Wednesday, 6 June 2018

an inconvenient truth

The always captivating Kottke re-acquaints us with an important and resounding contribution that Bertrand Russell made to the New York Times magazine (subscription required) in 1951 called “The Best Answer to Fanaticism – Liberalism: Its calm search for truth, viewed as dangerous in many places, remains the hope of humanity.” The eminent British philosopher, mathematician and political activist concluded his article with ten succinct and lucid points of advice (the probable namesake of Al Gore’s PowerPoint presentation) to uphold his civic antidote:

  • Do not feel absolutely certain of anything. 
  • Do not think it worthwhile to produce belief by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light. 
  • Never try to discourage thinking, for you are sure to succeed. 
  • When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory. 
  • Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
  • Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you. 
  • Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric. 
  • Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter. 
  • Be scrupulously truthful, even when the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it. 
  • Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.