Monday, 26 February 2007

Pride and Prejudice: 'An Intellectual's Apology IV'

Jane Austen

It's a good title. The two often go together. But I'm not proposing to discuss Austen's novel. There are those who are more able to do so than I. To them I leave it.

Nonetheless, pride and prejudice often go hand in hand. Thus I'll use the title. Because I would like to mention the academic versions of it. They're something that are prevalent amongst academic debate. We are not immune. I am not. But it should be noted. Especially considering my wider ponderings of intellectualism. I'll deal with them separately.


Pride is insidious. It is also one of my personal vices. I do not claim perfection. But I have observed it from a close position, as it were. And seen it in others.

Intellectual pride comes in three main varieties. The first is easy to define, and exceedingly hard to eradicate. Intellectual snobbery: 'I ponder; you throw food. I am better'. Obviously, all are equal. Thus to assume that we are any better than others in lower spheres is wrong. Though I know I do so.

The second variety is more perilous. It is this: that one's opinions - because one is so intelligent - must be correct. This is absurd. But we still fall into the trap. This is something I've seen on a few posts in the month or so they've been written. Only a very few. But it does exist. One of mine is equally at fault. That is why I always wish for you to argue with me.

The third (which, since this is written ex abrupto, I must now pause to recollect) is (got it!) is to parade one's qualities in another's face. Our intelligence - or our beliefs - are not a tool for 'one-up-manship'. They are a cross we have to bear (in the true sense, for those of interest). They are not - as I have seen them used - a bright yellow luminous flag to wave at others.


Prejudice links closely to the second and third forms of Pride. It is to dismiss alternative opinions and form judgments without hearing argument. That is why that none of this is my final opinion. It is done without hearing argument; it is done to initiate the argument. I have seen this done. Not just online. Rarely, in fact, amongst this community. But particularly, I see it in General Studies. By the teachers. And by the great unclean in the other corners. Stubbornly sticking to one's beliefs. When all around them is cut to the ground. Yet believing in one's correctness. Sometimes it disgusts me.

Linked - and more likely our problem - is the assumption that one cannot learn. We are all young. Wisdom comes with age; intelligence is a gift. Yet we, the self-appointed intelligent, must not - must never - dismiss the work and thoughts of more pedestrian beings. I'm afraid to suggest, mes amis, that this means listening to our learned teachers. they may not be as bright as some, but they do have experience. This thought came to me when I was thinking of certain subjects we do.


Be open to debate. Always. Even your core beliefs must be debated; if only to gather others in accordance. And remember - as Plutarch had it - a beard does not make a philosopher.



Phil' said...

As a post-scriptum, that's why I don't moderate comments. Speak as you wish. But be polite. :)


N said...

Very aptly put Phil!

I particularly like the point how pride is inextricably linked to prejudice - I think some of these posts should be published: this is cutting edge thinking!


Lidia said...

Pride and Prejudice is a VERY good novel. :) My aim in life is to find a boy who agrees. My search so far has yielded nothing, but one can hope... :P


Tom said...

I don't agree merely to satisfy your desire, and with that introduction you can safely assume I do agree. I finished reading Pride and Prejudice just last week after having been recommended to read it by a dear friend of mine. It is rare that I should pick up a book, and even rarer that I should finish it. So it speaks wonders for Pride and Prejudice that I should not only pick it up, but read through every page with absolute delight. A truly awesome work. Reading Sense and Sensibility now.

But I am being side-tracked from the main point. I entirely agree with you Phil. We all are guilty on occasion of all three types of pride, but it would be undue criticism to oneself to say that it was wrong for you to be so. Specifically with the second kind, it is only through learning humility that one realises how little one really knows and how correctness is never guaranteed. It is not always wrong to act on the assumption of correctness because often it is only right that one acts on what one knows. But on occasion this is foolish and, furthermore, if one is not merely assuming correctness, but rather believing correctness, one is being yet more foolish.

It is very hard to be entirely open-minded, for you can so easily fall into indecisiveness if insufficient attention is given to your thoughts. One must maintain one's core principles while allowing areas of that core to be changed. Only in exercising patience can one "safely" restructure one's principles.

Perhaps it would be prudent to also consider how dismissal of another's opinions is not justified, but that discrediting those opinions may be justified. I am not suggesting that you haven't considered this, but I am, however, suggesting that it would be an interesting extension of this topic. It is not always wrong for us to see someone's opinion as wrong given the, perhaps, limited knowledge at that present time. Were we to accept all opinions, would we become a paradoxical characer, doomed forever to be hypocritical at the expense of one's acceptance?

Again, thank you for another interestng post Phil. Maybe it it apt this time that I should say "as ever I am open to criticism and counter-argument" :)

Phil' said...

Comments :D

And, Lidia, Pride and Prejudice is excellent. Much better than the film(s). So much so that I feel ashamed to mention them. It's not quite to my taste; but one must accept genius when it occurs. [And, no, I'm not just saying that :P]


Francis said...

Has Gavin read this yet?

Gavin said...

You make the excellent point that it is totally normal for one's outlook to change with age and experience, and also that an opinion is not a valid one unless it can be supported. Nevertheless, I tend to use blogging to merely state my opinion along with whatever comes to mind, since writing an essay that does justice to what I have to say would take too long and is too much like hard work. Blogs aren't for essays, they're for remarking, observing, pondering and rants. They're a bit like the improvisation and experimentation stage for a piece of devised theatre - it's when the ideas are flowing out raw and not in their finished state yet. Some bits will be dropped since they don't work, others will be modified, and the best bits will end up in the finished piece. What a lovely analogy, even though I do say so myself.