Orwell’s unpublished preface to Animal Farm

The Freedom of the Press
Orwell’s Proposed Preface to ‘Animal Farm’

Excerpt
Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban. Anyone who has lived long in a foreign country will know of instances of sensational items of news — things which on their own merits would get the big headlines-being kept right out of the British press, not because the Government intervened but because of a general tacit agreement that ‘it wouldn’t do’ to mention that particular fact. So far as the daily newspapers go, this is easy to understand. The British press is extremely centralised, and most of it is owned by wealthy men who have every motive to be dishonest on certain important topics. But the same kind of veiled censorship also operates in books and periodicals, as well as in plays, films and radio. At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is ‘not done’ to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was ‘not done’ to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.

This book was first thought of, so far as the central idea goes, in 1937, but was not written down until about the end of 1943. By the time when it came to be written it was obvious that there would be great difficulty in getting it published (in spite of the present book shortage which ensures that anything describable as a book will ‘sell’), and in the event it was refused by four publishers. Only one of these had any ideological motive. Two had been publishing anti-Russian books for years, and the other had no noticeable political colour. One publisher actually started by accepting the book, but after making the preliminary arrangements he decided to consult the Ministry of Information, who appear to have warned him, or at any rate strongly advised him, against publishing it. Here is an extract from his letter:

I mentioned the reaction I had had from an important official in the Ministry of Information with regard to Animal Farm. I must confess that this expression of opinion has given me seriously to think… I can see now that it might be regarded as something which it was highly ill-advised to publish at the present time. If the fable were addressed generally to dictators and dictatorships at large then publication would be all right, but the fable does follow, as I see now, so completely the progress of the Russian Soviets and their two dictators, that it can apply only to Russia, to the exclusion of the other dictatorships. Another thing: it would be less offensive if the predominant caste in the fable were not pigs[*]. I think the choice of pigs as the ruling caste will no doubt give offence to many people, and particularly to anyone who is a bit touchy, as undoubtedly the Russians are.

* It is not quite clear whether this suggested modification is Mr… ’s own idea, or originated with the Ministry of Information; but it seems to have the official ring about it. [Orwell’s Note]

This kind of thing is not a good symptom. Obviously it is not desirable that a government department should have any power of censorship (except security censorship, which no one objects to in war time) over books which are not officially sponsored. But the chief danger to freedom of thought and speech at this moment is not the direct interference of the MOI or any official body. If publishers and editors exert themselves to keep certain topics out of print, it is not because they are frightened of prosecution but because they are frightened of public opinion. In this country intellectual cowardice is the worst enemy a writer or journalist has to face, and that fact does not seem to me to have had the discussion it deserves.

Any fairminded person with journalistic experience will admit that during this war official censorship has not been particularly irksome. We have not been subjected to the kind of totalitarian ‘co-ordination’ that it might have been reasonable to expect. The press has some justified grievances, but on the whole the Government has behaved well and has been surprisingly tolerant of minority opinions. The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary.

Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban. Anyone who has lived long in a foreign country will know of instances of sensational items of news — things which on their own merits would get the big headlines-being kept right out of the British press, not because the Government intervened but because of a general tacit agreement that ‘it wouldn’t do’ to mention that particular fact. So far as the daily newspapers go, this is easy to understand. The British press is extremely centralised, and most of it is owned by wealthy men who have every motive to be dishonest on certain important topics. But the same kind of veiled censorship also operates in books and periodicals, as well as in plays, films and radio. At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is ‘not done’ to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was ‘not done’ to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.

At this moment what is demanded by the prevailing orthodoxy is an uncritical admiration of Soviet Russia. Everyone knows this, nearly everyone acts on it. Any serious criticism of the Soviet régime, any disclosure of facts which the Soviet government would prefer to keep hidden, is next door to unprintable. And this nation-wide conspiracy to flatter our ally takes place, curiously enough, against a background of genuine intellectual tolerance. For though you arc not allowed to criticise the Soviet government, at least you are reasonably free to criticise our own. Hardly anyone will print an attack on Stalin, but it is quite safe to attack Churchill, at any rate in books and periodicals. And throughout five years of war, during two or three of which we were fighting for national survival, countless books, pamphlets and articles advocating a compromise peace have been published without interference. More, they have been published without exciting much disapproval. So long as the prestige of the USSR is not involved, the principle of free speech has been reasonably well upheld. There are other forbidden topics, and I shall mention some of them presently, but the prevailing attitude towards the USSR is much the most serious symptom. It is, as it were, spontaneous, and is not due to the action of any pressure group.

The servility with which the greater part of the English intelligentsia have swallowed and repeated Russian propaganda from 1941 onwards would be quite astounding if it were not that they have behaved similarly on several earlier occasions. On one controversial issue after another the Russian viewpoint has been accepted without examination and then publicised with complete disregard to historical truth or intellectual decency. To name only one instance, the BBC celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Red Army without mentioning Trotsky. This was about as accurate as commemorating the battle of Trafalgar without mentioning Nelson, but it evoked no protest from the English intelligentsia. In the internal struggles in the various occupied countries, the British press has in almost all cases sided with the faction favoured by the Russians and libelled the opposing faction, sometimes suppressing material evidence in order to do so. A particularly glaring case was that of Colonel Mihailovich, the Jugoslav Chetnik leader. The Russians, who had their own Jugoslav protege in Marshal Tito, accused Mihailovich of collaborating with the Germans. This accusation was promptly taken up by the British press: Mihailovich’s supporters were given no chance of answering it, and facts contradicting it were simply kept out of print. In July of 1943 the Germans offered a reward of 100,000 gold crowns for the capture of Tito, and a similar reward for the capture of Mihailovich. The British press ‘splashed’ the reward for Tito, but only one paper mentioned (in small print) the reward for Mihailovich: and the charges of collaborating with the Germans continued. Very similar things happened during the Spanish civil war. Then, too, the factions on the Republican side which the Russians were determined to crush were recklessly libelled in the English leftwing [sic] press, and any statement in their defence even in letter form, was refused publication. At present, not only is serious criticism of the USSR considered reprehensible, but even the fact of the existence of such criticism is kept secret in some cases. For example, shortly before his death Trotsky had written a biography of Stalin. One may assume that it was not an altogether unbiased book, but obviously it was saleable. An American publisher had arranged to issue it and the book was in print — 1 believe the review copies had been sent out — when the USSR entered the war. The book was immediately withdrawn. Not a word about this has ever appeared in the British press, though clearly the existence of such a book, and its suppression, was a news item worth a few paragraphs.

It is important to distinguish between the kind of censorship that the English literary intelligentsia voluntarily impose upon themselves, and the censorship that can sometimes be enforced by pressure groups. Notoriously, certain topics cannot be discussed because of ‘vested interests’. The best-known case is the patent medicine racket. Again, the Catholic Church has considerable influence in the press and can silence criticism of itself to some extent. A scandal involving a Catholic priest is almost never given publicity, whereas an Anglican priest who gets into trouble (e.g. the Rector of Stiffkey) is headline news. It is very rare for anything of an anti-Catholic tendency to appear on the stage or in a film. Any actor can tell you that a play or film which attacks or makes fun of the Catholic Church is liable to be boycotted in the press and will probably be a failure. But this kind of thing is harmless, or at least it is understandable. Any large organisation will look after its own interests as best it can, and overt propaganda is not a thing to object to. One would no more expect the Daily Worker to publicise unfavourable facts about the USSR than one would expect the Catholic Herald to denounce the Pope. But then every thinking person knows the Daily Worker and the Catholic Herald for what they are. What is disquieting is that where the USSR and its policies are concerned one cannot expect intelligent criticism or even, in many cases, plain honesty from Liberal [sic — and throughout as typescript] writers and journalists who are under no direct pressure to falsify their opinions. Stalin is sacrosanct and certain aspects of his policy must not be seriously discussed. This rule has been almost universally observed since 1941, but it had operated, to a greater extent than is sometimes realised, for ten years earlier than that. Throughout that time, criticism of the Soviet régime from the left could only obtain a hearing with difficulty. There was a huge output of anti-Russian literature, but nearly all of it was from the Conservative angle and manifestly dishonest, out of date and actuated by sordid motives. On the other side there was an equally huge and almost equally dishonest stream of pro-Russian propaganda, and what amounted to a boycott on anyone who tried to discuss all-important questions in a grown-up manner. You could, indeed, publish anti-Russian books, but to do so was to make sure of being ignored or misrepresented by nearly me whole of the highbrow press. Both publicly and privately you were warned that it was ‘not done’. What you said might possibly be true, but it was ‘inopportune’ and played into the hands of this or that reactionary interest. This attitude was usually defended on the ground that the international situation, and me urgent need for an Anglo-Russian alliance, demanded it; but it was clear that this was a rationalisation. The English intelligentsia, or a great part of it, had developed a nationalistic loyalty towards me USSR, and in their hearts they felt that to cast any doubt on me wisdom of Stalin was a kind of blasphemy. Events in Russia and events elsewhere were to be judged by different standards. The endless executions in me purges of 1936-8 were applauded by life-long opponents of capital punishment, and it was considered equally proper to publicise famines when they happened in India and to conceal them when they happened in me Ukraine. And if this was true before the war, the intellectual atmosphere is certainly no better now.

But now to come back to this book of mine. The reaction towards it of most English intellectuals will be quite simple: ‘It oughtn’t to have been published.’ Naturally, those reviewers who understand the art of denigration will not attack it on political grounds but on literary ones. They will say that it is a dull, silly book and a disgraceful waste of paper. This may well be true, but it is obviously not me whole of the story. One does not say that a book ‘ought not to have been published’ merely because it is a bad book. After all, acres of rubbish are printed daily and no one bothers. The English intelligentsia, or most of them, will object to this book because it traduces their Leader and (as they see it) does harm to the cause of progress. If it did me opposite they would have nothing to say against it, even if its literary faults were ten times as glaring as they are. The success of, for instance, the Left Book Club over a period of four or five years shows how willing they are to tolerate both scurrility and slipshod writing, provided that it tells them what they want to hear.

The issue involved here is quite a simple one: Is every opinion, however unpopular — however foolish, even — entitled to a hearing? Put it in that form and nearly any English intellectual will feel that he ought to say ‘Yes’. But give it a concrete shape, and ask, ‘How about an attack on Stalin? Is that entitled to a hearing?’, and the answer more often than not will be ‘No’, In that case the current orthodoxy happens to be challenged, and so the principle of free speech lapses. Now, when one demands liberty of speech and of the press, one is not demanding absolute liberty. There always must be, or at any rate there always will be, some degree of censorship, so long as organised societies endure. But freedom, as Rosa Luxembourg [sic] said, is ‘freedom for the other fellow’. The same principle is contained in the famous words of Voltaire: ‘I detest what you say; I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ If the intellectual liberty which without a doubt has been one of the distinguishing marks of western civilisation means anything at all, it means that everyone shall have the right to say and to print what he believes to be the truth, provided only that it does not harm the rest of the community in some quite unmistakable way. Both capitalist democracy and the western versions of Socialism have till recently taken that principle for granted. Our Government, as I have already pointed out, still makes some show of respecting it. The ordinary people in the street-partly, perhaps, because they are not sufficiently interested in ideas to be intolerant about them-still vaguely hold that ‘I suppose everyone’s got a right to their own opinion.’ It is only, or at any rate it is chiefly, the literary and scientific intelligentsia, the very people who ought to be the guardians of liberty, who are beginning to despise it, in theory as well as in practice.

One of the peculiar phenomena of our time is the renegade Liberal. Over and above the familiar Marxist claim that ‘bourgeois liberty’ is an illusion, there is now a widespread tendency to argue that one can only defend democracy by totalitarian methods. If one loves democracy, the argument runs, one must crush its enemies by no matter what means. And who are its enemies? It always appears that they are not only those who attack it openly and consciously, but those who ‘objectively’ endanger it by spreading mistaken doctrines. In other words, defending democracy involves destroying all independence of thought. This argument was used, for instance, to justify the Russian purges. The most ardent Russophile hardly believed that all of the victims were guilty of all the things they were accused of: but by holding heretical opinions they ‘objectively’ harmed the régime, and therefore it was quite right not only to massacre them but to discredit them by false accusations. The same argument was used to justify the quite conscious lying that went on in the leftwing press about the Trotskyists and other Republican minorities in the Spanish civil war. And it was used again as a reason for yelping against habeas corpus when Mosley was released in 1943.

These people don’t see that if you encourage totalitarian methods, the time may come when they will be used against you instead of for you. Make a habit of imprisoning Fascists without trial, and perhaps the process won’t stop at Fascists. Soon after the suppressed Daily Worker had been reinstated, I was lecturing to a workingmen’s college in South London. The audience were working-class and lower-middle class intellectuals — the same sort of audience that one used to meet at Left Book Club branches. The lecture had touched on the freedom of the press, and at the end, to my astonishment, several questioners stood up and asked me: Did I not think that the lifting of the ban on the Daily Worker was a great mistake? When asked why, they said that it was a paper of doubtful loyalty and ought not to be tolerated in war time. I found myself defending the Daily Worker, which has gone out of its way to libel me more than once. But where had these people learned this essentially totalitarian outlook? Pretty certainly they had learned it from the Communists themselves! Tolerance and decency are deeply rooted in England, but they are not indestructible, and they have to be kept alive partly by conscious effort. The result of preaching totalitarian doctrines is to weaken the instinct by means of which free peoples know what is or is not dangerous. The case of Mosley illustrates this. In 1940 it was perfectly right to intern Mosley, whether or not he had committed any technical crime. We were fighting for our lives and could not allow a possible quisling to go free. To keep him shut up, without trial, in 1943 was an outrage. The general failure to see this was a bad symptom, though it is true that the agitation against Mosley’s release was partly factitious and partly a rationalisation of other discontents. But how much of the present slide towards Fascist ways of thought is traceable to the ‘anti-Fascism’ of the past ten years and the unscrupulousness it has entailed?

It is important to realise that the current Russomania is only a symptom of the general weakening of the western liberal tradition. Had the MOI chipped in and definitely vetoed the publication of this book, the bulk of the English intelligentsia would have seen nothing disquieting in this. Uncritical loyalty to the USSR happens to be the current orthodoxy, and where the supposed interests of the USSR are involved they are willing to tolerate not only censorship but the deliberate falsification of history. To name one instance. At the death of John Reed, the author of Ten Days that Shook the World — first-hand account of the early days of the Russian Revolution — the copyright of the book passed into the hands of the British Communist Party, to whom I believe Reed had bequeathed it. Some years later the British Communists, having destroyed the original edition of the book as completely as they could, issued a garbled version from which they had eliminated mentions of Trotsky and also omitted the introduction written by Lenin. If a radical intelligentsia had still existed in Britain, this act of forgery would have been exposed and denounced in every literary paper in the country. As it was there was little or no protest. To many English intellectuals it seemed quite a natural thing to do. And this tolerance or [sic = of?] plain dishonesty means much more than that admiration for Russia happens to be fashionable at this moment. Quite possibly that particular fashion will not last. For all I know, by the time this book is published my view of the Soviet régime may be the generally-accepted one. But what use would that be in itself? To exchange one orthodoxy for another is not necessarily an advance. The enemy is the gramophone mind, whether or not one agrees with the record that is being played at the moment.

I am well acquainted with all the arguments against freedom of thought and speech — the arguments which claim that it cannot exist, and the arguments which claim that it ought not to. I answer simply that they don’t convince me and that our civilisation over a period of four hundred years has been founded on the opposite notice. For quite a decade past I have believed that the existing Russian régime is a mainly evil thing, and I claim the right to say so, in spite of the fact that we are allies with the USSR in a war which I want to see won. If I had to choose a text to justify myself, I should choose the line from Milton:

By the known rules of ancient liberty.

The word ancient emphasises the fact that intellectual freedom is a deep-rooted tradition without which our characteristic western culture could only doubtfully exist. From that tradition many of our intellectuals arc visibly turning away. They have accepted the principle that a book should be published or suppressed, praised or damned, not on its merits but according to political expediency. And others who do not actually hold this view assent to it from sheer cowardice. An example of this is the failure of the numerous and vocal English pacifists to raise their voices against the prevalent worship of Russian militarism. According to those pacifists, all violence is evil, and they have urged us at every stage of the war to give in or at least to make a compromise peace. But how many of them have ever suggested that war is also evil when it is waged by the Red Army? Apparently the Russians have a right to defend themselves, whereas for us to do [so] is a deadly sin. One can only explain this contradiction in one way: that is, by a cowardly desire to keep in with the bulk of the intelligentsia, whose patriotism is directed towards the USSR rather than towards Britain. I know that the English intelligentsia have plenty of reason for their timidity and dishonesty, indeed I know by heart the arguments by which they justify themselves. But at least let us have no more nonsense about defending liberty against Fascism. If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. The common people still vaguely subscribe to that doctrine and act on it. In our country — it is not the same in all countries: it was not so in republican France, and it is not so in the USA today — it is the liberals who fear liberty and the intellectuals who want to do dirt on the intellect: it is to draw attention to that fact that I have written this preface.

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Website keywords: Psychological self-determination; Neurorights; Mental integrity; Psychological continuity; Freedom of thought.

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is deeply concerned about this course of action including the disproportionate sentence imposed on Mr. Assange.
Read the official UN statement

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“Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth — more than ruin, more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of the well-tried wisdom of the ages. Thought looks into the pit of hell and ilis not afraid … Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.”

~ Nobel laureate Lord Bertrand Russell (1920) “Why Men Fight: A Method of Abolishing the International Duel” pp. 178-179
Full text (ebook) available on the Project Gutenberg:
www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/55610


“It must not be supposed that the officials in charge of education desire the young to become educated. On the contrary, their problem is to impart information without imparting intelligence. Education should have two objects: first, to give definite knowledge — reading and writing, languages and mathematics, and so on; secondly, to create those mental habits which will enable people to acquire knowledge and form sound judgments for themselves. The first of these we may call information, the second intelligence. The utility of information is admitted practically as well as theoretically; without a literate population a modern State is impossible. But the utility of intelligence is admitted only theoretically, not practically; it is not desired that ordinary people should think for themselves, because it is felt that people who think for themselves are awkward to manage and cause administrative difficulties. Only the guardians, in Plato’s language, are to think; the rest are to obey, or to follow leaders like a herd of sheep. This doctrine, often unconsciously, has survived the introduction of political democracy, and has radically vitiated all national systems of education.”

Bertrand Russell (1922) “Free Thought And Official Propaganda”
Full text available on the Internet Archive:
archive.org/stream/freethoughtoffic00russuoft

A definition of “Cognitive Liberty”

The term “Liberty” is etymologically derived from the Latin libertatem civil or political freedom, condition of a free man; absence of restraint;” cognate to liber “free”. Ex vi termini, “Cognitive Liberty” is semantically synonymous with “the right to psychological self-determination“. It implies that human creatures have the universal freedom (viz., sui iuris) to control and determine their own psychology, i.e., their cognitive processes, emotions, and all aspects of consciousness. It is thus essential to the universal principle of  freedom of thought (Article 91 of the Human Rights Act 1998) which in turn forms the basis (s.c., a condicio sine qua non) for the right to freedom of speech/expression. As Erich Fromm articulated it: “The right to express our thought, however, means something only if we are able to have our own thoughts; freedom from external authority is a lasting gain only if the inner psychological conditions are such that we are able to establish our own individuality” (Fromm, The fear of freedom, 1942; pp.207-208). Self-determination is a cardinal principle in international law (jus cogens).2 Given the significant recent advances in psychology, the neurosciences, computer science, and artificial intelligence, cognitive liberty is becoming a topic of great concern for all human beings. This website is specifically devoted to this timely topic and provides information from a diversity of sources (an integral interdisciplinary approach is adopted to elucidate the topic from a plurality of perspectives). Insights derived from psychology, the cognitive sciences, and the neurosciences enable the manipulation and control of cognition and consciousness, oftentimes specifically targeting unconscious processes. Moreover, advances in computer science and cybernetics (e.g., Bayesian algorithms/deep learning convolutional neural networks) enable science to systematically tailor and “steer” information (the flow of perceptual input) to affect cognition and emotion (and consequently behavior) in prespecified and highly predictable ways. Especially unconscious psychological processes can be effectively exploited because humans are generally unaware of the programmatic excitability of  unconscious mechanisms. This imbalance creates a power-differential between those who know how the human mind can be manipulated (viz., the financial power elite which utilizes media and a large segment of academic science for their purposes; cf. Mausfeld, 2017) and those who do not posses a detailed understanding of psychological manipulation and behavior modification techniques  (i.e., the general populous).  The list of evolutionarily inbuilt psychological weaknesses (vulnerable psychological  exploits) is long and has been extensively studied by several generations of scientist, specially in the domain of behavioral economics (i.e., Kahneman & Tversky’s “heuristics & biases” research agenda).
The following application provides a synopsis of numerous cognitive biases which are well documented in psychology:

Open ‘Cognitive Bias Codex’ application in a lightbox modal window (you can zoom via the mouse-wheel)
The adumbrated psychological & technological developments are unprecedented in the evolution of the human species and have far-reaching ramifications for life on this planet as a whole because it is obvious that human behavior has a significant detrimental impact on the ‘Earth System’ . The relatively novel terms anthropocene & holocene are used in this context of destruction and mass extinction. These terms refer to an important psychological self-reflective insight science has developed, the insight that human behavior destroys the global ecosystem. Because human behavior is governed by psychology it is crucial that human beings are allowed to think freely in order to be able to choose a more rational course of action. Freedom of thought needs to be fostered. Currently, a large proportion of society is transformed into mindless conformist consumers (i.e., by the mass-media and other cybernetic methods of psychological programing). This manipulative modus operandi seriously impedes the unfoldment of virtuous human potential (contrariwise primitive egocentric cognitive schemata are constantly reinforced in the ego-driven system of consumerism which is based on wish-fulfillment , satisfactions, ingestion, introjection, consumption, competition, comparison, and other egoic human “drives”).  In fact, the term homō consumens has been proposed as a more fitting substitute for homō sapiēns; a clearly self-inflated nomenclature which is etymologically derived from the Latin sapere3and thus translates into the wise or rational man – to be taxonomically exact homō sapiēns sapiēns – which duplicates the anthropocentric hubris.


The boiling frog analogy & Sôritês paradox

The boiling frog is an analogy describing a frog being slowly boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is thrown suddenly into boiling hot water, it will immediately jump out. However, if the frog is put in cold water which is then slowly and gradually brought to a boil, it will not perceive the danger, sit still, and will therefore be cooked to death. Applied to human cognition & behavior the analogy could be interpreted as follow: If the environment changes gradually (microgenetically) in an incremental step-wise fashion, humans have great difficulty to recognize the change because each step in the evolution of the system (i.e., the change in the environment) is not drastic at all. However, over an elongated period of time the system changes significantly and the additive long-term effect of numerous small changes have extreme consequences. The question thus is: When does the system change from stable to chaotic, i.e., from “from lukewarm to boiling hot”. Per analogiam, the demarcation criterion between hot versus cold (chaotic versus stable) is not clearly defined. In the cognitive sciences this ambiguity is discussed under the header “vagueness of attributes”.4 In philosophy this is an ancient paradox known as Sôritês paradox (or the problem of the heap).5 The paradox is based on the seemingly simple question: When does a heap of sand become a heap? (When does the system “switch” from being life-supporting to deadly.)

Sôritês paradox can be expressed as a conditional syllogistic argument (modus ponens). N.B. You can replace the variable “grain of sand” with “toxic chemical molecules” in the context of environmental pollution; or with the “cutting down of trees” in the context of global deforestation; or with the “loss of species” in the context of anthropogenic reduction of biodiversity; et cetera pp.

  • 1 grain of sand does not make a heap.
  • If 1 grain of sand does not make a heap, then 2 grains do not either.
  • If 2 grains do not make a heap, then 3 grains don’t.
  • If 999999,99999 grains do not make a heap, then 1 million grains don’t.
  • ∞ ad infinitum…

Deductive conclusion

Ergo (Therefore)

  • 1 million grains don’t make a heap.

The Bald Man (phalakros) paradox is another allegory which illustrates the point: A man with a full head of hair is not bald. The removal of a single hair will not turn him into a bold man. However, diachronically, continuous repeated removal of single hairs will necessarily result in baldness. However, it is unclear when the “critical boundary” has been transgressed. In the psychology of reasoning this is termed the continuum fallacy. The informal logical fallacy pertains the argument that two states (i.e., cold vs. hot; falsum vs. verum) cannot be defined/quantised as distinct (and/or do not exist at all) because between them there exists a continuum of states (cf. many-valued logic/fuzzy logic). The fundamental question whether any continua exist in the physical world is a deep question in physics (cf. atomism). Deterministic Newtonian physics stipulates that reality is continuous. Per contrast, contemporary quantum physics is based on the notion of discrete states (quanta) as the notion of continuity appears to be invalid at the smallest Planck scale of physical existence.

Conditional Sôritês paradox in symbolic logic:

Mathematical Induction Sôritês paradox:

In linguistic terms Sôritês paradox it has been eloquently formulated by Black in 1937:

A symbol’s vagueness is held to consist in the existence of objects concerning which it is intrinsically impossible to say either that the symbol in question does, or does not, apply. …Reserving the terms of logic and mathematics for separate consideration, we can say that all “material” terms, all whose application requires the recognition of the presence of sensible qualities, are vague in the sense described. — M. Black (Vagueness: an exercise in logical analysis, 1937)

In the context of visual perception (psychophysics) Lord Bertrand Russel stated the following:

It is perfectly obvious, since colours form a continuum, that there are shades of colour concerning which we shall be in doubt whether to call them red or not, not because we are ignorant of the meaning of the word “red”, but because it is a word the extent of whose application is essentially doubtful. — B. Russell (Vagueness, 1923)

Figure 1. Sôritês paradox in visual brightness perception.

Figure 1 illustrates Sôritês paradox applied to visual perception (based on Russel’s argument). Adjacent luminance differences (e.g., tick-mark 1 versus 2) are indistinguishable by the human visual system while larger contrasts (e.g., tick mark 2 versus 3) are easily distinguishable.

For further information see my 2018 paper entitled: Sôritês paradoxon: Contextualism & borderline vagueness

Expand to display additional pertinent references
Voorhoeve, A., & Binmore, K.. (2006). Transitivity, the Sorites Paradox, and Similarity-Based Decision-making. Erkenntnis

, 64(1), 101–114.
Plain numerical DOI: 10.1007/s10670-005-2373-1
DOI URL
directSciHub download

Keefe, R.. (2007). Vagueness Without Context Change. Mind

, 116(462), 275–292.
Plain numerical DOI: 10.1093/mind/fzm275
DOI URL
directSciHub download

Litman, L., & Zelcer, M.. (2013). A cognitive neuroscience, dual-systems approach to the sorites paradox. Journal of Experimental & Theoretical Artificial Intelligence

, 25(3), 355–366.
Plain numerical DOI: 10.1080/0952813X.2013.783130
DOI URL
directSciHub download

Ludwig, K., & Ray, G.. (2002). Vagueness And The Sorites Paradox. Noûs

, 36(s16), 419–461.
Plain numerical DOI: 10.1111/1468-0068.36.s16.16
DOI URL
directSciHub download

Campbell, R.. (1974). The sorites paradox. Philosophical Studies

, 26(3–4), 175–191.
Plain numerical DOI: 10.1007/BF00398877
DOI URL
directSciHub download

Hyde, D.. (2011). Sorites Paradox. In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy


The etymology of the term “Cognition

See also: www.etymology-of-creativity.ga

Cognition: That which comes to be known, as through perception, reasoning, or intuition; knowledge.

mid-15c., cognicioun, “ability to comprehend, mental act or process of knowing,” from Latin cognitionem (nominative cognitio) “a getting to know, acquaintance, knowledge,” noun of action from past participle stem of cognoscere “to get to know, recognize,” from assimilated form of com“together” (see co-) + gnoscere “to know,” from PIE root *gno- “to know.” In 17c. the meaning was extended to include perception and sensation.

1375–1425; late Middle English cognicioun < Latin cognitiōn- (stem of cognitiō ), equivalent to cognit(us ), past participle of cognōscere ( co- co- + gni-, variant stem of gnōscere, nōscere, to learn (see know) + -tus past participle suffix) + -iōn- -ion

Edaward BernaysWalter LippmannBertold BrechtErich Fromm

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.Our invisible governors are, in many cases, unaware of the identity of their fellow members in the inner cabinet.They govern us by their qualities of natural leadership, their ability to supply needed ideas and by their key position in the social structure. Whatever attitude one chooses to take toward this condition, it remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons—a trifling fraction of our hundred and twenty million—who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.” (Edward Bernays, Propaganda, 1928)

  • Bernays, E. L. (1928). Propaganda. Horace Liveright.
  • Bernays, E. L. (1936). Freedom of Propaganda. Vital Speeches of the Day, 2(24), 744–746.
  • L’Etang, J. (1999). The father of spin: Edward L. Bernays and the birth of public relations. Public Relations Review, 25(1), 123–124.

“That the manufacture of consent is capable of great refinements no one, I think, denies. The process by which public opinions arise is certainly no less intricate than it has appeared in these pages, and the opportunities for manipulation open to anyone who understands the process are plain enough. . . . [a]s a result of psychological research, coupled with the modern means of communication, the practice of democracy has turned a corner. A revolution is taking place, infinitely more significant than any shifting of economic power…. Under the impact of propaganda, not necessarily in the sinister meaning of the word alone, the old constants of our thinking have become variables. It is no longer possible, for example, to believe in the original dogma of democracy; that the knowledge needed for the management of human affairs comes up spontaneously from the human heart. Where we act on that theory we expose ourselves to self-deception, and to forms of persuasion that we cannot verify. It has been demonstrated that we cannot rely upon intuition, conscience, or the accidents of casual opinion if we are to deal with the world beyond our reach. …  The public must be put in its place, so that each of us may live free of the trampling and roar of a bewildered herd.” (Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion, Chapter XV)

  • Lippmann, W. (1920). Liberty and the News. Museum.
  • Lippmann, W. (1970). The Phantom Public. Politics.

From 1930 onwards, Brecht became part of a wider complex of projects exploring the role of intellectuals (or “Tuis” as he called them) in a capitalist society. A Tui is an intellectual who sells his or her abilities and opinions as a commodity in the marketplace or who uses them to support the dominant ideology of an oppressive society. ] The German modernist theatre practitioner Bertolt Brecht invented the term and used it in a range of critical and creative projects, including the material that he developed in the mid-1930s for his so-called Tui-Novel—an unfinished satire on intellectuals in the German Empire and Weimar Republic—and his epic comedy from the early 1950s, Turandot or the Whitewashers’ Congress. The word is a neologism that results from the acronym of a word play on “intellectual” (“Tellekt-Ual-In”).
According to Clark (2006):
“… the critique of intellectuals which Brecht developed… around the notion of ‘Tuismus’ engages a model of the public intellectual in which the self-image of the artist and thinker as a socially and politically engaged person corresponded to the expectations of the public.”

  • Clark, M. W. (2006). Hero or villain? Bertolt Brecht and the crisis surrounding June 1953. Journal of Contemporary History.
  • Hunt, T. C. N.-. (2004). Goodbye to Berlin:  For 200 years, German thinkers have shaped British intellectual life – but their influence is fading fast. The Guardian.

“It is very useful to differentiate between rational and irrational authority. By irrational authority I mean authority exercised by fear and pressure on the basis of emotional submission. This is the authority of blind obedience, the authority you will find most clearly expressed in all totalitarian countries.

But there is another kind of authority, rational authority by which I mean any authority which is based on competence and knowledge, which permits criticism, which by its very nature tends to diminish, but which is not based on the emotional factors of submission and masochism, but on the realistic recognition of the competence of the person for a certain job.”

― 1958. The Moral Responsibility of Modern Man, in: Merrill-Palmer. Quarterly of Behavior and Development, Detroit, Vol. 5, p. 6.


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Further References

Ienca, M., & Andorno, R.. (2017). Towards new human rights in the age of neuroscience and neurotechnology. Life Sciences, Society and Policy, 13(1), 5.

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1186/s40504-017-0050-1
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Rose, N., & Abi-Rached, J.. (2014). Governing through the Brain: Neuropolitics, Neuroscience and Subjectivity. The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology

Plain numerical DOI: 10.3167/ca.2014.320102
DOI URL
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