Quote of the week

One of Morgan Freeberg’s Memos for File:

Aristotle once said something that defined a state of being “educated,” as having the ability to “entertain a thought without accepting it.” There would be no point to calling this out if everyone could do this. I suppose it’s never been too common of a human talent, in any setting. And so for those participants who wish to display themselves as cosmetically smart, but lack this particular skill Aristotle was describing, there is another desire that takes shape right after the fidelity is pledged to this emerging consensus — to shed from the discourse any contrary thought that might rival for the position as an emerging consensus. They start to eliminate ideas, under the guise of entertaining them. They mock, they interrupt, they distract by way of loaded phrases like “let’s move on,” they engage in all sorts of logical fallacies, they “debunk” myths that aren’t really mythical. They ostracize, or threaten to ostracize. What all these things have in common is: They seek to shape the emerging consensus by eliminating information rather than by gathering it, which is a tip-off that this consensus is being shaped by way of ignorance, rather than by learning.

And you can spot these individuals rather quickly: they’re the ones who say that we need to have a “conversation” about some topic or other. You may be sure, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, that said “conversation” will be one-sided.

1 comment

  1. fillyjonk »

    25 August 2013 · 4:35 pm

    I have used that Aristotle quotation on occasion in various settings. It’s surprising to me how many smart and/or educated people get a deer-in-the-headlights look over it, or have no concept of what it means. (I actually had one once splutter and go “But that’s totally WRONG!” I just smiled to myself and moved on….)

    Needless to say, I like the quotation.

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