Summer 2010 • Vol. XXXII No. 3 NonfictionJuly 1, 2010 |

Liberty to Communicate

Excerpt from Common as Air: Revolution, Art, and Ownership* Truth Has No Thinker In the late 1740s Benjamin Franklin and three of his Philadelphia friends conducted a series of scientific experiments hoping to develop theories about the nature of electricity. When Franklin first communicated the results of these studies to a friend in London, he claimed to be doing so partly from a sense of their lack of completion. The modesty of this declaration---real or pretended---offers a way to begin looking at how Franklin conceived of himself as a scientist and inventor. He understood, first of all, that scientific claims do not depend on particular scientists; the more personal the origin of the claim, in fact, the more likely its errors. His letter to the London colleague ends as follows: These Thoughts, my dear Friend, are many of them crude and hasty, and if I were merely ambitious of acquiring some Reputation . . . , I ought to keep them by me, 'till corrected and improved

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Lewis Hyde's books include Common as Air: Revolution, Art, and Ownership (FSG, 2010), The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property (Random House 1983; reprinted 2007), Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art (FSG, 1998), and the book of poems This Error is the Sign of Love (Milkweed Editions, 1988). He has edited a volume of essays on Henry David Thoreau and a book of responses to the poetry of Allen Ginsberg, and has translated the selected poems of Vicente Aleixandre. Hyde's many awards include grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Lannan Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation. In 1991 he was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. He is currently the Richard L. Thomas Chair in Creative Writing at Kenyon College. In addition to Pablo Neruda, Hyde has translated Spain's 1976 Nobel laureate, Vicente Aleixandre.

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