Among the innumerable mortifications which waylay human arrogance
on every side may well be reckoned our ignorance of the most common
objects and effects, a defect of which we become more sensible by
every attempt to supply it. Vulgar and inactive minds confound
familiarity with knowledge and conceive themselves informed of the
whole nature of things when they are shown their form or told their
use; but the speculatist, who is not content with superficial views,
harasses himself with fruitless curiosity, and still, as he inquires
more, perceives only that he knows less.
[T]here seems to have been an actual decline in rational thinking. The United States had become a place where entertainers and professional athletes were mistaken for people of importance. They were idolized and treated as leaders; their opinions were sought on everything and they took themselves just as seriously — after all, if an athlete is paid a million or more a year, he knows he is important … so his opinions of foreign affairs and domestic policies must be important, too, even though he proves himself to be ignorant and subliterate every time he opens his mouth.
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
Intelligence is quickness in seeing things as they are.
It is largely because civilization enables us constantly to profit from knowledge which we individually do not possess and because each individual’s use of his particular knowledge may serve to assist others unknown to him in achieving their ends that men as members of civilized society can pursue their individual ends so much more successfully than they could alone.
The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking.
The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.
Much of the social history of the Western world, over the past three decades, has been a history of replacing what worked with what sounded good.
The American Founders drew on an astonishingly wide range of historical sources and an appropriately jaundiced view of human nature to craft the world’s most stable and free republic. They invoked lessons learned from the Greek city-states, the Carolingian Dynasty, and the Ottoman Empire in the Constitution’s defense. And they assumed that the new nation’s citizens would themselves be versed in history and political philosophy. Indeed, a closer knowledge among the electorate of Hobbes and the fragility of social order might have prevented the more brazen social experiments that we’ve undergone in recent years. Ignorance of the intellectual trajectory that led to the rule of law and the West’s astounding prosperity puts those achievements at risk.
It is usually futile to try to talk facts and analysis to people who are enjoying a sense of moral superiority in their ignorance.