Every one knew how laborious the usual Method is of attaining to Arts and Sciences; whereas by his Contrivance, the most ignorant Person at a reasonable Charge, and with a little bodily Labour, may write Books in Philosophy, Poetry, Politicks, Law, Mathematicks and Theology, without the least Assistance from Genius or Study.

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Gulliver's Travels:
Voyage to Laputa

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Laputan Logic*
Fanciful. Preposterous. Absurd.
Laputa

Posted on Tuesday 17 October 2006

Yes I am aware of the Hayao Miyazaki anime classic Laputa: Castle in the Sky (Tenku no Shiro Rapyuta) though admittedly I wasn't when I first named this blog. The name came from Gulliver's Travels in which Jonathan Swift described a flying isalnd of chimerical philosophers. Thus Laputan entered the English language meaning something that was fanciful, preposterous or absurd in science or philosophy.



But of course Swift knew damned well that La Puta really meant "The Whore" in Spanish. Not that he let this stop him from proposing a suitably Laputan etymology:
The word, which I interpret the Flying or Floating Island, is in the original Laputa, whereof I could never learn the true etymology. Lap in the old obsolete language signifies high, and untuh, a governor, from which they say by corruption was derived Laputa, from Lapuntuh. But I do not approve of this derivation, which seems to be a little strained. I ventured to offer to the learned among them a conjecture of my own, that Laputa was quasi lap outed; lap signifying properly the dancing of the sunbeams in the sea, and outed, a wing, which however I shall not obtrude, but submit to the judicious reader.

The natural Love of Life gave me some inward Motions of Joy; and I was ready to entertain a Hope, that this Adventure might some Way or other help to deliver me from the desolate Place and Condition I was in. But, at the same Time, the Reader can hardly conceive my Astonishment, to behold an Island in the Air, inhabited by Men who were able (as it should seem) to raise or sink, or put it into a progressive Motion, as they pleased. But not being, at that Time, in a Disposition to philosophise upon this Phaenomenon, I rather chose to observe what Course the Island would take; because it seemed for a while to stand still. Yet, soon after it advanced nearer; and I could see the Sides of it, encompassed with several Gradations of Galleries and Stairs, at certain Intervals, to descend from one to the other. In the lowest Gallery, I beheld some People fishing with long Angling Rods, and others looking on. I waved my Cap, (for my Hat was long since worn out,) and my Handkerchief towards the Island; and upon its nearer approach, I called and shouted with the utmost Strength of my Voice; and then looking circumspectly, I beheld a Crowd gather to that Side which was most in my View. I found by their pointing towards me and to each other, that they plainly discovered me, although they made no Return to my Shouting. But I could see four or five Men running in great Haste up the Stairs to the top of the Island, who then disappeared. I happened rightly to conjecture, that these were sent for Orders to some Person in Authority upon this Occasion.

Travels into several Remote Nations of the World by Lemuel Gulliver