Google’s Whitepaper on the “fight” of disinformation

George Lakoff could write a book on the “conceptual metaphor” employed in the title of the whitepaper. George Orwell is turning in his grave (the “digital algorithmic ministry of truth”).

Here are the “three foundational pillars” of the whitepaper (expressis verbis):

  • Improve our products so they continue to make quality count;
  • Counteract malicious actors seeking to spread disinformation;
  • Give people context about the information they see.


Further References

Lakoff, G.. (2014). Metaphor and War: The Metaphor System Used to Justify War in the Gulf. Cognitive Semiotics

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1515/cogsem.2009.4.2.5
directSciHub download

Steuter, E., & Wills, D.. (2008). At war with metaphor. Nueva York: Rowman and …

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1186/1471-2148-10-4
directSciHub download

Thibodeau, P. H., Hendricks, R. K., & Boroditsky, L.. (2017). How Linguistic Metaphor Scaffolds Reasoning. Trends in Cognitive Sciences

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2017.07.001
directSciHub download

Hülsse, R., & Spencer, A.. (2008). The metaphor of terror: Terrorism studies and the constructivist turn. Security Dialogue

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1177/0967010608098210
directSciHub download

Ferrari, F.. (2007). Metaphor at work in the analysis of political discourse: Investigating a “preventive war” persuasion strategy. Discourse and Society

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1177/0957926507079737
directSciHub download

Thibodeau, P., Mcclelland, J. L., & Boroditsky, L.. (2009). When a bad metaphor may not be a victimless crime : The role of metaphor in social policy. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1287/mnsc.1070.0713
directSciHub download

Spencer, A.. (2012). The social construction of terrorism: Media, metaphors and policy implications. Journal of International Relations and Development

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1057/jird.2012.4
directSciHub download

At war with metaphor: media, propaganda, and racism in the war on terror. (2013). Choice Reviews Online

Plain numerical DOI: 10.5860/choice.46-3669
directSciHub download

Kövecses, Z.. (2016). Conceptual metaphor theory. In The Routledge Handbook of Metaphor and Language

Plain numerical DOI: 10.4324/9781315672953
directSciHub download

Navaro-Yashin, Y.. (2009). Affective spaces, melancholic objects: Ruination and the production of anthropological knowledge. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9655.2008.01527.x
directSciHub download

Koller, V., Hardie, A., Rayson, P., & Semino, E.. (2008). Using a semantic annotation tool for the analysis of metaphor in discourse. Metaphorik.De
Yanık, L. K.. (2009). The Metamorphosis of Metaphors of Vision: “Bridging” Turkey’s Location, Role and Identity After the End of the Cold War. Geopolitics

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1080/14650040802693515
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Cybernetics: The science of steering systems

The etymology of cybernetics

In ancient Greek the word for ‘steer’ is ‘kybernan’ which in turn forms the root of the term ‘cybernetics’ coined 1948 by U.S. mathematician Norbert Wiener. The construction is perhaps based on 1830s French cybernétique ‘the art of governing’. In an academic context cybernetics is the theory or study of communication and control. In general, cybernetics is a transdisciplinary approach for exploring regulatory systems—their structures, constraints, and possibilities.

The Latin term ‘gubernare’ (to direct, rule, guide, steer, govern) has the same etymological root. The word ‘governor’ and ‘goverment’ are both related.”

Norbert Wiener
Wiener is considered the originator of cybernetics, a formalization of the notion of feedback, with implications for engineering, systems control, computer science, biology, neuroscience, philosophy, and the organization of society.

Norbert Wiener is credited as being one of the first to theorize that all intelligent behavior was the result of feedback mechanisms, that could possibly be simulated by machines and was an important early step towards the development of modern AI.

Norbert Wiener – The Application of Physics to Medicine (1953)

Further References

Miles, S. B., & Wiener, N.. (2006). The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society. Land Economics

Plain numerical DOI: 10.2307/3159747
directSciHub download

Heylighen, F., & Joslyn, C.. (2004). Cybernetics and Second-Order Cybernetics. In Encyclopedia of Physical Science and Technology

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1016/b0-12-227410-5/00161-7
directSciHub download

Wiener, N.. (1956). The theory of prediction. In Modern mathematics for the engineer, editor E.F. Beckenbach
Rosenblueth, A., & Wiener, N.. (2002). The Role of Models in Science. Philosophy of Science

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1086/286874
directSciHub download

Rosenblueth, A., Wiener, N., & Bigelow, J.. (2002). Behavior, Purpose and Teleology. Philosophy of Science

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1086/286788
directSciHub download

Adams, F.. (2003). The Informational Turn in Philosophy. Minds and Machines

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1023/A:1026244616112
directSciHub download

Wiener, N.. (2011). Cybernetics, or control and communication in the animal and the machine (2nd ed.). Cybernetics, or control and communication in the animal and the machine (2nd ed.).

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1037/13140-000
directSciHub download

Wiener, N.. (1960). Some moral and technical consequences of automation. Science

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1126/science.131.3410.1355
directSciHub download

Psychological warfare: Weltanschauungskrieg = The war of worldviews

AI translation:

The concept of psychological warfare emerged in Nazi Germany and was later adopted by the USA.

The word is a translation of the German “Weltanschauungskrieg” (war of worldviews). Wall Street Lawyer William Donovan “Wild Bill” was one of the first to use it in the context of public relations in the USA. President Franklin Roosevelt appointed him as Director of the new U.S. intelligence agency, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS, predecessor of the CIA) who saw “psychological warfare” as an important stratagem for “engineering of consent” in the public mind (see Chomskys & Hermans “propaganda model”).

William Joseph Donovan (January 1, 1883 – February 8, 1959)

Donovan viewed an understanding of Nazi psychological tactics as a vital source of ideas for “Americanized’’ versions of many of the same stratagems. Use of the new term quickly became widespread throughout the U.S. intelligence community. . . Donovan was among the first in the US to articulate a more or less unified theory of psychological warfare. . . As he saw it, the “engineering of consent” techniques used in peacetime propaganda campaigns could be quite effectively adapted to open warfare. Pro-Allied propaganda was essential to reorganizing the U.S. economy for war and for creating public support at home for intervention in Europe, Donovan believed. Fifth-column movements could be employed abroad as sources of intelligence and as morale-builders for populations under Axis control. He saw “special operations” — meaning sabotage, subversion, commando raids, and guerrilla movements — as useful for softening up targets prior to conventional military assaults. (Simpson. Science of Coercion, 1994, p. 24)

Oxford University Press; January 1996
ISBN: 9780198023623
Title: Science of Coercion
Author: Christopher Simpson
Imprint: Oxford University Press (US)

See also:

“Science of Coercion provides the first thorough examination of the role of the CIA, the Pentagon, and other U.S. security agencies in the evolution of modern communication research, a field in the social sciences which crystallized into a distinct discipline in the early 1950s. Government-funded psychological warfare programs underwrote the academic triumph of preconceptions about communication that persist today in communication studies, advertising research, and in counterinsurgency operations. Christopher Simpson contends that it is unlikely that communication research could have emerged into its present form without regular transfusions of money from U.S military, intelligence, and propaganda agencies during the Cold War. These agencies saw mass communication as an instrument for persuading or dominating targeted groups in the United States and abroad; as a tool for improving military operations; and perhaps most fundamentally, as a mfeans to extend the U.S. influence more widely than ever before at a relatively modest cost. Communication research, in turn, became for a time the preferred method for testing and developing such techniques. Science of Coercion uses long-classified documents to probe the contributions made by prominent mass communication researchers such as Wilbur Schramm, Ithiel de Sola Pool, and others, then details the impact of psychological warfare projects on widely held preconceptions about social science and the nature of communication itself. A fascinating case study in the history of science and the sociology of knowledge, Science of Coercion offers valuable insights into the dynamics of ideology and the social psychology of communication.”


Further References

Operation Paperclip: the secret intelligence program that brought Nazi scientists to America. (2014). Choice Reviews Online

Plain numerical DOI: 10.5860/choice.51-6938
directSciHub download

Pellis, N. R.. (2014). Ethics in space medicine: Holocaust beginnings, the present, and the future. In Human Subjects Research After the Holocaust

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-05702-6_17
directSciHub download

Beach, G. J.. (2013). 1945: Operation Paperclip: America’s First War for Tech Talent. In The U.S. Technology Skills Gap

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1002/9781118680704.ch2
directSciHub download

BARBIER, M. K.. (2017). Operation Paperclip—Antecedents and Dubious Draftees. In Spies, Lies, and Citizenship

Plain numerical DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1tqx72k.16
directSciHub download

Crossman, R. H. S.. (1953). Psychological warfare. Royal United Services Institution. Journal

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1080/03071845309422196
directSciHub download

Whittaker, J. O.. (1997). Psychological warfare in Vietnam. Political Psychology

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1111/0162-895X.00052
directSciHub download

Doob, L. W.. (1950). Goebbels’ Principles of Propaganda. Public Opinion Quarterly

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1086/266211
directSciHub download

Welch, D.. (2004). Nazi Propaganda and the Volksgemeinschaft: Constructing a People’s Community. Journal of Contemporary History

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1177/0022009404042129
directSciHub download

Adena, M., Enikolopov, R., Petrova, M., Santarosa, V., & Zhuravskaya, E.. (2015). Radio and the rise of the Nazis in prewar Germany. Quarterly Journal of Economics

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1093/qje/qjv030
directSciHub download

Meyer, M., & Welch, D.. (2006). Propaganda and the German Cinema, 1933-1945. The History Teacher

Plain numerical DOI: 10.2307/493610
directSciHub download

Kohl, D.. (2011). The Presentation of ” Self ” and ” Other ” in Nazi Propaganda. Psychology & Society

The Oxford handbook of propaganda studies. (2014). Choice Reviews Online

Plain numerical DOI: 10.5860/choice.51-5963
directSciHub download

Neudert, L.-M.. (2017). Computational Propaganda in Germany: A Cautionary Tale. Working Paper 2017.7. Oxford, UK: Project on Computational Propaganda.

Berelson, B., & De Grazia, S.. (1947). Detecting collaboration in propaganda. Public Opinion Quarterly

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1093/poq/11.2.244
directSciHub download

Koppang, H.. (2009). Social Influence by Manipulation: A Definition and Case of Propaganda. Middle East Critique

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1080/19436140902989472
directSciHub download

Holmes, A.. (2018). Worldview: The History of a Concept. Philosophia Christi

Plain numerical DOI: 10.5840/pc20035271
directSciHub download

Meja, V., Kettler, D., Meja, V., & Kettler, D.. (2018). On the Interpretation of Weltanschauung. In From Karl Mannheim

Plain numerical DOI: 10.4324/9780203791318-3
directSciHub download

Habermas, J., & McCumber, J.. (2005). Work and Weltanschauung: The Heidegger Controversy from a German Perspective. Critical Inquiry

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1086/448492
directSciHub download

Simmel, G.. (2007). Kant and Goethe: On the History of the Modern Weltanschauung. Theory, Culture & Society

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1177/0263276407078717
directSciHub download

Altmann, G.. (2011). Science and Linguistics. In Contributions to Quantitative Linguistics

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1007/978-94-011-1769-2_1
directSciHub download

The Impact of Science on Society – Bertrand Russell

Take first the question of food and population. At present 
the population of the globe is increasing at the rate of about 
20 millions a year. Most of this increase is in Russia and 
Southeast Asia. The population of Western Europe and 
the United States is nearly stationary. Meanwhile, the food 
supply of the world as a whole threatens to diminish, as a 
result of unwise methods of cultivation and destruction of 
forests. This is an explosive situation. Left to itself, it must 
lead to a food shortage and thence to a world war. Technique, 
however, makes other issues possible. 

Vital statistics in the West are dominated by medicine 
and birth control: the one diminishes the deaths, the other 
the births. The result is that the average age in the West 
increases: there is a smaller percentage of young people and 
a larger percentage of old people. Some people consider that 
this must have unfortunate results, but speaking as an old 
person, I am not sure. 

The danger of a world shortage of food may be averted 
for a time by improvements in the technique of agriculture. 
But, if population continues to increase at the present rate, 
such improvements cannot long suffice. There will then be 
two groups, one poor with an increasing population, the 
other rich with a stationary population. Such a situation can 
hardly fail to lead to world war. If there is not to be an 
endless succession of wars, population will have to become 
stationary throughout the world, and this will probably have 
to be done, in many countries, as a result of governmental 
measures. This will require an extension of scientific tech- 
nique into very intimate matters. There are, however, two 
other possibilities. War may become so destructive that, at 
any rate for a time, there is no danger of overpopulation; or 
the scientific nations may be defeated and anarchy may de- 
stroy scientific technique. 

Biology is likely to affect human life through the study of 
heredity. Without science, men have changed domestic 
animals and food plants enormously in advantageous ways. 
It may be assumed that they will change them much more, 
and much more quickly, by bringing the science of genetics 
to bear. Perhaps, even, it may become possible artificially to 
induce desirable mutations in genes. (Hitherto the only muta- 
tions that can be artificially caused are neutral or harmful.) 
In any case, it is pretty certain that scientific technique will 
very soon effect great improvements in the animals and 
plants that are useful to man. 

When such methods of modifying the congenital character 
of animals and plants have been pursued long enough to make 
their success obvious, it is probable that there will be a 
powerful movement for applying scientific methods to human 
propagation. There would at first be strong religious and 
emotional obstacles to the adoption of such a policy. But sup- 
pose (say) Russia were able to overcome these obstacles 
and to breed a race stronger, more intelligent, and more 
resistant to disease than any race of men that has hitherto 
existed, and suppose the other nations perceived that unless 
they followed suit they would be defeated in war, then either 
the other nations would voluntarily forgo their prejudices, or, 
after defeat, they would be compelled to forgo them. Any 
scientific technique, however beastly, is bound to spread if 
it is useful in war— until such time as men decide that they have 
had enough of war and will henceforth live in peace. As 
that day does not seem to be at hand, scientific breeding of 
human beings must be expected to come about. I shall return 
to this subject in a later chapter. 

Physiology and psychology afford fields for scientific tech- 
nique which still await development. Two great men, Pavlov 
and Freud, have laid the foundation. I do not accept the view 
that they are in any essential conflict, but what structure 
will be built on their foundations is still in doubt. 

I think the subject which will be of most importance polit- 
ically is mass psychology. Mass psychology is, scientifically 
speaking, not a very advanced study, and so far its professors 
have not been in universities: they have been advertisers, 
politicians, and, above all, dictators. This study is immensely 
useful to practical men, whether they wish to become rich 
or to acquire the government. It is, of course, as a science, 
founded upon individual psychology, but hitherto it has 
employed rule-of-thumb methods which were based upon a 
kind of intuitive common sense. Its importance has been 
enormously increased by the growth of modern methods of 
propaganda. Of these the most influential is what is called 
"education." Religion plays a part, though a diminishing one; 
the press, the cinema, and the radio play an increasing part. 

What is essential in mass psychology is the art of per- 
suasion. If you compare a speech of Hitler's with a speech of 
(say) Edmund Burke, you will see what strides have been 
made in the art since the eighteenth century. What went 
wrong formerly was that people had read in books that man 
is a rational animal, and framed their arguments on this 
hypothesis. We now know that limelight and a brass band 
do more to persuade than can be done by the most elegant 
train of syllogisms. It may be hoped that in time anybody will 
be able to persuade anybody of anything if he can catch 
the patient young and is provided by the State with money 
and equipment. 

Encyclopædic hegemony: On the dominance of Wikipedia

Man muß das Wahre immer wiederholen, weil auch der Irrtum um uns her immer wieder gepredigt wird, und zwar nicht von einzelnen, sondern von der Masse. In Zeitungen und Enzyklopädien, auf Schulen und Universitäten, überall ist der Irrtum oben auf, und es ist ihm wohl und behaglich, im Gefühl der Majorität, die auf seiner Seite ist. ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
(Transl.: Truth has to be repeated constantly, because Error also is being preached all the time, and not just by a few, but by the multitude. In the Press and Encyclopaedias, in Schools and Universities, everywhere Error holds sway, feeling happy and comfortable in the knowledge of having Majority on its side.)

The following statistical tools are of great value in this context because they enable researchers to investigate Wikipedia (e.g., “Edit Wars”) in an empirical fashion (see also Aceto & Pescapé, 2015; Darer, Farnan, & Wright, 2018; Gosain, Agarwal, Shekhawat, Acharya, & Chakravarty, 2018; Wright, Darer, & Farnan, 2018):

revision_content(language = NULL, project = NULL, domain = NULL,revisions, properties = c("content", "ids", "flags", "timestamp", "user","userid", "size", "sha1", "contentmodel", "comment", "parsedcomment", "tags"),clean_response = FALSE, ...)

Source: – p.11

Ripberger, Joseph T. (2011): Capturing curiosity: using Internet search trends to measure public attentiveness. Policy Studies Journal 39(2):239-259.



Darer, A., Farnan, O., & Wright, J. (2018). Automated discovery of internet censorship by web crawling. In WebSci 2018 – Proceedings of the 10th ACM Conference on Web Science.

Gosain, D., Agarwal, A., Shekhawat, S., Acharya, H. B., & Chakravarty, S. (2018). Mending wall: On the implementation of censorship in India. In Lecture Notes of the Institute for Computer Sciences, Social-Informatics and Telecommunications Engineering, LNICST.

Rackley, M. (2009). Internet Archive. In Encylopedia of Library and Information Science, 3rd edition (pp. 2966–2976).

Wright, J., Darer, A., & Farnan, O. (2018). On identifying anomalies in tor usage with applications in detecting internet censorship. In WebSci 2018 – Proceedings of the 10th ACM Conference on Web Science.

Full spectrum dominance (JointVision 2020)

Full-spectrum dominance also known as full-spectrum superiority, is a military entity’s achievement of control over all dimensions of the battlespace, effectively possessing an overwhelming diversity of resources in such areas as terrestrial, aerial, maritime, subterranean, extraterrestrial, psychological, and bio- or cyber-technological warfare.

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Social Identity Theory and the influence of music on identity-formation

Social identity is the portion of an individual’s self-concept derived from perceived membership in a relevant social group. As originally formulated by social psychologists Henri Tajfel and John Turner in the 1970s and the 1980s, social identity theory introduced the concept of a social identity as a way in which to explain intergroup behaviour.

Social identity theory (SIT) is described as a theory that predicts certain intergroup behaviours on the basis of perceived group status differences, the perceived legitimacy and stability of those status differences, and the perceived ability to move from one group to another. This contrasts with occasions where the term “social identity theory” is used to refer to general theorizing about human social selves. Moreover, and although some researchers have treated it as such, social identity theory was never intended to be a general theory of social categorization. It was awareness of the limited scope of social identity theory that led John Turner and colleagues to develop a cousin theory in the form of self-categorization theory, which built on the insights of social identity theory to produce a more general account of self and group processes. The term social identity approach, or social identity perspective, is suggested for describing the joint contributions of both social identity theory and self-categorization theory. Social identity theory suggests that an organization (or any other group-membership) can change individual behaviors if it can modify their self-identity or part of their self-concept that derives from the knowledge of, and emotional attachment to the group.
Music has significant effects on social identity. Already Aristotle and Plato argued that the “harmonics of music effect the harmony within society”. Today’s music industry (which is highly centralized) exerts powerful influences on society, especially on children and adolescents. The effects of today’s mainstream music on social identity are extremely worrisome (to say the least). The systematic (large scale) manipulation of social identities is an important tool of social engineering (cf. Adorno/Frankfurter school). Unfortunately there are almost no protective mechanisms in place which could prevent vulnerable populations from “weaponized music“. Music can be effectively utilized to destabilize society (via social identity) and it is thus a tool of psychological warfare, for instance, via systematic demoralization (violence, aggression, sexual promiscuity, ego-reinforcement, importance of money/materialistic thinking, etc.). Statistical research has demonstrated significant correlations between music and various detrimental behaviours (drug use, violence, promiscuity, etc.) and psychopathology. Music can be used to induce trance and manipulate basal unconscious processes. From a “mental hygiene” point of view the conclusion is clear: Be careful what enters your ears because it will effect your (unconscious) mind and your social identity (in analogy to the effects of unhealthy food intake and physical health). However, vice versa the flip-side holds also true: Music can be used to elevate the mind and foster moral and ethical behaviour (viz., harmony and virtues). However, this is clearly NOT happening.

Further References

Brown, R.. (2000). Social identity theory: past achievements, current problems and future challenges. European Journal of Social Psychology, 30(6), 745–778.

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1002/1099-0992(200011/12)30:6<745::AID-EJSP24>3.0.CO;2-O
directSciHub download

Burke, P. J., & Stets, J. E.. (2000). Identity theory and social identity theory. Social Psychology Quarterly

Plain numerical DOI: 10.3102/0013189X0629800
directSciHub download

Calhoun, C.. (1994). Social theory and the politics of identity. Social Psychology Quarterly
Castells, M., Himanen, P., Castells, M., & Himanen, P.. (2011). The Power of Identity. In The Information Society and the Welfare State

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199256990.003.0006
directSciHub download

Ellemers, N., & Haslam, S. A.. (2012). Social Identity Theory. In Handbook of Theories of Social Psychology (pp. 379–398). 1 Oliver’s Yard, 55 City Road, London EC1Y 1SP United Kingdom: SAGE Publications Ltd

Plain numerical DOI: 10.4135/9781446249222.n45
directSciHub download

Hogg, M. A.. (2016). Social Identity Theory. In Understanding Peace and Conflict Through Social Identity Theory: Contemporary Global Perspectives

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-29869-6_1
directSciHub download

Hogg, M. A., Terry, D. J., & White, K. M.. (1995). A Tale of Two Theories: A Critical Comparison of Identity Theory with Social Identity Theory. Social Psychology Quarterly, 58(4), 255.

Plain numerical DOI: 10.2307/2787127
directSciHub download

Holzapfel, S. D., Bosch, P. R., Lee, C. D., Pohl, P. S., Szeto, M., Heyer, B., & Ringenbach, S. D.. (2019). Acute Effects of Assisted Cycling Therapy on Post-Stroke Motor Function: A Pilot Study. Rehabilitation Research and Practice, 2019, 1–10.

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1155/2019/9028714
directSciHub download

Hornsey, M. J.. (2008). Social Identity Theory and Self-categorization Theory: A Historical Review. Social and Personality Psychology Compass

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1111/j.1751-9004.2007.00066.x
directSciHub download

Huddy, L.. (2001). From social to political identity: A critical examination of social identity theory. Political Psychology

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1111/0162-895X.00230
directSciHub download

Major, B., & O’Brien, L. T.. (2005). The Social Psychology of Stigma. Annual Review of Psychology, 56(1), 393–421.

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.56.091103.070137
directSciHub download

Somers, M. R.. (1994). The narrative constitution of identity: A relational and network approach. Theory and Society, 23(5), 605–649.

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1007/BF00992905
directSciHub download

Stets, J. E., & Burke, P. J.. (2006). Identity Theory and Social Identity Theory. Social Psychology Quarterly

Plain numerical DOI: 10.2307/2695870
directSciHub download

Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C.. (2004). The Social Identity Theory of Intergroup Behavior. In Political Psychology (pp. 276–293). Psychology Press

Plain numerical DOI: 10.4324/9780203505984-16
directSciHub download

Dīvide et imperā – Divide and rule

Divide and rule (from Latin dīvide et imperā), or divide and conquer, in politics and sociology is gaining and maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy.

“Divide et impera” is cited as a common principle in politics by Traiano Boccalini in La bilancia politica. The use of this technique is meant to empower the sovereign to control subjects, populations, or factions of different interests, who collectively might be able to oppose his rule. Machiavelli identifies a similar application to military strategy, advising in Book VI of The Art of War (L’arte della guerra): a Captain should endeavor with every art to divide the forces of the enemy. Machiavelli advises this act be achieved either by making him suspicious of his men in whom he trusted, or by giving him cause that he has to separate his forces, and, because of this, become weaker.

The maxim divide et impera has been attributed to Philip II of Macedon. It was utilised by the Roman ruler Caesar and the French emperor Napoleon (together with the maxim divide ut regnes).

Elements of this technique involve:

  • creating or encouraging divisions among the subjects to prevent alliances that could challenge the sovereign
  • aiding and promoting those who are willing to cooperate with the sovereign
  • fostering distrust and enmity between local rulers
  • encouraging meaningless expenditures that reduce the capability for political and military spending

Immanuel Kant: Sapere aude! (Dare to think for yourself)

Display first page of the original German manuscript

Listen to the audio-version (LibriVox)

What Is Enlightenment?
by Immanuel Kant (1784)

Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage. Nonage is the inability to use one’s own understanding without another’s guidance. This nonage is self-imposed if its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in indecision and lack of courage to use one’s own mind without another’s guidance. Dare to know! (Sapere aude.) “Have the courage to use your own understanding,” is therefore the motto of the enlightenment.

Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why such a large part of mankind gladly remain minors all their lives, long after nature has freed them from external guidance. They are the reasons why it is so easy for others to set themselves up as guardians. It is so comfortable to be a minor. If I have a book that thinks for me, a pastor who acts as my conscience, a physician who prescribes my diet, and so on–then I have no need to exert myself. I have no need to think, if only I can pay; others will take care of that disagreeable business for me. Those guardians who have kindly taken supervision upon themselves see to it that the overwhelming majority of mankind–among them the entire fair sex–should consider the step to maturity, not only as hard, but as extremely dangerous. First, these guardians make their domestic cattle stupid and carefully prevent the docile creatures from taking a single step without the leading-strings to which they have fastened them. Then they show them the danger that would threaten them if they should try to walk by themselves. Now this danger is really not very great; after stumbling a few times they would, at last, learn to walk. However, examples of such failures intimidate and generally discourage all further attempts.

Thus it is very difficult for the individual to work himself out of the nonage which has become almost second nature to him. He has even grown to like it, and is at first really incapable of using his own understanding because he has never been permitted to try it. Dogmas and formulas, these mechanical tools designed for reasonable use–or rather abuse–of his natural gifts, are the fetters of an everlasting nonage. The man who casts them off would make an uncertain leap over the narrowest ditch, because he is not used to such free movement. That is why there are only a few men who walk firmly, and who have emerged from nonage by cultivating their own minds.

It is more nearly possible, however, for the public to enlighten itself; indeed, if it is only given freedom, enlightenment is almost inevitable. There will always be a few independent thinkers, even among the self-appointed guardians of the multitude. Once such men have thrown off the yoke of nonage, they will spread about them the spirit of a reasonable appreciation of man’s value and of his duty to think for himself. It is especially to be noted that the public which was earlier brought under the yoke by these men afterwards forces these very guardians to remain in submission, if it is so incited by some of its guardians who are themselves incapable of any enlightenment. That shows how pernicious it is to implant prejudices: they will eventually revenge themselves upon their authors or their authors’ descendants. Therefore, a public can achieve enlightenment only slowly. A revolution may bring about the end of a personal despotism or of avaricious tyrannical oppression, but never a true reform of modes of thought. New prejudices will serve, in place of the old, as guide lines for the unthinking multitude.

This enlightenment requires nothing but freedom–and the most innocent of all that may be called “freedom”: freedom to make public use of one’s reason in all matters. Now I hear the cry from all sides: “Do not argue!” The officer says: “Do not argue–drill!” The tax collector: “Do not argue–pay!” The pastor: “Do not argue–believe!” Only one ruler in the world says: “Argue as much as you please, but obey!” We find restrictions on freedom everywhere. But which restriction is harmful to enlightenment? Which restriction is innocent, and which advances enlightenment? I reply: the public use of one’s reason must be free at all times, and this alone can bring enlightenment to mankind.

On the other hand, the private use of reason may frequently be narrowly restricted without especially hindering the progress of enlightenment. By “public use of one’s reason” I mean that use which a man, as scholar, makes of it before the reading public. I call “private use” that use which a man makes of his reason in a civic post that has been entrusted to him. In some affairs affecting the interest of the community a certain [governmental] mechanism is necessary in which some members of the community remain passive. This creates an artificial unanimity which will serve the fulfillment of public objectives, or at least keep these objectives from being destroyed. Here arguing is not permitted: one must obey. Insofar as a part of this machine considers himself at the same time a member of a universal community–a world society of citizens–(let us say that he thinks of himself as a scholar rationally addressing his public through his writings) he may indeed argue, and the affairs with which he is associated in part as a passive member will not suffer. Thus it would be very unfortunate if an officer on duty and under orders from his superiors should want to criticize the appropriateness or utility of his orders. He must obey. But as a scholar he could not rightfully be prevented from taking notice of the mistakes in the military service and from submitting his views to his public for its judgment. The citizen cannot refuse to pay the taxes levied upon him; indeed, impertinent censure of such taxes could be punished as a scandal that might cause general disobedience. Nevertheless, this man does not violate the duties of a citizen if, as a scholar, he publicly expresses his objections to the impropriety or possible injustice of such levies. A pastor, too, is bound to preach to his congregation in accord with the doctrines of the church which he serves, for he was ordained on that condition. But as a scholar he has full freedom, indeed the obligation, to communicate to his public all his carefully examined and constructive thoughts concerning errors in that doctrine and his proposals concerning improvement of religious dogma and church institutions. This is nothing that could burden his conscience. For what he teaches in pursuance of his office as representative of the church, he represents as something which he is not free to teach as he sees it. He speaks as one who is employed to speak in the name and under the orders of another. He will say: “Our church teaches this or that; these are the proofs which it employs.” Thus he will benefit his congregation as much as possible by presenting doctrines to which he may not subscribe with full conviction. He can commit himself to teach them because it is not completely impossible that they may contain hidden truth. In any event, he has found nothing in the doctrines that contradicts the heart of religion. For if he believed that such contradictions existed he would not be able to administer his office with a clear conscience. He would have to resign it. Therefore the use which a scholar makes of his reason before the congregation that employs him is only a private use, for no matter how sizable, this is only a domestic audience. In view of this he, as preacher, is not free and ought not to be free, since he is carrying out the orders of others. On the other hand, as the scholar who speaks to his own public (the world) through his writings, the minister in the public use of his reason enjoys unlimited freedom to use his own reason and to speak for himself. That the spiritual guardians of the people should themselves be treated as minors is an absurdity which would result in perpetuating absurdities.

But should a society of ministers, say a Church Council, . . . have the right to commit itself by oath to a certain unalterable doctrine, in order to secure perpetual guardianship over all its members and through them over the people? I say that this is quite impossible. Such a contract, concluded to keep all further enlightenment from humanity, is simply null and void even if it should be confirmed by the sovereign power, by parliaments, and the most solemn treaties. An epoch cannot conclude a pact that will commit succeeding ages, prevent them from increasing their significant insights, purging themselves of errors, and generally progressing in enlightenment. That would be a crime against human nature whose proper destiny lies precisely in such progress. Therefore, succeeding ages are fully entitled to repudiate such decisions as unauthorized and outrageous. The touchstone of all those decisions that may be made into law for a people lies in this question: Could a people impose such a law upon itself? Now it might be possible to introduce a certain order for a definite short period of time in expectation of better order. But, while this provisional order continues, each citizen (above all, each pastor acting as a scholar) should be left free to publish his criticisms of the faults of existing institutions. This should continue until public understanding of these matters has gone so far that, by uniting the voices of many (although not necessarily all) scholars, reform proposals could be brought before the sovereign to protect those congregations which had decided according to their best lights upon an altered religious order, without, however, hindering those who want to remain true to the old institutions. But to agree to a perpetual religious constitution which is not publicly questioned by anyone would be, as it were, to annihilate a period of time in the progress of man’s improvement. This must be absolutely forbidden.

A man may postpone his own enlightenment, but only for a limited period of time. And to give up enlightenment altogether, either for oneself or one’s descendants, is to violate and to trample upon the sacred rights of man. What a people may not decide for itself may even less be decided for it by a monarch, for his reputation as a ruler consists precisely in the way in which he unites the will of the whole people within his own. If he only sees to it that all true or supposed [religious] improvement remains in step with the civic order, he can for the rest leave his subjects alone to do what they find necessary for the salvation of their souls. Salvation is none of his business; it is his business to prevent one man from forcibly keeping another from determining and promoting his salvation to the best of his ability. Indeed, it would be prejudicial to his majesty if he meddled in these matters and supervised the writings in which his subjects seek to bring their [religious] views into the open, even when he does this from his own highest insight, because then he exposes himself to the reproach: Caesar non est supra grammaticos. 2 It is worse when he debases his sovereign power so far as to support the spiritual despotism of a few tyrants in his state over the rest of his subjects.

When we ask, Are we now living in an enlightened age? the answer is, No, but we live in an age of enlightenment. As matters now stand it is still far from true that men are already capable of using their own reason in religious matters confidently and correctly without external guidance. Still, we have some obvious indications that the field of working toward the goal [of religious truth] is now opened. What is more, the hindrances against general enlightenment or the emergence from self-imposed nonage are gradually diminishing. In this respect this is the age of the enlightenment and the century of Frederick [the Great].

A prince ought not to deem it beneath his dignity to state that he considers it his duty not to dictate anything to his subjects in religious matters, but to leave them complete freedom. If he repudiates the arrogant word “tolerant”, he is himself enlightened; he deserves to be praised by a grateful world and posterity as that man who was the first to liberate mankind from dependence, at least on the government, and let everybody use his own reason in matters of conscience. Under his reign, honorable pastors, acting as scholars and regardless of the duties of their office, can freely and openly publish their ideas to the world for inspection, although they deviate here and there from accepted doctrine. This is even more true of every person not restrained by any oath of office. This spirit of freedom is spreading beyond the boundaries [of Prussia] even where it has to struggle against the external hindrances established by a government that fails to grasp its true interest. [Frederick’s Prussia] is a shining example that freedom need not cause the least worry concerning public order or the unity of the community. When one does not deliberately attempt to keep men in barbarism, they will gradually work out of that condition by themselves.

I have emphasized the main point of the enlightenment–man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage–primarily in religious matters, because our rulers have no interest in playing the guardian to their subjects in the arts and sciences. Above all, nonage in religion is not only the most harmful but the most dishonorable. But the disposition of a sovereign ruler who favors freedom in the arts and sciences goes even further: he knows that there is no danger in permitting his subjects to make public use of their reason and to publish their ideas concerning a better constitution, as well as candid criticism of existing basic laws. We already have a striking example [of such freedom], and no monarch can match the one whom we venerate.

But only the man who is himself enlightened, who is not afraid of shadows, and who commands at the same time a well disciplined and numerous army as guarantor of public peace–only he can say what [the sovereign of] a free state cannot dare to say: “Argue as much as you like, and about what you like, but obey!” Thus we observe here as elsewhere in human affairs, in which almost everything is paradoxical, a surprising and unexpected course of events: a large degree of civic freedom appears to be of advantage to the intellectual freedom of the people, yet at the same time it establishes insurmountable barriers. A lesser degree of civic freedom, however, creates room to let that free spirit expand to the limits of its capacity. Nature, then, has carefully cultivated the seed within the hard core–namely the urge for and the vocation of free thought. And this free thought gradually reacts back on the modes of thought of the people, and men become more and more capable of acting in freedom. At last free thought acts even on the fundamentals of government and the state finds it agreeable to treat man, who is now more than a machine, in accord with his dignity.