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“The idea that philosophy and science can be combined to give us the best possible knowledge about the world and how to act within it is an old one, encapsulated by the classic concept of scientia, a Latin word that means knowledge” (Pigliucci 6).In the book Cat’s Cradle the main topic of debate is clearly science versus religion.
In many ways, these two topics are very different, but in others, they are quite similar.
Both science and religion have a common goal, to find truth in the world.
Science, on the other hand, is as flesh-and-blood real as you can get – yet what do we do with it? (Bear in mind the 1963 context – the world had just narrowly avoided nuclear disaster.) In Cat’s Cradle, the atomic bomb has a mutant twin: ice-nine, a substance that can freeze all life on earth.
Hoenikker invents it while working on the bomb, and it’s clear that he develops them both for a sole purpose – the pursuit of knowledge.
Fifty years after its initial publication Eli Lee examines the themes - among them religion, violence and morality - that categorise Vonnegut's fourth novel and continue to frame our contemporary discourse When he taught fiction writing at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the ‘60s, Kurt Vonnegut would remind his students they were in the entertainment business.
Writing might be a merciless process, sure, but what comes out the other end has to be fun.Vonnegut’s style is inimitable: absurd characters and fantastical situations depicted with such assurance you can’t help but take them seriously.His number one trick is to use flamboyant anti-realism to convey realistic emotions.Bokonon himself (in my eyes, a cartoonish take on Ghandi) is spectacularly evasive – he’s not been seen for years. The fourteenth book of Bokonon asks: What Can a Thoughtful Man Hope for Mankind on Earth, Given the Experience of the Past Million Years? ‘Nothing.’ If anything should signal the end of illusion and the beginning of existential despair, it’s a religion that relentlessly reveals itself to be a joke.The weird thing, though, is the characters of Cat’s Cradle still draw strength from it. They know they’re fools to believe it, yet they still do.Lots of Vonnegut’s aphorisms are well known, but one with an especially strong resonance is: ‘I tell you, we are here on earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you any different.’ Cat’s Cradle takes up this proposition: its asks us “what is there to live for?’ As for an answer, it’s brimming with pessimism – but is this the whole story? ) and a savagely exploitative history of sugar cultivation (several candidates here).’ It’s a ludicrous place, where reality is fashioned entirely to suit the contours of Vonnegut’s imagination.And yet when it comes to ice-nine, ‘there was no talk of morals.’ Is this Vonnegut suggesting that Newt has inherited flickers of his father’s cold amorality?Or maybe it’s the fact that we can’t get science and morality to square up.Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus.Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.