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The Practical And Mechanical Imagination

The study of the practical imagination is not without difficulties.
First of all, it has not hitherto attracted psychologists, so that we
enter the field at random, and wander unguided in an unexplored region.
But the principal obstacle is in the lack of determination of this form
of imagination, and in the absence of boundary lines. Where does it
begin, and where does it end? Penetrating all our life even in its least
details, it is likely to lead us astray through the diversity, often
insignificant, of its manifestations. To convince ourselves of this
fact, let us take a man regarded as least imaginative:--subtract the
moments when his consciousness is busied with perceptions, memories,
emotions, logical thought and action--all the rest of his mental life
must be put down to the credit of the imagination. Even thus limited,
this function is not a negligible quantity:--it includes the plans and
constructions for the future, and all the dreams of escaping from the
present; and there is no man but makes such. This had to be mentioned
on account of its very triteness, because it is often forgotten, and
consequently the field of the creative imagination is unduly restricted,
being limited little by little to exceptional cases.

It must, however, be recognized that these small facts teach us little.
Consequently, following our adopted procedure, dwelling longest on the
clearer and more evident cases in which the work of creating appears
distinctly, we shall rapidly pass over the lower forms of the practical
imagination, in order to dwell on the higher form--technical or
mechanical imagination.


If we take an ordinary imaginative person,--understanding by this
expression, one whom his nature singles out for no special invention--we
see that he excels in the small inventions, adapted for a moment, for a
detail, for the petty needs constantly arising in human life. It is a
fruitful, ingenious, industrious mind, one that knows how to "take hold
of things." The active, enterprising American, capable of passing from
one occupation to another according to circumstances, opportunity, or
imagined profits, furnishes a good example.

If we descend from this form of sane imagination toward the morbid
forms, we meet first the unstable--knights of industry, hunters of
adventure, inventors frequently of questionable means, people hungry for
change, always imagining what they haven't, trying in turn all
professions, becoming workmen, soldiers, sailors, merchants, etc., not
from expediency, but from natural instability.

Further down are found the acknowledged "freaks" at the brink of
insanity, who are but the extreme form of the unstable, and who, after
having wasted haphazard much useless imagination, end in an insane
asylum or worse still.

Let us consider these three groups together. Let us eliminate the
intellectual and moral qualities characteristic of each group, which
establish notable differences between them, and let us consider only
their inventive capacity as applied to practical life. One character
common to all is mobility--the tendency to change. It is a matter of
current observation that men of lively imagination are changeable.
Common opinion, which is also the opinion of moralists and of most
psychologists, attributes this mobility, this instability, to the
imagination. This, in my opinion, is just upside down. It is not
because they have an active imagination that they are changeable, but it
is because they are changeable that their imagination is active. We
thus return to the motor basis of all creative work. Each new or
merely modified disposition becomes a center of attraction and pull.
Doubtless the inner push is a necessary condition, but it is not
sufficient. If there were not within them a sufficient number of
concrete, abstract, or semi-abstract representations, susceptible of
various combinations, nothing would happen; but the origin of invention
and of its frequent or constant changes of direction lies in the
emotional and motor constitution, not in the quantity or quality of
representations. I shall not dwell longer on a subject already
treated, but it was proper to show, in passing, that common opinion
starts from an erroneous conception of the primary conditions of
invention--whether great or small, speculative or practical.

In the immense empire of the practical imagination, superstitious
beliefs form a goodly province.

What is superstition? By what positive signs do we recognize it? An
exact definition and a sure criterion are impossible. It is a flitting
notion that depends on the times, places, and nature of minds. Has it
not often been said that the religion of one is superstition to another,
and vice versa? This, too, is only a single instance from among many
others; for the common opinion that restricts superstition within the
bounds of religious faith is an incomplete view. There are peculiar
beliefs, foreign to every dogma and every religious feeling, from which
the most radical freethinker is not exempt; for example, the
superstitions of gamblers. Indeed, at the bottom of all such beliefs, we
always find the vague, semi-conscious notion of a mysterious
power--destiny, fate, chance.

Without taking the trouble to set arbitrary limits, let us take the
facts as they are, without possible question, i.e., imaginary
creations, subjective fancies, having reality only for those admitting
them. Even a summary collection of past and present superstitions would
fill a library. Aside from those having a frankly religious mark, others
almost as numerous surround civil life, birth, marriage, death,
appearance and healing of diseases, dies fasti atque nefasti,
propitious or fateful words, auguries drawn from the meeting or acts of
certain animals. The list would be endless.

All that can be attempted here is a determination of the principal
condition of that state of mind, the psychology of which is in the last
analysis very simple. We shall thus answer in an indirect and incomplete
manner the question of criterion.

First, since we hold that the origin of all imaginative creation is a
need, a desire, a tendency, where then is the origin of that
inexhaustible fount of fancies? In the instinct for individual
preservation, orientated in the direction of the future. Man seeks to
divine future events, and by various means to act on the order of things
to modify it for his own advantage or to appease his evil fate.

As for the mental mechanism that, set in motion by this desire, produces
the vain images of the superstitious, it implies:

(1) A deep idea of causality, reduced to a post hoc, ergo propter hoc.
Herodotus says of the Egyptian priests: "They have discovered more
prodigies and presages than any other people, because, when some
extraordinary thing appears, they note it as well as all the events
following it, so that if a similar prodigy appears anew, they expect to
see the same events reproduced." It is the hypothesis of an indissoluble
association between two or more events, assumed without verification,
without criticism. This manner of thinking depends on the weakness of
the logical faculties or on the excessive influence of the feelings.

(2) The abuse of reasoning by analogy. This great artisan of the
imagination is satisfied with likenesses so vague and agreements so
strange, that it dares everything. Resemblance is no longer a quality of
things imposed on the mind, but an hypothesis of the mind imposed on
things. Astrology groups into "constellations" stars that are billions
of miles apart, believes that it discovers there an animal shape, human
or any other, and deduces therefrom alleged "influences." This star is
reddish (Mars), sign of blood; this other is of a pure, brilliant
silvery light (Venus) or livid (Saturn), and acts in a different way. We
know what clever structures of conjectures and prognoses have been built
on these foundations. Need we mention the Middle Age practice of charms,
which even in our day still has adherents among cultured people? The
physicians of the time of Charles II, says Lang, gave their patients
"mummy powder" (pulverized mummies) because the mummies, having lasted a
long time, must prolong life. Gold in solution has been esteemed
as a medicine--gold, being a perfect substance, should produce perfect
health. In order to get rid of a disease nothing is more frequent among
primitive men than to picture the sick person on wood or on the ground,
and to strike the injured part with an arrow or knife, in order to
annihilate the sickening principle.

(3) Finally, there is the magic influence ascribed to certain words. It
is the triumph of the theory of nomina numina; we need not return to
it. But the working of the mind on words, erecting them into entities,
conferring life and power on them--in a word, the activity that creates
myths and is the final basis of all constructive imagination--appears
also here.


Up to this point we have considered the practical imagination only in
its somewhat petty aspect in small inventions or as semi-morbid in
superstitious fancies. We now come to its higher form, mechanical

This subject has not been studied by psychologists. Not that they have
misunderstood its role, which is, after all, very evident; but they
limit themselves to speak of it cursorily, without emphasizing it.

In order to appreciate its importance, I see no other way than to put
ourselves face to face with the works that it has produced, to question
the history of discovery and useful arts, to profit by the disclosures
of inventors and their biographers.

Of a work of this kind, which would be very long because the materials
are scattered, we can give here only a rough sketch, merely to take
therefrom what is of interest for psychology and what teaches us in
regard to the characters peculiar to this type of imagination.

The erroneous view that opposes imagination to the useful, and claims
that they are mutually exclusive, is so widespread and so persistent,
that we shall seem to many to be expressing a paradox when we say that
if we could strike the balance of the imagination that man has spent and
made permanent in esthetic life on the one hand, and in technical and
mechanical invention on the other, the balance would be in favor of the
latter. This assertion, however, will not seem paradoxical to those who
have considered the question. Why, then, the view above mentioned? Why
are people inclined to believe that our present subject, if not entirely
foreign to the imagination, is only an impoverished form of it? I
account for it by the following reasons:

Esthetic imagination, when fully complete, is simply fixed, i.e.,
remains a fictitious matter recognized as such. It has a frankly
subjective, personal character, arbitrary in its choice of means. A work
of art--a poem, a novel, a drama, an opera, a picture, a statue--might
have been otherwise than it is. It is possible to modify the general
plan, to add or reduce an episode, to change an ending. The novelist who
in the course of his work changes his characters; the dramatic author
who, in deference to public sentiment, substitutes a happy denouement
in place of a catastrophe, furnish naive testimony of this freedom of
imagination. Moreover, artistic creation, expressing itself in words,
sounds, lines, forms, colors, is cast in a mould that allows it only a
feeble "material" reality.

The mechanical imagination is objective--it must be embodied, take on a
form that gives it a place side by side with products of nature. It is
arbitrary neither in its choice nor in its means; it is not a free
creature having its end in itself. In order to succeed, it is subjected
to rigorous physical conditions, to a determinism. It is at this cost
that it becomes a reality, and as we instinctively establish an
antithesis between the imaginary and the real, it seems that mechanical
invention is outside the realm of the imagination. Moreover, it requires
the constant intervention of calculation, of reasoning, and lastly, of a
manual operation of supreme importance. We may say without exaggerating
that the success of many mechanical creations depends on the skillful
manipulation of materials. But this last moment, because it is decisive,
should not make us forget its antecedents, especially the initial
moment, which is, for psychology, similar to all other instances of
invention, when the idea arises, tending to become objective.

Otherwise, the differences here pointed out between the two forms of
imagination--esthetic and mechanical--are but relative. The former is
not independent of technical apprenticeship, often of long duration (e.g.,
in music, sculpture, painting). As for the latter, we should not
exaggerate its determinism. Often the same end can be reached by
different inventions--by means differently imagined, through different
mental constructions; and it follows that, after all allowances are
made, these differently realized imaginations are equally useful.

The difference between the two types is found in the nature of the need
or desire stimulating the invention, and secondly in the nature of the
materials employed. Others have confounded two distinct things--liberty
of imagination, which belongs rather to esthetic creation, and quality
and power of imagination, which may be identical in both cases.

I have questioned certain inventors very skillful in mechanics,
addressing myself to those, preferably, whom I knew to be strangers to
any preconceived psychological theory. Their replies agree, and prove
that the birth and development of mechanical invention are very
strictly like those found in other forms of constructive imagination. As
an example, I cite the following statement of an engineer, which I
render literally:

"The so-called creative imagination surely proceeds in very different
ways, according to temperament, aptitudes, and, in the same individual,
following the mental disposition, the milieu.

"We may, however, as far as regards mechanical inventions, distinguish
four sufficiently clear phases--the germ, incubation, flowering, and

"By germ I mean the first idea coming to the mind to furnish a solution
for a problem that the whole of one's observations, studies, and
researches has put before one, or that, put by another, has struck one.

"Then comes incubation, often very long and painful, or, again, even
unconscious. Instinctively as well as voluntarily one brings to the
solution of the problem all the materials that the eyes and ears can

"When this latent work is sufficiently complete, the idea suddenly
bursts forth, it may be at the end of a voluntary tension of mind, or on
the occasion of a chance remark, tearing the veil that hides the
surmised image.

"But this image always appears simple and clear. In order to get the
ideal solution into practice, there is required a struggle against
matter, and the bringing to an issue is the most thankless part of the
inventor's work.

"In order to give consistence and body to the idea caught sight of
enthusiastically in an aureole, one must have patience, a perseverance
through all trials. One must view on all sides the mechanical agencies
that should serve to set the image together, until the latter has
attained the simplicity that alone makes invention viable. In this work
of bringing to a head, the same spirit of invention and imagination must
be constantly drawn upon for the solution of all the details, and it is
against this arduous requirement that the great majority of inventors
rebel again and again.

"This is then, I believe, how one may in a general way understand the
genesis of an invention. It follows from this that here, as almost
everywhere, the imagination acts through association of ideas.

"Thanks to a profound acquaintance with known mechanical methods, the
inventor succeeds, through association of ideas, in getting novel
combinations producing new effects, towards the realization of which his
mind has in advance been bent."

But for a slightly explored subject, the foregoing remarks are not
enough. It is necessary to determine more precisely the general and
special characters of this form of imagination.

1. General Characters

I term general characters those that the mechanical imagination
possesses in common with the best known, least questioned forms of the
constructive imagination. In order to be convinced that, so far as
concerns these characters it does not differ from the rest, let us take,
for the sake of comparison, esthetic imagination, since it is agreed,
rightly or wrongly, that this is the model par excellence. We shall
see that the essential psychological conditions coincide in the two

The mechanical imagination thus has like the other its ideal, i.e., a
perfection conceived and put forward as capable, little by little, of
being realized. The idea is at first hidden; it is, to use our
correspondent's phrase, "the germ," the principle of unity, center of
attraction, that suggests, excites, and groups appropriate associations
of images, in which it is enwrapped and organized into a structure, an
ensemble of means converging toward a common end. It thus presupposes
a dissociation of experience. The inventor undoes, decomposes, breaks up
in thought, or makes of experience a tool, an instrument, a machine, an
agency for building anew with the debris.

The practical imagination is no more foreign to inspiration than the
esthetic imagination. The history of useful inventions is full of men
who suffered privations, persecution, ruin; who fought to the bitter end
against relatives and friends--drawn by the need of creating, fascinated
not by the hope of future gain but by the idea of an imposed mission, of
a destiny they had to fulfill. What more have poets and artists done?
The fixed and irresistible idea has led more than one to a foreseen
death, as in the discovery of explosives, the first attempts at
lightning conductors, aeronautics, and many others. Thus, from a true
intuition, primitive civilizations have put on a level great poets and
great inventors, erected into divinities or demi-gods historical or
legendary personages in whom the genius of discovery is
personified:--among the Hindoos, Vicavakarma; among the Greeks,
Hephaestos, Prometheus, Triptolemus, Daedalus and Icarus. The Chinese,
despite their dry imagination, have done the same; and we find the same
condition in Egypt, Assyria, and everywhere. Moreover, the practical and
mechanical arts have passed through a first period of no-change, during
which the artisan, subjected to fixed rules and an undisputed tradition,
considers himself an instrument of divine revelation. Little by
little he has emerged from that theological age, to enter the humanistic
age, when, being fully conscious of being the author of his work, he
labors freely, changes and modifies according to his own inspiration.

Mechanical and industrial imagination, like esthetic imagination, has
its preparatory period, its zenith and decline: the periods of the
precursors, of the great inventors, and of mere perfectors. At first a
venture is made, effort is wasted with small result,--the man has come
too early or lacks clear vision; then a great imaginative mind arises,
blossoms; after him the work passes into the hands of dii minores,
pupils or imitators, who add, abridge, modify: such is the order. The
many-times written history of the application of steam, from the time of
the eolipile of Hero of Alexandria to the heroic period of Newcomen and
Watt, and the improvements made since their time, is one proof of the
statement. Another example:--the machine for measuring duration is at
first a simple clepsydra; then there are added marks indicating the
subdivisions of time, then a water gauge causes a hand to move around a
dial, then two hands for the hours and minutes; then comes a great
moment--by the use of weights the clepsydra becomes a clock, at first
massive and cumbersome, later lightened, becoming capable, with
Tycho-Brahe, of marking seconds; and then another moment--Huyghens
invents the spiral spring to replace the weights, and the clock,
simplified and lightened, becomes the watch.

2. Special Characters

The special characteristics of the mechanical imagination being the
marks belonging to this type, we shall study them at greater length.

(I) There is first of all, at least in great inventors, an inborn
quality,--that is, a natural disposition,--that does not originate in
experience and owes the latter only its development. This quality is a
bent in a practical, useful direction; a tendency to act, not in the
realm of dreams or human feeling, not on individuals or social groups,
not toward the attainment of theoretical knowledge of nature, but to
become master over natural forces, to transform them and adapt them
toward an end.

Every mechanical invention arises from a need: from the strict necessity
for individual preservation in the case of primitive man who wages war
against the powers of nature; from the desire for well-being and the
necessity for luxury in growing civilization; from the need of creating
little engines, imitating instruments and machines, in the child. In a
word, every particular invention, great or small, arises from a
particular need; for, we repeat again, there is no creative instinct in
general. A man distinguished for various inventions along practical
lines, writes: "As far as my memory allows, I can state that in my case
conception always results from a material or mental need. It
springs up suddenly. Thus, in 1887, a speech of Bismarck made me so
angry that I immediately thought of arming my country with a repeating
rifle. I had already made various applications to the ministry of war,
when I learned that the Lebel system had just been adopted. My
patriotism was fully satisfied, but I still have the design of the gun
that I invented." This communication mentions two or three other
inventions that arose under analogous circumstances, but have had a
chance of being adopted.

Among the requisite qualities I mention the natural and necessary
preeminence of certain groups of sensations or images (visual, tactile,
motor) that may be decisive in determining the direction of the

(II) Mechanical invention grows by successive stratifications and
additions, as in the sciences, but more completely. It is a fine
verification of the "subsidiary law of growing complexity" previously
discussed. If we measure the distance traversed since the distant
ages when man was naked and unarmed before nature to the present time of
the reign of machinery, we are astonished at the amount of imagination
produced and expended, often uselessly lavished, and we ask ourselves
how such a work could have been misunderstood or so lightly appreciated.
It does not pertain to our subject to make even a summary table of this
long development. The reader can consult the special works which,
unfortunately, are most often fragmentary and lack a general view. So we
should feel grateful to a historian of the useful arts, L. Bourdeau,
for having attempted to separate out the philosophy of the subject, and
for having fastened it down in the following formulas:

(a) The exploitation of the powers of nature is made according to their
degree of power.

(b) The extension of working instruments has followed a logical
evolution in the direction of growing complexity and perfection.

Man, according to the observations of M. Bourdeau, has applied his
creative activity to natural forces and has set them to work according
to a regular order, viz.:

(1) Human forces, the only ones available during the "state of nature"
and the savage state. Before all else, man created weapons: the most
circumscribed primitive races have invented engines for attack and
defense--of wood, bone, stone, as they were able. Then the weapon became
a tool by special adaptation:--the battle-club serves as a lever, the
tomahawk as a hammer, the flint ax as a hatchet, etc. In this manner
there is gradually formed an arsenal of instruments. "Inferior to most
animals as regards certain work that would have to be done with the aid
of our organic resources alone, we are superior to all as soon as we set
our tools at work. If the rodents with their sharp teeth cut wood better
than we can, we do it still better with the ax, the chisel, the saw.
Some birds, with the help of a strong beak, by repeated blows,
penetrate the trunk of a tree: but the auger, the gimlet, the wimble do
the same work better and more quickly. The knife is superior to the
carnivore's teeth for tearing meat; the hoe better than the mole's paw
for digging earth, the trowel than the beaver's tail for beating and
spreading mortar. The oar permits us to rival the fish's fin; the sail,
the wing of the bird. The distaff and spindle allow our imitating the
industry of insect spinners; etc. Man thus reproduces and sums up in his
technical contrivances the scattered perfections of the animal world. He
even succeeds in surpassing them, because, in the form of tools, he uses
substances and combinations of effects that cannot figure as part of an
organism." It is scarcely likely that most of these inventions
arose from a voluntary imitation of animals: but even supposing such an
origin, there would still remain a fine place for personal creative
work. Man has produced by conscious effort what life realizes by methods
that escape us; so that the creative imagination in man is a
succedaneum of the generative powers of nature.

(2) During the pastoral stage man brought animals under subjection and
discipline. An animal is a machine, ready-made, that needs only to be
trained to obedience; but this training has required and stimulated all
sorts of inventions, from the harness with which to equip it, to the
chariots, wagons, and roads with which and on which it moves.

(3) Later, the natural motors--air and water--have furnished new
material for human ingenuity, e.g., in navigation; wind- and
water-mills, used at first to grind grain, then for a multitude of
uses--sawing, milling, lifting hammers; etc.

(4) Lastly, much later, come products of an already mature civilization,
artificial motors, explosives,--powder and all its derivatives and
substitutes--steam, which has made such great progress.

If the reader please to represent to himself well the immense number of
facts that we have just indicated in a few lines; if he please to note
that every invention, great or small, before becoming a fixed and
realized thing, was at first an imagination, a mere contrivance of the
brain, an assembly of new combinations or new relations, he will be
forced to admit that nowhere--not excepting even esthetic
production--has man imagined to such a great extent.

One of the reasons--though not the only one--that supports the contrary
opinion is, that by the very law of their growing complexity, inventions
are grafted one on another. In all the useful arts improvements have
been so slow, and so gradually wrought, that each one of them passed
unperceived, without leaving its author the credit for its discovery.
The immense majority of inventions are anonymous--some great names alone
survive. But, whether individual or collective, imagination remains
imagination. In order that the plow, at first a simple piece of wood
hardened by the fire and pushed along with the human hand, should become
what it is to-day, through a long series of modifications described in
the special works, who knows how many imaginations have labored! In the
same way, the uncertain flame of a resinous branch guiding vaguely in
the night leads us, through a long series of inventions, to gas and
electric lighting. All objects, even the most ordinary and most common
that now serve us in our everyday-life, are condensed imagination.

(III) More than any other form, mechanical imagination depends strictly
on physical conditions. It cannot rest content with combining images, it
postulates material factors that impose themselves unyieldingly.
Compared to it, the scientific imagination has much more freedom in the
building of its hypotheses. In general, every great invention has been
preceded by a period of abortive attempts. History shows that the
so-called "initial moment" of a mechanical discovery, followed by its
improvements, is the moment ending a series of unsuccessful trials: we
thus skip a phase of pure imagination, of imaginative construction that
has not been able to enter into the mold of an appropriate determinism.
There must have existed innumerable inventions that we might term
mechanical romances, which, however, we cannot refer to because they
have left us no trace, not being born viable. Others are known as
curiosities because they have blazed the path. We know that Otto de
Guericke made four fruitless attempts before discovering his air-pump.
The brothers Montgolfier were possessed with the desire to make
"imitation clouds," like those they saw moving over the Alps. "In order
to imitate nature," they at first enclosed water-vapor in a light, stout
case, which fell on cooling. Then they tried hydrogen; then the
production of a gas with electrical properties; and so on. Thus, after a
succession of hypotheses and failures, they finally succeeded. From the
end of the sixteenth century there was offered the possibility of
communicating at a distance by means of electricity. "In a work
published in 1624 the Jesuit, Father Leurechon, described an imaginary
apparatus (by means of which, he said, people could converse at a
distance) for the aid of lovers who, by the connection of their
movements, would cause a needle to move about a dial on which would be
written the letters of the alphabet; and the drawing accompanying the
text is almost a picture of Breguet's telegraph." But the author
considered it impossible "in the absence of lovers having such

Mechanical inventions that fail correspond to erroneous or unverified
scientific hypotheses. They do not emerge from the stage of pure
imagination, but they are instructive to the psychologist because they
give in bare form the initial work of the constructive imagination in
the technical field.

There still remain the requirements of reasoning, of calculation, of
adaptation to the properties of matter. But, we repeat, this determinism
has several possible forms--one can reach the same goal through
different means. Besides, these determining conditions are not lacking
in any type of imagination; there is only a difference as between lesser
and greater. Every imaginative construction from the moment that it is
little more than a group of fancies, a spectral image haunting a
dreamer's brain, must take on a body, submit to external conditions on
which it depends, and which materialize it somewhat. In this respect,
architecture is an excellent example. It is classed among the fine arts;
but it is subject to so many limitations that its process of invention
strongly resembles technical and mechanical creations. Thus it has been
possible to say that "Architecture is the least personal of all the
arts." "Before being an art it is an industry in the sense that it has
nearly always a useful end that is imposed on it and rules its
manifestations. Whatever it builds--a temple, a theater, a palace--it
must before all else subordinate its work to the end assigned to it in
advance. This is not all:--it must take account of materials, climate,
soil, location, habits--of all things that may require much skill, tact,
calculation, which, however, do not interest art as such, and do not
permit architecture to manifest its purely esthetic qualities."

Thus, at bottom, there is an identity of nature between the constructive
imagination of the mechanic and that of the artist: the difference is
only in the end, the means, and the conditions. The formula, Ars homo
additus naturae, has been too often restricted to esthetics--it should
comprehend everything artificial. Esthetes, doubtless, hold that their
imagination has for them a loftier quality--a disputed question that
psychology need not discuss; for it, the essential mechanism is the same
in the two cases: a great mechanic is a poet in his own way, because he
makes instruments imitating life. "Those constructions that at other
times are the marvel of the ignorant crowd deserve the admiration of the
reflecting:--Something of the power that has organized matter seems to
have passed into combinations in which nature is imitated or surpassed.
Our machines, so varied in form and in function, are the representatives
of a new kingdom intermediate between senseless and animate forms,
having the passivity of the former and the activity of the latter, and
exploiting everything for our sake. They are counterfeits of animate
beings, capable of giving inert substances a regular functioning. Their
skeleton of iron, organs of steel, muscles of leather, soul of fire,
panting or smoking breath, rhythm of movement--sometimes even the shrill
or plaintive cries expressing effort or simulating pain:--all that
contributes to give them a fantastic likeness to life--a specter and
dream of inorganic life."

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