Dalrymple: Kept In Good Repair

“We need both the confidence to think logically about our inherited beliefs, and the humility to recognize that the world did not begin with us, nor will it end with us, and that the accumulated wisdom of mankind is likely to be greater than anything we can achieve by our unaided efforts. The expectation, desire, and pretense that we can go naked into the world, shorn of all prejudices and preconceptions, so that every situation is wholly new to us, is in equal measure foolish, dangerous, and wicked.

The pretense is harmful because we shall then deceive not only others, but ourselves, and disregard the still small voice within us. Shrillness and aggression will result. The more we insist in public upon things that we know, or even suspect, not to be true, the more intransigent and vehement we will grow. The more we reject prejudice qua prejudice, the harder it will be for us to retreat from the positions we have taken up in order to prove that we are not prejudiced. An ideological dogmatism will result, and we all know the havoc such dogmatism can wreak.

It takes judgment to know when prejudice should be maintained and when abandoned. Prejudices are like friendships: they should be kept in good repair. Friends sometimes grow apart, and so sometimes should men from their prejudices; but friendship often grows deeper with age and experience, and so should some prejudices. They are what give men character and hold them together. We cannot do without them.”

– Theodore Dalrymple, In Praise of Prejudice


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