The Metaphor of Caliban in our Technological Culture

  • Bo Göranzon
Part of the Artificial Intelligence and Society book series (HCS)


The meeting of Prospero and Caliban in The Tempest depicts a contrast between the abstract and the practical intellect. Prospero was partly modelled on Giordana Bruno (1548-1600), an Italian philosopher who wanted to create an universal language which contained not only an encyclopaedic knowledge but which also thought for itself. Prospero’s knowledge is abstract - based on book learning - whereas Caliban’s is practical and therefore essential for Prospero’s survival on the island. Prospero and Caliban become dependent upon one another: Prospero struggles for 12 years to realize the ambiguous, intuitive qualities of Caliban in his own character, while Caliban in turn learns Prospero’s language and is thereby forced into a new way of thinking. The relationship is thus simultaneously creative and riven with conflict and violence. Knowledge requires that one becomes familiar enough with one’s area of skills in order to be able to formulate rules and interpret them. Johan Gottlieb Fichte maintained that the man of learning (and the student) must “come through” concepts, form them from himself and for himself, thereby to arrive at an insight, and develop and form the self. The chapter concludes by citing Hojer, who argues for mastering concepts, rather than being mastered by them, for describing one’s system and concepts, rather than submitting to the mentorship of others.


Universal Language Armour Plate Encyclopaedic Knowledge Book Learning Italian Philosopher 
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© Springer-Verlag London Limited 1992

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  • Bo Göranzon

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