In the third voyage of Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift critically satirizes the four ways that humans tried to gain knowledge in the Age of Enlightenment: abstract reason, practical and scientific knowledge, humanities and history, and experience through living. Swift believes that faith and tradition is enough for man to live a life of fulfillment, and, with this novel, he truly shows that humanity will be lost if one pursues unworthy desires.
In the beginning of Gulliver's third voyage, Swift shows how too strong an emphasis on abstract reasoning leads to the loss of a grasp on reality. Laputians, the inhabitants of the floating island Laputa, made so many abstract calculations that they forgot what they were trying to accomplish. By naming the island Laputa, the Spanish word for whore, Swift smoothly makes his argument about pointless thought much stronger. For example, they measured every strange angle of Gulliver's body for fitting him with clothes, yet the clothes did not fit. "He first took my [Gulliver's] Altitude by a Quadrant, and then with Rule and Compasses, described the Dimensions and Out-Lines of my whole Body; all which he entred upon Paper, and in six Days, brought my Cloaths very ill made, and quite out of Shape, by happening to mistake a Figure in the .
Calculation" (Swift 123). The Laputians were so caught up in thought that they had to constantly be hit with "flappers" to take them out of their trance.
Aside from pointless calculations, Swift also demonstrates how a strong intellect does not make a man wise. For example, the Laputians successfully counted every star in the sky, yet they could not figure out what direction they were heading. Furthermore, they knew every detail of architectural design, yet they could not correctly build a house. Finally, Swift attests how abstract reasoning leads to immorality. The men on Laputa were so caught up in studying that they forgot to praise their women properly, and referred to them in geometrical terms.