Alfred Jarry

from Exploits and Opinions
of Doctor Faustroll, Pataphysician


8: Definition

An epiphenomenon is that which is superinduced upon a phenomenon.

Pataphysics, whose etymological spelling should be έπι (μετà τà φυσικά)1 and actual orthography ‘pataphysics, preceded by an apostrophe so as to avoid a simple pun, is the science of that which is superinduced upon metaphysics, whether within or beyond the latter’s limitations, extending as far beyond metaphysics as the latter extends beyond physics.2 Ex: an epiphenomenon being often accidental, pataphysics will be, above all, the science of the particular,3 despite the common opinion that the only science is that of general.4 Pataphysics will examine the laws governing exceptions,5 and will explain the universe supplementary to this one;6 or, less ambitiously, will describe a universe which can be—and perhaps should be—envisaged in the place of the traditional one, since the laws that are supposed to have been discovered in the traditional universe are also correlations of exceptions, albeit more frequent ones, but in any case accidental data which, reduced to the status of unexceptional exceptions, possess no longer even the virtue of originality.8,9

DEFINITION. Pataphysics is the science of imaginary solutions10 which symbolically attributes the properties of objects, described by their virtuality, to their lineaments.11

The following is trivia and a distraction from the main propositions advanced above and the definition.

Contemporary science is founded upon the principle of induction: most people have seen a certain phenomenon precede or follow some other phenomenon most often, and conclude therefrom that it will ever be thus. Apart from other considerations, this is true only in the majority of cases, depends upon the point of view, and is codified only for convenience12 - if that! Instead of formulating the law of the fall of a body toward a centre, how far more apposite would be the law of the ascension of a vacuum toward a periphery, a vacuum being considered a unit of non‑density, a hypothesis far less arbitrary than the choice of a concrete unit of positive density such as water?13

For even this body is a postulate and an average man’s point of view, and in order that its qualities, if not its nature, should remain fairly constant, it would be necessary to postulate that the height of human beings should remain more or less constant and mutually equivalent. Universal assent is already a quite miraculous and incomprehensible prejudice.14 Why should anyone claim that the shape of a watch is round—a manifestly false proposition—since it appears in profile as a narrow rectangular construction, elliptic on three sides; and why the devil should one only have noticed its shape at the moment of looking at the time? —Perhaps under the pretext of utility. But a child who draws a watch as a circle will also draw a house as a square, as a façade, without any justification, of course; because, except perhaps in the country, he will rarely see an isolated building, and even in a street the façades have the appearance of very oblique trapezoids.

We must, in fact, inevitably admit that the common herd (including small children and women) is too dim-witted to comprehend elliptic equations, and that its members are at one in a so‑called universal assent because they are capable of perceiving only those curves having a single focal point, since it is easier to coincide with one point rather than with two. These people communicate and achieve equilib­rium by the outer edge of their bellies, tangentially. But even the common herd has learned that the real universe is composed of ellipses, and tradesmen keep their wine in barrels rather than cylinders.

So that we may not abandon, through digression, our usual example of water, let us reflect, in this connection, upon the irreverence of the common herd whose instinct sums up the adepts of the science of pataphysics in the following phrase:










A brief commentary in Brogue

By Prof. Dr (Hon) Turi Pataphyx






1.    Epimetafusis, translated into brogue as ‘upon or above - with, across or afternature.                         more …..      

2.    In other words, limitless. With this phrase Jarry reveals his private basic intent, namely the elimination of imposed (by others) boundaries or limitations.

3.    For ‘the science of the particular’ read: science of singularity, i.e., of the (dynamic) monad (Leibnitz). Jarry is taking the monist (indeed solipsist) position (to wit, the observation/experience of ‘sub specie momenti).

4.    i.e. of the dual (i.e., duality, dualism) extended to the poly/infinite (to wit, the observation/experience of ‘sub specie aeternitatis’).

5.    In other words, the laws/rules/constraints regulating singularities, monads, quanta and so on.

6.    ‘The universe supplementary to this one’ means an alternative fantasy (or imaginary solution). In Jarry’s monist ( solipsist) world only alternatives, hence equivalents emerge. The notion of difference (or opposite, as in dualism, e.g. Sanskrit dvaita), hence of non-equivalence, belongs to the dualist (or polyist) Weltanschauung of the metaphysicist’.

7.    are all correlations of exceptions’. The laws are derived from, hence fantasised as statistical probabilities that are deemed useful for all but one.

8.    the virtue of originality’. With this phrase Jarry reveals a further parameter of his private intent, namely the drive to authenticity. In his (correct) view only the singularity (i.e., the particular, the individual, i.e., the idiot ((in its original meaning)), for instance the artist who would be avant-garde, is authentic (no matter how absurd and attention grabbing his output). Such authenticity is achieved via the elimination of the given rules or constraints, therefore by recovery of the freedom of the solipsist.

9.    Jarry rightly claims the primacy and superiority of his world (as fantasy, albeit an absurd one) over the world at large (as collective fantasy). As rebellious truculent teenager with infantile proclivities who doesn’t give a merde (i.e. shit) he argues for autocracy (or monarchy or egoism) against democracy. Sadly he appears to have equated fantasy (i.e. the imaginary solution) with the absurd. He never does mature and goes on to write sophisticated crude and scatological nonsense fiction and drink and drug himself to death at 34. However, his correct (because physically = naturally the sine qua non) assessment is that ‘when push comes to shove’ ‘the buck stops with you.’ (i.e., with the individual or particular).

10.    The notion (as fantasy) of imaginary solutions was much debated in ancient India. The interplay of private imaginary solutions was there named ‘The Dance of Shiva’, elsewhere called ‘The Lila of Maya’ and which translates into brogue as ‘The play of Illusion.’

11.    Translation: Pataphysics is the science of fantasy solutions which attribute the imagined effects of fantasies, described by their imagined identifiers, to their apparent outputs. Or, Pataphysics is the science of fantasy describing (and so anticipating (my insert) an imaginary world (and which may or may not be rendered realistic, i.e., sold as a fact.). The Greek fantasist Plato, a true pataphysicist, invented such a fantasy, namely the fiction of the psyche (elsewhere renamed the ‘soul’) and which was later incorporated by St Paul, another fantasist, into the grand fantasy-as-hoax called Christianity and which has bamboozled billions of hapless humans ever since.

12.    Expedience, usefulness.

13.    The foregoing and that which follows is a deliberate distraction designed to render his propositions occult.

14.    Prejudicial to the individual who, as singularity among singularities, indeed as (dynamic) predator amongst predators, must live by his/her own rule.



In summary. Jarry defines pataphysics as the science of private fantasies. He, and his immediate followers, appear to have (wrongly) equated fantasy with the absurd and failed to appreciate immense creative potential of imagination as such. Fantasy (as anticipatory virtual reality), as anyone can observe a thousand times a day, is the sine qua non survival mode of the individual and who, as singularity (or biological quantum) must achieve authenticity (own truth) and thereby make a unique mark that qualifies that authenticity. To achieve this goal (i.e., self-truth by virtue of self-completion) he or she must live by his/her own (i.e. eigen) rule, thereby perfectly iterating the single basic procedure that emerges all cognizable quanta. Achieving authenticity was the overriding goal of Chan monks in middle era Chinese Buddhism as it is today of most half-way competent Life Coaches. What Alfred Jarry basically said was: ‘Live your own dream and be damned!’