Pataphysics: The Science of Imagination



Jarry: “Pataphysics is the science of imaginary solutions” that create1 “universes2 supplementary to this one.”


Pataphysics3 researches and then applies the procedure by means of which an emergent4 can transform itself another.5 The pataphysical procedure6 that enables creation from an imaginary solution, hence a fantasy or an idea, is the sine qua non of survival.7,8


A supplementary universe is emerged as a differential state. Therefore, the latter being different it can make a difference and so contribute to survival.9





Description automatically generated




The pataphysical imaginary solution, hence the most natural creation procedure of complex systems, is automatic and blind and wholly recursive, just like a fractal.10 A human iterates it thousands of times an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year and so on. Its cycle can also be slowed to generate a single transformation once a day, a month, a year, 10 years, a lifetime.11 Transition from one state to another as potential (or possible) survival capacity upgrade, thereby creating a ‘best possible universe’, is often celebrated with a passage rite.


Nebraska judges. The judge front centre applied the pataphysical procedure (as, indeed, all the others did).12


A group of people posing for a photo

Description automatically generated













1.    i.e., emerge, arrange and so on.

2.    For ‘universe’ read: a realistic identifiable state (such as a grain of sand or the cosmos), a relationship, a world, a private (i.e., particular, individual, autonomous) eco-system or all private eco-systems.

3.    Jarry (& school pals) merely named the pataphysical procedure. It’s possible that the outline definition of pataphysics was generated later by Jarry (i.e., Dr Faustroll) himself, who as highly sensitive creative personality would have had liminal alertness and therefore a keen grasp of the pataphysical, namely the self-reinvention or self-transformation procedure.

4.    i.e., any dynamic system whose complexity allows intentional action/imagination.

5.    i.e., intentional (via imagination) transition from one state (i.e., from one universe suffering decay because of sameness) to another (i.e., supplementary) universe (enjoying growth because of difference). Such transition or transmutation happens as boot-strapping operation.

6.    The pataphysical procedure (like Turing’s Universal Machine) is automatic and blind hence can process any data towards any output. The procedure, namely imaginary artifice, is wholly recursive (i.e., like a fractal) within all complex dynamic systems. The capacity to fantasise outcomes and actualise them (as identifiable realities) is standard self-preservation equipment of all humans.

7.    Unless a (indeed, any) dynamic system can continuously upgrade (elsewhere called adapt) itself with difference (indeed randomness) it will, since sameness is compressed out, fail to connect, thereby fail to re-charge itself and die.

8.    The pataphysical procedure, i.e., human artifice, generates an idea - as imaginary solution - for a self-prescriptive adaptation that gives the user the creative, hence survival edge. It is always a response to (i.e., induced or forced) a survival threat. The most extreme survival threat is an NDE (i.e., a Near Death Experience) most often brought on by a Temporal Lobe Epileptic fit that produces a conversion experience. However, any trauma, no matter how mild (such as, for instance, a pang of hunger or a rain shower) will force the invention of an imaginary solution (to it).

9.    A human has three options (with a vast number of actual variations) to complete (i.e., to make realistic) a significant (because life-changing) pataphysical procedure and stay alive. She can simply reproduce (i.e., breed) and so defer the emergence of difference to the next generation. Or she can differentiate her eco-system (and therefore herself) by generating differential artifacts (such as a bicycle or a novel hairdo). Or she can reinvent herself as significantly different (such as a doctor or a jockey). Jarry excelled at the 2nd and 3rd options, though the last, an absurd caricature, contributed to his early death. Brogue speakers call the third option ‘Living the dream’ (i.e., fantasy).

10.    The imagination fractal can transform or elaborate any A into any B depending on the availability of data (i.e., circumstances), time and energy. Unfortunately, pataphysics has been tightly bound by self-obsessed, second-rate artists and dim-witted French savants to Jarry’s very personal supplemental universe, namely the absurd mired in merdre (= merde = shit) caricature and which is one merely one particular application of the pataphysical procedure. Hence pataphysics has been generally dismissed and stigmatized as in itself absurd and a mere parody of science, indeed as the science of the absurd. To free pataphysics from the stigma of the absurd and recover the genius of Jarry’s name-giving and definition of pataphysics is the purpose of the Irish Pataphysical Institute. 

11.    The pataphysical procedure, to wit, the use of imagination to solve actual problems, self-activates just after birth and is applied until the moment of death.

12.    Without imagining (i.e., fantasising) becoming a judge one cannot become a judge. Without generating an imaginary bicycle, one cannot build a bicycle. Without imagining a pizza, one cannot order it. All of culture, as natural human artifice (i.e., read ART), represents actual solutions derived from imaginary (i.e., artificial) solutions (or fantasies) designed to avoid decay and death.