Voltaire does it again.

After Candide, I’ve now read Micromegas.

Candide is beyond satirical, plainly a negative lampoon directed squarely, with disturbing imagination but little subtlety, at the “all’s right with God in this best of all possible worlds” view.

Micromegas’ satire is so much more subtle and miles ahead of its time. His evocation of the absurd – the John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett “I look down on him” sketch – concerns misconceptions of scale between three beings, the smallest being earth sized human, the other two being Saturnian and Sirian in scale. The essence is – how can a human (philosopher) expect their observations to tell them anything about the reality of a “world out there” with such vast ranges of scale over many orders of magnitude.

How could we ever expect “humanly agreed fact” to cover more than 1% of reality. How can we expect normal human experience to even comprehend scales from quanta to universes, how can normal human experience “get its head around” the probablilities in earthly evolution – 250 years before Dawkins’ Mount Improbable and Rees’ Six Numbers.

Micromegas makes you think, vs Candide’s ridicule.

(The Swiftian connections and connotations are all too apparent – I’m going to have to properly read Swift too.)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.