tagintellectual humility

Big Sister is Watching You

Go The book's dictatorial tone is its most striking feature. Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal ... resistance to the Message cannot be tolerated because disagreement can never be merely honest, prudent, or humanly fallible. Dissent from revelation so final can only be willingly wicked. There are ways dealing with such wickedness, and, in fact, right reason itself enjoins them. from almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: "To a gas chamber-go!" The same inflexibly self-righteous stance results, too, in odd extravagances of inflection and gesture ... At first we try to tell ourselves that these are just lapses, that this mind has, somehow, mislaid the discriminating knack that most of us pray will warn us in time of the difference between what is effective and firm, and what is wildly grotesque and excessive. Soon we suspect something worse. We suspect that this mind finds, precisely in extravagance, some exalting merit; feels a surging release of power and passion precisely in smashing up the house.

Socrates on Wisdom and Not Knowing


Perhaps you may wonder why I relate this story: it is because I am going to show you how the calumnies rose against me. For when the oracle was brought to me, I began to ask myself, What does the god mean, and what is the reading of his riddle? Certainly so far as I know myself I am not conscious of being wise in any matter great or small. What, then, does he mean by calling me the wisest? At any rate he does not lie, for that were contrary to his nature. So for a long while I was in doubt about the oracle, until at length I bethought me of the following method of testing it. I went straight to one of our reputed wise men, thinking that here, if anywhere, I should be able to refute the oracle and say to the god, Look youl this man is wiser than I, and yet you call me wisest. Well, I examined this man (never mind his name,
but my first adventure was with one of our politicians) and conversed with him, and it soon became apparent that to many people and most of all to himself he seemed quite wise, whereas in truth he was not so at all.

Thereupon I undertook to show him how he was wise in opinion only and not in reality; but I only made myself a nuisance to him and to many of those about him. So I went away reflecting that at least I was wiser than this man. Neither of us apparently knows anything much worth while, but he in his ignorance thinks he knows, whereas I neither know nor think I know.
Surely I may claim a little more of wisdom than he, in so far as I do not think I know what I do not know. After this I approached one whose character for wisdom was still higher, but with no different result; I only gained the ill will of him and a host of others.

So I went from one to another in succession, perceiving all the while that I was but making enemies, sorrowing and fearing, and yet compelled, as it were, to honour the god above all things and to prove his oracle by approaching all who were reputed to have any knowledge. And I swear by the dog,1 men of Athens — for I must declare the truth — I swear that this was
all my profit. Searching by command of the god, I found that those who had the greatest renown for wisdom were in general the most lacking of all, whereas others of no reputation were really the better and wiser men. But

1 Socrates’ favourite oath. Tradition says that Rhadamanthys forbade swearing by the gods, but permitted such a use of the names of animals.