaller gradually and shrunk into herself?

BORDEU: To the point where she felt herself as tiny as a needle. She saw, heard, reasoned, and judged, and she had a mortal fear of losing herself. She trembled when the smallest objects came near her. She didn’t dare to budge from where she was.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Now, there’s a strange dream—really distressing and inconvenient.

BORDEU: She wasn’t dreaming at all. It was one of those things that happen when the menstrual cycle stops.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Did she remain long with this sense of being a tiny imperceptible woman?

BORDEU: One or two hours, after which she returned in stages to her natural size.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: What is the reason for these odd sensations?

BORDEU: In their natural and calm condition, the threads of the bundle have a certain tension, a tone, and a habitual energy which determines the real or imagined extent of the body. I say real or imagined, because since this tension, this tone, and this energy are variable, so our bodies are not always the same volume.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: And so in physical matters, just as with moral issues, we are subject to thinking ourselves greater than we are?

BORDEU: Cold makes us smaller, heat makes us larger, and an individual of a certain sort can believe all his life that he is smaller or larger than he really is. If it so happens that the mass of the bundle goes through a state of violent irritation, so the threads begin to stand up and the countless multitude of their extremities begin to push themselves out beyond their customary limits, then the head, feet, other limbs, and all the points on the surface of the body will be shifted an immense distance, and the individual will feel himself gigantic. The reverse phenomenon will occur if insensibility, apathy, and inertia take over the extremity of the threads and move gradually towards the centre of the bundle.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: I see that this expansion cannot be measured, and I also see that this insensibility, apathy, and inertia at the end of the threads, this numbness, after progressing some extent could establish itself and end up . . .

BORDEU: Just like what happened to La Condamine. At that point the individual feels as if he has balloons under his feet.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: He exists beyond the limits of his physical sensations, and if he was enveloped in this apathy in every way, to us he’d seem like a small man living within a dead one.

BORDEU: From that you conclude that the animal which was nothing but a point at its origin still doesn’t know if it is, in reality, anything more. But let’s go back.


BORDEU: Where? To La Peyronie’s trepanning. . . . There, I think, you had just what you asked me for, the example of a man who alternated between life and death. But there are better.


BORDEU: The myth of Castor and Pollux come to life—two children in whom the life of one was immediately followed by the death of the other, and the life of the latter immediately followed from the death of the first.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Now that’s a fine story. Did that last a long time?

BORDEU: This existence lasted for two days which they shared equally, going through the different cycles, so that each one had one day of life and one day of death respectively.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: I fear, Doctor, that you’re abusing my credulity somewhat. Take care—if you deceive me once, I won’t believe you anymore.

BORDEU: Do you sometimes read the Gazette de France?

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Never, although it’s a masterpiece by two intelligent men.

BORDEU: See if someone will lend you this month’s September 4 issue, and you’ll see that in Rabastens in the diocese of Albi, two girls were born back to back, joined at their last lumbar vertebrae, their buttocks, and the hypogastric region. They couldn’t hold one of them upright unless the other’s head was down. When they were lying down, they could look at each other. Their thighs were bent between their trunks, and their limbs were raised. In the middle of the common circular line where they were attached in the hypogastric area, one could discern their sex, and between the right thigh of one and the corresponding left thigh of her sister, in a cavity there was a small anus through which meconium came out.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: That’s a really odd case.

BORDEU: They took in milk given to them on a spoon. As I told you, they lived for twelve hours, one losing consciousness as the other came out of unconsciousness, one dead while the other lived. The first blackout of one and the first life for the other was at four hours. The alternating blackouts and returns to life which came afterwards were shorter. They died at the same moment. People noticed that their navels also had an alternating movement outwards and inwards, going in for the one who was unconscious and going out for the one who was returning to life.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: And what are do you say about these alternating periods of life and death?

BORDEU: Perhaps nothing worth much, but since we see everything through the spectacles of our own system and I don’t want to be an exception to the rule, I say that it’s the phenomenon of La Peyronie’s trepanning but doubled in two joined beings. The networks in these two children were so thoroughly mixed together that they acted on and reacted to each other. When the centre of the bundle of one had the upper hand, it took control of the other child’s network, and she immediately blacked out. And when the network of the second child dominated their common system, the situation reversed. In La Peyronie’s trepanning patient, the pressure was directed downward from above by the weight of a fluid; in the twin girls of Rabastens, the pressure came up from below through the tension in a certain number of strands in the network: this hypothesis is supported by the alternating inward and outward movement of their navels—in the one returning to life the navel came out, and in the one dying it went back in.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: There we have an example of two linked souls.

BORDEU: One animal based on the principle of two sensing systems and two areas of consciousness.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: But only having the use of one of them by itself at any given time. Still, who knows what would have happened if this animal had lived?

BORDEU: With the experience of all these moments of life and the most powerful habits one could imagine, what sort of intercommunication would have been established between these two brains?

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Double senses, a double memory, a double imagination, a double ability to focus—one half of a being which observes, reads, meditates, while its other half rests; then this other half takes up the same functions when its companion is weary: the double life of a double being.

BORDEU: That’s possible. And with time nature brings out everything possible, so it will produce some strange compound creation.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: How impoverished we would be in comparison with such a being!

BORDEU: But why? There are already so many uncertainties, contradictions, and foolish things in a simple understanding that I have no idea any more what would happen with a double understanding . . . But it is half past ten, and I hear a patient calling me from the suburbs.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Would he be in any real danger if you did not visit him?

BORDEU: Probably less than if I do visit. If nature can’t do the work without me, then we’ll have a good deal of trouble doing it together, and it’s certain that I’ll not get it done without her.


D’ALEMBERT: Doctor, one word more, and I’ll send you to your patient. Given all the changes I’ve been through in the course of my lifetime, I probably don’t have now a single one of the molecules which I brought into the world when I was born. So how have I retained my identity for other people and for myself?

BORDEU: You told us that while you were dreaming.

D’ALEMBERT: Have I been dreaming?

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: All night long—and it was so much like a delirium I sent someone out to find the doctor this morning.

D’ALEMBERT: All that for the business of the spider’s legs moving on their own, thus keeping the spider alert and making the animal talk. And what did the animal say?

BORDEU: It said that through its memory it retained its identity for others and for itself. And I’d add through the slowness of the changes. If you’d passed in the wink of an eye from youth to decrepitude, you’d have been thrown into this world as if at the first moment of your birth, and you’d have no longer been yourself either to others or to yourself, and other people would not have been themselves for you. All your interconnections would have been destroyed, the whole history of your life would have been jumbled up for me, and all the history of my life would have been jumbled up for you. How could you have known that this man, bent over his stick, with no spark in his eyes, dragging himself along with difficulty, still more strange to himself inside than on the outside, was the same man who yesterday was walking along so lightly, shifting quite heavy loads, who was able to give himself over to the most profound meditations, to the most delicate and the most powerful exercises? You wouldn’t have understood your own works, you wouldn’t have recognized yourself or anyone, and no one would have recognized you. The entire picture of the world would have changed. Remember that there was even less difference between you as a new born and a young person than there would be between you as a young man and you if you suddenly became a decrepit old man. Keep in mind that, although your birth was linked to your youth by a sequence of uninterrupted sensations, the first three years of your existence have never been in the history of your life. So what would the time of your youth have been for you if it had not been linked at all to the moment of your decrepitude? The decrepit D’Alembert would not have the slightest memory of the young D’Alembert.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: In the cluster of bees, there would not have been one who’d had the time to develop a sense of the larger group.

D’ALEMBERT: What are you talking about?

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: I’m saying that the monastic spirit maintains itself because the monastery refurbishes itself gradually. When a new monk enters, he encounters a hundred old men who train him to think and feel as they do. A bee goes away. It is succeeded in the cluster by another who’s soon up to date with what’s going on.

D’ALEMBERT: Come on, what’s all this extravagant talk of yours about monks, bees, clusters, and your monastery.

BORDEU: Not as extravagant as you might think. If there’s only one consciousness in an animal, there are countless wills at work, for each organ has its own.

D’ALEMBERT: Why do you say that?

BORDEU: Well, I meant that the stomach wants food, but the palate does not. The difference between the palate or the stomach and the entire animal is that the animal knows what it wants, but the stomach and the palate have desires without knowing it. The stomach or the palate is to the complete animal almost like the brute beast is to the human being. The bees lose their own consciousness but retain their appetites or desires. The fibre is a simple animal; the human being is a complex animal. But let’s keep that issue for another occasion. To remove from a human being his consciousness of himself doesn’t require sudden decrepitude—a considerably smaller event can do it. A man on the point of death receives the sacraments with a profound piety. He confesses his sins, asks his wife’s forgiveness, kisses his children, summons his friends, speaks to his doctor, gives instructions to his servants, dictates his last wishes, puts his affairs in order—and all that with the soundest judgment, with his intelligence fully engaged. Then, once cured, he convalesces and hasn’t the least idea of what he said or did during his illness. This period of time, sometimes very long, has disappeared from his life. There are even examples of people who have resumed the conversation or the action which the sudden attack of illness interrupted

D’ALEMBERT: I remember that in a public academic exercise, a college pedant, all puffed up with his knowledge, was completely put down, as they say, by a Capucin whom he despised. He—put down completely! And by whom? By a Capucin! And what was the question under discussion? The contingent future—the science moyenne which he had been thinking about all his life! And in what circumstances! In front of a crowded assembly, in front of his own students! There he was, his honour gone. His head worked over these ideas so much that he fell into a lethargic state which took from him all the knowledge he’d acquired.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: But that was a fortunate thing for him.

D’ALEMBERT: I’d say you’re right. He retained his good sense, but he’d forgotten everything. People taught him to speak and read again, and he died just when he was beginning to spell reasonably well. This man was no idiot. It was said he even had a certain eloquence.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Since the doctor has listened to your story, he has to listen to mine, too. A young man about eighteen or twenty years of age, whose name I don’t remember . . .

BORDEU: He was M. de Schullemberg from Winterthur, and he was only fifteen or sixteen.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: This young man suffered a fall in which he received a severe head concussion.

BORDEU: What are you calling a severe concussion? He fell off the top of a barn. His head was smashed in, and he remained unconscious for six weeks.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Whatever happened, do you know what followed this accident? The same as with your pedant. He forgot everything he knew. He was brought back as a very young child. He had a second childhood which lasted a while. He was timid and petty. He amused himself with toys. If he did something wrong and someone told him off, he went to hide in a corner. He asked if he could go to the bathroom for a number one or a number two. They taught him to read and write. But I forgot to tell you that it was necessary to teach him to walk again. He became a man once more—and a clever one, too. He left a work on natural history.

BORDEU: It was a series of engravings, plates to go with Mr. Sulzer’s work on insects, following the system of Linnaeus. I knew about this incident. It happened in the canton of Zurich, in Switzerland, and there are a number of similar examples. If you disturb the centre of the bundle, you change the animal. Apparently the animal has its whole being there, sometimes dominating the various branches and sometimes dominated by them.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: The animal is subject to either despotism or anarchy.

BORDEU: Subject to despotism—that’s a very good expression—the centre of the bundle issues its orders, and all the rest obeys. The animal is master of itself, mentis compos [of sound mind].

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: In a state of anarchy all the threads of the network rise up against their commander and there’s no longer a supreme authority.

BORDEU: Exactly right. In great fits of passion, in delirium, or when danger is imminent, if the master directs all the forces of his subjects towards a single point, the feeblest animal manifests an incredible strength.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: With fits of the vapours, there is a type of anarchy which is peculiar to us women.

BORDEU: It’s the image of a weak administration, where each person arrogates to himself the authority of the master. I know only one way to cure the condition. It’s difficult, but effective: the central part of this sensitive network, the part which makes up its identity, has the ability to be so affected by a powerful motive that it recovers its authority.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: And then what happens?

BORDEU: What happens is that it does, in fact, regain its control, or the animal dies. If I had the time, I’d tell you two remarkable things about that.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: But, Doctor, the time for your visit is past, and your patient isn’t expecting you anymore.

BORDEU: I really shouldn’t come here except when there’s nothing to do, because it’s just impossible to get away.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: All right, so much for your moody outburst. Now what about your stories?

BORDEU: Today you’ll have to content yourself with this one. After her pregnancy, a woman fell into a most frightening condition of vapours—involuntary crying and laughter, asphyxiation, convulsions, swelling in the throat, gloomy silences, piercing cries—everything bad. This lasted for several years. She was passionately in love, and she believed she was seeing her lover, weary of her illness, beginning to grow distant. So she resolved to get better or die. A civil war developed in her, in which sometimes the master was victorious and sometimes the subjects. If the action of the threads in the network happened to be equal to the reaction from their centre, she fell down as if dead. She was taken to her bed, where she remained for whole hours without moving, almost lifeless. At other times, she got off with some lassitude and a general weakness, a wasting away which seemed it might be final. She remained six months in this state of war. The rebellion always began with the threads. She felt it coming on. At the first symptom, she’d get up, run around, devote herself to the most strenuous exercises—climbing up and down stairs, sawing wood, digging up the ground. The organ of her will power at the centre of her network got stronger. She used to say to herself, “Victory or death.” After countless victories and defeats, the chief emerged the master, and the subjects became so submissive that, although this woman went through all sorts of domestic troubles and suffered different illnesses, there was no more trouble with vapours.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: That was good, but I think I’d have done much the same.

BORDEU: That’s because if you were in love, you’d love well, and because you’re strong.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: I understand. One is strong if by habit or by structure the centre of the network dominates the threads. On the other hand, one is weak if that centre is dominated by the threads.

BORDEU: We can derive many other conclusions from that.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: But what about your other story? You can draw your conclusions later.

BORDEU: A young woman had devoted herself to several affairs. One day she made a decision to shut the door on her pleasures. There she was alone and melancholy and suffering from vapours. She had me summoned. I advised her to put on a peasant costume, dig up the ground all day, sleep on straw, and live on stale bread. This style of life did not please her. “So travel,” I told her. She made a tour of Europe and recovered her health on the road.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: That was not what you were going to say. But no matter—let’s move on to your conclusions.

BORDEU: I’d never be able to finish.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: So much the better. Tell me anyway.

BORDEU: I don’t have the energy.


BORDEU: Because at the rate we’re going we’ll just skim over everything and not go into anything in depth.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: What does that matter? We’re not composing anything—we’re having a conversation.

BORDEU: For example, if the centre of this network calls back all the energies into itself, if the whole system, so to speak, moves backwards, as I believe happens in a man who meditates profoundly, in a fanatic who sees the skies open, in a savage who sings in the middle of the flames, in ecstasy, in voluntary or involuntary insanity . . .


BORDEU: Well, then the animal becomes impassive. It’s alive only at a single point. I didn’t see the priest of Calamos whom St. Augustine talks about, the man who used to lose himself to the point of no longer feeling burning coals. And I didn’t see that group savages being tortured on the rack who smiled at their enemies, insulted them, and suggested to them more exquisite torments than those they were being made to suffer. I didn’t see in the gladiatorial circus those gladiators who, as they were dying, remembered the grace and lessons of their gymnasium. But I believe all these cases, because I have seen—and seen with my own eyes—behaviour just as extraordinary as any of those.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Tell me about it, Doctor. I’m like a child—I love marvellous facts, and if they bring honour to the human race, I rarely challenge their credibility.

BORDEU: In the small town of Langres in Champagne, there was a good priest called Le Moni or De Moni, very devout and well versed in the truth of religion. He suffered attacks of a kidney stone, and it was necessary to operate on him. The day was chosen, the surgeon, his assistants, and I go to his house. He receives us with a serene expression. He undresses and lies down on his bed. We want to tie him down, but he refuses. “Just set me in place,” he says, “in a convenient position.” So we do that. Then he requests a large crucifix which was at the foot of the bed. We give it to him. He holds it between his arms and presses his mouth against it. We operate. He remains motionless. No tears or sighs escape him, and he was freed of the stone. He didn’t know it had taken place.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: That’s a fine story. After that, you still doubt that the man whose ribs people broke with rocks saw the heavens open.

BORDEU: Do you know about ear aches?


BORDEU: Lucky for you. It’s the cruellest of all illnesses.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Worse than tooth ache—which unfortunately I do know something about?

BORDEU: There’s no comparison. One of your friends, a philosopher, was tormented by one for two weeks. Then one morning he said to his wife, “I don’t think I’ve enough endurance to get through the whole day. . . .” He thought that his only solution was to trick the pain artificially. Little by little he lost himself in thought about a question of metaphysics or geometry so completely that he forgot about his ear. They served him something to eat, and he dined without noticing his ear ache and reached the hour of his bedtime without suffering anything. The horrible pain did not come back until the tension in his mind stopped, but then it came with an incredible intensity, either because his weariness had irritated the sickness or because his weakness had made him less able to endure it.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: In coming out of that condition, one must be really emotionally drained to the point of exhaustion. That’s what sometimes happens to this man here.

BORDEU: That’s dangerous. He should be careful.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: I’m always telling him that, but he pays no attention.

BORDEU: That how he lives—he cannot control it any more. It will be the death of him.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: That diagnosis makes me fearful.

BORDEU: What does this weariness, this lassitude, prove? That the threads in the network have not remained idle, and there’s been an acute tension towards the common centre in the entire system.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: What if this tendency toward acute tension lasts and becomes habitual?

BORDEU: That creates a spasm in the centre of the network. The animal goes mad—almost beyond any cure.


BORDEU: Well, a spasm in the centre is not like a spasm in one of the strands. The head is perfectly capable of commanding the feet, but the feet cannot command the head. The centre can command one of the strands, but the strand cannot command the centre.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Please explain the difference to me. In fact, why don’t I think throughout my body? That’s a question I should have thought about earlier.

BORDEU: It’s because consciousness has only one location.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Well, there’s a quick answer.

BORDEU: It can be in only one location, at the common centre of all sensations, the place where the memory sits and comparisons are made. Each thread is susceptible only to a certain fixed number of impressions, successive sensations, in isolation and unremembered. The centre is susceptible to everything. It is the registry of sensations. It retains the memory of them or of a sustained sensation, and the animal is led from its first formation to connect itself with this centre, to fix its entire identity there, and to exist in it.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: What if my finger could have a memory?

BORDEU: Your finger would think.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: So what then is memory?

BORDEU: It’s the property of the centre, the specific sense of the centre of the network, just as sight is the property of the eye. And it’s no more astonishing that the eye has no memory than that the ear has no sense of sight.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Doctor, you’re evading my questions rather than dealing with them properly.

BORDEU: I’m not evading anything. I’m telling you what I know, and I would know more if I understood as much about the structure of the centre of the network as I do about the structure of its threads and if I’d had the same ability to observe it. But if I’m weak on certain specifics, I’m very strong on general phenomena.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: And these general phenomena are?

BORDEU: Reason, judgment, imagination, madness, imbecility, ferocity, instinct.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: I understand. All these qualities are only consequences of the original or habitually acquired relationship between the centre of the network and its branches.

BORDEU: Exactly. Is the principal part or trunk too vigorous in relation to the branches? That’s how we get poets, artists, people with imagination, timid people, zealots, and fools. If it’s too feeble? That gives us what we call brutes, ferocious animals. If the total system is lax and soft, without energy? That’s how we get imbeciles. And if the whole system is energetic, harmonious, and well ordered? Well, then we get the good thinkers, philosophers, and wise men.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: And depending on the all-powerful branch which dominates we get the different instincts in animals and the various special abilities in human beings—the sense of smell in dogs, the sense of hearing in fish, the sense of sight in the eagle, the talent for mathematics in D’Alembert, for mechanical things in Vaucanson, for music in Gretry, poetry in Voltaire, the different effects of one strand in the network being more energetic in them than any other and than similar strands in beings of their species.

BORDEU: And from habits which take control, as in the old man who loves women and Voltaire who still writes tragedies. (At this point the doctor begins to daydream. Mademoiselle de L’Espinasse speaks to him).

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: You’re dreaming, doctor.

BORDEU: That’s right.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: What are you dreaming about?

BORDEU: About Voltaire.


BORDEU: I was reflecting on the way great men are made.


BORDEU: How? Well, sensitivity . . . .


BORDEU: . . . or the extreme mobility of certain threads in the network is a dominant quality in mediocre creatures.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Ah, doctor, that’s blasphemy!

BORDEU: I was expecting that reaction. But what is a sensitive being? A creature who’s a slave to the wishes of his diaphragm. If a touching word strikes his ear or a remarkable sight strikes his eye, there he is all of a sudden caught up in an inner tumult. All the threads of his bundle are set in motion, a tremor runs through him, he’s seized with horror, tears run down, sighs suffocate him, his voice breaks—the centre of the network has no idea what’s going on. He has lost his composure, reason, judgment—all his resources.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: That’s a description of me.

BORDEU: The great man who has the misfortune to receive this disposition from nature will spend all this time trying to weaken and dominate it, to make himself the master of his movements and to see that the centre of the network maintains all its imperial power. Then he’ll retain his self-control in the midst of the greatest dangers, and he’ll judge dispassionately but soundly. Nothing which can serve his point of view or contribute to his goal will escape him. People will have difficulty taking him by surprise. By the time he’s forty-five years old, he’ll be a great king, a great minister, a great politician, a great artist, above all a great actor, a great philosopher, a great poet, a great musician, a great doctor. He’ll rule himself and everything around him. He’ll have no fear of death, a fear which, as the Stoic philosopher has so sublimely stated, is a noose which the robust man seizes to lead the weak man wherever he wishes. He will have broken that noose and at the same time have freed himself from all the tyrannies of this world. Sensitive creatures or fools are on the stage, but he is in the orchestra seats. He’s the wise man.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: God preserve me from the company of such a wise man!

BORDEU: But because you haven’t worked to be like him you’ll go through an alternating series of acute pains and pleasures; you’ll spend your life laughing and crying and will never be anything but a child.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: I’ve resigned myself to that.

BORDEU: Are you hoping that will make you happier.


BORDEU: Mademoiselle, this quality of sensitivity, which people prize so highl,y never leads to anything great. It hardly ever manifests itself strongly without pain or weakly without boredom. One is either intoxicated or yawning. You surrender yourself without restraint to the sweet sensation of delicious music, or you let yourself be drawn in by the charm of a scene full of pathos. Your diaphragm is squeezed, the pleasure is past, and you’ve nothing left but a breathlessness which lasts all evening.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: But what if I can enjoy sublime music and a stirring scene only on this condition.

BORDEU: That’s a mistake. I also know how to enjoy or admire something, and I never suffer, unless from colic. I experience pure pleasure. That makes my criticisms much more stringent and my praise more gratifying and thoughtful. Is there such a thing as a bad tragedy for spirits as mobile as yours? How many times, as you read the work over, have you blushed at the emotional feelings you experienced in the theatre and vice versa?

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Yes, that’s happened to me.

BORDEU: So it’s not appropriate for a sensitive being like you but rather for a tranquil and cool being like myself to say "This is true," "This is good, and "This is beautiful." . . . Let’s strengthen the centre of the network. That’s the best thing we can do. Do you know our life depends on that?

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Our lives, Doctor! This is serious.

BORDEU: Yes, our lives. There’s no one who hasn’t at some time felt depressed. A single event is enough to bring on this involuntary and habitual feeling. And then, in spite of distractions, a variety of amusements, advice from friends, and one’s own efforts, the threads stubbornly carry the gloomy impulses to the centre of the network. It’s no good for the poor man to struggle—the spectacle of the universe keeps getting darker for him. He moves along with a cortege of mournful ideas which never leave him, and he finishes by killing himself.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Doctor, you make me afraid.

D’ALEMBERT: (getting up, clothed in a dressing gown and a night cap) What about sleep, doctor? What do you say about that? It’s something beneficial.

BORDEU: Sleep is the state where, whether through exhaustion or habit, the whole network relaxes and stays motionless. Then, as in sickness, each thread of the network is stimulated, moves, and transmits to the common centre a crowd of sensations which are often disparate, disjointed, and troubled. At other times they are so linked, so sequential, so well organized that the man would not have more reason or eloquence or imagination if he were awake. Then sometimes they are so violent and vivid, that the man, once awake, remains uncertain about the reality of things.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Well then, what is sleep?

BORDEU: It’s a state in the animal where it is no longer a harmonious whole. All coordination and subordination stops. The master is left to the discretion of his servants and to the unbridled energy of his own activity. Is the optic thread stimulated? The centre of the network sees. And it hears if the auditory thread prompts it. Actions and reactions are the only things which remain between them. It’s a consequence of the characteristics of the centre, of the law of continuity and of habit. If the action begins with the thread for sexual pleasure, the one which nature has fixed for erotic love and the propagation of the species, the effect of the reaction at the centre of the network will be the reawakened image of the loved one. But if, by contrast, this image is aroused first at the centre of the network the reaction will lead to tension in the thread for sexual pleasure, erection, and then ejaculation of seminal fluid.

D’ALEMBERT: And so there’s a dream as we rise and a dream as we go down. I had one of the former last night, but I don’t know where it went.

BORDEU: While we’re awake, the network obeys the impressions of external objects. In sleep, it’s the exercise of its own sensibility which gives rise to everything that takes place in it. There’s no distraction in a dream—that’s why it’s so life like. It’s almost always the result of some abnormal excitement, a temporary fit of illness. The centre of the network is alternately active and passive in an infinity of ways. That’s where its disorder arises. Its concepts are sometimes as linked and distinct as in the animal confronting a natural spectacle. It’s only the portrait of this spectacle reawakened. And indeed that’s why it seems true and why it’s impossible to distinguish it from the state of being awake. There’s no probability that it’s more one of these states than the other, no way of recognizing the mistake, other than experience.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Is experience always able to do that?


MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: If a dream presents me with the picture of a friend whom I’ve lost and gives him to me as truly as if this friend were alive, if he speaks to me and I hear him, if I touch him and my hands get the impression of solidity from him, and if, when I wake up, my soul is full of tenderness and sorrow and my eyes full of tears and my arms are still stretched out towards the place where he appeared to me, what will convince me that I haven’t really seen, heard, and touched him?

BORDEU: His absence. But if it is impossible to distinguish being awake from being asleep, who can appreciate how long sleep lasts? When it’s peaceful, it’s an unconscious interval between the moment of going to bed and the moment of getting up. When it’s disturbed, it sometimes lasts for years. In the first case, at least, consciousness of self completely ceases. Can you give me a dream which no one has ever had and no one ever will have?

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Yes—that one is someone else.

D’ALEMBERT: And in the second case, we not only have consciousness of ourselves but even of our will and liberty. What is this will, what is this freedom of the man who’s dreaming?

BORDEU: What is it? It’s the same as it is in the man who’s awake—the last impression of desire or aversion, the final result of everything which one has been since birth right up to the moment where one is. And I defy the most nimble mind to notice the least difference between them.

D’ALEMBERT: You think so?

BORDEU: What a question, coming from you! You who, delivered over to profound speculations, have passed two-thirds of your life dreaming with your eyes open and acting without willing—yes, without willing, much less willing than in your dreams. In your dreams you commanded, gave orders, people obeyed you. You were unhappy or satisfied, experienced contradictions, encountered obstacles, got annoyed, loved, hated, blamed, approved, laughed, cried, came, and went. In the course of your meditations, your eyes were hardly open in the morning before you were caught up once more with the idea which had occupied you the previous day. You got dressed, sat at your table, meditated, drew diagrams, carried out calculations, dined, took up your calculations again, sometimes leaving your desk to confirm them. You talked to others, gave orders to your servants, dined, went to bed, and then to sleep without having done the least willed act. You were nothing but a point—you acted, but you didn’t will. Does one have a will all by oneself? The will is always born from some interior or exterior motive, some present impression, some reminiscence of the past, some passion, some future project. After that I’ll say only one word to you about liberty—it’s the fact that the last of our actions is the necessary effect of a single cause—ourselves—a very complex cause, but a single one.


BORDEU: Undoubtedly. Try to imagine the production of a different action, assuming that the person acting is the same.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: He’s right. Since I act in this way, anyone who could act different is no longer me. And to assume that at the moment when I do or say something, I could say or do something different from that is to assume that I am myself and I am someone else. But, Doctor, what about vice and virtue? Virtue, such a holy word in all languages, such a sacred idea among all nations!

BORDEU: It’s necessary to transform it into the idea of doing good and its opposite, doing harm. People are born fortunate or unfortunate and are imperceptibly led along by the general torrent which leads one to glory and the other to ignominy.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: And what about self-esteem, shame, and remorse?

BORDEU: Puerile ideas based upon ignorance and vanity in a creature who credits himself with the merit or demerit which comes from an inevitable moment.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: And rewards and punishments?

BORDEU: Those are means to correct a modifiable creature we call bad and to encourage those we call good.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: In all this doctrine isn’t there something dangerous?

BORDEU: Is it true or false?


BORDEU: So you’re saying you think that lies have their advantages and truth its disadvantages.


BORDEU: So do I. But the advantages of a lie are temporary and those of the truth are eternal. The detrimental consequences of the truth, when it has any, quickly pass, and those of lies don’t end until the lie does. Examine the effects of a lie in a man’s head and its effect on his conduct: in his mind the lie is more or less confused with the truth and his head has trouble reasoning, or else he’s happy to incorporate the lie and his mind is simply mistaken. Now, what behaviour can you expect from a mind which is either inconsistent in its reasoning or logically consistent in its errors?

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: The second of these vices may be less contemptible than the first, but is perhaps more to be feared than the first.

D’ALEMBERT: Excellent. See how everything comes back to sensitivity, memory, and organic movements. That suits me fine. But imagination, abstractions?

BORDEU: Imagination . . .

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: One moment, doctor, let’s summarize. According to your principles, it seems to me that by a sequence of purely mechanical operations, I could reduce the finest genius in the world to a mass of unorganized flesh to which we would not ascribe anything but sensitivity at a particular moment, and then we could bring back this unformed mass from a state of the most profound stupidity one could imagine to the condition of a man of genius. The first of these two phenomena would consist of mutilating a certain number of threads in the primitive tangle and really mixing the other ones up. The reverse phenomenon would require us to restore to the tangle the threads we had detached and to leave the whole thing to develop properly. For example, if I remove from Newton the two auditory threads, he has no more sense of sound, the olfactory threads, no more sense of smell, the optic threads, no more sense of colour, the threads of the palate, no more sense of taste—if I cut out or mix up the others, then farewell to the organic structure of the brain, farewell memory, judgement, desires, aversions, passions, willing, consciousness of the self, and lo and behold there is an unformed mass which retains nothing but life and sensitivity.

BORDEU: Two almost identical qualities. Life is the aggregate, and sensitivity is among the elements.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: I take this mass again, I restore its olfactory threads, and its nose starts to work, the auditory threads and it hears, the optic threads and it sees, the palate threads, and it tastes. By straightening out the rest of the tangle, I permit the other strands to develop, and I see memory, comparison, judgment, reason, desires, aversions, passions, natural aptitude, and talent reborn. I recover my man of genius and all that without the intervention of any heterogeneous unintelligible agent.

BORDEU: That’s exactly it. Stick to that. The rest is nothing but nonsense. But what about abstractions and the imagination? The imagination is the memory of forms and colours. The spectacle of a scene or an object necessarily sets up the sensing instrument in a certain manner. It either winds itself up on its own or is wound up by some foreign cause. Then it quivers inside or it makes some external sound. It either records in silence the impressions which it has received or it makes them burst out in conventional sounds.

D’ALEMBERT: But its account exaggerates, omits circumstances, adds things, distorts the facts or embellishes them, and the sensing instruments nearby imagine impressions which are really those of the resonating instrument and not those from event which has taken place.

BORDEU: That’s true. The account can be historical or poetical.

D’ALEMBERT: But how is this poetry or falsehood introduced into the account?

BORDEU: By ideas which arouse each other, and they do so because they have always been linked. If you’ve taken the liberty of comparing an animal to a harpsichord, you’ll allow me to compare a poetry recital to a song.

D’ALEMBERT: That’s fair.

BORDEU: In every tune there is a scale. This scale has its intervals, each of its strings has its harmonics, and these harmonics have their own harmonics. In this way, modulations are introduced into passages of the melody, and the music is embellished and extended. The musical event is an established theme which each musician responds to in his own way.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: But why complicate the question with this metaphorical style? I would say that since everyone has his own eyes, he sees differently and gives a different account. I’d say that each idea awakens others in a person and that, according to how his mind works or his character, a person either holds to ideas which represent the facts rigorously or else he introduces into them other ideas which have been aroused. I’d say that there’s a choice to be made among these ideas. I’d say . . . well, that this subject alone, if we dealt with it thoroughly, would fill a book.

D’ALEMBERT: You’re right. But that won’t prevent me from asking the doctor if he is really persuaded that some shape which didn’t look like anything could ever be produced in the imagination, a shape which would not be produced in a story.

BORDEU: I think that’s possible. Every delirium of this faculty is basically like the talent of those charlatans who cut up several animals and then make up a strange one from the pieces, something we’ve never seen in nature.

D’ALEMBERT: What about abstractions?

BORDEU: There aren’t any. There are only habitual omissions, ellipses which make propositions more general and language faster and more convenient. They are the linguistic signs which have given birth to the abstract sciences. A quality common to several actions gave rise to the words vice and virtue, a quality common to several beings gave rise to the words ugliness and beauty. People said one man, one horse, two animals, and then later they said one, two, three, and the whole science of numbers was born. We have no mental image of an abstract word. We have observed in all three-dimensional bodies length, width, and depth. We have busied ourselves with each of these dimensions, and from that we have derived all the mathematical sciences. All abstraction is nothing but a sign empty of an idea. All abstract science is only a combination of signs. We have excluded the mental image once we separated the sign from the physical object, and it’s only by re-attaching the sign to the physical object that science becomes once again a science of ideas. That’s where the need arises—so frequent in conversation and our written works—of dealing with examples. When, after a long combination of signs, you ask for an example, you are only asking the person talking to give body, form, reality, and some idea to the series of his verbal noises by linking them to some established sensations.

D’ALEMBERT: Is that clear enough for you, Mademoiselle?

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Not all that much, but the doctor is going to explain himself.

BORDEU: It pleases you to say that. It’s not that there isn’t perhaps something to correct and plenty to add to what I’ve said, but it’s half past eleven, and I have an appointment in the Marais at noon.

D’ALEMBERT: A faster and more convenient language! Doctor, do we understand ourselves? Are we understood?

BORDEU: Almost all conversations are settled accounts . . . I don’t know where my cane is any more . . . We have no idea present in our minds . . . And my hat . . . And for this sole reason—no man is perfectly like another one. We never understand exactly. We are never exactly understood. With everything it’s a matter of more or less. Our speech always falls short of a sensation or goes beyond it. We clearly see the diversity in judgments, and there is a thousand times more we do not see and which fortunately we cannot see. Good bye, good bye . . .

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: One word more, please.

BORDEU: Speak quickly then.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: You remember those jumps you spoke to me about?


MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Do you think that idiots and intelligent men have jumps like that in their ancestry?

BORDEU: Why not?

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: So much the better for our grandchildren. Perhaps another Henry IV will reappear.

BORDEU: Perhaps he’s already come back.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: Doctor, you’ll come dine with us.

BORDEU: I’ll do what I can. I’m not promising. If I can come, you’ll be seeing me.

MADEMOISELLE DE L’ESPINASSE: We’ll wait for you until two o’clock.

BORDEU: Agreed.


Exmplanation of Binary Arithmetic

by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

The ordinary reckoning of arithmetic is done according to the progression of tens. Ten characters are used, which are 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, which signify zero, one, and the successive numbers up to nine inclusively. And then, when reaching ten, one starts again, writing ten by "10", ten times ten, or a hundred, by "100", ten times a hundred, or a thousand, by "1000", ten times a thousand by "10000", and so on.

0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 ║ 0
0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 1 ║ 1
0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 1 | 0 ║ 2
0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 1 | 1 ║ 3
0 | 0 | 0 | 1 | 0 | 0 ║ 4
0 | 0 | 0 | 1 | 0 | 0 ║ 5
0 | 0 | 0 | 1 | 1 | 0 ║ 6
0 | 0 | 0 | 1 | 1 | 1 ║ 7
0 | 0 | 1 | 0 | 0 | 0 ║ 8
0 | 0 | 1 | 0 | 0 | 1 ║ 9
0 | 0 | 1 | 0 | 1 | 0 ║ 10
0 | 0 | 1 | 0 | 1 | 1 ║ 11
0 | 0 | 1 | 1 | 0 | 0 ║ 12
0 | 0 | 1 | 1 | 0 | 1 ║ 13
0 | 0 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 0 ║ 14
0 | 0 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 ║ 15
0 | 1 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 ║ 16
0 | 1 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 1 ║ 17
0 | 1 | 0 | 0 | 1 | 0 ║ 18
0 | 1 | 0 | 0 | 1 | 1 ║ 19
0 | 1 | 0 | 1 | 0 | 0 ║ 20
0 | 1 | 0 | 1 | 0 | 1 ║ 21
0 | 1 | 0 | 1 | 1 | 0 ║ 22
0 | 1 | 0 | 1 | 1 | 1 ║ 23
0 | 1 | 1 | 0 | 0 | 0 ║ 24
0 | 1 | 1 | 0 | 0 | 1 ║ 25
0 | 1 | 1 | 0 | 1 | 0 ║ 26
0 | 1 | 1 | 0 | 1 | 1 ║ 27
0 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 0 | 0 ║ 28
0 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 0 | 1 ║ 29
0 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 0 ║ 30
0 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 ║ 31
1 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 1 ║ 32

But instead of the progression of tens, I have for many years used the simplest progression of all, which proceeds by twos, having found that it is useful for the perfection of the science of numbers. Thus I use no other characters in it bar 0 and 1, and when reaching two, I start again. This is why two is here expressed by "10", and two times two, or four, by "100", two times four, or eight, by "1000", two times eight, or sixteen, by "10000", and so on. Here is the Table of Numbers of this way, which may be extended as far as is desired.

Here, one glance makes evident the reason for a celebrated property of the geometric progression by twos in whole numbers, which holds that if one has only one of these numbers for each degree, one can compose from them all the other whole numbers below the double of the highest degree. Geometric progression For here, it is as if one said, for example, that 111, or 7, is the sum of four, two, and one, and that 1101, or 13, is the sum of eight, four, and one. This property enables assayers to weigh all sorts of masses with few weights and could serve in coinage to give several values with few coins.



Establishing this expression of numbers enables us to very easily make all sorts of operations.

For addition for example ☽




For subtraction




For multiplication ☉

    11 ║

   101 ║

  101  ║ 

For division

   101 ║5

And all these operations are so easy that there would never be any need to guess or try out anything, as has to be done in ordinary division. There would no longer be any need to learn anything by heart, as has to be done in ordinary reckoning, where one has to know, for example, that 6 and 7 taken together make 13, and that 5 multiplied by 3 gives 15, in accordance with the Table of one times one is one, which is called Pythagorean. But here, all of that is found and proved from the source, as is clear in the preceding examples under the signs ☽ and ☉.

However I am not in any way recommending this way of counting in order to introduce it in place of the ordinary practice of counting by ten. For, aside from the fact that we are accustomed to this, we have no need to learn what we have already learned by heart. The practice of counting by ten is shorter and the numbers not as long. And if we were accustomed to proceed by twelves or sixteens, there would be even more of an advantage. But reckoning by twos, that is, by 0 and 1, as compensation for its length, is the most fundamental way of reckoning for science, and offers up new discoveries, which are then found to be useful, even for the practice of numbers and especially for geometry. The reason for this is that, as numbers are reduced to the simplest principles, like 0 and 1, a wonderful order is apparent throughout. For example, in the Table of Numbers itself, it is clear in each column that it is ruled by cycles which always begin over again. In the first column this is 01, in the second 0011, in the third 00001111, in the fourth 0000000011111111, and so on. And little zeros have been put into the table to fill the gap at the beginning of the column, and to emphasize these cycles better. Also, lines have been drawn within the table, which show that what is contained within the lines always occurs again underneath them. And it even turns out that square numbers, cubic numbers, and other powers, likewise triangular numbers, pyramidal numbers, and other figure numbers, have similar cycles, so that tables of them can be written immediately, without any calculation. And this one drawn-out task in the beginning, which then gives the means to make reckoning economical and to proceed to infinity by rule, is infinitely advantageous.

What is amazing in this reckoning is that this arithmetic by 0 and 1 is found to contain the mystery of the lines of an ancient King and philosopher named Fuxi, who is believed to have lived more than 4000 years ago, and whom the Chinese regard as the founder of their empire and their sciences. There are several linear figures attributed to him, all of which come back to this arithmetic, but it is sufficient to give here the Figure of the Eight Cova, as it is called, which is said to be fundamental, and to join to them the explanation which is obvious, provided that one notices, firstly, that a whole line — means unity, or 1, and secondly, that a broken line -- means zero, or 0.

¦¦¦ | 000 | 0   ║ 0
¦¦| | 001 | 1   ║ 1
¦|¦ | 010 | 10  ║ 2
¦|| | 011 | 10  ║ 3
|¦¦ | 100 | 100 ║ 4
|¦| | 101 | 101 ║ 5
||| | 110 | 110 ║ 6
||| | 111 | 111 ║ 7

The Chinese lost the meaning of the Cova or Lineations of Fuxi, perhaps more than a thousand years ago, and they have written commentaries on the subject in which they have sought I know not what far out meanings, so that their true explanation now has to come from Europeans. Here is how: It was scarcely more than two years ago that I sent to Reverend Father Bouvet,3 the celebrated French Jesuit who lives in Peking, my method of counting by 0 and 1, and nothing more was required to make him recognize that this was the key to the figures of Fuxi. Writing to me on 14 November 1701, he sent me this philosophical prince's grand figure, which goes up to 64, and leaves no further room to doubt the truth of our interpretation, such that it can be said that this Father has deciphered the enigma of Fuxi, with the help of what I had communicated to him. And as these figures are perhaps the most ancient monument of science which exists in the world, this restitution of their meaning, after such a great interval of time, will seem all the more curious.

The agreement between the figures of Fuxi and my Table of Numbers is more obvious when the initial zeros are provided in the Table; they seem superfluous, but they are useful to better show the cycles of the column, just as I have provided them in effect with little rings, to distinguish them from the necessary zeros. And this agreement leaves me with a high opinion of the depth of Fuxi's meditations, since what seems easy to us now was not so at all in those far-off times. The binary or dyadic arithmetic is, in effect, very easy today, with little thought required, since it is greatly assisted by our way of counting, from which, it seems, only the excess is removed. But this ordinary arithmetic by tens does not seem very old, and at least the Greeks and the Romans were ignorant of it, and were deprived of its advantages. It seems that Europe owes its introduction to Gerbert, who became Pope under the name of Sylvester II, who got it from the Moors of Spain.

Now, as it is believed in China that Fuxi is even the author of Chinese characters, although they were greatly altered in subsequent times, his essay on arithmetic leads us to conclude that something considerable might even be found in these characters with regard to numbers and ideas, if one could discover the foundation of Chinese writing, all the more since it is believed in China that he had consideration for numbers when establishing them. Reverend Father Bouvet is strongly inclined to push this point, and very capable of succeeding in it in various ways. However, I do not know if there was ever an advantage in this Chinese writing similar to the one that there necessarily has to be in the Characteristic I project, which is that every reasoning derivable from notions could be derived from these notions' characters by a way of reckoning, which would be one of the more important means of assisting the human mind.


On the Infinite Universe and Worlds

by Giordano Bruno

Philotheo: The whole universe then is one, the heaven, the immensity of embosoming space, the universal envelope, the ethereal region through which the whole hath course and motion. Innumerable celestial bodies, stars, globes, suns and earths may be sensibly perceived therein by us and an infinite number of them may be inferred by our own reason. The universe, immense and infinite, is the complex of this [vast] space and of all the bodies contained therein.

Elpino: So that there are no spheres with concave and convex surfaces nor deferent orbs; but all is one field, one universal envelope.

Philotheo: So it is.

Elpino: The opinion of diverse heavens hath then been caused by diverse motions of the stars and by the appearance of a sky filled with stars revolving around the earth; nor can these luminaries by any means be seen to recede one from another; but, maintaining always the same distance and relation one to another, and a certain course, they [appear to] revolve around the earth, even as a wheel on which are nailed innumerable mirrors revolveth around his own axis. Thus it is considered obvious from the evidence of our eyes that these luminaries have no motion of their own; nor can they wander as birds through the air; but they move only by the revolution of the orbs to which they are fixed, whose motion is effected by the divine pulse of some [supreme] intelligence.

Theophilo: Such is the common opinion. But once the motion is understood of our own mundane star which is fixed to no orb, but impelled by her own intrinsic principle, soul and nature, taketh her course around the sun through the vastness of universal space, and spinneth around her own centre, then this opinion will be dispelled. Then will be opened the gate of understanding of the true principles of nature, and we shall be enabled to advance with great strides along the path of truth which hath been hidden by the veil of sordid and bestial illusions and hath remained secret until to-day, through the injury of time and the vicissitudes of things, ever since there succeeded to the daylight of the ancient sages the murky night of the foolhardy sophists.

Naught standeth still, but all things swift and whirl
As far as in heaven and beneath is seen.
All things move, now up, now down,
Whether on a long or a short course,
Whether heavy or light;
Perchance thou too goest the same path
And to a like goal.
For all things move till overtaken,
As the wave swirleth through the water,
So that the same part
Moveth now from above downward
And now from below upward,
And the same hurly-burly
Imparteth to all the same successive fate.

Elpino: Indubitable that the whole fantasy of spheres bearing stars and fires, of the axes, the deferents, the functions of the epicycles, and other such chimeras, is based solely on the belief that this world occupieth as she seemeth to do the very centre of the universe, so that she alone being immobile and fixed, the whole universe revolveth around her.

Philotheo: This is precisely what those see who dwell on the moon and on the other stars in this same space, whether they be earths or suns.

Elpino: Suppose then for the moment that the motion of our earth causeth the appearance of daily world motion, and that by her own diverse motions the earth causeth all those motions which seem to appertain to the innumerable stars, we should still say that the moon, which is another earth, moveth by her own force through the air around the sun. Similarly, Venus, Mercury and the others which are all earths, pursue their courses around the same father of life.

Philotheo: It is so.

Elpino: The proper motions of each of these are those of their apparent motions which are not due to our so-called world motion; and the proper motions of the bodies known as fixed stars (though both their apparent fixity and the world motion should be referred to our earth) are more diverse and more numerous than the celestial bodies themselves. For if we could observe the motion of each one of them, we should find that no two stars ever hold the same course at the same speed; it is but their great distance from us which preventeth us from detecting the variations. However much these stars circulate around the solar flame or spin round their own centres in order to participate in the vital heat [of a sun], it is impossible for us to detect their diverse approach toward and retreat from us.

Philotheo: That is so.

Elpino: There are then innumerable suns, and an infinite number of earths revolve around those suns, just as the seven we can observe revolve around this sun which is close to us.

Philotheo: So it is.

Elpino: Why then do we not see the other bright bodies which are earths circling around the bright bodies which are suns? For beyond these we can detect no motion whatever; and why do all other mundane bodies (except those known as comets) appear always in the same order and at the same distance?

Philotheo: The reason is that we discern only the largest suns, immense bodies. But we do not discern the earths because, being much smaller, they are invisible to us. Similarly it is not impossible that other earths revolve around our sun and are invisible to us on account either of greater distance or of smaller size, or because they have but little watery surface, or because such watery surface is not turned toward us and opposed to the sun, whereby it would be made visible as a crystal mirror which receiveth luminous rays; whence we perceive that it is not marvellous or contrary to nature that often we hear that the sun hath been partially eclipsed though the moon hath not been interpolated between him and our sight. There may be innumerable watery luminous bodies -- that is, earths consisting in part of water -- circulating around the sun, besides those visible to us; but the difference in their orbits is indiscernible by us on account of their great distance, wherefore we perceive no difference in the very slow motion discernible of those visible above or beyond Saturn; still less doth there appear any order in the motion of all around the centre, whether we place our earth or our sun as that centre.

Elpino: How then wouldst thou maintain that all of these bodies, however far from their centre, that is from the sun, can nevertheless participate in the vital heat thereof?

Philotheo: Because the further they are from the sun, the larger is the circle of their orbit around it; and the greater their orbit, the more slowly they accomplish their journey round the sun; the more slowly they move, the more they resist the hot flaming rays of the sun.

Elpino: You maintain then that though so distant from the sun, these bodies can derive therefrom all the heat that they need. Because spinning at a greater rate around their own centre and revolving more slowly around the sun, they can derive not only as much heat but more still if it were needed; since by the more rapid spin around her own centre, such part of the convexity of the earth as hath not been sufficiently heated is the more quickly turned to a position to receive heat; while from the slower progress around the fiery central body, she stayeth to receive more firmly the impression therefrom, and thus she will receive fiercer flaming rays.

Philotheo: That is so.

Elpino: Therefore you consider that if the stars beyond Saturn are really motionless as they appear, then they are those innumerable suns or fires more or less visible to us around which travel their own neighbouring earths which are not discernible by us.

Theophilo: Yes, we should have to argue thus, since all earths merit the same amount of heat, and all suns merit the same amount.

Elpino: Then you believe that all those are suns?

Philotheo: Not so, for I do not know whether all or whether the majority are without motion, or whether some circle around others, since none hath observed them. Moreover they are not easy to observe, for it is not easy to detect the motion and progress of a remote object, since at a great distance change of position cannot easily be detected, as happeneth when we would observe ships in a high sea. But however that may be, the universe being infinite, there must ultimately be other suns. For it is impossible that heat and light from one single body should be diffused throughout immensity, as was supposed by Epicurus if we may credit what others relate of him. Therefore it followeth that there must be innumerable suns, of which many appear to us as small bodies; but that star will appear smaller which is in fact much larger than that which appeareth much greater.

Elpino: All this must be deemed at least possible and expedient.

Philotheo: Around these bodies there may revolve earths both larger and smaller than our own.

Elpino: How shall I know the difference? How, I say, shall I distinguish fiery bodies from earths?

Philotheo: Because fiery bodies are fixed and earths are in motion; because fiery bodies scintillate and earths do not; of which indications, the second is more easily perceptible than the first.

Elpino: They say that the appearance of scintillation is caused by the great distance from us.

Philotheo: If that were so, the sun would not scintillate more than all the others; and the small stars which are more remote would scintillate more than the larger which are nearer to us.

Elpino: Do you believe that fiery worlds are inhabited even as are watery bodies?

Philotheo: Neither more nor less.

Elpino: But what animals could live in fire?

Philotheo: You must not regard these worlds as compounded of identical parts, for then they would be not worlds but empty masses, vain and sterile. Therefore it is convenient and natural to assume that their parts are diverse just as our own and other earths comprise diverse parts, though some celestial bodies have the appearance of illumined water as others of shining flames.

Elpino: You believe then that the prime matter of the sun differeth not in consistency and solidity from that of the earth? (For I know that you do not doubt that a single prime matter is the basis of all things.)

Philotheo: This indeed is certain; it was understood by Timaeus, and confirmed by Plato. All true philosophers have recognized it, few have explained it, no one in our time hath understood it, so that many have confused understanding in a thousand ways, through corruption of fashion and defect of principles.

Elpino: The Instructed Ignorance of the Cusan seems to have approached, if not reached, this interpretation when, speaking of the conditions of our earth, he saith:

Think not that from her darkness and black colour we can argue that the earthly body is vile and more ignoble than others; for if we inhabited the sun, we should not see it so brilliant as we do from our circumferential position. Moreover even now if we fix our eye well on the sun, we discover that toward his centre he hath almost an earth or certainly as it were a watery and cloudy body which diffuseth bright and shining light as from a circumferential zone, whence we deduce that the sun no less than the earth is composed of his own elements.

Philotheo: So far the Cusan speaketh divinely. But continue and relate that which followeth.

Elpino: From what followeth might be inferred that this earth is another sun and all the stars similarly suns. The Cusan speaketh thus: If some person were situated beyond the fiery zone of [elemental] fire, our earth would appear to him by means of the fire as a bright star on his horizon; just as to us, who are within the horizon of the solar region, the sun appeareth very bright, and the moon appeareth not similarly bright, perhaps because in relation to her horizon we have a more median position or, as saith the Cusan, we are nearer the centre, that is, within the moon's humid and watery region; so though she may have her own light, nevertheless it doth not appear to us, and we see only the light reflected from the sun on the moon's watery surface.

Philotheo: This honest Cusan hath known and understood much; he is indeed one of the most remarkably talented men who hath lived in our world. As to the apprehension of truth, however, he is a swimmer in the tempestuous waves cast now upward, now downward, for he did not see the light continuously, openly and clearly, and he swam not in calm and quiet, but with interruptions and at certain intervals; the reason being that he did not discard all those false principles imbibed with the usual doctrine from which he had parted, so that perhaps by dint of industry the title came to fit him well of his own book concerning Instructed Ignorance or on Uninstructed Doctrine.

Elpino: What is the principle which he should have discarded?

Philotheo: That the element of fire is, like air, subject to attrition owing to the motion of the heaven, and that fire is an extremely subtle body; this is contrary to that reality and truth which is manifest to us, as we will consider in dealing with other subjects and in discourses on this very subject, where we conclude that there is necessarily one corporeal principle, solid and consistent, of a hot no less than of a cold body, and that the ethereal region can be neither fire nor made of fire, but is enflamed and kindled by the neighbouring solid and dense body which is the sun. So that, when we can speak according to nature, there is no need to have recourse to mathematical fantasies. We see that no part of the earth shineth by her own brightness, but that some parts shine by reflection from elsewhere, as for example her watery region and her vaporous atmosphere which receive heat and light from the sun and can transfer both to the surrounding regions. Therefore there must be a primary body which must be of itself both bright and hot and consequently also unchanging, solid and dense; for a rare and tenuous body cannot hold either light or heat, as we shew elsewhere more than once under the appropriate headings. Finally the bases of the two opposed primal active qualities must similarly be enduring; and the sun by virtue of those parts which are bright and hot must be like a stone, or a most solid incandescent metal; not a fusible metal as lead, bronze, gold or silver, but an infusible; not indeed a glowing iron but that iron which is itself a flame; so that even as this star on which we dwell is cold in herself and dark, not participating in heat or light except insofar as she is heated by the sun, so the sun is in itself hot and bright, and participateth not at all in cold and darkness except as he is chilled by the surrounding bodies and containeth particles of water, even as our earth containeth particles of fire. Therefore, as in this most frigid body primarily cold and dark, there dwell animals which live by the heat and light of the sun, so in that most torrid and shining body there are beings which can vegetate by aid of the chill from surrounding cold bodies; and as our earth hath a certain participation in heat in her dissimilar parts, so also hath the sun a certain participation in cold throughout his parts.

Elpino: But what of light?

Philotheo: I say that the sun shineth not on the sun nor the earth on the earth, nor any body on itself, but that every shining body doth illumine the space around itself. Indeed, though the earth be bright owing to the rays of the sun striking her crystalline surface, yet her light cannot be perceived by us, or by anyone on this surface, but only by those who are opposite thereto. Moreover though the whole surface of the sea be illumined at night by the splendour of the moon, yet to those traversing the sea, this effect is not apparent except in a certain region opposite to the moon. But if they could rise further above the sea, then the extent of the illuminated surface would appear to them to increase; and the further they rose, the greater illuminated space they would see. It can thus easily be inferred that the inhabitants of bright or even of illumined stars do not perceive the light of their own but only that of the surrounding stars, just as within a single area, one particular part will be illumined from another.

Elpino: Thus you would say that solar creatures derive daylight not from the sun but from another neighbouring star?

Philotheo: Even so. Do you not understand this?

Elpino: Who would not? Moreover, contemplating this matter I come somewhat to understand others which follow therefrom. There are then two sorts of bright bodies, fiery bodies which give their own primary light, and aqueous or crystalline bodies which give reflected or secondary light.

Philotheo: That is so.

Elpino: Then the cause of our light should be referred to no other source than these two?

Philotheo: How can it be otherwise since we know of no other source of light? Why should we trust to vain fantasies when experience herself doth teach us?

Elpino: It is true that we cannot imagine those bodies to have light merely by reason of intermittent accident, such as putrefaction of wood, scales and viscous incrustation of fish, or that most fragile back of a glow-worm concerning the cause of whose light we will speak on other occasions.

Philotheo: As you like.

Elpino: They therefore err who describe the outer surrounding bright bodies as certain fifth essences, certain divine corporeal substances of a nature contrary from that of the bright bodies which are near to us; herein they err no less than would those who would describe thus a candle or a bright crystal seen from afar.

Philotheo: Certainly.

Fracastoro: This indeed conformeth with our every perception, our reason and mind.

Burchio: Not however with mine, which would easily judge this your demonstration to be a gentle exercise in Sophistry.

Philotheo: Fracastoro: do thou reply to him, for Elpino:and I who have spoken much will listen to thee.

Fracastoro: My dear Burchio: for my part I will regard thee as Aristotle, and I will take the part of an idiot and a rustic who doth confess to complete ignorance. It must be supposed that I have understood naught of the words or meanings either of Philotheo: or of Aristotle and the rest of the world. I believe the verdict of the multitude, I believe in the fame and majesty of the supreme Peripatetic authority; I join an innumerable multitude in adoring the divinity of this veritable portent of nature, and for that reason I have come to thee to teach me the truth and to free me from the persuasive pressure of him whom thou hast called a sophist. Well, I ask you, why have you said that there is very much, or much, or what you will, of difference between those distant celestial bodies and these which are close to us?

Burchio: Those are divine, these compound of matter.

Fracastoro: How can you make me see and believe that those are more divine?

Burchio: Because they are changeless, unalterable, incorruptible, and eternal, while these near us have the contrary qualities; those move with a perfect circular motion, these in straight lines.

Fracastoro: I would like to know whether, after careful consideration, thou wouldst affirm on oath that this body alone (which thou regardest as three or four bodies and not as members of a single complex) is not mobile as the other stars are mobile, it being accepted that the motion of those stars is imperceptible because we are removed beyond a certain distance from them. And their motion, if it doth occur, cannot be perceived by us, because, as hath been observed both by the ancients and by the moderns who have truly contemplated nature, and as experience manifesteth in a thousand ways to our perception, we cannot apprehend motion except by a certain comparison and relation with some fixed body. Wherefore if we suppose a person within a moving ship in the midst of waters, who knoweth not that the water is in motion, nor seeth the shores, he would be unaware of the motion of the ship. For this reason I might fall into doubt and hesitation as to this quiet and fixity [of our earth]; and I am able to believe that if I were on the sun, the moon or any other star, I should always imagine myself to be at the centre of a motionless world around which would seem to revolve the whole surrounding universe, though in truth the containing body on which I found myself would be spinning around its own centre. Thus I can feel no certitude of the distinction between a moving and a stable body. As to what thou sayest concerning motion in a straight line, we certainly cannot see our own body moving thus along a straight line, nor can we see others do so. If the earth moveth, she must have circular motion like that of other stars as is said by Hegesias, Plato and all learned men, and as Aristotle and everyone else should admit; and that part of the earth which we see ascending and descending is not the whole globe but certain particles thereof which do not recede beyond that region which is reckoned as a part of this globe. For as in an animal, so in this our world there is an influx and efflux of the particles, a certain vicissitude, a certain change and renewal. And if all this happeneth likewise in other stars, it followeth not that the process must be perceptible to us. For rising of vapours and exhalations, successions of winds, rains, snows, thunder, sterility, fertility, inundations, birth, death -- if these take place in the other stars, they similarly are not perceptible to us; only the stars themselves are perceptible to us owing to the continuous splendour which from a surface either of fire, of water or of cloud they send forth into wide space. Similarly our own star is perceptible to inhabitants of other stars by reason of the splendour which she diffuseth from the surface of the seas -- and sometimes also from the revolution of nebulous bodies, as the opaque portions of the moon appear for the same reason less opaque. The aspect of these surfaces is changed only at vast intervals of eras and centuries, in the course of which seas are changed to continents, continents to seas. Therefore our globe as well as those others are perceptible on account of the light they diffuse. The light which our earth diffuseth to other stars is neither more nor less eternal and changeless than that from other similar stars. And just as the motion in a straight line and alteration of their particles is imperceptible to us, so every other motion and every change which may happen to our world is imperceptible from those other worlds. Now just as from our earth (itself a moon) the diverse parts of the moon appear some more and some less bright -- so from the moon (itself another earth) can the diverse parts of this earth be distinguished by the variety and difference of the portions of her surface. Moreover just as, if the moon were at a greater distance from us, then the diameter of the opaque parts would fail, while the bright parts would tend to unite for us and shrink in our view, giving us the impression of a smaller body of uniform brightness, similar also would be the appearance of our earth as seen from the moon if the distance between them were greater. Wherefore we may suppose that of the innumerable stars some are moons, some terrestrial globes, some worlds like our own, and around them our earth appeareth in their eyes to revolve just as they appear to us to revolve and to take their course around the earth. Why then should we affirm a difference between our own and those other heavenly bodies if we find every similarity between them [lit., every convenience (in recognizing their similarity)]? And why should we deny that there is a similarity [lit., this convenience] when neither reason nor sense-perception should lead us to doubt it?

Burchio: So you consider it proven that these bodies do not differ from our own earth?

Fracastoro: Full well. For that which can be seen from them of our own world can be seen of them from here, and that which can be seen of them from here can be seen of our world by them. Namely, this appeareth a small body even as do those, each appearing bright in parts from a shorter distance, each appearing uniformly bright and smaller from a greater distance.

Burchio: Where then is that beautiful order, that lovely scale of nature rising from the denser and grosser body which is our earth, to the less dense [sphere] which is water and on to the subtle [sphere] which is vapour, to the yet subtler which is pure air, on to the subtlest which is fire and finally to the divine which is the celestial body? From the obscure to the less obscure, to the brighter and finally to the brightest? From the dark to the most brilliant, from the alterable and corruptible to liberation from all change and corruption? From the heaviest to the heavy, thence to the light, on to the lightest and finally to that which is without weight or lightness? From that which moveth toward the centre to that which moveth from the centre and then to that which moveth around the centre?

Fracastoro: You would like to know where is this order? In the realm of dreams, fantasies, chimeras, delusions. For, as to motion, everything endowed with natural motion revolveth in a circle around either his own or some other centre. I speak of revolution, not having regard simply to the geometrical circle and circular motion, but according to that law which we observe to govern the physical changes in the position of natural bodies. Motion in a straight line is neither innate nor natural to any prime body, for it is never seen except in those particles which are either as excrement flowing from mundane bodies or else entering from outside into kindred spheres and containing bodies; even as we see waters which becoming subtilized through heat rise upward as vapour, and then condensed by the cold return downward in their original form. We shall speak of this process in the appropriate place when we consider motion. As for the disposition of the four bodies which they name earth, water, air, fire, I would know what nature, what art, what perception maketh it, verifieth and showeth it?

Burchio: Then you deny the famous distinction of the elements?

Fracastoro: I deny not the distinction of the elements, for I leave everyone at liberty to distinguish as he pleaseth concerning natural things. But I deny this order, this disposition that the earth is surrounded and contained by water, water by air, air by fire, fire by the heaven. Because I say there is but one single container that comprehendeth all bodies and those great frames which appear to us as scattered and sparse in this vast field, wherein every one of those bodies, stars, worlds and eternal lights is composed of that which is named earth, water, air and fire. Those in the substance of whose composition fire doth predominate, will be called sun, bright in itself; if water doth predominate, we give the name tellurid body, moon or such like which shineth by borrowed light, as hath been said. In these stars then or worlds as we will call them, these dissimilar parts must be understood to be disposed according to their various and diverse complexions of rocks, pools, streams, springs, seas, sands, metals, caverns, mountains, plains and other similar sorts of composite bodies, sites and shapes; in the same fashion among animals the parts are named heterogeneous according to the diverse and varied complexions of bones, intestines, veins, arteries, flesh, nerves, lungs, members of one or another shape presenting their excrescences, hollows, caves, waters, spirits, fires, with the accidents corresponding to all meteoric impressions, such as catarrhs, inflammations, stones, vertigoes, fevers and innumerable other dispositions and qualities corresponding to mists, rains, snows, heats, lightnings, thunderbolts, thunders, earthquakes and winds, tempests, torrid or that toss sea-weed.

If then the earth and other worlds are animals not such as these creatures are commonly esteemed, then indeed they are animals with greater and more excellent mind than belongs usually to these creatures. How then can Aristotle or another prove the air to be rather around than within our earth, if there is no part of the earth in which the air doth not lurk and penetrate in the manner which perhaps the ancients meant by saying that the Void embraceth all from without and moreover doth interpenetrate the whole Plenum? How then can you imagine the earth to have thickness, density and consistency without water which linketh and uniteth the parts? How can you interpret the earth's being heavier toward its centre except by believing that the parts there are closer and denser, such density being impossible without water which alone can join part to part?

Who doth not see that over the whole earth there emerge islands and mountains above the water, and not only above the water but also above the misty and tempestuous airs which are shut in among high mountains and considered as parts of the earth that go to make up her perfect sphericity? So it is evident that waters exist within the earth's viscera even as within us are humors and blood. Who doth not know that the chief accumulations of water are deep caverns and concavities of the earth? And if thou sayest that the earth is sodden on her shores, I reply that these are not the higher portions of the earth, for all that which formeth part of even her highest mountains is understood to be also within her concavity. Moreover the same may be observed of drops covered with dust but hanging unbroken over a surface. For the intimate soul which both embraceth and interfuseth all things first performeth this operation, namely that, in so far as possible and according to the capacity of each subject, she uniteth the parts thereof. Nor is this because water either is or can be of its nature above or around the earth, any more than the moisture of our human substance is above or around our body.

I leave aside the fact that from every part of the shore and from all great stretches of water, the surface of the water is observed to be higher in the centre: and if the parts of the dry land could thus unite, they would undoubtedly do the same, as indeed they clearly do assume the form of spherical globes when, by the aid of water, they are united, for all cohesion and viscosity of parts in the air is due to moisture. Since then waters exist within the bowels of the earth, and since every part of that earth which is cohesive and endowed with viscosity containeth more of moisture than of dry matter (for indeed, where is most viscosity there is most intermixture and domination by water which hath the quality of cohesion of the parts), who then will not declare rather that water is the basis of earth than earth of water? Rather that earth is founded on water than water on earth?

I leave aside the fact that the depth of water above the surface of our earth, namely the sea, cannot be and is not of so great a volume as even to compare with the volume of the whole sphere: it is in fact not around, as fools believe, but is within the earth as indeed Aristotle confessed in the first book of his Meteorologica, being compelled by truth or indeed by the customary belief among ancient philosophers; for he admitted that the two lower regions of turbulent and unquiet air are intercepted and contained by high mountains, and are as parts and members of the earth; and the whole is surrounded and contained by air which is ever tranquil, serene and clear when seen from the stars, so that when they [in the stars] lower their eyes [to the earth] they perceive all the winds, clouds, mists, tempests, the ebb and the flow, which proceed from the life and breath of this great animal, this divinity that we call the Earth, which hath been named Ceres, figured as Isis, entitled Proserpine and Diana, and is the same which is called Lucina in the heaven; all these being understood as of one and the same nature with the Earth. Behold, too, how far is the good Homer, when he noddeth not, from affirming the natural site of water to be above or around the earth where there are no winds nor rains nor foggy influences. And if he [Aristotle] had considered and pondered a little further, he would have perceived that even at the centre of our earth (if that is indeed the centre of gravity) there occurreth more of water than of dry earth. For the particles of the earth are only heavy when mixed with much water; without water they have no aptness through their own impulse and weight to descend from the air to the sphere to which they belong. What disciplined sense, what truth of nature distinguisheth and marshaleth these particles in such a manner as is imagined by the blind and foul vulgar folk, approved by those who speak without reflection, preached by those who talk much and think little? Moreover, who will deny the truth of Plato's opinion as recorded in the Timaeus and by Pythagoras and others -- though if propounded by a man of no standing, it would be deemed laughable; if by a person of some renown and proved ability, it would be regarded as a mystery or parable and interpreted metaphorically; if by a man of more sense and intellect than authority it would be reckoned among the occult paradoxes. For the opinion is that we inhabit the dark concavity of the earth, and that our nature appeareth to the living beings above the earth as doth that of the fish to us; that as the fish live in a humid element denser and crasser than our own, so we live in a more foggy air than do those in the purer and more tranquil region; and as Ocean is mere water compared even to impure air, so is our dark air to that which is truly pure. From all this I would argue as follows: that the sea, springs, rivers, mountains, rocks and the air contained within them and held by them as far as their medial region (as it is said) are no other than dissimilar members and parts of a single body, a single mass, comparable and proportionate to the parts and members with which we are all familiar in the composition of living bodies; the limits, convexity and outer surfaces of this body [which is our earth] are terminated by the edges of mountains, and by tempestuous air, so that the Ocean and streams remain in the depths of the earth, just as the liver which is believed to be the ultimate spring of the blood, and the branching veins are contained and distended by the several parts [of the animal body].

Burchio: Then the earth is not the heaviest body and therefore in the centre? Nor is the next in weight and position the water which surroundeth it, and is heavier than air?

Fracastoro: If thou judgest weight by a greater aptness to interpenetrate parts and to reach to the midst, and from the central position, I will say that air is both the heaviest and also the lightest of all the so-called elements. For as every particle of earth, given the space, descendeth to the centre, so also the particles of air rush to the centre even more swiftly than the particles of any other body whatsoever; for it pertaineth to air to be first to occupy space and to prevent and fill a void; the particles of earth do not change their position with such speed, for they do not usually move except if penetrated by air; since for penetration by air, there is needed neither earth, water nor fire; neither do any of these forestall or vanquish air, nor exceed it in disposition or speed to fill every corner of the containing body. Moreover, if earth, which is a solid body, is removed, 'tis air that will fill the place thereof; but earth is not so apt to occupy space vacated by air. Since therefore it is the property of air to rush to penetrate every site and every remote corner, there is no body lighter than air, nor is any body heavier than air.

Burchio: What then willst thou say of water?

Fracastoro: I have said and I repeat that water is heavier than earth. For we observe that moisture is more powerfully disposed to descend and to penetrate to the very centre of dry earth than is the dry earth to penetrate water. Moreover, dry earth, if entirely unmixed with water, will float on the surface of water without any aptness to penetrate within; nor will it descend until imbued with water and condensed thereby into a cohesive mass; only by dint of this cohesion and density can it penetrate within and below the water; while water, on the contrary, never descendeth by the assistance of earth but because itself doth aggregate, condense and multiply the number of its particles so that it may be sucked up and may thus gather together the dry earth. For we observe that a vase filled with really dry ashes holdeth more water than doth an empty vase of the same size. The dry particles as such float on the surface of water.

Burchio: Describe this further to me.

Fracastoro: I repeat: if all water were to be removed from the earth so as to leave it completely dry, the result would be a body of no endurance, fine, friable, and easily dispersed throughout the air as innumerable discrete bodies. For whereas air formeth [of itself] a continuum, it is water that formeth [another body into] a continuum by means of cohesion, and the substance of this continuous body may be what you will, but will be cohesive and solid, sometimes of one matter, sometimes of another, sometimes a mixture. Since then weight resulteth solely from cohesion and density of particles, and since the particles of earth do not cohere to one another save by the aid of water, whose particles like those of air do spontaneously cohere; and since water hath, more than aught else if not in unique fashion, the power of endowing with cohesion the particles of other bodies -- it therefore followeth that water is pre-eminently heavy as compared to other bodies which derive their weight from it. Wherefore those who affirm that the earth is established on the waters should by no means be regarded as fools but rather as most wise.

Burchio: We, however, maintain that the earth should always be regarded as central, as hath been believed by so many highly learned personages.

Fracastoro: And hath been confirmed by fools.

Burchio: What do you say of fools?

Fracastoro: I say that this opinion hath not been confirmed either by sense or reason.

Burchio: Do we not see the ebb and flow of the seas, and the course of rivers over the surface of the earth?

Fracastoro: But the springs which give origin to the rivers, and form lakes and seas, do we not see them emerge from the bowels of the earth and yet not issue beyond the bowels of the earth -- if indeed thou hast rightly understood what I have repeatedly said a short time back?

Burchio: We see that the waters first descend from the air, and that springs are formed from these waters.

Fracastoro: We know that water, if indeed it descendeth from another atmosphere than that which appertaineth to the members of the earth, yet is primarily, originally, principally and totally within the earth, and only later, derivatively, secondarily and partially in the air.

Burchio: I know that thou standest on this principle that the true estimate of the ultimate convex surface of the earth should be based not on the ocean surface but on the atmosphere level with the highest mountains.

Fracastoro: So indeed your leader Aristotle both stated and confirmed.

Burchio: Our leader is indeed without comparison more celebrated, worthy and famed than yours who is yet to be known and seen. Wherefore, rejoice as you will in yours. I, however, am content with mine.

Fracastoro: Even though he leaveth you to die of hunger and cold, though he feedeth you with wind and sendeth you forth naked and barefoot.

Philotheo: Pray do not dally with such useless and idle propositions.

Fracastoro: So be it. Burchio: what then do you say to all that you have heard?

Burchio: I say that everyone, whoever he be, must ultimately see what is in the midst of this mass -- thy star, thine animal. For if it be indeed pure earth, then the order in which these philosophers have ranged the elements is no vain imagination.

Fracastoro: I have stated and demonstrated that the midst is far more probably air or water than dry earth -- and indeed such dry earth cannot reach thereto without considerable admixture of waters which ultimately become its foundation; for we see that the particles of water penetrate the earth with far more vigour than do particles of earth penetrate water. It is then more probable and indeed inevitable that there should be water in the bowels of the earth rather than earth in the depths of water.

Burchio: What dost thou say of the waters which float and wander over the earth?

Fracastoro: None can fail to observe that this process taketh place by virtue of the same water, which having thickened and given cohesion to the earth, pressing together the parts thereof, thereby preventeth the further absorption of the waters, which would otherwise penetrate to the depth of the arid substance, as we see by universal experience. Water then must be at the centre of the earth to give to it that firmness which must depend not on primordial earth, but on water; for water uniteth and joineth the earth's particles; it followeth therefore that water causeth the density of the earth rather than the contrary, that earth giveth cohesion and density to the particles of water. But if thou wilt not accept that the central part of the earth is a mixture of earth and water, then it is more probable and conformable to all reason and experience that it should be water rather than earth. And if a dense body, it is more reasonable to conclude that water rather than dry earth predominateth; for water endoweth the particles of the earth with cohesion, for otherwise the earth would dissolve on account of the heat (not that I would postulate thus of the density of primordial fire which can be dissolved by its contrary). For the more dense and heavy is earthy matter, the more assuredly is it mixed with water. Wherefore the densest of those things which we know, we deem not merely to be those most mixed with water, but to be of the very substance of water, as is shewn when the heaviest and densest of all bodies, namely liquefiable metals, become molten. And indeed in every solid body whose particles cohere, we must presume the water which doth unite and join the parts, even the minima naturae; so that dry earth completely free from water is naught but wandering and scattered atoms. The particles of water are indeed more cohesive if unmixed with earth, since the earth particles have no cohesion without the aid of water. If then the central position is reserved for that which seeketh it with the strongest and swiftest impulse, it appertaineth first to air which filleth all, then to water, and only thirdly to earth; if it belongeth to that which is most heavy, dense and thick, then it appertaineth first to water, secondly to air and thirdly to dry earth. If we consider dry earth mixed with water, the central position appertaineth first to earth, second to water and third to air. So that according to various diverse arguments, the central position is variously assigned; according to truth and nature, no element is found without another, and there is no member of this great animal the earth in which are not all four, or at least three elements.

Burchio: Quickly, your conclusion!

Fracastoro: I would conclude as follows. The famous and received order of the elements and of the heavenly bodies is a dream and vainest fantasy, since it can neither be verified by observation of nature nor proved by reason or argued, nor is it either convenient or possible to conceive that it exist in such fashion. But we know that there is an infinite field, a containing space which doth embrace and interpenetrate the whole. In it is an infinity of bodies similar to our own. No one of these more than another is in the centre of the universe, for the universe is infinite and therefore without centre or limit, though these appertain to each of the worlds within the universe in the way I have explained on other occasions, especially when we demonstrated that there are certain determined definite centres, namely, the suns, fiery bodies around which revolve all planets, earths and waters, even as we see the seven wandering planets take their course around our sun. Similarly we shewed that each of these stars or worlds, spinning around his own centre, hath the appearance of a solid and continuous world which taketh by force all visible things which can become stars and whirleth them around himself as the centre of their universe. Thus there is not merely one world, one earth, one sun, but as many worlds as we see bright lights around us, which are neither more nor less in one heaven, one space, one containing sphere than is this our world in one containing universe, one space or one heaven. So that the heaven, the infinitely extending air, though part of the infinite universe, is not therefore a world or part of worlds; but is the womb, the receptacle and field within which they all move and live, grow and render effective the several acts of their vicissitudes; produce, nourish and maintain their inhabitants and animals; and by certain dispositions and orders they minister to higher nature, changing the face of single being through countless subjects. Thus each of these worlds is a centre toward which convergeth every one of his own parts; toward it every kindred thing doth tend just as the parts of this our star, even though at a certain distance, are yet brought back to their own field from all sides of the surrounding region. Therefore, since no part which floweth thus outward from the great Body faileth ultimately to return thereto; it happeneth that every such world is eternal though dissoluble; albeit if I mistake not, the inevitability of such eternity dependeth on an external maintaining and provident Being and not on intrinsic power and self-sufficiency. But I will explain you this matter with special arguments on other occasions.

Burchio: Then the other worlds are inhabited like our own?

Fracastoro: If not exactly as our own, and if not more nobly, at least no less inhabited and no less nobly. For it is impossible that a rational being fairly vigilant, can imagine that these innumerable worlds, manifest as like to our own or yet more magnificent, should be destitute of similar and even superior inhabitants; for all are either themselves suns or the sun doth diffuse to them no less than to us those most divine and fertilizing rays, which convince us of the joy that reigneth at their source and origin and bring fortune to those stationed around who thus participate in the diffused quality. The innumerable prime members of the universe are then infinite [in number], and all have similar aspect, countenance, prerogative, quality and power.

Burchio: You will not admit any difference between them?

Fracastoro: [On the contrary]. You have heard more than once that some, in whose composition fire doth predominate, are by their own quality bright and hot. Others shine by reflection, being themselves cold and dark, for water doth predominate in their composition. On this diversity and opposition depend order, symmetry, complexion, peace, concord, composition and life. So that the worlds are composed of contraries of which some, such as earth and water, live and grow by help of their contraries, such as the fiery suns. This I think was the meaning of the sage who declared that God createth harmony out of sublime contraries; and of that other who believed this whole universe to owe existence to the strife of the concordant and the love of the opposed.

Burchio: In this way, you would put the world upside down.

Fracastoro: Wouldst thou consider him to do ill who would upset a world which was upside down?

Burchio: Would you then render vain all efforts, study and labours on such work as De physico auditu and De coelo et mondo wherein so many great commentators, paraphrasers, glossers, compilers, epitomizers, scholiasts, translators, questioners and logicians have puzzled their brains? Whereon profound doctors, subtle, golden, exalted, inexpugnable irrefragable, angelic, seraphic, cherubic and divine, have established their foundation?

Fracastoro: Add the stonebreakers, the rocksplitters, horn-footed highkickers. Add also the deep seers, know-alls, the Olympians, the firmamenticians, celestial empirics, loud thunderers.

Burchio: Should we cast them all at your suggestion into a cesspool? The world will indeed be ruled well if the speculations of so many and such worthy philosophers are to be cast aside and despised.

Fracastoro: It were not well that we should deprive the asses of their fodder, and wish them to adopt our own taste. Talent and intellect vary no less than temperaments and stomachs.

Burchio: You maintain that Plato is an ignorant fellow, Aristotle an ass and their followers insensate, stupid and fanatical?

Fracastoro: My son, I do not say these are foals and those asses, these little monkeys and those great baboons, as you would have me do. As I told you from the first, I regard them as earth's heroes. But I do not wish to believe them without cause, nor to accept those propositions whose antitheses (as you must have understood if you are not both blind and deaf) are so compellingly true.

Burchio: Who then shall be judge?

Fracastoro: Every well-regulated mind and alert judgement. Every discreet person who is not obstinate when he recognizeth himself convinced and unable either to defend their arguments or to resist ours.

Burchio: When I can no longer defend them, it will be the fault of my inadequacy, not of their doctrine; when you are able while attacking their doctrine to clinch your own, it will not be by the truth of your doctrine but by your importunate sophistries.

Fracastoro: If I knew myself ignorant of the principles, I should abstain from pronouncing judgement. If I felt so deeply as you on the matter, I should regard resell as instructed by faith, not by knowledge.

Burchio: If thou wert better endowed, thou wouldst recognize thyself to be a presumptuous ass, a sophist, a disturber of good letters, a murderer of talent, a lover of novelty, an enemy of truth, suspect of heresy.

Philotheo: So far that fellow hath shown himself poorly instructed. Now he will demonstrate that he is dowered with but little discretion and no manners.

Elpino: He hath a loud voice and could not dispute more hardily if he were of the clog-shod brotherhood? [25] Burchio: my dear fellow, warmly do I praise the constancy of thy faith. From the very beginning thou hast said that even though true, thou wouldst not believe it.

Burchio: It is so. I would prefer ignorance in the great company of the illustrious and the learned rather than knowledge with a few sophists, as I must deem these friends.

Fracastoro: Thou hast little skill to distinguish between the learned and sophists, if we must believe what thou hast said. The ignorant are not illustrious and learned, nor are those who know to be called sophists.

Burchio: I know that you understand what I would say.

Elpino: It would be a great deal could we understand what you say. For you yourself have hard work to understand what you would say.

Burchio: Go to, go to, ye who are more learned than Aristotle. Depart, ye who are more divine than Plato, more profound than Averroes, more judicious than so many philosophers and theologians of all ages and all nations who have commented, admired and raised him to heaven. Away with you. I know not who ye are, nor whence ye come, but ye would presume to set yourselves in opposition to the overwhelming opinion of so many great doctors.

Fracastoro: If that were an argument, it would be the best of all you have brought forward.

Burchio: Thou wouldst be more learned than Aristotle wert thou not a beast, destitute, a beggar, miserable, fed on millet bread, dead with hunger, born of a tailor and a washerwoman, nephew of Neddy [26] the cobbler, son of Momus, postilion of whores, brother of Lazarus who shoes the asses. Remain a hundred devils, you who are not much better than he.

Elpino: I pray you, magnificent Sir, do not trouble yourself to return to us, but await our coming to you.

Fracastoro: To demonstrate truth with further arguments to such fellows, 'twould be as though repeatedly to wash with varied soaps and sodas the head of an ass, which profiteth no more to be washed a hundred times than once, in a thousand fashions than in one, since washed or unwashed, he is unchanged.

Philotheo: Moreover such a head will always appear more foul after a washing than before, for by adding more and more water and perfumes, the fumes within that head become at the end more and more agitated, and that noisome stench becometh noticeable which hitherto passed unnoticed, for it will be the more repulsive, the more it is revealed in contrast to aromatic liquors. We have spoken much to-day. I rejoice greatly in the intelligence of Fracastoro:and in your mature judgement, O Elpino: Now that we have discoursed concerning the existence, the number and quality of the infinite worlds, it is well that to-morrow we see whether and of what sort may be the contrary arguments.

Elpino: So be it.

Fracastoro: Farewell.



by Plato

Theodorus: Here we are, Socrates, true to our agreement of yesterday; and we bring with us a stranger from Elea, who is a disciple of Parmenides and Zeno, and a true philosopher.

Socrates: Is he not rather a god, Theodorus, who comes to us in the disguise of a stranger? For Homer says that all the gods, and especially the god of strangers, are companions of the meek and just, and visit the good and evil among men. And may not your companion be one of those higher powers, a cross-examining deity, who has come to spy out our weakness in argument, and to cross-examine us?

Theodorus: Nay, Socrates, he is not one of the disputatious sort⁠—he is too good for that. And, in my opinion, he is not a god at all; but divine he certainly is, for this is a title which I should give to all philosophers.

Socrates: Capital, my friend! and I may add that they are almost as hard to be discerned as the gods. For the true philosophers, and such as are not merely made up for the occasion, appear in various forms unrecognized by the ignorance of men, and they “hover about cities,” as Homer declares, looking from above upon human life; and some think nothing of them, and others can never think enough; and sometimes they appear as statesmen, and sometimes as sophists; and then, again, to many they seem to be no better than madmen. I should like to ask our Eleatic friend, if he would tell us, what is thought about them in Italy, and to whom the terms are applied.

Theodorus: What terms?

Socrates: Sophist, statesman, philosopher.

Theodorus: What is your difficulty about them, and what made you ask?

Socrates: I want to know whether by his countrymen they are regarded as one or two; or do they, as the names are three, distinguish also three kinds, and assign one to each name?

Theodorus: I dare say that the Stranger:will not object to discuss the question. What do you say, Stranger?

Stranger: I am far from objecting, Theodorus, nor have I any difficulty in replying that by us they are regarded as three. But to define precisely the nature of each of them is by no means a slight or easy task.

Theodorus: You have happened to light, Socrates, almost on the very question which we were asking our friend before we came hither, and he excused himself to us, as he does now to you; although he admitted that the matter had been fully discussed, and that he remembered the answer.

Socrates: Then do not, Stranger, deny us the first favour which we ask of you: I am sure that you will not, and therefore I shall only beg of you to say whether you like and are accustomed to make a long oration on a subject which you want to explain to another, or to proceed by the method of question and answer. I remember hearing a very noble discussion in which Parmenides employed the latter of the two methods, when I was a young man, and he was far advanced in years.

Stranger: I prefer to talk with another when he responds pleasantly, and is light in hand; if not, I would rather have my own say.

Socrates: Any one of the present company will respond kindly to you, and you can choose whom you like of them; I should recommend you to take a young person⁠—Theaetetus, for example⁠—unless you have a preference for someone else.

Stranger: I feel ashamed, Socrates, being a newcomer into your society, instead of talking a little and hearing others talk, to be spinning out a long soliloquy or address, as if I wanted to show off. For the true answer will certainly be a very long one, a great deal longer than might be expected from such a short and simple question. At the same time, I fear that I may seem rude and ungracious if I refuse your courteous request, especially after what you have said. For I certainly cannot object to your proposal, that Theaetetus:should respond, having already conversed with him myself, and being recommended by you to take him.

Theaetetus: But are you sure, Stranger, that this will be quite so acceptable to the rest of the company as Socrates imagines? Stranger: You hear them applauding, Theaetetus; after that, there is nothing more to be said. Well then, I am to argue with you, and if you tire of the argument, you may complain of your friends and not of me.

Theaetetus: I do not think that I shall tire, and if I do, I shall get my friend here, young Socrates, the namesake of the elder Socrates, to help; he is about my own age, and my partner at the gymnasium, and is constantly accustomed to work with me.

Stranger: Very good; you can decide about that for yourself as we proceed. Meanwhile you and I will begin together and enquire into the nature of the Sophist, first of the three: I should like you to make out what he is and bring him to light in a discussion; for at present we are only agreed about the name, but of the thing to which we both apply the name possibly you have one notion and I another; whereas we ought always to come to an understanding about the thing itself in terms of a definition, and not merely about the name minus the definition. Now the tribe of Sophists which we are investigating is not easily caught or defined; and the world has long ago agreed, that if great subjects are to be adequately treated, they must be studied in the lesser and easier instances of them before we proceed to the greatest of all. And as I know that the tribe of Sophists is troublesome and hard to be caught, I should recommend that we practise beforehand the method which is to be applied to him on some simple and smaller thing, unless you can suggest a better way.

Theaetetus: Indeed I cannot.

Stranger: Then suppose that we work out some lesser example which will be a pattern of the greater?

Theaetetus: Good.

Stranger: What is there which is well known and not great, and is yet as susceptible of definition as any larger thing? Shall I say an angler? He is familiar to all of us, and not a very interesting or important person.

Theaetetus: He is not.

Stranger: Yet I suspect that he will furnish us with the sort of definition and line of enquiry which we want.

Theaetetus: Very good.

Stranger: Let us begin by asking whether he is a man having art or not having art, but some other power.

Theaetetus: He is clearly a man of art.

Stranger: And of arts there are two kinds?

Theaetetus: What are they?

Stranger: There is agriculture, and the tending of mortal creatures, and the art of constructing or moulding vessels, and there is the art of imitation⁠—all these may be appropriately called by a single name.

Theaetetus: What do you mean? And what is the name?

Stranger: He who brings into existence something that did not exist before is said to be a producer, and that which is brought into existence is said to be produced.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And all the arts which were just now mentioned are characterized by this power of producing?

Theaetetus: They are.

Stranger: Then let us sum them up under the name of productive or creative art.

Theaetetus: Very good.

Stranger: Next follows the whole class of learning and cognition; then comes trade, fighting, hunting. And since none of these produces anything, but is only engaged in conquering by word or deed, or in preventing others from conquering, things which exist and have been already produced⁠—in each and all of these branches there appears to be an art which may be called acquisitive.

Theaetetus: Yes, that is the proper name.

Stranger: Seeing, then, that all arts are either acquisitive or creative, in which class shall we place the art of the angler?

Theaetetus: Clearly in the acquisitive class.

Stranger: And the acquisitive may be subdivided into two parts: there is exchange, which is voluntary and is effected by gifts, hire, purchase; and the other part of acquisitive, which takes by force of word or deed, may be termed conquest?

Theaetetus: That is implied in what has been said.

Stranger: And may not conquest be again subdivided?

Theaetetus: How?

Stranger: Open force may be called fighting, and secret force may have the general name of hunting?

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: And there is no reason why the art of hunting should not be further divided.

Theaetetus: How would you make the division?

Stranger: Into the hunting of living and of lifeless prey.

Theaetetus: Yes, if both kinds exist.

Stranger: Of course they exist; but the hunting after lifeless things having no special name, except some sorts of diving, and other small matters, may be omitted; the hunting after living things may be called animal hunting.

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: And animal hunting may be truly said to have two divisions, land-animal hunting, which has many kinds and names, and water-animal hunting, or the hunting after animals who swim?

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And of swimming animals, one class lives on the wing and the other in the water?

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: Fowling is the general term under which the hunting of all birds is included.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: The hunting of animals who live in the water has the general name of fishing.

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: And this sort of hunting may be further divided also into two principal kinds?

Theaetetus: What are they?

Stranger: There is one kind which takes them in nets, another which takes them by a blow.

Theaetetus: What do you mean, and how do you distinguish them?

Stranger: As to the first kind⁠—all that surrounds and encloses anything to prevent egress, may be rightly called an enclosure.

Theaetetus: Very true.

Stranger: For which reason twig baskets, casting-nets, nooses, creels, and the like may all be termed “enclosures”?

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And therefore this first kind of capture may be called by us capture with enclosures, or something of that sort?

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: The other kind, which is practised by a blow with hooks and three-pronged spears, when summed up under one name, may be called striking, unless you, Theaetetus, can find some better name?

Theaetetus: Never mind the name⁠—what you suggest will do very well.

Stranger: There is one mode of striking, which is done at night, and by the light of a fire, and is by the hunters themselves called firing, or spearing by firelight.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And the fishing by day is called by the general name of barbing, because the spears, too, are barbed at the point.

Theaetetus: Yes, that is the term.

Stranger: Of this barb-fishing, that which strikes the fish who is below from above is called spearing, because this is the way in which the three-pronged spears are mostly used.

Theaetetus: Yes, it is often called so.

Stranger: Then now there is only one kind remaining.

Theaetetus: What is that?

Stranger: When a hook is used, and the fish is not struck in any chance part of his body, as he is with the spear, but only about the head and mouth, and is then drawn out from below upwards with reeds and rods:⁠—What is the right name of that mode of fishing, Theaetetus?

Theaetetus: I suspect that we have now discovered the object of our search.

Stranger: Then now you and I have come to an understanding not only about the name of the angler’s art, but about the definition of the thing itself. One half of all art was acquisitive⁠—half of the acquisitive art was conquest or taking by force, half of this was hunting, and half of hunting was hunting animals, half of this was hunting water animals⁠—of this again, the under half was fishing, half of fishing was striking; a part of striking was fishing with a barb, and one half of this again, being the kind which strikes with a hook and draws the fish from below upwards, is the art which we have been seeking, and which from the nature of the operation is denoted angling or drawing up (ασπαλιευτικὴ, ἀνασπα̂σθαι).

Theaetetus: The result has been quite satisfactorily brought out.

Stranger: And now, following this pattern, let us endeavour to find out what a Sophist is.

Theaetetus: By all means.

Stranger: The first question about the angler was, whether he was a skilled artist or unskilled?

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And shall we call our new friend unskilled, or a thorough master of his craft?

Theaetetus: Certainly not unskilled, for his name, as, indeed, you imply, must surely express his nature.

Stranger: Then he must be supposed to have some art.

Theaetetus: What art?

Stranger: By heaven, they are cousins! it never occurred to us.

Theaetetus: Who are cousins?

Stranger: The angler and the Sophist.

Theaetetus: In what way are they related?

Stranger: They both appear to me to be hunters.

Theaetetus: How the Sophist? Of the other we have spoken.

Stranger: You remember our division of hunting, into hunting after swimming animals and land animals?

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: And you remember that we subdivided the swimming and left the land animals, saying that there were many kinds of them?

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: Thus far, then, the Sophist and the angler, starting from the art of acquiring, take the same road?

Theaetetus: So it would appear.

Stranger: Their paths diverge when they reach the art of animal hunting; the one going to the seashore, and to the rivers and to the lakes, and angling for the animals which are in them.

Theaetetus: Very true.

Stranger: While the other goes to land and water of another sort⁠—rivers of wealth and broad meadow-lands of generous youth; and he also is intending to take the animals which are in them.

Theaetetus: What do you mean?

Stranger: Of hunting on land there are two principal divisions.

Theaetetus: What are they?

Stranger: One is the hunting of tame, and the other of wild animals.

Theaetetus: But are tame animals ever hunted?

Stranger: Yes, if you include man under tame animals. But if you like you may say that there are no tame animals, or that, if there are, man is not among them; or you may say that man is a tame animal but is not hunted⁠—you shall decide which of these alternatives you prefer.

Theaetetus: I should say, Stranger, that man is a tame animal, and I admit that he is hunted.

Stranger: Then let us divide the hunting of tame animals into two parts.

Theaetetus: How shall we make the division?

Stranger: Let us define piracy, man-stealing, tyranny, the whole military art, by one name, as hunting with violence.

Theaetetus: Very good.

Stranger: But the art of the lawyer, of the popular orator, and the art of conversation may be called in one word the art of persuasion.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And of persuasion, there may be said to be two kinds?

Theaetetus: What are they?

Stranger: One is private, and the other public.

Theaetetus: Yes; each of them forms a class.

Stranger: And of private hunting, one sort receives hire, and the other brings gifts.

Theaetetus: I do not understand you.

Stranger: You seem never to have observed the manner in which lovers hunt.

Theaetetus: To what do you refer?

Theaetetus: Most true.

Stranger: Let us admit this, then, to be the amatory art.

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: But that sort of hireling whose conversation is pleasing and who baits his hook only with pleasure and exacts nothing but his maintenance in return, we should all, if I am not mistaken, describe as possessing flattery or an art of making things pleasant.

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: And that sort, which professes to form acquaintances only for the sake of virtue, and demands a reward in the shape of money, may be fairly called by another name?

Theaetetus: To be sure.

Stranger: And what is the name? Will you tell me?

Theaetetus: It is obvious enough; for I believe that we have discovered the Sophist: which is, as I conceive, the proper name for the class described.

Stranger: Then now, Theaetetus, his art may be traced as a branch of the appropriative,324 acquisitive family⁠—which hunts animals⁠—living⁠—land⁠—tame animals; which hunts man⁠—privately⁠—for hire⁠—taking money in exchange⁠—having the semblance of education; and this is termed Sophistry, and is a hunt after young men of wealth and rank⁠—such is the conclusion.

Theaetetus: Just so.

Stranger: Let us take another branch of his genealogy; for he is a professor of a great and many-sided art; and if we look back at what has preceded we see that he presents another aspect, besides that of which we are speaking.

Theaetetus: In what respect?

Stranger: There were two sorts of acquisitive art; the one concerned with hunting, the other with exchange.

Theaetetus: There were.

Stranger: And of the art of exchange there are two divisions, the one of giving, and the other of selling.

Theaetetus: Let us assume that.

Stranger: Next, we will suppose the art of selling to be divided into two parts.

Theaetetus: How?

Stranger: There is one part which is distinguished as the sale of a man’s own productions; another, which is the exchange of the works of others.

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: And is not that part of exchange which takes place in the city, being about half of the whole, termed retailing?

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: And that which exchanges the goods of one city for those of another by selling and buying is the exchange of the merchant?

Theaetetus: To be sure.

Stranger: And you are aware that this exchange of the merchant is of two kinds: it is partly concerned with food for the use of the body, and partly with the food of the soul which is bartered and received in exchange for money.

Theaetetus: What do you mean?

Stranger: You want to know what is the meaning of food for the soul; the other kind you surely understand.

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: Take music in general and painting and marionette playing and many other things, which are purchased in one city, and carried away and sold in another⁠—wares of the soul which are hawked about either for the sake of instruction or amusement;⁠—may not he who takes them about and sells them be quite as truly called a merchant as he who sells meats and drinks?

Theaetetus: To be sure he may.

Stranger: And would you not call by the same name him who buys up knowledge and goes about from city to city exchanging his wares for money?

Theaetetus: Certainly I should.

Stranger: Of this merchandise of the soul, may not one part be fairly termed the art of display? And there is another part which is certainly not less ridiculous, but being a trade in learning must be called by some name germane to the matter?

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: The latter should have two names⁠—one descriptive of the sale of the knowledge of virtue, and the other of the sale of other kinds of knowledge.

Theaetetus: Of course.

Stranger: The name of art-seller corresponds well enough to the latter; but you must try and tell me the name of the other.

Theaetetus: He must be the Sophist, whom we are seeking; no other name can possibly be right.

Stranger: No other; and so this trader in virtue again turns out to be our friend the Sophist, whose art may now be traced from the art of acquisition through exchange, trade, merchandise, to a merchandise of the soul which is concerned with speech and the knowledge of virtue.

Theaetetus: Quite true.

Stranger: And there may be a third reappearance of him;⁠—for he may have settled down in a city, and may fabricate as well as buy these same wares, intending to live by selling them, and he would still be called a Sophist?

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: Then that part of the acquisitive art which exchanges, and of exchange which either sells a man’s own productions or retails those of others, as the case may be, and in either way sells the knowledge of virtue, you would again term Sophistry?

Theaetetus: I must, if I am to keep pace with the argument.

Stranger: Let us consider once more whether there may not be yet another aspect of sophistry.

Theaetetus: What is it?

Stranger: In the acquisitive there was a subdivision of the combative or fighting art.

Theaetetus: There was.

Stranger: Perhaps we had better divide it.

Theaetetus: What shall be the divisions?

Stranger: There shall be one division of the competitive, and another of the pugnacious.

Theaetetus: Very good.

Stranger: That part of the pugnacious which is a contest of bodily strength may be properly called by some such name as violent.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And when the war is one of words, it may be termed controversy?

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: And controversy may be of two kinds.

Theaetetus: What are they?

Stranger: When long speeches are answered by long speeches, and there is public discussion about the just and unjust, that is forensic controversy.

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: And there is a private sort of controversy, which is cut up into questions and answers, and this is commonly called disputation?

Theaetetus: Yes, that is the name.

Stranger: And of disputation, that sort which is only a discussion about contracts, and is carried on at random, and without rules of art, is recognized by the reasoning faculty to be a distinct class, but has hitherto had no distinctive name, and does not deserve to receive one from us.

Theaetetus: No; for the different sorts of it are too minute and heterogeneous.

Stranger: But that which proceeds by rules of art to dispute about justice and injustice in their own nature, and about things in general, we have been accustomed to call argumentation (Eristic)?

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: And of argumentation, one sort wastes money, and the other makes money.

Theaetetus: Very true.

Stranger: Suppose we try and give to each of these two classes a name.

Theaetetus: Let us do so.

Stranger: I should say that the habit which leads a man to neglect his own affairs for the pleasure of conversation, of which the style is far from being agreeable to the majority of his hearers, may be fairly termed loquacity: such is my opinion.

Theaetetus: That is the common name for it.

Stranger: But now who the other is, who makes money out of private disputation, it is your turn to say.

Theaetetus: There is only one true answer: he is the wonderful Sophist, of whom we are in pursuit, and who reappears again for the fourth time.

Stranger: Yes, and with a fresh pedigree, for he is the moneymaking species of the Eristic, disputatious, controversial, pugnacious, combative, acquisitive family, as the argument has already proven.

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: How true was the observation that he was a many-sided animal, and not to be caught with one hand, as they say!

Theaetetus: Then you must catch him with two.

Stranger: Yes, we must, if we can. And therefore let us try another track in our pursuit of him: You are aware that there are certain menial occupations which have names among servants?

Theaetetus: Yes, there are many such; which of them do you mean?

Stranger: I mean such as sifting, straining, winnowing, threshing.325

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: And besides these there are a great many more, such as carding, spinning, adjusting the warp and the woof; and thousands of similar expressions are used in the arts.

Theaetetus: Of what are they to be patterns, and what are we going to do with them all?

Stranger: I think that in all of these there is implied a notion of division.

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: Then if, as I was saying, there is one art which includes all of them, ought not that art to have one name?

Theaetetus: And what is the name of the art?

Stranger: The art of discerning or discriminating.

Theaetetus: Very good.

Stranger: Think whether you cannot divide this.

Theaetetus: I should have to think a long while.

Stranger: In all the previously named processes either like has been separated from like or the better from the worse.

Theaetetus: I see now what you mean.

Stranger: There is no name for the first kind of separation; of the second, which throws away the worse and preserves the better, I do know a name.

Theaetetus: What is it?

Stranger: Every discernment or discrimination of that kind, as I have observed, is called a purification.

Theaetetus: Yes, that is the usual expression.

Stranger: And anyone may see that purification is of two kinds.

Theaetetus: Perhaps so, if he were allowed time to think; but I do not see at this moment.

Stranger: There are many purifications of bodies which may with propriety be comprehended under a single name.

Theaetetus: What are they, and what is their name?

Stranger: There is the purification of living bodies in their inward and in their outward parts, of which the former is duly effected by medicine and gymnastic, the latter by the not very dignified art of the bath-man; and there is the purification of inanimate substances⁠—to this the arts of fulling and of furbishing in general attend in a number of minute particulars, having a variety of names which are thought ridiculous.

Theaetetus: Very true.

Stranger: There can be no doubt that they are thought ridiculous, Theaetetus; but then the dialectical art never considers whether the benefit to be derived from the purge is greater or less than that to be derived from the sponge, and has not more interest in the one than in the other; her endeavour is to know what is and is not kindred in all arts, with a view to the acquisition of intelligence; and having this in view, she honours them all alike, and when she makes comparisons, she counts one of them not a whit more ridiculous than another; nor does she esteem him who adduces as his example of hunting, the general’s art, at all more decorous than another who cites that of the vermin-destroyer, but only as the greater pretender of the two. And as to your question concerning the name which was to comprehend all these arts of purification, whether of animate or inanimate bodies, the art of dialectic is in no wise particular about fine words, if she may be only allowed to have a general name for all other purifications, binding them up together and separating them off from the purification of the soul or intellect. For this is the purification at which she wants to arrive, and this we should understand to be her aim.

Theaetetus: Yes, I understand; and I agree that there are two sorts of purification, and that one of them is concerned with the soul, and that there is another which is concerned with the body.

Stranger: Excellent; and now listen to what I am going to say, and try to divide further the first of the two.

Theaetetus: Whatever line of division you suggest, I will endeavour to assist you.

Stranger: Do we admit that virtue is distinct from vice in the soul?

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: And purification was to leave the good and to cast out whatever is bad?

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: Then any taking away of evil from the soul may be properly called purification?

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: And in the soul there are two kinds of evil.

Theaetetus: What are they?

Stranger: The one may be compared to disease in the body, the other to deformity.

Theaetetus: I do not understand.

Stranger: Perhaps you have never reflected that disease and discord are the same.

Theaetetus: To this, again, I know not what I should reply.

Stranger: Do you not conceive discord to be a dissolution of kindred elements, originating in some disagreement?

Theaetetus: Just that.

Stranger: And is deformity anything but the want of measure, which is always unsightly?

Theaetetus: Exactly.

Stranger: And do we not see that opinion is opposed to desire, pleasure to anger, reason to pain, and that all these elements are opposed to one another in the souls of bad men?

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: And yet they must all be akin?

Theaetetus: Of course.

Stranger: Then we shall be right in calling vice a discord and disease of the soul?

Theaetetus: Most true.

Stranger: And when things having motion, and aiming at an appointed mark, continually miss their aim and glance aside, shall we say that this is the effect of symmetry among them, or of the want of symmetry?

Theaetetus: Clearly of the want of symmetry.

Stranger: But surely we know that no soul is voluntarily ignorant of anything?

Theaetetus: Certainly not.

Stranger: And what is ignorance but the aberration of a mind which is bent on truth, and in which the process of understanding is perverted?

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: Then we are to regard an unintelligent soul as deformed and devoid of symmetry?

Theaetetus: Very true.

Stranger: Then there are these two kinds of evil in the soul⁠—the one which is generally called vice, and is obviously a disease of the soul⁠ ⁠…

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: And there is the other, which they call ignorance, and which, because existing only in the soul,326 they will not allow to be vice.

Theaetetus: I certainly admit what I at first disputed⁠—that there are two kinds of vice in the soul, and that we ought to consider cowardice, intemperance, and injustice to be alike forms of disease in the soul, and ignorance, of which there are all sorts of varieties, to be deformity.

Stranger: And in the case of the body are there not two arts which have to do with the two bodily states?

Theaetetus: What are they?

Stranger: There is gymnastic, which has to do with deformity, and medicine, which has to do with disease.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And where there is insolence and injustice and cowardice, is not chastisement the art which is most required?327

Theaetetus: That certainly appears to be the opinion of mankind.

Stranger: Again, of the various kinds of ignorance, may not instruction be rightly said to be the remedy?

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And of the art of instruction, shall we say that there is one or many kinds? At any rate there are two principal ones. Think.

Theaetetus: I will.

Stranger: I believe that I can see how we shall soonest arrive at the answer to this question.

Theaetetus: How?

Stranger: If we can discover a line which divides ignorance into two halves. For a division of ignorance into two parts will certainly imply that the art of instruction is also twofold, answering to the two divisions of ignorance.

Theaetetus: Well, and do you see what you are looking for?

Stranger: I do seem to myself to see one very large and bad sort of ignorance which is quite separate, and may be weighed in the scale against all other sorts of ignorance put together.

Theaetetus: What is it?

Stranger: When a person supposes that he knows, and does not know; this appears to be the great source of all the errors of the intellect.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And this, if I am not mistaken, is the kind of ignorance which specially earns the title of stupidity.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: What name, then, shall be given to the sort of instruction which gets rid of this?

Theaetetus: The instruction which you mean, Stranger, is, I should imagine, not the teaching of handicraft arts, but what, thanks to us, has been termed education in this part the world.

Stranger: Yes, Theaetetus, and by nearly all Hellenes. But we have still to consider whether education admits of any further division.

Theaetetus: We have.

Stranger: I think that there is a point at which such a division is possible.

Theaetetus: Where?

Stranger: Of education, one method appears to be rougher, and another smoother.

Theaetetus: How are we to distinguish the two?

Stranger: There is the time-honoured mode which our fathers commonly practised towards their sons, and which is still adopted by many⁠—either of roughly reproving their errors, or of gently advising them; which varieties may be correctly included under the general term of admonition.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: But whereas some appear to have arrived at the conclusion that all ignorance is involuntary, and that no one who thinks himself wise is willing to learn any of those things in which he is conscious of his own cleverness, and that the admonitory sort of instruction gives much trouble and does little good⁠—

Theaetetus: There they are quite right.

Stranger: Accordingly, they set to work to eradicate the spirit of conceit in another way.

Theaetetus: In what way?

Stranger: They cross-examine a man’s words, when he thinks that he is saying something and is really saying nothing, and easily convict him of inconsistencies in his opinions; these they then collect by the dialectical process, and placing them side by side, show that they contradict one another about the same things, in relation to the same things, and in the same respect. He, seeing this, is angry with himself, and grows gentle towards others, and thus is entirely delivered from great prejudices and harsh notions, in a way which is most amusing to the hearer, and produces the most lasting good effect on the person who is the subject of the operation. For as the physician considers that the body will receive no benefit from taking food until the internal obstacles have been removed, so the purifier of the soul is conscious that his patient will receive no benefit from the application of knowledge until he is refuted, and from refutation learns modesty; he must be purged of his prejudices first and made to think that he knows only what he knows, and no more.

Theaetetus: That is certainly the best and wisest state of mind.

Stranger: For all these reasons, Theaetetus, we must admit that refutation is the greatest and chiefest of purifications, and he who has not been refuted, though he be the Great King himself, is in an awful state of impurity; he is uninstructed and deformed in those things in which he who would be truly blessed ought to be fairest and purest.

Theaetetus: Very true.

Stranger: And who are the ministers of this art? I am afraid to say the Sophists.

Theaetetus: Why?

Stranger: Lest we should assign to them too high a prerogative.

Theaetetus: Yet the Sophist has a certain likeness to our minister of purification.

Stranger: Yes, the same sort of likeness which a wolf, who is the fiercest of animals, has to a dog, who is the gentlest. But he who would not be found tripping, ought to be very careful in this matter of comparisons, for they are most slippery things. Nevertheless, let us assume that the Sophists are the men. I say this provisionally, for I think that the line which divides them will be marked enough if proper care is taken.

Theaetetus: Likely enough.

Stranger: Let us grant, then, that from the discerning art comes purification, and from purification let there be separated off a part which is concerned with the soul; of this mental purification instruction is a portion, and of instruction education, and of education, that refutation of vain conceit which has been discovered in the present argument; and let this be called by you and me the nobly-descended art of Sophistry.

Theaetetus: Very well; and yet, considering the number of forms in which he has presented himself, I begin to doubt how I can with any truth or confidence describe the real nature of the Sophist.

Stranger: You naturally feel perplexed; and yet I think that he must be still more perplexed in his attempt to escape us, for as the proverb says, when every way is blocked, there is no escape; now, then, is the time of all others to set upon him.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: First let us wait a moment and recover breath, and while we are resting, we may reckon up in how many forms he has appeared. In the first place, he was discovered to be a paid hunter after wealth and youth.

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: In the second place, he was a merchant in the goods of the soul.

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: In the third place, he has turned out to be a retailer of the same sort of wares.

Theaetetus: Yes; and in the fourth place, he himself manufactured the learned wares which he sold.

Stranger: Quite right; I will try and remember the fifth myself. He belonged to the fighting class, and was further distinguished as a hero of debate, who professed the eristic art.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: The sixth point was doubtful, and yet we at last agreed that he was a purger of souls, who cleared away notions obstructive to knowledge.

Theaetetus: Very true.

Stranger: Do you not see that when the professor of any art has one name and many kinds of knowledge, there must be something wrong? The multiplicity of names which is applied to him shows that the common principle to which all these branches of knowledge are tending, is not understood.

Theaetetus: I should imagine this to be the case.

Stranger: At any rate we will understand him, and no indolence shall prevent us. Let us begin again, then, and reexamine some of our statements concerning the Sophist; there was one thing which appeared to me especially characteristic of him.

Theaetetus: To what are you referring?

Stranger: We were saying of him, if I am not mistaken, that he was a disputer?

Theaetetus: We were.

Stranger: And does he not also teach others the art of disputation?

Theaetetus: Certainly he does.

Stranger: And about what does he profess that he teaches men to dispute? To begin at the beginning⁠—Does he make them able to dispute about divine things, which are invisible to men in general?

Theaetetus: At any rate, he is said to do so.

Stranger: And what do you say of the visible things in heaven and earth, and the like?

Theaetetus: Certainly he disputes, and teaches to dispute about them.

Stranger: Then, again, in private conversation, when any universal assertion is made about generation and essence, we know that such persons are tremendous argufiers, and are able to impart their own skill to others.

Theaetetus: Undoubtedly.

Stranger: And do they not profess to make men able to dispute about law and about politics in general?

Theaetetus: Why, no one would have anything to say to them, if they did not make these professions.

Stranger: In all and every art, what the craftsman ought to say in answer to any question is written down in a popular form, and he who likes may learn.

Theaetetus: I suppose that you are referring to the precepts of Protagoras about wrestling and the other arts?

Stranger: Yes, my friend, and about a good many other things. In a word, is not the art of disputation a power of disputing about all things?

Theaetetus: Certainly; there does not seem to be much which is left out.

Stranger: But oh! my dear youth, do you suppose this possible? for perhaps your young eyes may see things which to our duller sight do not appear.

Theaetetus: To what are you alluding? I do not think that I understand your present question.

Stranger: I ask whether anybody can understand all things.

Theaetetus: Happy would mankind be if such a thing were possible!

Socrates: But how can anyone who is ignorant dispute in a rational manner against him who knows?

Theaetetus: He cannot.

Stranger: Then why has the sophistical art such a mysterious power?

Theaetetus: To what do you refer?

Stranger: How do the Sophists make young men believe in their supreme and universal wisdom? For if they neither disputed nor were thought to dispute rightly, or being thought to do so were deemed no wiser for their controversial skill, then, to quote your own observation, no one would give them money or be willing to learn their art.

Theaetetus: They certainly would not.

Stranger: But they are willing.

Theaetetus: Yes, they are.

Stranger: Yes, and the reason, as I should imagine, is that they are supposed to have knowledge of those things about which they dispute?

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: And they dispute about all things?

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And therefore, to their disciples, they appear to be all-wise?

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: But they are not; for that was shown to be impossible.

Theaetetus: Impossible, of course.

Stranger: Then the Sophist has been shown to have a sort of conjectural or apparent knowledge only of all things, which is not the truth?

Theaetetus: Exactly; no better description of him could be given.

Stranger: Let us now take an illustration, which will still more clearly explain his nature.

Theaetetus: What is it?

Stranger: I will tell you, and you shall answer me, giving your very closest attention. Suppose that a person were to profess, not that he could speak or dispute, but that he knew how to make and do all things, by a single art.

Theaetetus: All things?

Stranger: I see that you do not understand the first word that I utter, for you do not understand the meaning of “all.”

Theaetetus: No, I do not.

Stranger: Under all things, I include you and me, and also animals and trees.

Theaetetus: What do you mean?

Stranger: Suppose a person to say that he will make you and me, and all creatures.

Theaetetus: What would he mean by “making”? He cannot be a husbandman;⁠—for you said that he is a maker of animals.

Stranger: Yes; and I say that he is also the maker of the sea, and the earth, and the heavens, and the gods, and of all other things; and, further, that he can make them in no time, and sell them for a few pence.

Theaetetus: That must be a jest.

Stranger: And when a man says that he knows all things, and can teach them to another at a small cost, and in a short time, is not that a jest?

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: And is there any more artistic or graceful form of jest than imitation?

Theaetetus: Certainly not; and imitation is a very comprehensive term, which includes under one class the most diverse sorts of things.

Stranger: We know, of course, that he who professes by one art to make all things is really a painter, and by the painter’s art makes resemblances of real things which have the same name with them; and he can deceive the less intelligent sort of young children, to whom he shows his pictures at a distance, into the belief that he has the absolute power of making whatever he likes.

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: And may there not be supposed to be an imitative art of reasoning? Is it not possible to enchant the hearts of young men by words poured through their ears, when they are still at a distance from the truth of facts, by exhibiting to them fictitious arguments, and making them think that they are true, and that the speaker is the wisest of men in all things?

Theaetetus: Yes; why should there not be another such art?

Stranger: But as time goes on, and their hearers advance in years, and come into closer contact with realities, and have learnt by sad experience to see and feel the truth of things, are not the greater part of them compelled to change many opinions which they formerly entertained, so that the great appears small to them, and the easy difficult, and all their dreamy speculations are overturned by the facts of life?

Theaetetus: That is my view, as far as I can judge, although, at my age, I may be one of those who see things at a distance only.

Stranger: And the wish of all of us, who are your friends, is and always will be to bring you as near to the truth as we can without the sad reality. And now I should like you to tell me, whether the Sophist is not visibly a magician and imitator of true being; or are we still disposed to think that he may have a true knowledge of the various matters about which he disputes?

Theaetetus: But how can he, Stranger? Is there any doubt, after what has been said, that he is to be located in one of the divisions of children’s play?

Stranger: Then we must place him in the class of magicians and mimics.

Theaetetus: Certainly we must.

Stranger: And now our business is not to let the animal out, for we have got him in a sort of dialectical net, and there is one thing which he decidedly will not escape.

Theaetetus: What is that?

Stranger: The inference that he is a juggler.

Theaetetus: Precisely my own opinion of him.

Stranger: Then, clearly, we ought as soon as possible to divide the image-making art, and go down into the net, and, if the Sophist does not run away from us, to seize him according to orders and deliver him over to reason, who is the lord of the hunt, and proclaim the capture of him; and if he creeps into the recesses of the imitative art, and secretes himself in one of them, to divide again and follow him up until in some subsection of imitation he is caught. For our method of tackling each and all is one which neither he nor any other creature will ever escape in triumph.

Theaetetus: Well said; and let us do as you propose.

Stranger: Well, then, pursuing the same analytic method as before, I think that I can discern two divisions of the imitative art, but I am not as yet able to see in which of them the desired form is to be found.

Theaetetus: Will you tell me first what are the two divisions of which you are speaking?

Stranger: One is the art of likeness-making;⁠—generally a likeness of anything is made by producing a copy which is executed according to the proportions of the original, similar in length and breadth and depth, each thing receiving also its appropriate colour.

Theaetetus: Is not this always the aim of imitation?

Stranger: Not always; in works either of sculpture or of painting, which are of any magnitude, there is a certain degree of deception; for artists were to give the true proportions of their fair works, the upper part, which is farther off, would appear to be out of proportion in comparison with the lower, which is nearer; and so they give up the truth in their images and make only the proportions which appear to be beautiful, disregarding the real ones.

Theaetetus: Quite true.

Stranger: And that which being other is also like, may we not fairly call a likeness or image?

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: And may we not, as I did just now, call that part of the imitative art which is concerned with making such images the art of likeness-making?

Theaetetus: Let that be the name.

Stranger: And what shall we call those resemblances of the beautiful, which appear such owing to the unfavourable position of the spectator, whereas if a person had the power of getting a correct view of works of such magnitude, they would appear not even like that to which they profess to be like? May we not call these “appearances,” since they appear only and are not really like?

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: There is a great deal of this kind of thing in painting, and in all imitation.

Theaetetus: Of course.

Stranger: And may we not fairly call the sort of art, which produces an appearance and not an image, fantastic art?

Theaetetus: Most fairly.

Stranger: These then are the two kinds of image-making⁠—the art of making likenesses, and fantastic or the art of making appearances?

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: I was doubtful before in which of them I should place the Sophist, nor am I even now able to see clearly; verily he is a wonderful and inscrutable creature. And now in the cleverest manner he has got into an impossible place.

Theaetetus: Yes, he has.

Stranger: Do you speak advisedly, or are you carried away at the moment by the habit of assenting into giving a hasty answer?

Theaetetus: May I ask to what you are referring?

Stranger: My dear friend, we are engaged in a very difficult speculation⁠—there can be no doubt of that; for how a thing can appear and seem, and not be, or how a man can say a thing which is not true, has always been and still remains a very perplexing question. Can anyone say or think that falsehood really exists, and avoid being caught in a contradiction? Indeed, Theaetetus, the task is a difficult one.

Theaetetus: Why?


He who says that falsehood exists has the audacity to assert the being of not-being; for this is implied in the possibility of falsehood. But, my boy, in the days when I was a boy, the great Parmenides protested against this doctrine, and to the end of his life he continued to inculcate the same lesson⁠—always repeating both in verse and out of verse:

“Keep your mind from this way of enquiry, for never will you show328 that not-being is.”

Such is his testimony, which is confirmed by the very expression when sifted a little. Would you object to begin with the consideration of the words themselves?

Theaetetus: Never mind about me; I am only desirous that you should carry on the argument in the best way, and that you should take me with you.

Stranger: Very good; and now say, do we venture to utter the forbidden word “not-being”?

Theaetetus: Certainly we do.

Stranger: Let us be serious then, and consider the question neither in strife nor play: suppose that one of the hearers of Parmenides was asked, “To what is the term ‘not-being’ to be applied?”⁠—do you know what sort of object he would single out in reply, and what answer he would make to the enquirer?

Theaetetus: That is a difficult question, and one not to be answered at all by a person like myself.

Stranger: There is at any rate no difficulty in seeing that the predicate “not-being” is not applicable to any being.

Theaetetus: None, certainly.

Stranger: And if not to being, then not to something.

Theaetetus: Of course not.

Stranger: It is also plain, that in speaking of something we speak of being, for to speak of an abstract something naked and isolated from all being is impossible.

Theaetetus: Impossible.

Stranger: You mean by assenting to imply that he who says something must say some one thing?

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: Some in the singular (τὶ) you would say is the sign of one, some in the dual (τινὲ) of two, some in the plural (τινὲς) of many?

Theaetetus: Exactly.

Stranger: Then he who says “not something” must say absolutely nothing.

Theaetetus: Most assuredly.

Stranger: And as we cannot admit that a man speaks and says nothing, he who says “not-being” does not speak at all.

Theaetetus: The difficulty of the argument can no further go.

Stranger: Not yet, my friend, is the time for such a word; for there still remains of all perplexities the first and greatest, touching the very foundation of the matter.

Theaetetus: What do you mean? Do not be afraid to speak.

Stranger: To that which is, may be attributed some other thing which is?

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: But can anything which is, be attributed to that which is not?

Theaetetus: Impossible.

Stranger: And all number is to be reckoned among things which are?

Theaetetus: Yes, surely number, if anything, has a real existence.

Stranger: Then we must not attempt to attribute to not-being number either in the singular or plural?

Theaetetus: The argument implies that we should be wrong in doing so.

Stranger: But how can a man either express in words or even conceive in thought things which are not or a thing which is not without number?

Theaetetus: How indeed?

Stranger: When we speak of things which are not, are we not attributing plurality to not-being?

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: But, on the other hand, when we say “what is not,” do we not attribute unity?

Theaetetus: Manifestly.

Stranger: Nevertheless, we maintain that you may not and ought not to attribute being to not-being?

Theaetetus: Most true.

Stranger: Do you see, then, that not-being in itself can neither be spoken, uttered, or thought, but that it is unthinkable, unutterable, unspeakable, indescribable?

Theaetetus: Quite true.

Stranger: But, if so, I was wrong in telling you just now that the difficulty which was coming is the greatest of all.

Theaetetus: What! is there a greater still behind?

Stranger: Well, I am surprised, after what has been said already, that you do not see the difficulty in which he who would refute the notion of not-being is involved. For he is compelled to contradict himself as soon as he makes the attempt.

Theaetetus: What do you mean? Speak more clearly.

Stranger: Do not expect clearness from me. For I, who maintain that not-being has no part either in the one or many, just now spoke and am still speaking of not-being as one; for I say “not-being.” Do you understand?

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: And a little while ago I said that not-being is unutterable, unspeakable, indescribable: do you follow?

Theaetetus: I do after a fashion.

Stranger: When I introduced the word “is,” did I not contradict what I said before?

Theaetetus: Clearly.

Stranger: And in using the singular verb, did I not speak of not-being as one?

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: And when I spoke of not-being as indescribable and unspeakable and unutterable, in using each of these words in the singular, did I not refer to not-being as one?

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: And yet we say that, strictly speaking, it should not be defined as one or many, and should not even be called “it,” for the use of the word “it” would imply a form of unity.

Theaetetus: Quite true.

Stranger: How, then, can anyone put any faith in me? For now, as always, I am unequal to the refutation of not-being. And therefore, as I was saying, do not look to me for the right way of speaking about not-being; but come, let us try the experiment with you.

Theaetetus: What do you mean?

Stranger: Make a noble effort, as becomes youth, and endeavour with all your might to speak of not-being in a right manner, without introducing into it either existence or unity or plurality.

Theaetetus: It would be a strange boldness in me which would attempt the task when I see you thus discomfited.

Stranger: Say no more of ourselves; but until we find some one or other who can speak of not-being without number, we must acknowledge that the Sophist is a clever rogue who will not be got out of his hole.

Theaetetus: Most true.

Stranger: And if we say to him that he professes an art of making appearances, he will grapple with us and retort our argument upon ourselves; and when we call him an image-maker he will say, “Pray what do you mean at all by an image?”⁠—and I should like to know, Theaetetus, how we can possibly answer the younker’s question?

Theaetetus: We shall doubtless tell him of the images which are reflected in water or in mirrors; also of sculptures, pictures, and other duplicates.

Stranger: I see, Theaetetus, that you have never made the acquaintance of the Sophist.

Theaetetus: Why do you think so?

Stranger: He will make believe to have his eyes shut, or to have none.

Theaetetus: What do you mean?

Stranger: When you tell him of something existing in a mirror, or in sculpture, and address him as though he had eyes, he will laugh you to scorn, and will pretend that he knows nothing of mirrors and streams, or of sight at all; he will say that he is asking about an idea.

Theaetetus: What can he mean?

Stranger: The common notion pervading all these objects, which you speak of as many, and yet call by the single name of image, as though it were the unity under which they were all included. How will you maintain your ground against him?

Theaetetus: How, Stranger, can I describe an image except as something fashioned in the likeness of the true?

Stranger: And do you mean this something to be some other true thing, or what do you mean?

Theaetetus: Certainly not another true thing, but only a resemblance.

Stranger: And you mean by true that which really is?

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: And the not true is that which is the opposite of the true?

Theaetetus: Exactly.

Stranger: A resemblance, then, is not really real, if, as you say, not true?

Theaetetus: Nay, but it is in a certain sense.

Stranger: You mean to say, not in a true sense?

Theaetetus: Yes; it is in reality only an image.

Stranger: Then what we call an image is in reality really unreal.

Theaetetus: In what a strange complication of being and not-being we are involved!

Stranger: Strange! I should think so. See how, by his reciprocation of opposites, the many-headed Sophist has compelled us, quite against our will, to admit the existence of not-being.

Theaetetus: Yes, indeed, I see.

Stranger: The difficulty is how to define his art without falling into a contradiction.

Theaetetus: How do you mean? And where does the danger lie?

Stranger: When we say that he deceives us with an illusion, and that his art is illusory, do we mean that our soul is led by his art to think falsely, or what do we mean?

Theaetetus: There is nothing else to be said.

Stranger: Again, false opinion is that form of opinion which thinks the opposite of the truth:⁠—You would assent?

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: You mean to say that false opinion thinks what is not?

Theaetetus: Of course.

Stranger: Does false opinion think that things which are not are not, or that in a certain sense they are?

Theaetetus: Things that are not must be imagined to exist in a certain sense, if any degree of falsehood is to be possible.

Stranger: And does not false opinion also think that things which most certainly exist do not exist at all?

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: And here, again, is falsehood?

Theaetetus: Falsehood⁠—yes.

Stranger: And in like manner, a false proposition will be deemed to be one which asserts the nonexistence of things which are, and the existence of things which are not.

Theaetetus: There is no other way in which a false proposition can arise.

Stranger: There is not; but the Sophist will deny these statements. And indeed how can any rational man assent to them, when the very expressions which we have just used were before acknowledged by us to be unutterable, unspeakable, indescribable, unthinkable? Do you see his point, Theaetetus?

Theaetetus: Of course he will say that we are contradicting ourselves when we hazard the assertion, that falsehood exists in opinion and in words; for in maintaining this, we are compelled over and over again to assert being of not-being, which we admitted just now to be an utter impossibility.

Stranger: How well you remember! And now it is high time to hold a consultation as to what we ought to do about the Sophist; for if we persist in looking for him in the class of false workers and magicians, you see that the handles for objection and the difficulties which will arise are very numerous and obvious.

Theaetetus: They are indeed.

Stranger: We have gone through but a very small portion of them, and they are really infinite.

Theaetetus: If that is the case, we cannot possibly catch the Sophist.

Stranger: Shall we then be so fainthearted as to give him up?

Theaetetus: Certainly not, I should say, if we can get the slightest hold upon him.

Stranger: Will you then forgive me, and, as your words imply, not be altogether displeased if I flinch a little from the grasp of such a sturdy argument?

Theaetetus: To be sure I will.

Stranger: I have a yet more urgent request to make.

Theaetetus: Which is⁠—?

Stranger: That you will promise not to regard me as a parricide.

Theaetetus: And why?

Stranger: Because, in self-defence, I must test the philosophy of my father Parmenides, and try to prove by main force that in a certain sense not-being is, and that being, on the other hand, is not.

Theaetetus: Some attempt of the kind is clearly needed.

Stranger: Yes, a blind man, as they say, might see that, and, unless these questions are decided in one way or another, no one when he speaks of false words, or false opinion, or idols, or images, or imitations, or appearances, or about the arts which are concerned with them; can avoid falling into ridiculous contradictions.

Theaetetus: Most true.

Stranger: And therefore I must venture to lay hands on my father’s argument; for if I am to be over-scrupulous, I shall have to give the matter up.

Theaetetus: Nothing in the world should ever induce us to do so.

Stranger: I have a third little request which I wish to make.

Theaetetus: What is it?

Stranger: You heard me say what I have always felt and still feel⁠—that I have no heart for this argument?

Theaetetus: I did.

Stranger: I tremble at the thought of what I have said, and expect that you will deem me mad, when you hear of my sudden changes and shiftings; let me therefore observe, that I am examining the question entirely out of regard for you.

Theaetetus: There is no reason for you to fear that I shall impute any impropriety to you, if you attempt this refutation and proof; take heart, therefore, and proceed.

Stranger: And where shall I begin the perilous enterprise? I think that the road which I must take is⁠—

Theaetetus: Which?⁠—Let me hear.

Stranger: I think that we had better, first of all, consider the points which at present are regarded as self-evident, lest we may have fallen into some confusion, and be too ready to assent to one another, fancying that we are quite clear about them.

Theaetetus: Say more distinctly what you mean.

Stranger: I think that Parmenides, and all ever yet undertook to determine the number and nature of existences, talked to us in rather a light and easy strain.

Theaetetus: How?

Stranger: As if we had been children, to whom they repeated each his own mythus or story;⁠—one said that there were three principles, and that at one time there was war between certain of them; and then again there was peace, and they were married and begat children, and brought them up; and another spoke of two principles⁠—a moist and a dry, or a hot and a cold, and made them marry and cohabit. The Eleatics, however, in our part of the world, say that all things are many in name, but in nature one; this is their mythus, which goes back to Xenophanes, and is even older. Then there are Ionian, and in more recent times Sicilian muses, who have arrived at the conclusion that to unite the two principles is safer, and to say that being is one and many, and that these are held together by enmity and friendship, ever parting, ever meeting, as the severer Muses assert, while the gentler ones do not insist on the perpetual strife and peace, but admit a relaxation and alternation of them; peace and unity sometimes prevailing under the sway of Aphrodite, and then again plurality and war, by reason of a principle of strife. Whether any of them spoke the truth in all this is hard to determine; besides, antiquity and famous men should have reverence, and not be liable to accusations so serious. Yet one thing may be said of them without offence⁠—

Theaetetus: What thing?

Stranger: That they went on their several ways disdaining to notice people like ourselves; they did not care whether they took us with them, or left us behind them.

Theaetetus: How do you mean?

Stranger: I mean to say, that when they talk of one, two, or more elements, which are or have become or are becoming, or again of heat mingling with cold, assuming in some other part of their works separations and mixtures⁠—tell me, Theaetetus, do you understand what they mean by these expressions? When I was a younger man, I used to fancy that I understood quite well what was meant by the term “not-being,” which is our present subject of dispute; and now you see in what a fix we are about it.

Theaetetus: I see.

Stranger: And very likely we have been getting into the same perplexity about “being,” and yet may fancy that when anybody utters the word, we understand him quite easily, although we do not know about not-being. But we may be; equally ignorant of both.

Theaetetus: I dare say.

Stranger: And the same may be said of all the terms just mentioned.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: The consideration of most of them may be deferred; but we had better now discuss the chief captain and leader of them.

Theaetetus: Of what are you speaking? You clearly think that we must first investigate what people mean by the word “being.”

Stranger: You follow close at my heels, Theaetetus. For the right method, I conceive, will be to call into our presence the dualistic philosophers and to interrogate them. “Come,” we will say, “Ye, who affirm that hot and cold or any other two principles are the universe, what is this term which you apply to both of them, and what do you mean when you say that both and each of them ‘are’? How are we to understand the word ‘are’? Upon your view, are we to suppose that there is a third principle over and above the other two⁠—three in all, and not two? For clearly you cannot say that one of the two principles is being, and yet attribute being equally to both of them; for, if you did, whichever of the two is identified with being, will comprehend the other; and so they will be one and not two.”

Theaetetus: Very true.

Stranger: But perhaps you mean to give the name of “being” to both of them together?

Theaetetus: Quite likely.

Stranger: “Then, friends,” we shall reply to them, “the answer is plainly that the two will still be resolved into one.”

Theaetetus: Most true.

Stranger: “Since, then, we are in a difficulty, please to tell us what you mean, when you speak of being; for there can be no doubt that you always from the first understood your own meaning, whereas we once thought that we understood you, but now we are in a great strait. Please to begin by explaining this matter to us, and let us no longer fancy that we understand you, when we entirely misunderstand you.” There will be no impropriety in our demanding an answer to this question, either of the dualists or of the pluralists?

Theaetetus: Certainly not.

Stranger: And what about the assertors of the oneness of the all⁠—must we not endeavour to ascertain from them what they mean by “being”?

Theaetetus: By all means.

Stranger: Then let them answer this question: One, you say, alone is? “Yes,” they will reply.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And there is something which you call “being”?

Theaetetus: “Yes.”

Stranger: And is being the same as one, and do you apply two names to the same thing?

Theaetetus: What will be their answer, Stranger?

Stranger: It is clear, Theaetetus, that he who asserts the unity of being will find a difficulty in answering this or any other question.

Theaetetus: Why so?

Stranger: To admit of two names, and to affirm that there is nothing but unity, is surely ridiculous?

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: And equally irrational to admit that a name is anything?

Theaetetus: How so?

Stranger: To distinguish the name from the thing, implies duality.

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: And yet he who identifies the name with the thing will be compelled to say that it is the name of nothing, or if he says that it is the name of something, even then the name will only be the name of a name, and of nothing else.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And the one will turn out to be only one of one, and being absolute unity, will represent a mere name.329

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: And would they say that the whole is other than the one that is, or the same with it?

Theaetetus: To be sure they would, and they actually say so.


If being is a whole, as Parmenides sings⁠—

“Every way like unto the fullness of a well-rounded sphere, Evenly balanced from the centre on every side, And must needs be neither greater nor less in any way, Neither on this side nor on that⁠—”

then being has a centre and extremes, and, having these, must also have parts.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: Yet that which has parts may have the attribute of unity in all the parts, and in this way being all and a whole, may be one?

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: But that of which this is the condition cannot be absolute unity?

Theaetetus: Why not?

Stranger: Because, according to right reason, that which is truly one must be affirmed to be absolutely indivisible.

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: But this indivisible, if made up of many parts, will contradict reason.

Theaetetus: I understand.

Stranger: Shall we say that being330 is one and a whole, because it has the attribute of unity? Or shall we say that being is not a whole at all?

Theaetetus: That is a hard alternative to offer.

Stranger: Most true; for being, having in a certain sense the attribute of one, is yet proved not to be the same as one, and the all is therefore more than one.

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: And yet if being be not a whole, through having the attribute of unity, and there be such a thing as an absolute whole, being lacks something of its own nature?

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: Upon this view, again, being, having a defect of being, will become not-being?

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And, again, the all becomes more than one, for being and the whole will each have their separate nature.

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: But if the whole does not exist at all, all the previous difficulties remain the same, and there will be the further difficulty, that besides having no being, being can never have come into being.

Theaetetus: Why so?

Stranger: Because that which comes into being always comes into being as a whole, so that he who does not give whole a place among beings, cannot speak either of essence or generation as existing.

Theaetetus: Yes, that certainly appears to be true.

Stranger: Again; how can that which is not a whole have any quantity? For that which is of a certain quantity must necessarily be the whole of that quantity.

Theaetetus: Exactly.

Stranger: And there will be innumerable other points, each of them causing infinite trouble to him who says that being is either one or two.

Theaetetus: The difficulties which are dawning upon us prove this; for one objection connects with another, and they are always involving what has preceded in a greater and worse perplexity.

Stranger: We are far from having exhausted the more exact thinkers who treat of being and not-being. But let us be content to leave them, and proceed to view those who speak less precisely; and we shall find as the result of all, that the nature of being is quite as difficult to comprehend as that of not-being.

Theaetetus: Then now we will go to the others.

Stranger: There appears to be a sort of war of Giants and Gods going on amongst them; they are fighting with one another about the nature of essence.

Theaetetus: How is that?

Stranger: Some of them are dragging down all things from heaven and from the unseen to earth, and they literally grasp in their hands rocks and oaks; of these they lay hold, and obstinately maintain, that the things only which can be touched or handled have being or essence, because they define being and body as one, and if anyone else says that what is not a body exists they altogether despise him, and will hear of nothing but body.

Theaetetus: I have often met with such men, and terrible fellows they are.

Stranger: And that is the reason why their opponents cautiously defend themselves from above, out of an unseen world, mightily contending that true essence consists of certain intelligible and incorporeal ideas; the bodies of the materialists, which by them are maintained to be the very truth, they break up into little bits by their arguments, and affirm them to be, not essence, but generation and motion. Between the two armies, Theaetetus, there is always an endless conflict raging concerning these matters.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: Let us ask each party in turn, to give an account of that which they call essence.

Theaetetus: How shall we get it out of them?

Stranger: With those who make being to consist in ideas, there will be less difficulty, for they are civil people enough; but there will be very great difficulty, or rather an absolute impossibility, in getting an opinion out of those who drag everything down to matter. Shall I tell you what we must do?

Theaetetus: What?

Stranger: Let us, if we can, really improve them; but if this is not possible, let us imagine them to be better than they are, and more willing to answer in accordance with the rules of argument, and then their opinion will be more worth having; for that which better men acknowledge has more weight than that which is acknowledged by inferior men. Moreover we are no respecters of persons, but seekers after truth.

Theaetetus: Very good.

Stranger: Then now, on the supposition that they are improved, let us ask them to state their views, and do you interpret them.

Theaetetus: Agreed.

Stranger: Let them say whether they would admit that there is such a thing as a mortal animal.

Theaetetus: Of course they would.

Stranger: And do they not acknowledge this to be a body having a soul?

Theaetetus: Certainly they do.

Stranger: Meaning to say that the soul is something which exists?

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And do they not say that one soul is just, and another unjust, and that one soul is wise, and another foolish?

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: And that the just and wise soul becomes just and wise by the possession of justice and wisdom,331 and the opposite under opposite circumstances?

Theaetetus: Yes, they do.

Stranger: But surely that which may be present or may be absent will be admitted by them to exist?

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: And, allowing that justice, wisdom, the other virtues, and their opposites exist, as well as a soul in which they inhere, do they affirm any of them to be visible and tangible, or are they all invisible?

Theaetetus: They would say that hardly any of them are visible.

Stranger: And would they say that they are corporeal?

Theaetetus: They would distinguish: the soul would be said by them to have a body; but as to the other qualities of justice, wisdom, and the like, about which you asked, they would not venture either to deny their existence, or to maintain that they were all corporeal.

Stranger: Verily, Theaetetus, I perceive a great improvement in them; the real aborigines, children of the dragon’s teeth, would have been deterred by no shame at all, but would have obstinately asserted that nothing is which they are not able to squeeze in their hands.

Theaetetus: That is pretty much their notion.

Stranger: Let us push the question; for if they will admit that any, even the smallest particle of being, is incorporeal, it is enough; they must then say what that nature is which is common to both the corporeal and incorporeal, and which they have in their mind’s eye when they say of both of them that they “are.” Perhaps they may be in a difficulty; and if this is the case, there is a possibility that they may accept a notion of ours respecting the nature of being, having nothing of their own to offer.

Theaetetus: What is the notion? Tell me, and we shall soon see.

Stranger: My notion would be, that anything which possesses any sort of power to affect another, or to be affected by another, if only for a single moment, however trifling the cause and however slight the effect, has real existence; and I hold that the definition of being is simply power.

Theaetetus: They accept your suggestion, having nothing better of their own to offer.

Stranger: Very good; perhaps we, as well as they, may one day change our minds; but, for the present, this may be regarded as the understanding which is established with them.

Theaetetus: Agreed.

Stranger: Let us now go to the friends of ideas; of their opinions, too, you shall be the interpreter.

Theaetetus: I will.

Stranger: To them we say⁠—You would distinguish essence from generation?

Theaetetus: “Yes,” they reply.

Stranger: And you would allow that we participate in generation with the body, and through perception, but we participate with the soul through thought in true essence; and essence you would affirm to be always the same and immutable, whereas generation or becoming varies?

Theaetetus: Yes; that is what we should affirm.

Stranger: Well, fair sirs, we say to them, what is this participation, which you assert of both? Do you agree with our recent definition?

Theaetetus: What definition?

Stranger: We said that being was an active or passive energy, arising out of a certain power which proceeds from elements meeting with one another. Perhaps your ears, Theaetetus, may fail to catch their answer, which I recognize because I have been accustomed to hear it.

Theaetetus: And what is their answer?

Stranger: They deny the truth of what we were just now saying to the aborigines about existence.

Theaetetus: What was that?

Stranger: Any power of doing or suffering in a degree however slight was held by us to be a sufficient definition of being?

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: They deny this, and say that the power of doing or suffering is confined to becoming, and that neither power is applicable to being.

Theaetetus: And is there not some truth in what they say?

Stranger: Yes; but our reply will be, that we want to ascertain from them more distinctly, whether they further admit that the soul knows, and that being or essence is known.

Theaetetus: There can be no doubt that they say so.

Stranger: And is knowing and being known doing or suffering, or both, or is the one doing and the other suffering, or has neither any share in either?

Theaetetus: Clearly, neither has any share in either; for if they say anything else, they will contradict themselves.

Stranger: I understand; but they will allow that if to know is active, then, of course, to be known is passive. And on this view being, in so far as it is known, is acted upon by knowledge, and is therefore in motion; for that which is in a state of rest cannot be acted upon, as we affirm.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And, O heavens, can we ever be made to believe that motion and life and soul and mind are not present with perfect being? Can we imagine that being is devoid of life and mind, and exists in awful unmeaningness an everlasting fixture?

Theaetetus: That would be a dreadful thing to admit, Stranger.

Stranger: But shall we say that has mind and not life?

Theaetetus: How is that possible?

Stranger: Or shall we say that both inhere in perfect being, but that it has no soul which contains them?

Theaetetus: And in what other way can it contain them?

Stranger: Or that being has mind and life and soul, but although endowed with soul remains absolutely unmoved?

Theaetetus: All three suppositions appear to me to be irrational.

Stranger: Under being, then, we must include motion, and that which is moved.

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: Then, Theaetetus, our inference is, that if there is no motion, neither is there any mind anywhere, or about anything or belonging to anyone.

Theaetetus: Quite true.

Stranger: And yet this equally follows, if we grant that all things are in motion⁠—upon this view too mind has no existence.

Theaetetus: How so?

Stranger: Do you think that sameness of condition and mode and subject could ever exist without a principle of rest?

Theaetetus: Certainly not.

Stranger: Can you see how without them mind could exist, or come into existence anywhere?

Theaetetus: No.

Stranger: And surely contend we must in every possible way against him who would annihilate knowledge and reason and mind, and yet ventures to speak confidently about anything.

Theaetetus: Yes, with all our might.

Stranger: Then the philosopher, who has the truest reverence for these qualities, cannot possibly accept the notion of those who say that the whole is at rest, either as unity or in many forms: and he will be utterly deaf to those who assert universal motion. As children say entreatingly “Give us both,” so he will include both the moveable and immoveable in his definition of being and all.

Theaetetus: Most true.

Stranger: And now, do we seem to have gained a fair notion of being?

Theaetetus: Yes truly.

Stranger: Alas, Theaetetus, methinks that we are now only beginning to see the real difficulty of the enquiry into the nature of it.

Theaetetus: What do you mean?

Stranger: O my friend, do you not see that nothing can exceed our ignorance, and yet we fancy that we are saying something good?

Theaetetus: I certainly thought that we were; and I do not at all understand how we never found out our desperate case.

Stranger: Reflect: after having made these admissions, may we not be justly asked the same questions which we ourselves were asking of those who said that all was hot and cold?

Theaetetus: What were they? Will you recall them to my mind?

Stranger: To be sure I will, and I will remind you of them, by putting the same questions to you which I did to them, and then we shall get on.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: Would you not say that rest and motion are in the most entire opposition to one another?

Theaetetus: Of course.

Stranger: And yet you would say that both and either of them equally are?

Theaetetus: I should.

Stranger: And when you admit that both or either of them are, do you mean to say that both or either of them are in motion?

Theaetetus: Certainly not.

Stranger: Or do you wish to imply that they are both at rest, when you say that they are?

Theaetetus: Of course not.

Stranger: Then you conceive of being as some third and distinct nature, under which rest and motion are alike included; and, observing that they both participate in being, you declare that they are.

Theaetetus: Truly we seem to have an intimation that being is some third thing, when we say that rest and motion are.

Stranger: Then being is not the combination of rest and motion, but something different from them.

Theaetetus: So it would appear.

Stranger: Being, then, according to its own nature, is neither in motion nor at rest.

Theaetetus: That is very much the truth.

Stranger: Where, then, is a man to look for help who would have any clear or fixed notion of being in his mind?

Theaetetus: Where, indeed?

Stranger: I scarcely think that he can look anywhere; for that which is not in motion must be at rest, and again, that which is not at rest must be in motion; but being is placed outside of both these classes. Is this possible?

Theaetetus: Utterly impossible.

Stranger: Here, then, is another thing which we ought to bear in mind.

Theaetetus: What?

Stranger: When we were asked to what we were to assign the appellation of not-being, we were in the greatest difficulty:⁠—do you remember?

Theaetetus: To be sure.

Stranger: And are we not now in as great a difficulty about being?

Theaetetus: I should say, Stranger, that we are in one which is, if possible, even greater.

Stranger: Then let us acknowledge the difficulty; and as being and not-being are involved in the same perplexity, there is hope that when the one appears more or less distinctly, the other will equally appear; and if we are able to see neither, there may still be a chance of steering our way in between them, without any great discredit.

Theaetetus: Very good.

Stranger: Let us enquire, then, how we come to predicate many names of the same thing.

Theaetetus: Give an example.

Stranger: I mean that we speak of man, for example, under many names⁠—that we attribute to him colours and forms and magnitudes and virtues and vices, in all of which instances and in ten thousand others we not only speak of him as a man, but also as good, and having numberless other attributes, and in the same way anything else which we originally supposed to be one is described by us as many, and under many names.

Theaetetus: That is true.

Stranger: And thus we provide a rich feast for tyros, whether young or old; for there is nothing easier than to argue that the one cannot be many, or the many one; and great is their delight in denying that a man is good; for man, they insist, is man and good is good. I dare say that you have met with persons who take an interest in such matters⁠—they are often elderly men, whose meagre sense is thrown into amazement by these discoveries of theirs, which they believe to be the height of wisdom.

Theaetetus: Certainly, I have.

Stranger: Then, not to exclude anyone who has ever speculated at all upon the nature of being, let us put our questions to them as well as to our former friends.

Theaetetus: What questions?

Stranger: Shall we refuse to attribute being to motion and rest, or anything to anything, and assume that they do not mingle, and are incapable of participating in one another? Or shall we gather all into one class of things communicable with one another? Or are some things communicable and others not?⁠—Which of these alternatives, Theaetetus, will they prefer?

Theaetetus: I have nothing to answer on their behalf. Suppose that you take all these hypotheses in turn, and see what are the consequences which follow from each of them.

Stranger: Very good, and first let us assume them to say that nothing is capable of participating in anything else in any respect; in that case rest and motion cannot participate in being at all.

Theaetetus: They cannot.

Stranger: But would either of them be if not participating in being?

Theaetetus: No.

Stranger: Then by this admission everything is instantly overturned, as well the doctrine of universal motion as of universal rest, and also the doctrine of those who distribute being into immutable and everlasting kinds; for all these add on a notion of being, some affirming that things “are” truly in motion, and others that they “are” truly at rest.

Theaetetus: Just so.

Stranger: Again, those who would at one time compound, and at another resolve all things, whether making them into one and out of one creating infinity, or dividing them into finite elements, and forming compounds out of these; whether they suppose the processes of creation to be successive or continuous, would be talking nonsense in all this if there were no admixture.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: Most ridiculous of all will the men themselves be who want to carry out the argument and yet forbid us to call anything, because participating in some affection from another, by the name of that other.

Theaetetus: Why so?

Stranger: Why, because they are compelled to use the words “to be,” “apart,” “from others,” “in itself,” and ten thousand more, which they cannot give up, but must make the connecting links of discourse; and therefore they do not require to be refuted by others, but their enemy, as the saying is, inhabits the same house with them; they are always carrying about with them an adversary, like the wonderful ventriloquist, Eurycles, who out of their own bellies audibly contradicts them.

Theaetetus: Precisely so; a very true and exact illustration.

Stranger: And now, if we suppose that all things have the power of communion with one another⁠—what will follow?

Theaetetus: Even I can solve that riddle.

Stranger: How?

Theaetetus: Why, because motion itself would be at rest, and rest again in motion, if they could be attributed to one another.

Stranger: But this is utterly impossible.

Theaetetus: Of course.

Stranger: Then only the third hypothesis remains.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: For, surely, either all things have communion with all; or nothing with any other thing; or some things communicate with some things and others not.

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: And two out of these three suppositions have been found to be impossible.

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: Everyone then, who desires to answer truly, will adopt the third and remaining hypothesis of the communion of some with some.

Theaetetus: Quite true.

Stranger: This communion of some with some may be illustrated by the case of letters; for some letters do not fit each other, while others do.

Theaetetus: Of course.

Stranger: And the vowels, especially, are a sort of bond which pervades all the other letters, so that without a vowel one consonant cannot be joined to another.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: But does everyone know what letters will unite with what? Or is art required in order to do so?332

Theaetetus: Art is required.

Stranger: What art?

Theaetetus: The art of grammar.

Stranger: And is not this also true of sounds high and low?⁠—Is not he who has the art to know what sounds mingle, a musician, and he who is ignorant, not a musician?

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: And we shall find this to be generally true of art or the absence of art.

Theaetetus: Of course.

Stranger: And as classes are admitted by us in like manner to be some of them capable and others incapable of intermixture, must not he who would rightly show what kinds will unite and what will not, proceed by the help of science in the path of argument? And will he not ask if the connecting links are universal, and so capable of intermixture with all things; and again, in divisions, whether there are not other universal classes, which make them possible?

Theaetetus: To be sure he will require science, and, if I am not mistaken, the very greatest of all sciences.

Stranger: How are we to call it? By Zeus, have we not lighted unwittingly upon our free and noble science, and in looking for the Sophist have we not entertained the philosopher unawares?

Theaetetus: What do you mean?

Stranger: Should we not say that the division according to classes, which neither makes the same other, nor makes other the same, is the business of the dialectical science?

Theaetetus: That is what we should say.

Stranger: Then, surely, he who can divide rightly is able to see clearly one form pervading a scattered multitude, and many different forms contained under one higher form; and again, one form knit together into a single whole and pervading many such wholes, and many forms, existing only in separation and isolation. This is the knowledge of classes which determines where they can have communion with one another and where not.

Theaetetus: Quite true.

Stranger: And the art of dialectic would be attributed by you only to the philosopher pure and true?

Theaetetus: Who but he can be worthy?

Stranger: In this region we shall always discover the philosopher, if we look for him; like the Sophist, he is not easily discovered, but for a different reason.

Theaetetus: For what reason?

Stranger: Because the Sophist runs away into the darkness of not-being, in which he has learned by habit to feel about, and cannot be discovered because of the darkness of the place. Is not that true?

Theaetetus: It seems to be so.

Stranger: And the philosopher, always holding converse through reason with the idea of being, is also dark from excess of light; for the souls of the many have no eye which can endure the vision of the divine.

Theaetetus: Yes; that seems to be quite as true as the other.

Stranger: Well, the philosopher may hereafter be more fully considered by us, if we are disposed; but the Sophist must clearly not be allowed to escape until we have had a good look at him.

Theaetetus: Very good.

Stranger: Since, then, we are agreed that some classes have a communion with one another, and others not, and some have communion with a few and others with many, and that there is no reason why some should not have universal communion with all, let us now pursue the enquiry, as the argument suggests, not in relation to all ideas, lest the multitude of them should confuse us, but let us select a few of those which are reckoned to be the principal ones, and consider their several natures and their capacity of communion with one another, in order that if we are not able to apprehend with perfect clearness the notions of being and not-being, we may at least not fall short in the consideration of them, so far as they come within the scope of the present enquiry, if peradventure we may be allowed to assert the reality of not-being, and yet escape unscathed.

Theaetetus: We must do so.

Stranger: The most important of all the genera are those which we were just now mentioning⁠—being and rest and motion.

Theaetetus: Yes, by far.

Stranger: And two of these are, as we affirm, incapable of communion with one another.

Theaetetus: Quite incapable.

Stranger: Whereas being surely has communion with both of them, for both of them are?

Theaetetus: Of course.

Stranger: That makes up three of them.

Theaetetus: To be sure.

Stranger: And each of them is other than the remaining two, but the same with itself.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: But then, what is the meaning of these two words, “same” and “other”? Are they two new kinds other than the three, and yet always of necessity intermingling with them, and are we to have five kinds instead of three; or when we speak of the same and other, are we unconsciously speaking of one of the three first kinds?

Theaetetus: Very likely we are.

Stranger: But, surely, motion and rest are neither the other nor the same.

Theaetetus: How is that?

Stranger: Whatever we attribute to motion and rest in common, cannot be either of them.

Theaetetus: Why not?

Stranger: Because motion would be at rest and rest in motion, for either of them, being predicated of both, will compel the other to change into the opposite of its own nature, because partaking of its opposite.

Theaetetus: Quite true.

Stranger: Yet they surely both partake of the same and of the other?

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: Then we must not assert that motion, any more than rest, is either the same or the other.

Theaetetus: No; we must not.

Stranger: But are we to conceive that being and the same are identical?

Theaetetus: Possibly.

Stranger: But if they are identical, then again in saying that motion and rest have being, we should also be saying that they are the same.

Theaetetus: Which surely cannot be.

Stranger: Then being and the same cannot be one.

Theaetetus: Scarcely.

Stranger: Then we may suppose the same to be a fourth class, which is now to be added to the three others.

Theaetetus: Quite true.

Stranger: And shall we call the other a fifth class? Or should we consider being and other to be two names of the same class?

Theaetetus: Very likely.

Stranger: But you would agree, if I am not mistaken, that existences are relative as well as absolute?

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: And the other is always relative to other?

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: But this would not be the case unless being and the other entirely differed; for, if the other, like being, were absolute as well as relative, then there would have been a kind of other which was not other than other. And now we find that what is other must of necessity be what it is in relation to some other.

Theaetetus: That is the true state of the case.

Stranger: Then we must admit the other as the fifth of our selected classes.

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: And the fifth class pervades all classes, for they all differ from one another, not by reason of their own nature, but because they partake of the idea of the other.

Theaetetus: Quite true.

Stranger: Then let us now put the case with reference to each of the five.

Theaetetus: How?

Stranger: First there is motion, which we affirm to be absolutely “other” than rest: what else can we say?

Theaetetus: It is so.

Stranger: And therefore is not rest.

Theaetetus: Certainly not.

Stranger: And yet is, because partaking of being.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: Again, motion is other than the same?

Theaetetus: Just so.

Stranger: And is therefore not the same.

Theaetetus: It is not.

Stranger: Yet, surely, motion is the same, because all things partake of the same.

Theaetetus: Very true.

Stranger: Then we must admit, and not object to say, that motion is the same and is not the same, for we do not apply the terms “same” and “not the same,” in the same sense; but we call it the “same,” in relation to itself, because partaking of the same; and not the same, because having communion with the other, it is thereby severed from the same, and has become not that but other, and is therefore rightly spoken of as “not the same.”

Theaetetus: To be sure.

Stranger: And if absolute motion in any point of view partook of rest, there would be no absurdity in calling motion stationary.

Theaetetus: Quite right⁠—that is, on the supposition that some classes mingle with one another, and others not.

Stranger: That such a communion of kinds is according to nature, we had already proved333 before we arrived at this part of our discussion.

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: Let us proceed, then. May we not say that motion is other than the other, having been also proved by us to be other than the same and other than rest?

Theaetetus: That is certain.

Stranger: Then, according to this view, motion is other and also not other?

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: What is the next step? Shall we say that motion is other than the three and not other than the fourth⁠—for we agreed that there are five classes about and in the sphere of which we proposed to make enquiry?

Theaetetus: Surely we cannot admit that the number is less than it appeared to be just now.

Stranger: Then we may without fear contend that motion is other than being?

Theaetetus: Without the least fear.

Stranger: The plain result is that motion, since it partakes of being, really is and also is not?

Theaetetus: Nothing can be plainer.

Stranger: Then not-being necessarily exists in the case of motion and of every class; for the nature of the other entering into them all, makes each of them other than being, and so nonexistent; and therefore of all of them, in like manner, we may truly say that they are not; and again, inasmuch as they partake of being, that they are and are existent.

Theaetetus: So we may assume.

Stranger: Every class, then, has plurality of being and infinity of not-being.

Theaetetus: So we must infer.

Stranger: And being itself may be said to be other than the other kinds.

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: Then we may infer that being is not, in respect of as many other things as there are; for not-being these it is itself one, and is not the other things, which are infinite in number.

Theaetetus: That is not far from the truth.

Stranger: And we must not quarrel with this result, since it is of the nature of classes to have communion with one another; and if anyone denies our present statement [viz., that being is not, etc.], let him first argue with our former conclusion [i.e., respecting the communion of ideas], and then he may proceed to argue with what follows.

Theaetetus: Nothing can be fairer.

Stranger: Let me ask you to consider a further question.

Theaetetus: What question?

Stranger: When we speak of not-being, we speak, I suppose, not of something opposed to being, but only different.

Theaetetus: What do you mean?

Stranger: When we speak of something as not great, does the expression seem to you to imply what is little any more than what is equal?

Theaetetus: Certainly not.

Stranger: The negative particles, ou and me, when prefixed to words, do not imply opposition, but only difference from the words, or more correctly from the things represented by the words, which follow them.

Theaetetus: Quite true.

Stranger: There is another point to be considered, if you do not object.

Theaetetus: What is it?

Stranger: The nature of the other appears to me to be divided into fractions like knowledge.

Theaetetus: How so?

Stranger: Knowledge, like the other, is one; and yet the various parts of knowledge have each of them their own particular name, and hence there are many arts and kinds of knowledge.

Theaetetus: Quite true.

Stranger: And is not the case the same with the parts of the other, which is also one?

Theaetetus: Very likely; but will you tell me how?

Stranger: There is some part of the other which is opposed to the beautiful?

Theaetetus: There is.

Stranger: Shall we say that this has or has not a name?

Theaetetus: It has; for whatever we call not-beautiful is other than the beautiful, not than something else.

Stranger: And now tell me another thing.

Theaetetus: What?

Stranger: Is the not-beautiful anything but this⁠—an existence parted off from a certain kind of existence, and again from another point of view opposed to an existing something?

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: Then the not-beautiful turns out to be the opposition of being to being?

Theaetetus: Very true.

Stranger: But upon this view, is the beautiful a more real and the not-beautiful a less real existence?

Theaetetus: Not at all.

Stranger: And the not-great may be said to exist, equally with the great?

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: And, in the same way, the just must be placed in the same category with the not-just⁠—the one cannot be said to have any more existence than the other.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: The same may be said of other things; seeing that the nature of the other has a real existence, the parts of this nature must equally be supposed to exist.

Theaetetus: Of course.

Stranger: Then, as would appear, the opposition of a part of the other, and of a part of being, to one another, is, if I may venture to say so, as truly essence as being itself, and implies not the opposite of being, but only what is other than being.

Theaetetus: Beyond question.

Stranger: What then shall we call it?

Theaetetus: Clearly, not-being; and this is the very nature for which the Sophist compelled us to search.

Stranger: And has not this, as you were saying, as real an existence as any other class? May I not say with confidence that not-being has an assured existence, and a nature of its own? Just as the great was found to be great and the beautiful beautiful, and the not-great not-great, and the not-beautiful not-beautiful, in the same manner not-being has been found to be and is not-being, and is to be reckoned one among the many classes of being. Do you, Theaetetus, still feel any doubt of this?

Theaetetus: None whatever.

Stranger: Do you observe that our scepticism has carried us beyond the range of Parmenides’ prohibition?

Theaetetus: In what?

Stranger: We have advanced to a further point, and shown him more than he forbad us to investigate.

Theaetetus: How is that?


Why, because he says⁠—

“Not-being never is,334 and do thou keep thy thoughts from this way of enquiry.”

Theaetetus: Yes, he says so.

Stranger: Whereas, we have not only proved that things which are not are, but we have shown what form of being not-being is; for we have shown that the nature of the other is, and is distributed over all things in their relations to one another, and whatever part of the other is contrasted with being, this is precisely what we have ventured to call not-being.

Theaetetus: And surely, Stranger, we were quite right.

Stranger: Let not anyone say, then, that while affirming the opposition of not-being to being, we still assert the being of not-being; for as to whether there is an opposite of being, to that enquiry we have long said goodbye⁠—it may or may not be, and may or may not be capable of definition. But as touching our present account of not-being, let a man either convince us of error, or, so long as he cannot, he too must say, as we are saying, that there is a communion of classes, and that being, and difference or other, traverse all things and mutually interpenetrate, so that the other partakes of being, and by reason of this participation is, and yet is not that of which it partakes, but other, and being other than being, it is clearly a necessity that not-being should be. And again, being, through partaking of the other, becomes a class other than the remaining classes, and being other than all of them, is not each one of them, and is not all the rest, so that undoubtedly there are thousands upon thousands of cases in which being is not, and all other things, whether regarded individually or collectively, in many respects are, and in many respects are not.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And he who is sceptical of this contradiction, must think how he can find something better to say; or if he sees a puzzle, and his pleasure is to drag words this way and that, the argument will prove to him, that he is not making a worthy use of his faculties; for there is no charm in such puzzles, and there is no difficulty in detecting them; but we can tell him of something else the pursuit of which is noble and also difficult.

Theaetetus: What is it?

Stranger: A thing of which I have already spoken;⁠—letting alone these puzzles as involving no difficulty, he should be able to follow and criticize in detail every argument, and when a man says that the same is in a manner other, or that other is the same, to understand and refute him from his own point of view, and in the same respect in which he asserts either of these affections. But to show that somehow and in some sense the same is other, or the other same, or the great small, or the like unlike; and to delight in always bringing forward such contradictions, is no real refutation, but is clearly the newborn babe of someone who is only beginning to approach the problem of being.

Theaetetus: To be sure.

Stranger: For certainly, my friend, the attempt to separate all existences from one another is a barbarism and utterly unworthy of an educated or philosophical mind.

Theaetetus: Why so?

Stranger: The attempt at universal separation is the final annihilation of all reasoning; for only by the union of conceptions with one another do we attain to discourse of reason.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And, observe that we were only just in time in making a resistance to such separatists, and compelling them to admit that one thing mingles with another.

Theaetetus: Why so?

Stranger: Why, that we might be able to assert discourse to be a kind of being; for if we could not, the worst of all consequences would follow; we should have no philosophy. Moreover, the necessity for determining the nature of discourse presses upon us at this moment; if utterly deprived of it, we could no more hold discourse; and deprived of it we should be if we admitted that there was no admixture of natures at all.

Theaetetus: Very true. But I do not understand why at this moment we must determine the nature of discourse.

Stranger: Perhaps you will see more clearly by the help of the following explanation.

Theaetetus: What explanation?

Stranger: Not-being has been acknowledged by us to be one among many classes diffused over all being.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And thence arises the question, whether not-being mingles with opinion and language.

Theaetetus: How so?

Stranger: If not-being has no part in the proposition, then all things must be true; but if not-being has a part, then false opinion and false speech are possible, for to think or to say what is not⁠—is falsehood, which thus arises in the region of thought and in speech.

Theaetetus: That is quite true.

Stranger: And where there is falsehood surely there must be deceit.

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: And if there is deceit, then all things must be full of idols and images and fancies.

Theaetetus: To be sure.

Stranger: Into that region the Sophist, as we said, made his escape, and, when he had got there, denied the very possibility of falsehood; no one, he argued, either conceived or uttered falsehood, inasmuch as not-being did not in any way partake of being.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And now, not-being has been shown to partake of being, and therefore he will not continue fighting in this direction, but he will probably say that some ideas partake of not-being, and some not, and that language and opinion are of the non-partaking class; and he will still fight to the death against the existence of the image-making and fantastic art, in which we have placed him, because, as he will say, opinion and language do not partake of not-being, and unless this participation exists, there can be no such thing as falsehood. And, with the view of meeting this evasion, we must begin by enquiring into the nature of language, opinion, and imagination, in order that when we find them we may find also that they have communion with not-being, and, having made out the connection of them, may thus prove that falsehood exists; and therein we will imprison the Sophist, if he deserves it, or, if not, we will let him go again and look for him in another class.

Theaetetus: Certainly, Stranger, there appears to be truth in what was said about the Sophist at first, that he was of a class not easily caught, for he seems to have abundance of defences, which he throws up, and which must every one of them be stormed before we can reach the man himself. And even now, we have with difficulty got through his first defence, which is the not-being of not-being, and lo! here is another; for we have still to show that falsehood exists in the sphere of language and opinion, and there will be another and another line of defence without end.

Stranger: Anyone, Theaetetus, who is able to advance even a little ought to be of good cheer, for what would he who is dispirited at a little progress do, if he were making none at all, or even undergoing a repulse? Such a faint heart, as the proverb says, will never take a city: but now that we have succeeded thus far, the citadel is ours, and what remains is easier.

Theaetetus: Very true.

Stranger: Then, as I was saying, let us first of all obtain a conception of language and opinion, in order that we may have clearer grounds for determining, whether not-being has any concern with them, or whether they are both always true, and neither of them ever false.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: Then, now, let us speak of names, as before we were speaking of ideas and letters; for that is the direction in which the answer may be expected.

Theaetetus: And what is the question at issue about names?

Stranger: The question at issue is whether all names may be connected with one another, or none, or only some of them.

Theaetetus: Clearly the last is true.

Stranger: I understand you to say that words which have a meaning when in sequence may be connected, but that words which have no meaning when in sequence cannot be connected?

Theaetetus: What are you saying?

Stranger: What I thought that you intended when you gave your assent; for there are two sorts of intimation of being which are given by the voice.

Theaetetus: What are they?

Stranger: One of them is called nouns, and the other verbs.

Theaetetus: Describe them.

Stranger: That which denotes action we call a verb.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And the other, which is an articulate mark set on those who do the actions, we call a noun.

Theaetetus: Quite true.

Stranger: A succession of nouns only is not a sentence, any more than of verbs without nouns.

Theaetetus: I do not understand you.

Stranger: I see that when you gave your assent you had something else in your mind. But what I intended to say was, that a mere succession of nouns or of verbs is not discourse.

Theaetetus: What do you mean?

Stranger: I mean that words like “walks,” “runs,” “sleeps,” or any other words which denote action, however many of them you string together, do not make discourse.

Theaetetus: How can they?

Stranger: Or, again, when you say “lion,” “stag,” “horse,” or any other words which denote agents⁠—neither in this way of stringing words together do you attain to discourse; for there is no expression of action or inaction, or of the existence of existence or nonexistence indicated by the sounds, until verbs are mingled with nouns; then the words fit, and the smallest combination of them forms language, and is the simplest and least form of discourse.

Theaetetus: Again I ask, What do you mean?

Stranger: When anyone says “A man learns,” should you not call this the simplest and least of sentences?

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: Yes, for he now arrives at the point of giving an intimation about something which is, or is becoming, or has become, or will be. And he not only names, but he does something, by connecting verbs with nouns; and therefore we say that he discourses, and to this connection of words we give the name of discourse.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And as there are some things which fit one another, and other things which do not fit, so there are some vocal signs which do, and others which do not, combine and form discourse.

Theaetetus: Quite true.

Stranger: There is another small matter.

Theaetetus: What is it?

Stranger: A sentence must and cannot help having a subject.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And must be of a certain quality.

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: And now let us mind what we are about.

Theaetetus: We must do so.

Stranger: I will repeat a sentence to you in which a thing and an action are combined, by the help of a noun and a verb; and you shall tell me of whom the sentence speaks.

Theaetetus: I will, to the best of my power.

Stranger: “Theaetetus:sits”⁠—not a very long sentence.

Theaetetus: Not very.

Stranger: Of whom does the sentence speak, and who is the subject? that is what you have to tell.

Theaetetus: Of me; I am the subject.

Stranger: Or this sentence, again⁠—

Theaetetus: What sentence?

Stranger: “Theaetetus, with whom I am now speaking, is flying.”

Theaetetus: That also is a sentence which will be admitted by everyone to speak of me, and to apply to me.

Stranger: We agreed that every sentence must necessarily have a certain quality.

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: And what is the quality of each of these two sentences?

Theaetetus: The one, as I imagine, is false, and the other true.

Stranger: The true says what is true about you?

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: And the false says what is other than true?

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: And therefore speaks of things which are not as if they were?

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And say that things are real of you which are not; for, as we were saying, in regard to each thing or person, there is much that is and much that is not.

Theaetetus: Quite true.

Stranger: The second of the two sentences which related to you was first of all an example of the shortest form consistent with our definition.

Theaetetus: Yes, this was implied in recent admission.

Stranger: And, in the second place, it related to a subject?

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: Who must be you, and can be nobody else?

Theaetetus: Unquestionably.

Stranger: And it would be no sentence at all if there were no subject, for, as we proved, a sentence which has no subject is impossible.

Theaetetus: Quite true.

Stranger: When other, then, is asserted of you as the same, and not-being as being, such a combination of nouns and verbs is really and truly false discourse.

Theaetetus: Most true.

Stranger: And therefore thought, opinion, and imagination are now proved to exist in our minds both as true and false.

Theaetetus: How so?

Stranger: You will know better if you first gain a knowledge of what they are, and in what they severally differ from one another.

Theaetetus: Give me the knowledge which you would wish me to gain.

Stranger: Are not thought and speech the same, with this exception, that what is called thought is the unuttered conversation of the soul with herself?

Theaetetus: Quite true.

Stranger: But the stream of thought which flows through the lips and is audible is called speech?

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And we know that there exists in speech⁠ ⁠…

Theaetetus: What exists?

Stranger: Affirmation.

Theaetetus: Yes, we know it.

Stranger: When the affirmation or denial takes Place in silence and in the mind only, have you any other name by which to call it but opinion?

Theaetetus: There can be no other name.

Stranger: And when opinion is presented, not simply, but in some form of sense, would you not call it imagination?

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: And seeing that language is true and false, and that thought is the conversation of the soul with herself, and opinion is the end of thinking, and imagination or fantasy is the union of sense and opinion, the inference is that some of them, since they are akin to language, should have an element of falsehood as well as of truth?

Theaetetus: Certainly.

Stranger: Do you perceive, then, that false opinion and speech have been discovered sooner than we expected?⁠—For just now we seemed to be undertaking a task which would never be accomplished.

Theaetetus: I perceive.

Stranger: Then let us not be discouraged about the future; but now having made this discovery, let us go back to our previous classification.

Theaetetus: What classification?

Stranger: We divided image-making into two sorts; the one likeness-making, the other imaginative or fantastic.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And we said that we were uncertain in which we should place the Sophist.

Theaetetus: We did say so.

Stranger: And our heads began to go round more and more when it was asserted that there is no such thing as an image or idol or appearance, because in no manner or time or place can there ever be such a thing as falsehood.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And now, since there has been shown to be false speech and false opinion, there may be imitations of real existences, and out of this condition of the mind an art of deception may arise.

Theaetetus: Quite possible.

Stranger: And we have already admitted, in what preceded, that the Sophist was lurking in one of the divisions of the likeness-making art?

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: Let us, then, renew the attempt, and in dividing any class, always take the part to the right, holding fast to that which holds the Sophist, until we have stripped him of all his common properties, and reached his difference or peculiar. Then we may exhibit him in his true nature, first to ourselves and then to kindred dialectical spirits.

Theaetetus: Very good.

Stranger: You may remember that all art was originally divided by us into creative and acquisitive.

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: And the Sophist was flitting before us in the acquisitive class, in the subdivisions of hunting, contests, merchandize, and the like.

Theaetetus: Very true.

Stranger: But now that the imitative art has enclosed him, it is clear that we must begin by dividing the art of creation; for imitation is a kind of creation⁠—of images, however, as we affirm, and not of real things.

Theaetetus: Quite true.

Stranger: In the first place, there are two kinds of creation.

Theaetetus: What are they?

Stranger: One of them is human and the other divine.

Theaetetus: I do not follow.

Stranger: Every power, as you may remember our saying originally, which causes things to exist, not previously existing, was defined by us as creative.

Theaetetus: I remember.

Stranger: Looking, now, at the world and all the animals and plants, at things which grow upon the earth from seeds and roots, as well as at inanimate substances which are formed within the earth, fusile or non-fusile, shall we say that they come into existence⁠—not having existed previously⁠—by the creation of God, or shall we agree with vulgar opinion about them?

Theaetetus: What is it?

Stranger: The opinion that nature brings them into being from some spontaneous and unintelligent cause. Or shall we say that they are created by a divine reason and a knowledge which comes from God?

Theaetetus: I dare say that, owing to my youth, I may often waver in my view, but now when I look at you and see that you incline to refer them to God, I defer to your authority.

Stranger: Nobly said, Theaetetus, and if I thought that you were one of those who would hereafter change your mind, I would have gently argued with you, and forced you to assent; but as I perceive that you will come of yourself and without any argument of mine, to that belief which, as you say, attracts you, I will not forestall the work of time. Let me suppose, then, that things which are said to be made by nature are the work of divine art, and that things which are made by man out of these are works of human art. And so there are two kinds of making and production, the one human and the other divine.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: Then, now, subdivide each of the two sections which we have already.

Theaetetus: How do you mean?

Stranger: I mean to say that you should make a vertical division of production or invention, as you have already made a lateral one.

Theaetetus: I have done so.

Stranger: Then, now, there are in all four parts or segments⁠—two of them have reference to us and are human, and two of them have reference to the gods and are divine.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And, again, in the division which was supposed to be made in the other way, one part in each subdivision is the making of the things themselves, but the two remaining parts may be called the making of likenesses; and so the productive art is again divided into two parts.

Theaetetus: Tell me the divisions once more.

Stranger: I suppose that we, and the other animals, and the elements out of which things are made⁠—fire, water, and the like⁠—are known by us to be each and all the creation and work of God.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: And there are images of them, which are not them, but which correspond to them; and these are also the creation of a wonderful skill.

Theaetetus: What are they?

Stranger: The appearances which spring up of themselves in sleep or by day, such as a shadow when darkness arises in a fire, or the reflection which is produced when the light in bright and smooth objects meets on their surface with an external light, and creates a perception the opposite of our ordinary sight.

Theaetetus: Yes; and the images as well as the creation are equally the work of a divine hand.

Stranger: And what shall we say of human art? Do we not make one house by the art of building, and another by the art of drawing, which is a sort of dream created by man for those who are awake?

Theaetetus: Quite true.

Stranger: And other products of human creation are also twofold and go in pairs; there is the thing, with which the art of making the thing is concerned, and the image, with which imitation is concerned.

Theaetetus: Now I begin to understand, and am ready to acknowledge that there are two kinds of production, and each of them twofold; in the lateral division there is both a divine and a human production; in the vertical there are realities and a creation of a kind of similitudes.

Stranger: And let us not forget that of the imitative class the one part was to have been likeness-making, and the other fantastic, if it could be shown that falsehood is a reality and belongs to the class of real being.

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: And this appeared to be the case; and therefore now, without hesitation, we shall number the different kinds as two.

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: Then, now, let us again divide the fantastic art.

Theaetetus: Where shall we make the division?

Stranger: There is one kind which is produced by an instrument, and another in which the creator of the appearance is himself the instrument.

Theaetetus: What do you mean?

Stranger: When anyone makes himself appear like another in his figure or his voice, imitation is the name for this part of the fantastic art.

Theaetetus: Yes.

Stranger: Let this, then, be named the art of mimicry, and this the province assigned to it; as for the other division, we are weary and will give that up, leaving to someone else the duty of making the class and giving it a suitable name.

Theaetetus: Let us do as you say⁠—assign a sphere to the one and leave the other.

Stranger: There is a further distinction, Theaetetus, which is worthy of our consideration, and for a reason which I will tell you.

Theaetetus: Let me hear.

Stranger: There are some who imitate, knowing what they imitate, and some who do not know. And what line of distinction can there possibly be greater than that which divides ignorance from knowledge?

Theaetetus: There can be no greater.

Stranger: Was not the sort of imitation of which we spoke just now the imitation of those who know? For he who would imitate you would surely know you and your figure?

Theaetetus: Naturally.

Stranger: And what would you say of the figure or form of justice or of virtue in general? Are we not well aware that many, having no knowledge of either, but only a sort of opinion, do their best to show that this opinion is really entertained by them, by expressing it, as far as they can, in word and deed?

Theaetetus: Yes, that is very common.

Stranger: And do they always fail in their attempt to be thought just, when they are not? Or is not the very opposite true?

Theaetetus: The very opposite.

Stranger: Such a one, then, should be described as an imitator⁠—to be distinguished from the other, as he who is ignorant is distinguished from him who knows?

Theaetetus: True.

Stranger: Can we find a suitable name for each of them? This is clearly not an easy task; for among the ancients there was some confusion of ideas, which prevented them from attempting to divide genera into species; wherefore there is no great abundance of names. Yet, for the sake of distinctness, I will make bold to call the imitation which coexists with opinion, the imitation of appearance⁠—that which coexists with science, a scientific or learned imitation.

Theaetetus: Granted.

Stranger: The former is our present concern, for the Sophist was classed with imitators indeed, but not among those who have knowledge.

Theaetetus: Very true.

Stranger: Let us, then, examine our imitator of appearance, and see whether he is sound, like a piece of iron, or whether there is still some crack in him.

Theaetetus: Let us examine him.

Stranger: Indeed there is a very considerable crack; for if you look, you find that one of the two classes of imitators is a simple creature, who thinks that he knows that which he only fancies; the other sort has knocked about among arguments, until he suspects and fears that he is ignorant of that which to the many he pretends to know.

Theaetetus: There are certainly the two kinds which you describe.

Stranger: Shall we regard one as the simple imitator⁠—the other as the dissembling or ironical imitator?

Theaetetus: Very good.

Stranger: And shall we further speak of this latter class as having one or two divisions?

Theaetetus: Answer yourself.

Stranger: Upon consideration, then, there appear to me to be two; there is the dissembler, who harangues a multitude in public in a long speech, and the dissembler, who in private and in short speeches compels the person who is conversing with him to contradict himself.

Theaetetus: What you say is most true.

Stranger: And who is the maker of the longer speeches? Is he the statesman or the popular orator?

Theaetetus: The latter.

Stranger: And what shall we call the other? Is he the philosopher or the Sophist?

Theaetetus: The philosopher he cannot be, for upon our view he is ignorant; but since he is an imitator of the wise he will have a name which is formed by an adaptation of the word sophos. What shall we name him? I am pretty sure that I cannot be mistaken in terming him the true and very Sophist.

Stranger: Shall we bind up his name as we did before, making a chain from one end of his genealogy to the other?

Theaetetus: By all means.

Stranger: He, then,335 who traces the pedigree of his art as follows⁠—who, belonging to the conscious or dissembling section of the art of causing self-contradiction, is an imitator of appearance, and is separated from the class of fantastic which is a branch of image-making into that further division of creation, the juggling of words, a creation human, and not divine⁠—anyone who affirms the real Sophist to be of this blood and lineage will say the very truth.

Theaetetus: Undoubtedly.