How does Swift satirize science in Gulliver’s Travels? Or, Comment on Swift’s satire on science.
Gulliver’s Travels is a satire on the scientific approach of the Royal Society. The most significant section of the book from the history of science point of view is Gulliver’s visit to the floating island, Laputa, where the inhabitants are enamored of mathematics, measuring, quantifying, experimenting, and astronomical predictions. The island floats by magnetic levitation, in what seems to be one of the only ‘practical applications of their knowledge – their obsession with accurate measurement has led them to apply the use of quadrants to the art of tailoring, resulting only in badly – fitting others. Their heads literally in the clouds, they have to be woken up from their speculations to communicate with Gulliver.
Swift satirizes the ubiquity of Newtonian philosophy in polite society of 1720s London, but he was not being ‘anti-experimental philosophy’, just as no one today is ‘anti-science’. Yes, there was fun to be pokęd at some of the extravagances and plain oddness of the new philosophy and some its followers, just as in Thomas Shadwell’s play The Virtuoso, which targeted Robert Hooke.
However, it works mathematical and philosophical endeavor that does little or to better people’s lives, especially those of their subjects in the colony Balnibarbi, located beneath the floating Laputa. In fact, satirizing the broadly, the rich and poor, we find that Laputa is used to subdue the coins were of inferior quality. Swift took Newton, and what he viewed as his fraudulent use of technical evidence in the assays be Swift’s targets were political and often very personal. But, where he smelt corruption, it would seem that the sins of blinding people with the science or impressive credentials only made a bad job were Meanwhile, the folly of being satisfied simply with the wonder as satire because of genuine concerns lurking beneath – and some of the power relations of Britain and Swift’s native Ireland or, mote carried out in Wood’s favor, as legitimate targets for denunciation society of 1720 Det concerns remain legitimate today.
Most obviously, in Laputa, Swift criticizes a world of Balnibarbi by threats to block the sun or rain, by throwing down rocks or even crushing rebel cities by lowering Laputa onto them. Lynall’s talk made it clear how much political Swift’s satire was, even when the focus might appear to be science. While often associated with the Tories, Swift was suspicious of party politics and the patronage and jobbing that went along with them. Newton became one of the targets of his attacks not because of his science, but because of his influential and very well remunerated position as Master of the Mint, bestowed on him by the Whigs. Swift once claimed that he had a “perfect hatred of tyranny and oppression”. Lynall showed that if the knowledge or authority of experimental philosophy were used in backing it, that too should be called out. A key episode was where Newton presented evidence to back William Wood’s application for a valuable contract to make new coinage for Ireland. Corruption and bribery – including involvement – were widely rumored, as was the claim that of the King’s mistress in his Drapier’s Letters and vicious satire.
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