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Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels

by Jonathan Swift

Science Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #4

There was a great lord at court, nearly related to the king, and for that reason alone used with respect. He was universally reckoned the most ignorant and stupid person among them. He had performed many eminent services for the crown, had great natural and acquired parts, adorned with integrity and honour; but so ill an ear for music, that his detractors reported, "he had been often known to beat time in the wrong place;" neither could his tutors, without extreme difficulty, teach him to demonstrate the most easy proposition in the mathematics. (3.4.4)

Lord Munodi is this "great lord" who gets no respect from the Laputians because he's bad at both music and math. At the same time, he's actually the best manager among them. But he gets so little respect from the other Laputians that no one follows his excellent example of "integrity and honour." Lilliput seems to be another state that actively discriminates against competent guys, what with the rope dancing – check out our "Character Analysis" of the Lilliputians for more on Lilliput's preference for courtiers who don't know how to do anything.

Quote #5

The sum of his discourse was to this effect: "That about forty years ago, certain persons went up to Laputa, either upon business or diversion, and, after five months continuance, came back with a very little smattering in mathematics, but full of volatile spirits acquired in that airy region: that these persons, upon their return, began to dislike the management of every thing below, and fell into schemes of putting all arts, sciences, languages, and mechanics, upon a new foot. To this end, they procured a royal patent for erecting an academy of projectors in Lagado; and the humour prevailed so strongly among the people, that there is not a town of any consequence in the kingdom without such an academy. In these colleges the professors contrive new rules and methods of agriculture and building, and new instruments, and tools for all trades and manufactures; whereby, as they undertake, one man shall do the work of ten; a palace may be built in a week, of materials so durable as to last for ever without repairing. (3.4.16)

Lord Munodi tells Gulliver about the origins of the Royal Academy at Lagado, which is a research institute and university for the future scientists of Balnibarbi. The key point here is that these "Projectors" (guys with projects) are all really idealistic, and they mean well. They want to save work and improve agriculture. But they are so out of touch with reality that all of their plans totally fail to achieve their lofty goals. In fact, their plans make everything worse, because they displace traditional methods that were in place before these "reforms." Gulliver seems kind of crotchety here – can you think of any examples in which he actually celebrates something new or recent?

Quote #6

But what I chiefly admired, and thought altogether unaccountable, was the strong disposition I observed in them towards news and politics, perpetually inquiring into public affairs, giving their judgments in matters of state, and passionately disputing every inch of a party opinion. I have indeed observed the same disposition among most of the mathematicians I have known in Europe, although I could never discover the least analogy between the two sciences. (3.2.12)

Laputians love to argue, even when they know nothing about what they're discussing. They seem to like having opinions just for the sake of it. Why might Gulliver find this argumentativeness dangerous or distasteful? Why does Gulliver seem suspicious of opinions?

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