Saturday, February 9, 2008

Blame it on P.J.

Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. (No cheating!)
Find Page 123.
Find the first 5 sentences and read them.
Post the next 3 sentences.

Tagged by P.J.

Well, I had to cheat a little (I almost always do) because otherwise it would be just more Edward Abbey, and that would be:
Don't you ever read any books? I said. Don't you have sense enough to know that when you get in quicksand you have to lie down flat?
(Desert Solitaire, p. 123, of course). Considerably shorter than Agee.

Or I could have gone to the next on the desk which was:
The point about these articulations is that, while there are clearly differences of worth between different strata -- we're dealing with a hierarchal order, after all -- there cannot be any question of improving things by eliminating the lower strata, or making everybody over as monks or knights, for example. Every stratum is needed for the whole.

Now my suggestion is that something of this understanding applied in the general consciousness also to other differentiations, even where there may not have been an explicit doctrine to this effect.
Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Harvard U Press 2007), p. 123. Longer sentences, but BORING.

So, since I'm only going to pick ONE, here was what was on the phone stand:
Vispassna means seeing things clearly, as they are. Through meditative exploration we experience immediately and intimately which qualities of mind are the forerunners of suffering, and which ones lead to freedom. Such understanding is no longer secondhand knowledge; we comprehend directly for ourself.
Joseph Goldstein, Insight Meditation: The Practice of Freedom (Shambhala 2003), p. 123. Now wasn't that MUCH better? I'm going to meditate on this.

Meanwhile, I'm not one to tag because I can't always tag when I'm tagged, but this one's for you, Missy, if you want to try it.

One of my favorite curmudgeons

Reading Rowan Williams has reminded me of a very different kind of voice, the late Edward Abbey. I offer this not as reasoned disputation or analysis, but a good old-fashioned rant in favor of civilization, unabashedly based on private prejudice and Western values, but a good rant nonetheless.

From Desert Solitaire:

"Revealing my desert thoughts to a visitor one evening, I was accused of being against civilization, against science, against humanity. Naturally I was flattered and at the same time surprised, hurt, a little shocked. He repeated the charge. But how, I replied, being myself a member of humanity (albeit involuntarily, without prior consultation), could I be against humanity without being against myself, whom I love - though not very much; how can I be against science, when I gratefully admire, as much as any man, Thales, Democritus, Aristarchus, Faustus, Paracelsus, Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Darwin and Einstein; and finally, how could I be against civilization when all which I most willingly defend and venerate - including the love of wilderness - is comprehended by the term?

We were not communicating very well. All night long we thrashed the matter out, burning up half a pinyon pine in the process, transforming its mass into energy, warmth, light, and toward morning worked out a rough agreement. With his help I discovered that I was not opposed to mankind but only to man-centeredness, anthropocentricity, the opinion that the world exists solely for the sake of man; not to science, which means simply knowledge, but to science misapplied, to the worship of technique and technology, and to that perversion of science properly called scientism; and not to civilization but to culture.

As an example of scientism he suggested the current superstition that science has lengthened the human life-span. One might as well argue that science, meaning technology, has actually reduced the average man's life expectancy to about fifteen minutes - the time it takes an ICBM to cover the distance between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. The superstition, my visitor pointed out, is based on a piece of trickery, statistical sleight-of-hand: e.g., in a primitive culture without modern medical techniques, perhaps half of all the babies born die within the first year of infancy; the remainder survive and live for the normal, usual seventy years; taking the total born and dividing by the number of full-lived survivors, the statistician announces that the average life expectancy at birth for the members of this hypothetical society is thirty-five years. Confusing life expectancy with life-span, the gullible begin to believe that medical science has accomplished a miracle - lengthened human life! And persist in believing it, even though the Old Testament, written more than three thousand years ago, refers to "three score and ten" as being the typical number of years allotted to mortal man. The heroes, naturally, lived far longer, and not in that condition of medicated survival found in a modern hospital where the patient, technically still alive, cannot easily be distinguished from the various machines to which he is connected. But this is now familiar stuff, common knowledge - why kick around a dead horse? Far more interesting is the distinction to be made between civilization and culture.

Culture, we agreed, means the way of life of any given human society considered as a whole. It is an anthropological term referring always to specific, identifiable societies localized in history and place, and includes all aspects of such organizations - their economy, their art, their religion. The U.S.A., for example, is not a civilization but a culture, as is the U.S.S.R., and both are essentially industrial cultures, the former in the mode of monopoly capitalism, the latter in the mode of state socialism; if they seem to be competing against each other it is not because they are different but because they are basically so much alike; and the more they compete the more alike they become: MERGING TRAFFIC AHEAD.

Civilization on the other hand, while undoubtedly a product of various historical cultures, and as a category one which overlaps what we label culture, is by no means identical with culture. Cultures can exist with little or no trace of civilization; and usually do; but civilization while dependent upon culture for its sustenance, as the mind depends upon the body, is a semi-independent entity, precious and fragile, drawn through history by the finest threads of art and idea, a process or series of events without formal structure or clear location in time and space. It is the conscious forefront of evolution, the brotherhood of great souls and the comradeship of intellect, a corpus mysticum, The Invisible Republic open to all who wish to participate, a democratic aristocracy based not on power or institutions but on isolated men - Lao-Tse, Chuang-Tse, Guatama, Diogenes, Euripides, Socrates, Jesus, Wat Tyler and Jack Cade, Paine and Jefferson, Blake and Burns and Beethoven, John Brown and Henry Thoreau, Whitman, Tolstoy, Emerson, Mark Twain, Rabelais and Villon, Spinoza, Voltaire, Spartacus, Nietzsche and Thomas Mann, Lucretius and Pope John XXIII, and ten thousand other poets, revolutionaries and independent spirits, both famous and forgotten, alive and dead, whose heroism gives to human life on earth its adventure, glory and significance.

To make the distinction unmistakably clear:

Civilization is the vital force in human history; culture is that inert mass of institutions and organizations which accumulate around and tend to drag down the advance of life;

Civilization is Giordano Bruno facing death by fire; culture is the Cardinal Bellarmino, after ten years of inquisition, sending Bruno to the stake in the Campo di Fiori;

Civilization is Sartre; culture Cocteau;

Civilization is mutual aid and self-defense; culture is the judge, the lawbook and the forces of Law & Ordure;

Civilization is uprising, insurrection, revolution; culture is the war of state against state, or of machines against people, as in Hungary and Vietnam;

Civilization is tolerance, detachment and humor, or passion, anger, revenge; culture is the entrance examination, the gas chamber, the doctoral dissertation and the electric chair;

Civilization is the Ukrainian peasant Nestor Makhno fighting the Germans, then the Reds, then the Whites, then the Reds again; culture is Stalin and the Fatherland;

Civilization is Jesus turning water into wine; culture is Christ walking on the waves;

Civilization is a youth with a Molotov. cocktail in his hand; culture is the Soviet tank or the L.A. cop that guns him down;

Civilization is the wild river; culture, 592,000 tons of cement;

Civilization flows; culture thickens and coagulates, like tired, sick, stifled blood.

In the morning my visitor, whose name I didn't quite catch, crawled into his sack and went to sleep. I had to go to work. I went back to see him in the evening but he was gone, leaving behind only a forged signature in the registration book which wouldn't have fooled anybody - J. Prometheus Birdsong. He won't be back. But don't get discouraged, comrades - Christ failed too."

Edward Abbey, from "Episodes and Visions," Desert Solitaire, 1968 (Touchstone: Simon & Schuster, 1968), pp. 245-247.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Does "Randy Andy" have more sense than most Americans?

From Reuters:
[T]he prince, fourth in line to the throne, said the aftermath of the Iraq war had left Britons with a "healthy scepticism" about what was said in Washington.

"If you are looking at colonialism, if you are looking at operations on an international scale, if you are looking at understanding each other's culture, understanding how to operate in a military insurgency campaign -- we have been through them all," he said. "We've won some, lost some, drawn some," he told the International Herald Tribune.

"The fact is there is quite a lot of experience over here which is valid and should be listened to."

The prince, who also has the title Duke of York, said that while Britain remained the number one ally of the United States, the post-war situation in Iraq had prompted many to wonder "why didn't anyone listen to what was said and the advice that was given".

. . . .

In Washington, a White House spokesman declined to comment on his criticism.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Has the Archibishop gone bonkers?

I was hoping to entirely ignore the latest episodes in As the Anglican World Turns, but then... who can possibly overlook Rowan Williams -- a character for all times and meta-narratives, the arch-villain or fool of right, left, and the befuddled middle (though one who is beginning to sound as though he desperately wants to get written out of the script). I've already ranted in the blogosphere about the BBC radio interview he gave earlier in the day. Some of those remarks may have been hasty and intemperate (what else are blogs for, especially the one "Where the lunatics rave"?). Nevertheless, while I am now willing to admit that there was more substance in the written text of the lecture (or at least the appearance of substance, some of the grainier details barely visible through the mist), it still answers loudly in the affirmative the question of Has the Archbishop gone bonkers?

Rowan writes,
But the point of defining legal universalism as a negative thing is that it allows us to assume, as I think we should, that the important springs of moral vision in a society will be in those areas which a systematic abstract universalism regards as 'private' – in religion above all, but also in custom and habit. The role of 'secular' law is not the dissolution of these things in the name of universalism but the monitoring of such affiliations to prevent the creation of mutually isolated communities in which human liberties are seen in incompatible ways and individual persons are subjected to restraints or injustices for which there is no public redress.

The rule of law is thus not the enshrining of priority for the universal/abstract dimension of social existence but the establishing of a space accessible to everyone in which it is possible to affirm and defend a commitment to human dignity as such, independent of membership in any specific human community or tradition, so that when specific communities or traditions are in danger of claiming finality for their own boundaries of practice and understanding, they are reminded that they have to come to terms with the actuality of human diversity - and that the only way of doing this is to acknowledge the category of 'human dignity as such' – a non-negotiable assumption that each agent (with his or her historical and social affiliations) could be expected to have a voice in the shaping of some common project for the well-being and order of a human group. It is not to claim that specific community understandings are 'superseded' by this universal principle, rather to claim that they all need to be undergirded by it. The rule of law is – and this may sound rather counterintuitive – a way of honouring what in the human constitution is not captured by any one form of corporate belonging or any particular history, even though the human constitution never exists without those other determinations. Our need, as Raymond Plant has well expressed it, is for the construction of 'a moral framework which could expand outside the boundaries of particular narratives while, at the same time, respecting the narratives as the cultural contexts in which the language[of common dignity and mutually intelligible commitments to work for certain common moral priorities] is learned and taught' (Politics, Theology and History, 2001, pp.357-8).

From "Civil and Religious Law in England: a religious perspective," a lecture by Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, foundation lecture in Temple Festival seriesThursday 07 February 2008.

Rowan Williams somehow manages to live in his head romantic views of Christian and Muslim fundamentalism, both of which he apparently finds far superior to the secular humanism that supposedly governs British society in particular and Western culture in general, since he sees the former as rooted in the "private" realm of "custom and habit" (something apparently foreign and attractive to those who reside in academia, at least the kinds of academic places Jonathan Swift described so well). These views strike me as founded in neither a principled defense of religion nor tolerance of other cultures, but rather a cold-eyed, academic, blinking incomprehension of why so many in the U.K. are turning their backs on the Church of England, and a naive longing for the comfort and certainty of deeply entrenched "habits" and "customs" of the most vocal and visible religionists who carry on in resisting civil laws that would prohibit their own peculiar brands of prejudice, bigotry, and intolerance, at least in public life.

Whether and when civil law in a democratic society should accommodate fundamentalist religious views may well be a serious topic for discussion. But what person in his or her right mind could take seriously as a working hypothesis for the legal accommodation of Muslim and Christian fundamentalist religious views,

"the construction of a moral framework which could expand outside the boundaries of particular narratives while, at the same time, respecting the narratives as the cultural contexts in which the language ... is learned and taught"?

Only someone hopelessly lost in a post-structuralist fog.

UPDATE: Friday's The Lead has, as always, full coverage of the commentary. One I found particularly intriguing was this quote form Paul Vallely:
The error is assuming that the leader of a major church has the same intellectual freedom that he had when he was merely an eminent theologian. The cold fact is that the semiotics are entirely different. An academic may call for a nuanced renegotiation of society’s attitudes to the internal laws of religious communities. But when the Archbishop of Canterbury does that the headline follows, as night follows day: “Sharia law in UK is unavoidable, says Archbishop.”
This aptly describes the position Rowan occupies, one which he has repeatedly refused to accept or perhaps even to see. But I wonder if it nevertheless misses what may be wrong, at times, with "nuanced" academic thinking -- that it may have no bearing on how people can or should act in "real" world situations. I am not suggesting that anyone jump on the anti-intellectual bandwagon, whether it be on the religious or secular side. But it seems to me that one should not have to occupy the see of Canterbury to be called on seriously flawed thinking, the kind that claims legitimacy based on its complexity and uses the concepts of "nuance" and "tension" as masks for good old fashioned horse manure.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Remember that you are stardust

Remember that you are stardust
and to the heavens you shall return

God of all power, Ruler of the Universe, you are worthy of glory and praise.

Glory to you for ever and ever.

At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home.

By your will they were created and have their being.

From the primal elements you brought forth the human race, and blessed us with memory, reason, and skill. You made us the rulers of creation. But we turned against you, and betrayed your trust; and we turned against one another.

Have mercy, Lord, for we are sinners in your sight.

Again and again, you called us to return. Through prophets and sages you revealed your righteous Law. And in the fullness of time you sent you only Son, born of a woman, to fulfill your Law, to open for is the way of freedom and peace.

By his blood, he reconciled us. By his wounds, we are healed.

And therefore we praise you, joining with the heavenly chorus, with prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and with all those in every generation who have looked to you in hope, to proclaim with them your glory, in their unending hymn:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

Eucharistic Prayer C
Book of Common Prayer
The Episcopal Church 1979

We Have Become an Autistic Nation

Stephen Holmes, NYU Law Professor, at the University of Chicago 2003.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Classical Liberalism - Revisiting J.S. Mill

Excerpts from:
ON LIBERTY by John Stuart Mill (1859)

To what an extent doctrines intrinsically fitted to make the deepest impression upon the mind may remain in it as dead beliefs, without being ever realized in the imagination, the feelings, or the understanding, is exemplified by the manner in which the majority of believers hold the doctrines of Christianity. By Christianity I here mean what is accounted such by all churches and sects--the maxims and precepts contained in the New Testament. These are considered sacred, and accepted as laws, by all professing Christians. Yet it is scarcely too much to say that not one Christian in a thousand guides or tests his individual conduct by reference to those laws. The standard to which he does refer it, is the custom of his nation, his class, or his religious profession. He has thus, on the one hand, a collection of ethical maxims, which he believes to have been vouchsafed to him by infallible wisdom as rules for his government; and on the other, a set of every-day judgments and practices, which go a certain length with some of those maxims, not so great a length with others, stand in direct opposition to some, and are, on the whole, a compromise between the Christian creed and the interests and suggestions of worldly life. To the first of these standards he gives his homage; to the other his real allegiance. All Christians believe that the blessed are the poor and humble, and those who are ill-used by the world; that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven; that they should judge not, lest they be judged; that they should swear not at all; that they should love their neighbor as themselves; that if one take their cloak, they should give him their coat also; that they should take no thought for the morrow; that if they would be perfect, they should sell all that they have and give it to the poor. They are not insincere when they say that they believe these things. They do believe them, as people believe what they have always heard lauded and never discussed. But in the sense of that living belief which regulates conduct, they believe these doctrines just up to the point to which it is usual to act upon them. The doctrines in their integrity are serviceable to pelt adversaries with; and it is understood that they are to be put forward (when possible) as the reasons for whatever people do that they think laudable. But any one who reminded them that the maxims require an infinity of things which they never even think of doing would gain nothing but to be classed among those very unpopular characters who affect to be better than other people. The doctrines have no hold on ordinary believers--are not a power in their minds. They have an habitual respect for the sound of them, but no feeling which spreads from the words to the things signified, and forces the mind to take them in, and make them conform to the formula. Whenever conduct is concerned, they look round for Mr. A and B to direct them how far to go in obeying Christ.

Now we may be well assured that the case was not thus, but far otherwise, with the early Christians. Had it been thus, Christianity never would have expanded from an obscure sect of the despised Hebrews into the religion of the Roman empire. When their enemies said, "See how these Christians love one another" (a remark not likely to be made by anybody now), they assuredly had a much livelier feeling of the meaning of their creed than they have ever had since. And to this cause, probably, it is chiefly owing that Christianity now makes so little progress in extending its domain, and after eighteen centuries, is still nearly confined to Europeans and the descendants of Europeans. Even with the strictly religious, who are much in earnest about their doctrines, and attach a greater amount of meaning to many of them than people in general, it commonly happens that the part which is thus comparatively active in their minds is that which was made by Calvin, or Knox, or some such person much nearer in character to themselves. The sayings of Christ coexist passively in their minds, producing hardly any effect beyond what is caused by mere listening to words so amiable and bland. There are many reasons, doubtless, why doctrines which are the badge of a sect retain more of their vitality than those common to all recognized sects, and why more pains are taken by teachers to keep their meaning alive; but one reason certainly is, that the peculiar doctrines are more questioned, and have to be oftener defended against open gainsayers. Both teachers and learners go to sleep at their post, as soon as there is no enemy in the field.

* * * *
It may be objected, "But some received principles, especially on the highest and most vital subjects, are more than half-truths. The Christian morality, for instance, is the whole truth on that subject and if any one teaches a morality which varies from it, he is wholly in error." As this is of all cases the most important in practice, none can be fitter to test the general maxim. But before pronouncing what Christian morality is or is not, it would be desirable to decide what is meant by Christian morality. If it means the morality of the New Testament, I wonder that any one who derives his knowledge of this from the book itself, can suppose that it was announced, or intended, as a complete doctrine of morals. The Gospel always refers to a preexisting morality, and confines its precepts to the particulars in which that morality was to be corrected, or superseded by a wider and higher; expressing itself, moreover, in terms most general, often impossible to be interpreted literally, and possessing rather the impressiveness of poetry or eloquence than the precision of legislation. To extract from it a body of ethical doctrine, has never been possible without eking it out from the Old Testament, that is, from a system elaborate indeed, but in many respects barbarous, and intended only for a barbarous people. St. Paul, a declared enemy to this Judaical mode of interpreting the doctrine and filling up the scheme of his Master, equally assumes a preexisting morality, namely, that of the Greeks and Romans; and his advice to Christians is in a great measure a system of accommodation to that; even to the extent of giving an apparent sanction to slavery. What is called Christian, but should rather be termed theological, morality, was not the work of Christ or the Apostles, but is of much later origin, having been gradually built up by the Catholic Church of the first five centuries, and though not implicitly adopted by moderns and Protestants, has been much less modified by them than might have been expected. For the most part, indeed, they have contented themselves with cutting off the additions which had been made to it in the Middle Ages, each sect supplying the place by fresh additions, adapted to its own character and tendencies. That mankind owe a great debt to this morality, and to its early teachers, I should be the last person to deny; but I do not scruple to say of it, that it is, in many important points, incomplete and one-sided, and that unless ideas and feelings, not sanctioned by it, had contributed to the formation of European life and character, human affairs would have been in a worse condition than they now are. Christian morality (so called) has all the characters of a reaction; it is, in great part, a protest against Paganism. Its ideal is negative rather than positive; passive rather than active; Innocence rather than Nobleness; Abstinence from Evil, rather than energetic Pursuit of Good: in its precepts (as has been well said) "thou shalt not" predominates unduly over "thou shalt." In its horror of sensuality, it made an idol of asceticism, which has been gradually compromised away into one of legality. It holds out the hope of heaven and the threat of hell, as the appointed and appropriate motives to a virtuous life: in this falling far below the best of the ancients, and doing what lies in it to give to human morality an essentially selfish character, by disconnecting each man's feelings of duty from the interests of his fellow-creatures, except so far as a self-interested inducement is offered to him for consulting them. It is essentially a doctrine of passive obedience; it inculcates submission to all authorities found established; who indeed are not to be actively obeyed when they command what religion forbids, but who are not to be resisted, far less rebelled against, for any amount of wrong to ourselves. And while, in the morality of the best Pagan nations, duty to the State holds even a disproportionate place, infringing on the just liberty of the individual; in purely Christian ethics that grand department of duty is scarcely noticed or acknowledged. It is in the Koran, not the New Testament, that we read the maxim--"A ruler who appoints any man to an office, when there is in his dominions another man better qualified for it, sins against God and against the State." What little recognition the idea of obligation to the public obtains in modern morality, is derived from Greek and Roman sources, not from Christian; as, even in the morality of private life, whatever exists of magnanimity, high-mindedness, personal dignity, even the sense of honor, is derived from the purely human, not the religious part of our education, and never could have grown out of a standard of ethics in which the only worth, professedly recognized, is that of obedience.

I am as far as any one from pretending that these defects are necessarily inherent in the Christian ethics, in every manner in which it can be conceived, or that the many requisites of a complete moral doctrine which it does not contain, do not admit of being reconciled with it. Far less would I insinuate this of the doctrines and precepts of Christ himself. I believe that the sayings of Christ are all, that I can see any evidence of their having been intended to be; that they are irreconcilable with nothing which a comprehensive morality requires; that everything which is excellent in ethics may be brought within them, with no greater violence to their language than has been done to it by all who have attempted to deduce from them any practical system of conduct whatever. But it is quite consistent with this, to believe that they contain and were meant to contain, only a part of the truth; that many essential elements of the highest morality are among the things which are not provided for, nor intended to be provided for, in the recorded deliverances of the Founder of Christianity, and which have been entirely thrown aside in the system of ethics erected on the basis of those deliverances by the Christian Church. And this being so, I think it a great error to persist in attempting to find in the Christian doctrine that complete rule for our guidance, which its author intended it to sanction and enforce, but only partially to provide. I believe, too, that this narrow theory is becoming a grave practical evil, detracting greatly from the value of the moral training and instruction, which so many well-meaning persons are now at length exerting themselves to promote. I much fear that by attempting to form the mind and feelings on an exclusively religious type, and discarding those secular standards (as for want of a better name they may be called) which heretofore coexisted with and supplemented the Christian ethics, receiving some of its spirit, and infusing into it some of theirs, there will result, and is even now resulting, a low, abject, servile type of character, which, submit itself as it may to what it deems the Supreme Will, is incapable of rising to or sympathizing in the conception of Supreme Goodness. I believe that other ethics than any one which can be evolved from exclusively Christian sources, must exist side by side with Christian ethics to produce the moral regeneration of mankind; and that the Christian system is no exception to the rule that in an imperfect state of the human mind, the interests of truth require a diversity of opinions. It is not necessary that in ceasing to ignore the moral truths not contained in Christianity, men should ignore any of those which it does contain. Such prejudice, or oversight, when it occurs, is altogether an evil; but it is one from which we cannot hope to be always exempt, and must be regarded as the price paid for an inestimable good. The exclusive pretension made by a part of the truth to be the whole, must and ought to be protested against, and if a reactionary impulse should make the protestors unjust in their turn, this one-sidedness, like the other, may be lamented, but must be tolerated. If Christians would teach infidels to be just to Christianity, they should themselves be just to infidelity. It can do truth no service to blink the fact, known to all who have the most ordinary acquaintance with literary history, that a large portion of the noblest and most valuable moral teaching has been the work, not only of men who did not know, but of men who knew and rejected, the Christian faith.

I do not pretend that the most unlimited use of the freedom of enunciating all possible opinions would put an end to the evils of religious or philosophical sectarianism. Every truth which men of narrow capacity are in earnest about, is sure to be asserted, inculcated, and in many ways even acted on, as if no other truth existed in the world, or at all events none that could limit or qualify the first. I acknowledge that the tendency of all opinions to become sectarian is not cured by the freest discussion, but is often heightened and exacerbated thereby; the truth which ought to have been, but was not, seen, being rejected all the more violently because proclaimed by persons regarded as opponents. But it is not on the impassioned partisan, it is on the calmer and more disinterested bystander, that this collision of opinions works its salutary effect. Not the violent conflict between parts of the truth, but the quiet suppression of half of it, is the formidable evil: there is always hope when people are forced to listen to both sides; it is when they attend only to one that errors harden into prejudices, and truth itself ceases to have the effect of truth, by being exaggerated into falsehood. And since there are few mental attributes more rare than that judicial faculty which can sit in intelligent judgment between two sides of a question, of which only one is represented by an advocate before it, truth has no chance but in proportion as every side of it, every opinion which embodies any fraction of the truth, not only finds advocates, but is so advocated as to be listened to.

* * * *

-- John Stuart Mill (1859)