François Rabelais – “Science without conscience” (explanations)

Science without conscience is the ruin of the soul “François Rabelais

This quote is a must for anyone who wants to think about science. But what does this sentence of François Rabelais really mean?

The meaning that we traditionally give to this meaning, in the light of the vocabulary of the 21st century, is not exactly what François Rabelais meant.

In order to better understand it, we offer you the possible interpretations of this quote, then some explanations, as well as a mini biography of François Rabelais.

Interpretations of the quote by François Rabelais

” Science without conscience is the ruin of the soul” — François Rabelais

At first sight, it can be understood as a principle, which advocates mastering for the good of humanity science by morality.

It is necessary to take into account the context: in the 16th century, science was used more as a synonym of knowledge and conscience designated more the faculties of understanding.

Thus, the advice would be interpreted more as “Knowledge without the ability to understand, is but the poverty of the soul.”

Elements of Explanation of the Quote

This quote is from Gargantua, whose full title describes the theme: The very horrific life of the great Gargantua, father of Pantagruel, once composed by Mr. Alcofribas abstractor of quintessence. Book full of Pantagruelism

In this novel, François Rabelais tells the learning of Gargantua, a giant. He implicitly criticizes the Sorbonne and its teaching in a crude and familiar style.

Short biography of François Rabelais

François was born around 1483, died in 1553. He followed a monastic life, became passionate about medicine, which he then taught. He published both scientific works and a more popular work: Pantagruel. He discovered with Hippocrates the therapy by laughter. He published in 1535 (more probably than 1534) the work of Gargantua, before going to Italy. He died in Paris in 1553.

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4 thoughts on “François Rabelais – “Science without conscience” (explanations)

  1. We read this thought five hundred years later, at a time when materialism was asserting itself, when spiritual values were considered retrograde, when the statues of Easter Island or Carnac were no longer understood. It would be appropriate to take into account the resulting semantic shift and then to rewrite: intelligence without conscience is nothing but ruin of the soul. This helps to understand that the proud name of “artificial intelligence” which we make fun of is totally devoid of consciousness, while the unconscious is still 90% of our brain mass. This AI is therefore a formidable tool of power of which François Rabelais warned us five centuries ago. What a genius!…

  2. think I recognize here the answer to the question I’ve been asking myself for a long time: what did my French or Philo teacher tell us, between 1969 and 72, when the only thing I remember is that Science without conscience is only ruin of the soul does not mean what we think we understand with our contemporary words and notions? Thank you since I am here, I cannot find not the author and even less the quote that said it was easy to kill a man in the distance but very difficult close to him. I have a vague memory that it could be Pascal or Chateaubriand. In any case, it is not about Levinas with the face, which approaches it and which one of my colleagues suggested to me, whom I thank (I have to find his name. and blog)

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