Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Maybe Not

David Aaronovitch in the Times today attacks a Bishop for his fear of innovation (Facebook is rotting the morals of the young, or something). The Bish is not alone, or doing anything new. Philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) wrote a book about the flawed arguments used by parliamentarians to avoid doing anything new or practical (A Handbook of Political Fallacies, currently out of print). Wit Sydney Smith summarised it in one speech (The Noodle's Oration). It went something like this:

It never happened in the Good Old Days! They’re taking away Britain’s Ancient Freedoms! If this is such a good idea, why didn’t anybody think of it before? We need to prepare the ground carefully. We can’t just rush into things. We’ve got to wait until the time is right. I don’t think society is quite ready for this. It runs counter to the climate of opinion. We can’t make any sudden movements. It’s a mistake to make a complete break with the past. If we do this, society will be doomed and it'll mean anarchy, or at least an end to civilisation as we know it. There’s no point suggesting ideas that are just Utopian. It’ll never work in practice. You can’t change the world, but you can change yourself. Why not start there?

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