Philip K. Dick

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A human being without the proper empathy or feeling is the same as an android built so as to lack it, either by design or mistake. We mean, basically, someone who does not care about the fate which his fellow living creatures fall victim to; he stands detached, a spectator, acting out by his indifference John Donne's theorem that "No man is an island," but giving that theorem a twist: that which is a mental and a moral island is not a man.

Philip Kindred Dick (16 December 1928 - 2 March 1982) was an American science fiction writer.


Miscellaneous sourced quotations

  • Can any of us fix anything? No. None of us can do that. We're specialized. Each one of us has his own line, his own work. I understand my work, you understand yours. The tendency in evolution is toward greater and greater specialization. Man's society is an ecology that forces adaptation to it. Continued complexity makes it impossible for us to know anything outside our own personal field - I can't follow the work of the man sitting at the next desk over from me. Too much knowledge has piled up in each field. And there are too many fields.
    • "The Variable Man" (short story, 1952)
    • from The Collected Short Stories of Philip K. Dick, v.1: The Short Happy Life of the Brown Oxford (1987)
  • Doctor Labyrinth, like most people who read a great deal and who have too much time on their hands, had become convinced that our civilization was going the way of Rome. He saw, I think , the same cracks forming that had sundered the ancient world, the world of Greece and Rome; and it was his conviction that presently our world, our society, would pass away as theirs did, and a period of darkness would follow.
    • "The Preserving Machine" (short story, 1953)
    • from The Collected Short Stories of Philip K. Dick, v.1: The Short Happy Life of the Brown Oxford (1987)
  • One long-past innocent day, in my prefolly youth, I came upon a statement in an undistinguished textbook on psychiatry that, as when Kant read Hume, woke me forever from my garden-of-eden slumber. "The psychotic does not merely think he sees four blue bivalves with floppy wings wandering up the wall; he does see them. An hallucination is not, strictly speaking, manufactured in the brain; it is received by the brain, like any 'real' sense datum, and the patient act in response to this to-him-very-real perception of reality in as logical a way as we do to our sense data. In any way to suppose he only 'thinks he sees it' is to misunderstand totally the experience of psychosis."
    • "Drugs, Hallucinations, and the Quest for Reality" (1964) quoting an unknown psychiatric text
    • reprinted in The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick (1995) Lawrence Sutin, ed.
  • Don't try to solve serious matters in the middle of the night.
    • "What The Dead Men Say" (1964)
  • In one of the most brilliant papers in the English language [David] Hume made it clear that what we speak of as 'causality' is nothing more than the phenomenon of repetition. When we mix sulphur with saltpeter and charcoal we always get gunpowder. This is true of every event subsumed by a causal law - in other words, everything which can be called scientific knowledge. "It is custom which rules," Hume said, and in that one sentence undermined both science and philosophy.
    • "The Day the Gods Stopped Laughing," unpublished article written in the late 60's
    • quoted by Gregg Rickman in To The High Castle: Philip K. Dick: A Life 1928-1962 (1989)
  • I, for one, bet on science as helping us. I have yet to see how it fundamentally endangers us, even with the H-bomb lurking about. Science has given us more lives than it has taken; we must remember that.
    • "Self Portrait" (1968)
    • Reprinted in The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick (1995), Lawrence Sutin, ed.
  • Spinoza saw ... that if a falling stone could reason, it would think, 'I want to fall at the rate of thirty-two feet per second per second.'
    • "The Android and the Human" (1972)
    • reprinted in The Dark-Haired Girl (1988)
    • reprinted in The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick (1995) Lawrence Sutin, ed.
  • These creatures are among us, although morphologically they do not differ from us; we must not posit a difference of essence, but a difference of behavior. In my science fiction I write about about them constantly. Sometimes they themselves do not know they are androids. Like Rachel Rosen, they can be pretty but somehow lack something; or, like Pris in We Can Build You, they can be absolutely born of a human womb and even design androids - the Abraham Lincoln one in that book - and themselves be without warmth; they then fall within the clinical entity "schizoid," which means lacking proper feeling. I am sure we mean the same thing here, with the emphasis on the word "thing." A human being without the proper empathy or feeling is the same as an android built so as to lack it, either by design or mistake. We mean, basically, someone who does not care about the fate which his fellow living creatures fall victim to; he stands detached, a spectator, acting out by his indifference John Donne's theorem that "No man is an island," but giving that theorem a twist: that which is a mental and a moral island is not a man.
    • "Man, Androids and Machine" (1975)
    • reprinted in The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick (1995) Lawrence Sutin, ed.
  • My major preoccupation is the question, 'What is reality?' Many of my stories and novels deal with psychotic states or drug-induced states by which I can present the concept of a multiverse rather than a universe. Music and sociology are themes in my novels, also radical political trends; in particular I've written about fascism and my fear of it.
    • Statement of 1975 quoted in the Dictionary of Literary Biography (1981) vol. 8, part 1
  • Giving me a new idea is like handing a cretin a loaded gun, but I do thank you anyhow, bang, bang.
    • Letter to Patricia Warrick (5/17/1978) Published in Selected Letters of Philip K. Dick, 1977-1979 (1993)
  • That was my problem then and it's my problem now: I have a bad attitude.
    • Dick, Philip K. (1980). "Introduction", Mark Hurst, editor The Golden Man, xiii, New York: Berkley Publishing.

The Man Who Japed (1956)

  • Odd that the brain could function on its own, without acquainting him with its purposes, its reasons. But the brain was an organ, like the spleen, heart, kidneys. And they went about their private activities. So why not the brain?

The World Jones Made (1956)

  • An Irishman hears that the banks are failing. He runs into the bank where he keeps his money and demands every cent of it. 'Yes sir,' the teller says politely. 'Do you want it in cash or in the form of a check?' The Irishman replies: 'Well, if you have it, I don't want it. But if you haven't got it, I must have it immediately.'

The Man in the High Castle (1962)

  • What does it mean, insane? A legal definition. What do I mean? I feel it, see it, but what is it? It is something they do, something they are. It is their unconsciousness...Do they ignore parts of reality? Yes. But it is more. It is their plans...Their view; it is cosmic...They see through the here, the now, into the vast black deep beyond, the unchanging. And that is fatal to life. Because eventually there will be no life; there was once only the dust particles of space, the hot hydrogen gases, nothing more, and it will come again.
  • (Insanity) is not hubris, not pride; it is inflation of the ego to its ultimate - confusion between him who worships and that which is worshipped. Man has not eaten God; God has eaten man.
  • Perhaps if you know you are insane then you are not insane.
  • Whom the gods notice they destroy. Be small...and you will escape the jealousy of the great.
  • It's the fault of those physicists and that synchronicity theory, every particle being connected with every other; you can't fart without changing the balance in the universe. It makes living a funny joke with nobody around to laugh. I open a book and get a report on future events that even God would like to file and forget. And who am I? The wrong person; I can tell you that.
  • Can anyone alter fate? All of us combined...or one great figure...or someone strategically placed, who happens to be in the right spot. Chance. Accident. And our lives, our world, hanging on it.
  • Little kids are that way; they feel if their parents aren't watching what they do then what they do isn't real.
  • This is an artifact and that was a relic. This is alive in the now, whereas that merely remained.
  • Life is short. Art, or something not life, is long, stretching out endless, like concrete worm. Flat, white, unsmoothed by any passage over or across it. Here I stand. But no longer.
  • Are we to assist it in gaining power in order to save our lives? Is that the paradox of our earthly situation?
  • To save one life, Mr. Tagomi had to take two. The logical, balanced mind cannot make sense of that. A kindly man like Mr. Tagomi could be driven insane by the implications of such reality.
  • We have entered a Moment when we are alone. We cannot get assistance, as before. Well, Mr. Tagomi thought, perhaps that too is good. Or can be made good. One must still try to find the Way.
  • That is the artist's job: take mineral rock from dark silent earth, transform it into shining light-reflecting form from sky.
  • I feel the hot winds of karma driving me. Nevertheless I remain here. My training was correct: I must not shrink from the clear white light, for if I do, I will once more re-enter the cycle of birth and death, never knowing freedom, never obtaining release. The veil of maya will fall once more.
  • This hypnagogic condition. Attention-faculty diminished so that twilight state obtains; world seen merely in symbolic, archetypal aspect, totally confused with unconcious material.
  • I will never fully understand; that is the nature of such creatures. Or is this Inner Truth now, this that is happening to me? I will wait. I will see. Which it is. Perhaps it is both.
  • Even if all life on our planet is destroyed, there must be other life somewhere which we know nothing of. It is impossible that ours is the only world; there must be world after world unseen by us, in some region or dimension that we simply do not perceive. Even though I can't prove that, even though it isn't logical - I believe it.
  • We do not have an ideal world, such as we would like, where morality is easy because congnition is easy. Where one can do right with no effort because he can detect the obvious.
  • (Hawthorne Abendsen) told us about our own world. This, what's around us now. He wants us to see it for what it is. And I do, and more so each moment.
  • You're killing yourself with cynicism. Your idols got taken away from you one by one and now you have nothing to give your love to.
  • [Fiction] Appeals to the base lusts that hide in everyone no matter how respectable on the surface.
  • We can travel anywhere we want, even to other planets. And for what? To sit day after day, declining in morale and hope. Falling into an interminable ennui.
  • Dilemma of a civilized man; body mobilized but danger obscure.

Martian Time-Slip (1964)

  • Insanity - to have to construct a picture of one's life, by making inquiries of others.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)

Adapted into the 1982 film Blade Runner.

  • For Mercer everything is easy, he thought, because Mercer accepts everything. Nothing is alien to him. But what I've done, he thought; that's become alien to me. In fact everything has become unnatural; I've become an unnatural self.
  • "Everything is true", he said. "Everything anybody has ever thought".
  • The electric things have their life too. Paltry as those lives are.

A Maze of Death (1970)

A novel about colonists to Delmak-O, all seemingly mentally ill and suspicious of each other. One of Dick's weirder and darker novels.

  • Forty-two. His age had astounded him for years, and each time that he had sat so astounded, trying to figure out what had become of the young, slim man in his twenties, a whole additional year slipped by and had to be recorded, a continually growing sum which he could not reconcile with his self-image. He still saw himself, in his mind's eye, as youthful, and when he caught sight of himself in photographs he usually collapsed ... Somebody took my actual physical presence away and substituted this, he had thought from time to time. Oh well, so it went.

We Can Build You (1972)

  • 'A rolling stone gathers no moss.'
    Try as I might I could not remember the meaning. At last I hazarded, 'Well, it means a person who's always active and never pauses to reflect - ' No, that didn't sound right. I tried again. 'That means a man who is always active and keeps growing in mental and moral stature won't grow stale.' He was looking at me more intently, so I added by way of clarification, 'I mean, a man who's active and doesn't let grass grow under his feet, he'll get ahead in life.'
    Doctor Nisea said, 'I see.' And I knew that I had revealed, for the purposes of legal diagnosis, a schizophrenic thinking disorder.
    'What does it mean?' I asked. 'Did I get it backward?'
    'Yes, I'm afraid so. The generally-accepted meaning of the proverb is the opposite of what you've given; it is generally taken to mean that a person who - '
    'You don't have to tell me,' I broke in. 'I remember - I really knew it. A person who's unstable will never acquire anything of value.'
    • chapter 17, page 224.

Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said (1974)

  • Fear... can make you do more wrong than hate or jealousy. If you're afraid you don't commit yourself to life completely; fear makes you always, always hold something back.
  • He could not endure what he found himself going through, and he could not get away. It seemed to him as if he sat behind the tiller of his custom-made unique quibble, facing a red light, green light, amber light all at once; no rational response was possible. Her irrationality made it so. The terrible power, he thought, of illogic. Of the archetypes. Operating out of the drear depths of the collective unconscious which joined him and her — and everyone else — together. In a knot which could never be undone, so long as they lived.
    • p.54

A Scanner Darkly (1977)

  • If I had known it was harmless I would have killed it myself.
  • Where there's dope, there's hope!
  • They wanted to have a good time, but they were like children playing in the street; they could see one after another of them being killed--run over, maimed, destroyed--but they continued to play anyhow.
  • Drug misuse is not a disease, it is a decision, like the decision to step out in front of a moving car. You would call that not a disease but an error in judgement. When a bunch of people begin to do it, it is a social error, a life-style. In this particular life-style the motto is "Be happy now because tomorrow you are dying," but the dying begins almost at once, and the happiness is a memory.
  • One of the most effective forms of industrial or military sabotage limits itself to damage that can never be thoroughly proven - or even proven at all - to be anything deliberate. It is like an invisible political movement; perhaps it isn't there at all. If a bomb is wired to a car's ignition, then obviously there is an enemy; if public building or a political headquarters is blown up, then there is a political enemy. But if an accident, or a series of accidents, occurs, if equipment merely fails to function, if it appears faulty, especially in a slow fashion, over a period of natural time, with numerous small failures and misfirings- then the victim, whether a person or a party or a country, can never marshal itself to defend itself.
  • What does a scanner see? he asked himself. I mean, really see? Into the head? Down into the heart? Does a passive infrared scanner like they used to use or a cube-type holo-scanner like they use these days, the latest thing, see into me - into us - clearly or darkly? I hope it does, he thought, see clearly, because I can't any longer these days see into myself. I see only murk. Murk outside; murk inside. I hope, for everyone's sake, the scanners do better. Because, he thought, if the scanner sees only darkly, the way I myself do, then we are cursed, cursed again and like we have been continually, and we'll wind up dead this way, knowing very little and getting that little fragment wrong too.
  • "Then shall it come to pass the saying that is written," a voice said. "Death is swallowed up. In victory." Perhaps only Fred heard it. "Because," the voice said, "as soon as the writing appears backward, then you know which is illusion and which is not. The confusion ends, and death, the last enemy, Substance Death, is swallowed not into the body but up - in victory. Behold, I tell you the sacred secret now: we shall not all sleep in death."
  • Robert Arctor halted. Stared at them, at the straights in their fat suits, their fat ties, their fat shoes, and he thought, Substance D can't destroy their brains; they have none.
  • I saw Substance D growing. I saw death rising from the earth, from the ground itself, in one blue field, in stubbled color.
  • How did I get here? The pain so unexpected and undeserved and for some reason cleared away the cobwebs. I realized I didn't hate the cabinet door, I hated my life my house, my family. My backyard, my power mower. Nothing would ever change, nothing new would ever be expected; it had to end, and it did. Now in the dark world where I dwell ugly things and surprising things, and sometimes little wondrous things spill out at me constantly, and I can count on nothing.
  • "Mountains, Bruce, mountains," the manager said. "Mountains, Bruce, mountains," Bruce said and gazed.
    "Echolalia, Bruce, echolalia," the manager said. "Echolalia, Bruce-"
    "Okay, Bruce," the manager said, and shut the cabin door behind him, thinking, I believe I'll put him among the carrots. Or beets. Something simple. Something that won't puzzle him.

How To Build A Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later (1978)

A speech published in the collection I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon Available online.

  • Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups...So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.
  • The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.
  • Science Fiction writers, I am sorry to say, really do not know anything. We can't talk about science because our knowledge of it is limited and unofficial, and usually our fiction is dreadful.
  • This, to me, is the ultimately heroic trait of ordinary people; they say no to the tyrant and they calmly take the consequences of this resistance.
  • An EEG of a person watching TV shows that after about half an hour the brain decides that nothing is happening, and it goes into a hypnoidal twilight state, emitting alpha waves. This is because there is such little eye motion.
  • Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.

VALIS (1981)

A novel featuring Dick himself. The title is an acronym for Vast Active Living Intelligence System, Dick's gnostic vision of God.

  • We hypostasize information into objects. Rearrangement of objects is change in the content of the information; the message has changed. This is a language which we have lost the ability to read. We ourselves are a part of this language; changes in us are changes in the content of the information. We ourselves are information-rich; information enters us, is processed and is then projected outwards once more, now in an altered form. We are not aware that we are doing this, that in fact this is all we are doing.
  • Sometimes the appropriate response to reality is to go insane.
  • A lot can be said for the infinite mercies of God, but the smarts of a good pharmacist, when you get down to it, is worth more.
  • To fight the Empire is to be infected by its derangement ... Whoever defeats the Empire becomes the Empire; it proliferates like a virus ... thereby it becomes its enemies.
  • The Empire Never Ended
  • Mental illness is not funny.
  • Crazy people do not apply the principle of scientific parsimony... they shoot for the baroque.
  • Helping people was one of the two basic things Fat had been told to give up; helping people and taking dope. He had stopped taking dope, but all his energy and enthusiasm were now totally channelled into saving people. Better he had kept on with the dope.
  • Fish cannot carry guns.

The Divine Invasion (1981)

  • It was evident to Elias Tate that this was the government. First they shake hands with you, he thought, and then they murder you.

The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (1982)

  • Barefoot conducts his seminars on his houseboat in Sausalito. It costs a hundred dollars to find out why we are on this Earth. You also get a sandwich, but I wasn't hungry that day. John Lennon had just been killed and I think I know why we are on this Earth; it's to find out that what you love the most will be taken away from you, probably due to an error in high places rather than by design.
    • Page 7
  • The trouble with being educated is that it takes a long time; it uses up the better part of your life and when you are finished what you know is that you would have benefited more by going into banking.
    • Page 13
  • I realized, then, that I had stood without intending to. Flight reaction, I said to myself. Instinctive. Upon experiencing close adversaries. The lizard part of the brain.
    • Page 158
  • Madness, like small fish, runs in hosts, in vast numbers of instances.
    • Page 236

Lies, Inc. (1984)

Originally published as The Unteleported Man in 1964, republished with additional material in 1983. Published with further additional material as Lies, Inc. in 1984.

  • When two people dream the same dream, it ceases to be an illusion.

In Pursuit of Valis: Selections from the Exegesis (1991)

Edited by Lawrence Sutin.

  • I am a fictionalizing philosopher, not a novelist; my novel & story-writing ability is employed as a means to formulate my perception. The core of my writing is not art but truth. Thus what I tell is the truth, yet I can do nothing to alleviate it, either by deed or explanation. Yet this seems somehow to help a certain kind of sensitive troubled person, for whom I speak. I think I understand the common ingredient in those whom my writing helps: they cannot or will not blunt their own intimations about the irrational, mysterious nature of reality, & for them, my corpus of writing is one long ratiocination regarding this inexplicable reality, an investigation & presentation, analysis & response & personal history. My audience will always be limited to those people.
  • Each of us assumes everyone else knows what HE is doing. They all assume we know what WE are doing. We don't...Nothing is going on and nobody knows what it is. Nobody is concealing anything except the fact that he does not understand anything anymore and wishes he could go home.

Quotes about Philip K. Dick

  • [Philip K.] Dick's fiction calls up our basic cultural assumptions, requires us to reexamine them, and points out the destructive destinations to which they are carrying us. The American Dream may have succeeded as a means of survival in the wilderness of early America; it allowed us to subdue that wilderness and build our holy cities of materialism. But now, the images in Dick's fiction declare, we live in a new kind of wilderness, a wasteland wilderness, because those cities and the culture that built them are in decay. We need a new American dream to overcome this wasteland.
    • Patricia S. Warrick, Mind in Motion: The Fiction of Philip K. Dick (1987)
  • It was either Phil [Dick] or [Ace editor] Terry Carr who came up with the idea of an Ace Double edition of the Holy Bible. One of these days Ace will print the Holy Bible as a Double, back to back, the Old Testament and the New Testament each cut to exactly 30,000 words, the Old Testament titled Master of Chaos and the New Testament titled The Thing That Frees Souls.
    • Poul Anderson, posthumous appreciation of Philip K. Dick in Locus magazine #256 (5/82)
    • quoted by Gregg Rickman in To The High Castle; Philip K. Dick: A Life 1928-1962 (1989)
      • alternate versions: In Divine Invasions by Lawrence Sutin, Karen Anderson, wife of Poul Anderson, is quoted. In this version of the anecdote, each half is 20,000 words, and the New Testament is The Things with Three Souls. In an e-mail from Arthur Hlavaty (5/28/95) the Old Testament is given as Wargod of Israel and the New Testament as The Thing with Three Souls.
  • Writer X may sell 500,000 copies. All those 500,000 people may think, nice book. I liked it. I'll read the guy's next one. And 40,000 people may read a Phil Dick book, and be loud and vocal and persuasive about feeling the book had incredible impact on them intellectually and emotionally. The guy with the 500,000 will not be seen as a major writer and the guy with the 40,000 will. Because nobody's talking about the guy with the 500,000 readers.
    • Russ Galen, Philip K. Dick's agent
    • quoted by Gregg Rickman in To The High Castle: Philip K. Dick: A Life 1928-1962 (1989)
  • The worlds through which Philip Dick's characters move are subject to cancellation or revision without notice. Reality is approximately as dependable as a politician's promise.
    • Roger Zelazny in Philip Dick: Electric Shepherd (1975), Bruce Gillespie, ed.
  • Is it real? Does it matter?
    • Robin Temple, on all of Philip K. Dick's books.

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