‘Foundation’ by Isaac Asimov is a novel with many stories split into different eras. Quotes were used by Isaac Asimov to show his view on politics and religion, which are two of the main themes and other topics that are relatable to human society. Each one used in the novel reflects on a topic and its relevance in the real world.
The Deprivation of Freedom
If you’re born in a cubicle and grow up in a corridor, and work in a cell, and vacation in a crowded sun-room, then coming up into the open with nothing but sky over you might just give you a nervous breakdown.
The deprivation of freedom is a disease that eats into human society. In the novel, Isaac Asimov pointed out that though Trantor was the powerhouse of the Galactic Empire, its citizens lacked one thing, freedom. Though too much of it leads to indifference, the lack of it leads to something else, stagnancy. In the novel, Hari Seldon realizes that the Galactic Empire’s stagnancy would lead to its destruction; this makes him formulate the plan of the Foundation.
Now any dogma, based primarily on faith and emotionalism, is a dangerous weapon to use on others, since it is almost impossible to guarantee that the weapon will never be turned on the user.
After the Encyclopedists settled on Terminus, they began to collect knowledge as tasked by Hari Seldon, who is one of the main characters in ‘Foundation.’ However, after Hardin discovered Hari’s true purpose for the Foundation, he created a religion called scientism. Scientism soon became a weapon the Foundation used to subdue its enemies. The quote above shows that though weaponizing faith is an asset every political power wishes to possess, it is also a double-edged sword that could get turned against its user. With the quote, Isaac Asimov explained that faith and belief should never get weaponized because when weaponized faith turns negative, it becomes a tool for destruction.
But you haven’t tried. You haven’t tried once. First you refused to admit that there was a menace at all! Then you reposed an absolutely blind faith in the emperor! Now you’ve shifted it to Hari Seldon. Throughout you have invariably relied on authority or on the past—never on yourselves.
After the Encyclopedists reached Terminus, they began the arduous task of gathering knowledge. Fifty years later, a man called Salvor Hardin realized that the Foundation was heading for rock bottom, and the only way to save it was to turn it into a political organization. After telling the board of Trustees the political problems at the door of the Foundation, the board rebuked him and held on to the blind faith they had in Hari Seldon; this is where Hardin makes this quote.
The quote rebukes the stagnancy of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees as Hardin showed how their blind faith made them stick to a singular ideology. It explains that blind faith distorts one’s sense of urgency and makes one focus on irrelevant issues.
And you men and half of Terminus as well are just as bad. We sit here, considering the Encyclopedia the all-in-all. We consider the greatest end of science is the classification of past data. It is important, but is there no further work to be done? We’re receding and forgetting, don’t you see? Here in the Periphery, they’ve lost nuclear power. In Gamma Andromeda, a power plant has undergone meltdown because of poor repairs, and the Chancellor of the Empire complains that nuclear technicians are scarce. And the solution? To train new ones? Never! Instead, they’re to restrict nuclear power. Don’t you see? It’s galaxy-wide. It’s a worship of the past. It’s a deterioration—a stagnation!
The quote above sheds light on a primary problem that leads to the fall of society; stagnation. In the novel, Hardin disliked the Board of Trustees for their lack of innovation and collective reasoning. On discovering that Terminus was already in a political struggle, Hardin tried to make the board pay attention to their immediate problems. However, he got shrugged off. Through Hardin’s voice, Isaac Asimov points out the role stagnation plays in destroying collective thinking and reasoning. He showed that stagnation slowly eats at progress.
Encyclopedias don’t win wars.
Empires and kingdoms fall because they refuse to adapt and change to the demands of their current state. Clinginess to tradition leads to indifference towards metamorphosis. In the quote above, Hardin points this fact out to the Board of Trustees because he knew that their indifference placed the Foundation on the path to political slavery.
The Art of Aversion
Any fool can tell a crisis when it arrives. The real service to the state is to detect it in embryo.
The quote above points out a primary skill necessary for crisis aversion; the art of early detection. In the novel, Hari Seldon’s purpose for creating the Foundation was to avoid the 30,000 years of terror that humanity was to face. He discovered that detecting a problem was the easiest part, but curbing the devastating effects of that problem before an escalation was the true purpose of the solution.
The Fall of Empires
The fall of Empire, gentlemen, is a massive thing, however, and not easily fought. It is dictated by a rising bureaucracy, a receding initiative, a freezing of caste, a damming of curiosity—a hundred other factors. It has been going on, as I have said, for centuries, and it is too majestic and massive a movement to stop.
The quote above got made by Hari Seldon to prove that the Galactic Empire was receding into chaos. With the invention of psychohistory, Hari discovered that the Empire’s decline was unavoidable because of multiple factors affecting the Empire. He made this speech to point out that the signs of receding empires are always crystal clear, but continuous avoidance of issues is what leads to a massively destructive fall.
Scientific truth is beyond loyalty and disloyalty.
Science is a field that relies on observation, evidence, and experimentation. Isaac Asimov used this quote to show that science should be pure and not tilted towards politics and favoritism.
Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.
The will to do what is right is a virtue many people want. However, people also get caught between following personal principles or doing what is right. The quote above explains that no matter what set of principles one has, doing the right thing should be the priority.
Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
This quote explains why violence is never an alternative for sane people. In the novel, Isaac Asimov showed that the best way to conquer an enemy would be with knowledge and passive subjugation, not violence.
What are some quotes from ‘Foundation‘ by Isaac Asimov?
“Now any dogma, based primarily on faith and emotionalism, is a dangerous weapon to use on others since it is almost impossible to guarantee that the weapon will never be turned on the user.”
“It is the chief characteristic of the religion of science that it works.”
Does ‘Foundation’ by Isaac Asimov make any quote about science?
Yes, ‘Foundation’ uses quotes to talk about the impact of science on society. Here are some of those quotes:
“Scientific truth is beyond loyalty and disloyalty.”
“It is remarkable, Hardin, how the religion of science has grabbed hold.”
Does Isaac Asimov speak against religion in ‘Foundation‘?
Isaac Asimov used ‘Foundation’ to point out the flaws of blind faith. He used ‘The Encyclopedists’ to show that blind faith can lead to destruction as ignorance never solves problems.
What is the primary message in ‘Foundation‘?
‘Foundation’ tells the story of the decline of the Galactic Empire. With the primary cause for its decline being stagnation, the story follows the lives of scientists and politicians who try to ensure that humanity does not spiral into chaos.