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Compare Pope's And Swift's Ideas On Reason

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Reason's Significance

One of the most important differences between humans and all other forms of life can be seen in our ability to think and rationalize our decisions and choices as humans. Without reason, we as humans would be no different than a cat or dog. God, in his infinite wisdom, blessed man with the ability to reason, but left it entirely up to us whether or not we choose to use it. Alexander Pope and Jonathon Swift, two prominent writers of the eighteenth century, take two very different approaches when it comes to the importance or insignificance of reason. Pope chooses to argue that reason is the balancing factor in our lives and helps us to achieve the most possible success if we listen to its judgment. Swift, on the other hand, chooses to take reason to the extreme and show the effects of its very possible distortion. Although entirely different, these men show the very best and worst applications of reason.

In "Gulliver's Travels," Jonathon Swift shows what happens when we place too much emphasis on reason. In his satire, Swift pokes fun at those who are consumed with the Enlightenment way of thinking. He believes that to place reason in such high esteem is not as necessary as some are making it out to be. Although he seems to believe that reason has its place in our society and every day life, it is not the governing factor by which we should live. In "Gulliver's Travels" we see what can happen when people loose touch with reason and the consequences that follow their decisions.

In Gulliver's third voyage to the island of Laputa, Swift pokes fun at those that are obsessed with learning science and abstract thought. He gives us a detailed account of the inhabitant's lives and daily activities. He begins to describe the Laputians physically by saying that they always have their head tilted to one side or another. He also talks of the eyes of the citizens. He claims that one is poked out, looking upward and the other is turned slightly inward. Swift satirizes their attention span as well. He tells that someone must follow the inhabitants around and continuously poke their ears or mouths because their attention span is so short and they must be remind to pay attention. He even goes as far as to make fun of the clothes they wear. He tells that they are covered with musical instruments and various forms of celestial bodies. By referencing the Laputian's clothing, Swift seems to be making fun of the importance placed on reason in England during the period of Enlightenment. He does not seem to think that reason is important at all or at least not to extent that others make it out to be. The other voyages in "Gulliver's Travels" seemed strange for obvious reasons such as the drastic size difference of the inhabitants, but the voyage to Laputa is preposterous based on its sheer impracticality. He finds it humorous how the inhabitants of the island can be so consumed with absolutely nothing. They spend their whole lives attempting to figure out seemingly impossible things. What they are concerned with is abstract thought and nothing that is even close to practical or concrete. The Laputians are so consumed with not doing anything practical that they even completely renounce right angles. The absence of right angles only limits them further in their ability to advance. Swift also makes fun og the inhabitants and their seeming obsession with language. They seem to take it to the extreme when they assign a certain letter to certain parts of a machine, but then using different letters or symbols to describe the movements of these parts. Language is a fundamental element of any civilization, but Swift appears to believe that they are taking their language too far and he finds it ridiculous. Gulliver even becomes bored with his conversation with the inhabitants and desires to leave. In turn, the Laputians do not find him very interesting either and are more consumed with their own mathematics and music. During the same voyage, Gulliver visits a nearby town where he learns there is an academy. The academy is a place where the inhabitants have been working for years and have not accomplished or achieved any new results. They are engaged in seemingly ridiculous and ludicrous acts that will not do anything to better the society or the lives of the city's people. The academy is nothing more then a distraction from real life. The people are obsessed with useless little projects while the real tragedy, the decay of the city, is taking place and no one seems to care. Even if the academy were real, there would not be any gain that could come from their scientific foundations. It does nothing to promote the mind, but rather only fill it with useless information. Swift seems to use this to show that although these people were intelligent, they were not smart enough to realize their waste of time or that there was no reason for them to continue in their endeavors. What was even more surreal was the thought that this academy was in actual existence in England. Swift though it unnecessary for these kinds of scientific experiments to take place and thought it a waste of time. Swift has already begun to distort the value of reason and its distortion on gets worse as the story continues. There is a point in the journey when Gulliver makes a trip to Glubbfubdrib where he is allowed to speak with historical figures such as Homer, Dante, and Aristotle. In most cases, these ancient authors are held in high esteem and most would consider it a great honor to have an occasion to speak with them, but it appears to do nothing for Gulliver. He does not elevate these people in the least and it seems as though he thinks of them much in the same way he would think of any man. On his last visit to the neighboring town of Luggnagg, he encounters people that seek to gain eternal life. You would think that with age would come wisdom and knowledge, but these people have gained the opposite. Instead they become cynical and selfish. They become very bitter in their thought process and become a burden on the town. Reason is again poked fun at when Swift seems to simply say what is the point of reason? He seems to feel as if it gets you absolutely nowhere. He looks as if he is almost disgusted with the Laputians because they seem to be so stuck in the here and now. He feels as if they are not intelligent enough to look past today and see how there actions today might affect them in the long run.

The last voyage in "Gulliver's Travels" is to a village that is populated by horse like creatures that are the dominant species. The Houyhnhnms, as they call themselves, have the ability to speak and are completely governed by reason. Swift seems to take reason to the ultimate extreme by granting it to animals and not man. This seems to



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