Thursday, January 10, 2013

The case for curiosity driven research

The case for curiosity driven research In what follows below, two friends, the noted English chemist and inventor, and Robert Dunkin, a Quaker businessman and mentor of the young scientist, discuss the nature of discovery and invention and the necessity of always remaining curious about the world we all inhabit. Robert Dunkin: I well remember the words you wrote when you were but a lad, indentured as an apprentice. Humphrey Davy: Which words were those? I said many - talked and talked, confounded my masters and scandalised my sisters, though I had no such intention. RD: These words in particular, my old friend. To scan the laws of Nature, to exploreThe tranquil reign of mild Philosophy, Or on Newtonian wings sublime to soar, Thro’ the bright regions of the starry sky. Those words. HD: Why those in particular? RD: Because with hindsight, which none of us has, they encapsulate a world view - your world view, even at that early age, sitting at the edge of the ocean - that portion of it that laps the shore of Mounts Bay, at any rate. HD: To be sure, that is what I thought to do, what I thought everybody should do - particularly in the golden days of youth. RD: But not every child is drawn to science as you were, you know. Most of us go through those golden days, as you call them, dreaming. HD: Dreaming? RD: Yes, dreaming. HD: Of what? RD: Dreaming of what is and of what can be, of what they see and what they think ought not to be. HD: I am sure you are right. I know I dreamt of such things. RD: So did I. So do we all. HD: Then why is it that so few continue that dream? For I am sure most inevitably do not continue. RD: Shades of the prison house, some called it, I know not what, but I suppose it must be that reality imposes itself upon one's dreams, rendering them ephemeral and vacuous - dreams and nothing more. HD: But dreams are so much more, surely. Dreams are the stuff of which reality is made, are they not? RD: Is that the right way around; or is the dream made of reality? Do not the day's event conflate into schemes that go beyond our powers of reason? HD: I do not think so, for our dreams are as particular to each of us as the shape of our noses, or the light in our eyes. Our dreams might stem from the reality of the day and the things that came to pass in its duration, but how, may I ask you, come we to our own dreams especially, even though our day and its events have been similar? RD: Because they have not been similar; they have all been clouded by what lies within our heads. HD: Which is broadly the same, is it not, or so our physiologists would have us believe. RD: Not so, or rather let us say that what they refer to as broadly similar is the cranium and all those structures within it which we are wont to call the brain. HD: What then? If all that is similar, where comes our difference? RD: In our minds, my friend, in our minds. It is our minds that make us individuals, make you who you are and myself who I am. HD: So we process the events of the day, be they ever so similar - the blacksmith at his forge, and his boy handing him his tools, working the tuyere to keep a steady heat - even as they look into that same fire, hear the bright hiss of steel being quenched, watch as shapes change under the smith's hammer - even as they experience that iron and steel reality - even then they go their separate ways to take their rest and dream - even then they form different worlds? RD: Yes, even then, even after those coals and the irons they have whitened have etched their light upon their retinas, even then, as powerful an image as that must have left, even then they come to structure dreams so different as to suppose one was at work in the field even as the other was hard by the forge. HD: Then if what we dream does vary so much, and I am now convinced it does, it follows that how we come to look at life in the light of day upon waking differs. RD: Of course. The smith thinks of what he must do to make a crust for his family, the apprentice comes to his day full of either how he thinks his life shall be or how, perhaps he hopes it will turn out. HD: Then what you are saying is that where we happen to be in relation to each other and in relation to our unfolding life both bear upon us in our waking reality? RD: Again, of course, for where it not so, we should all of us have no point of originality; we should be as sheep or any other of God's creatures, of which we are but one. HD: Yes, but since we are endowed with an imagination - nothing more or less than the ability to make something out of nothing - then we are capable of so much more than the birds and the beasts of the field, are we not? RD: That is undoubtedly so, but lest we get ideas that we may rule all merely by virtue of the fact that we can think, can imagine and they, we are taught to suppose, ar not, we should remember at all times that we too are nothing more or less than a part of God's creation. It is not for us to say what should become and what should not. HD: I agree, it is not, but in having the gift of this ability to imagine what has not yet come to pass, does it not fall to us to use it to better our world, and by so doing better the lives of all under its sky? RD: Making better is a worthy aim. The question now is how to remain noble, how to retain that goodness that should be ours to do good with. HD: I think the man of science would answer that since his area of thought and expertise is an absolute in terms of logic devoid of human design, then what is found is surely to be good, since God would not allow it otherwise. RD: I think I agree with you. It is in making designs on what is found by reason that we go wrong. But that should not prevent us from following what is logically reasonable - in the world of the physical sciences. HD: Then what is the star we should follow, if our light is provided by reason? RD: Why, by our curiosity, of course. That is the star we should follow, the stare to guide us to the discoveries we shall make if we work with the light of reason, following our star - curiosity. -00000- HD: Our curiosity should drive our quest for knowledge then? RD: Yes, it should. HD: But what of our present needs - real and pressing as they are? What of finding answers to help us solve the problems we already know about? Why not concentrate our energies on those? RD: I agree in part, that we should indeed concentrate on those problems that are besetting us as I speak. However, I am still of the opinion that science that is motivated and driven more by a healthy curiosity than by a present, even a pressing need, should still be pursued. HD: Why particularly? RD: Because of the potential such research offers; consider, as you, yourself have said, there is ''nothing is so dangerous to the progress of the human mind than to assume that our views of science are ultimate, that there are no mysteries in nature, that our triumphs are complete and that there are no new worlds to conquer.'' HD: Thank you for quoting me in full, my friend. RD: You are most welcome. I do so because your point serves my argument. We can never be at a frontier of knowledge where our world and everything in it and connected with it is concerned; not in medicine, not in physics, biology, psychology - no area of study is at an end or anywhere near it. HD: That is undoubtedly true, as I have said, but my main point is this; that there is nothing so dangerous to the human mind than to assume that our views of science are ultimate - they clearly are not, and so we must never assume they are, nor must we neglect any form of activity that seeks to delve into the bottomless mine that is scientific exploration and the knowledge that originates from it. To do otherwise would not only be folly, it would be detrimental to the minds of all of us - scientifically inclined or otherwise. RD: I wholeheartedly agree with you, and would add some more to your stance. HD: Which is? RD: Which is that the species of education that chooses willfully to ignore our propensity to be curious is no education worthy of the name. HD: Again, we agree. The basis of education is surely not merely to find answers, but to promote the construction of questions, for without questions, nothing can proceed, even as some would have us believe. RD: Any system of thought that concentrates itself upon answers rather than the formulation of questions is more akin to a faith than a field of study, is it not? HD: Most surely, and while I hold that faith is a vital component in our mental and physical well being, it is not alone in being so necessary. RD: We are born with curiosity and take it with us to our graves, I feel. HD: Though some would undoubtedly have much more curiosity than others, I think. Is this not true? RD: Most definitely. I repeat my claim that we are all born with an innate habit, if you will, or desire, to search for that which perplexes, and there is a very great deal of it. HD: Is that not the delight of youth; that one is perplexed by everything initially, and as one grows, the jigsaw of life begins to fit into a whole? RD: Yes, but you are right to state that it begins to fit into a whole, for I believe that it never can be fully rounded into a coherent whole. That is left to our maker, is it not? HD: Most certainly, but that does not negate our wish - desire - habit - of wishing to find, to learn, to discover what there is to find, to learn and to discover. Take away that wish, discourage it in any way and you remove what it is to be alive as a thinking, living and breathing member of our species - it is to remove our humanity. RD: Here I must stipulate that not everything that is learned, sought to learn and Discover is bounded by the walls of our universities, much though that may be. The child playing at his mother's feet, with light upon him from his father's gaze, is continually searching - from birth - who knows, inside the mother's womb. To bring anything like doubt to that child that it can find, learn and discover is to dash out its brains, in its devastating effect upon the child's health, mental and otherwise. HD: Be that as it may, we must also assume our determination to assist the child as he matures through childhood into maturity. We must have in place those likeminded individuals who foster a healthy and enduring curiosity in fields of study. Without that spirit of being curious, any subject would be as dry and lifeless as dead grass, laying to be picked and collected as so much fodder for beasts. RD: One need only think of one's own time at university; think of those who had only a limited amount of anything remotely akin to curiosity. We have all met those students who had developed an insular instrumentality to their studies, rendering them instantly forgotten once the object of that instrumental frame disappeared. Whereas the student who began to see the object of his studies as an extension of himself and he of them, found, to his sheer joy that everything connects. That is the point of studying, surely, is it not? HD: It is to us, my friend, but may not be so to those whose coffers are to swell the funding of those great edifices of learning of which we speak. If those are unconvinced of the truth of our arguments, then we will be lost and those unfortunate to be studying lost also. We must maintain a steadfast connection between what there is being learned and the benefits to all of us who live and breathe in a world whose resources, be they human, concrete or abstract, depend upon the curiosity that makes one stretch his mind to take in all it can without end. Robert L. Fielding

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Why we should question authority

The Consensus of Inertia

The world we live in is in dire need of change; the developed world is in crisis – nation states are virtually bankrupt – individuals are suffering from all sorts of moral and physical and mental decay – the developing nations of the world are still suffering – have been suffering from natural and man-made calamities – and the Earth, the planet that sustains all of us is suffering because of us, because of our willful neglect of the natural environment.

Change will not merely arrive, however much we desire it; we will have to change; we will have to re-examine all the things that make us what we are, and what we do. We must begin to change immediately, not wait for governments to change for us but rather change those ideas that we have come to habitually and uncritically accept as real and beneficial to us.

This book examines some of those ideas – those ideas handed down to us, and that still serve us as we blunder through life. The aphorisms and common sense notions that operate upon us in ways in which we may be largely unaware, contain in them the seeds of our own demise. It is time we brought them in to the bright light of conscious awareness to question them and to determine whether or not they are still worthy of our attention.

The methods used in this book use techniques from ages past – from Plato and from Descartes. Plato use what are known as Socratic dialogues to delve into any notion, any philosophical stance or premise of which he as uncertain. Descartes urged us to re-invent ourselves, casting off all our rusty, pre-conceived ideas to make a fresh start on this journey of ours through life on Earth.

This book does not provide answers; it provides something far more valuable – it provides questions - and in providing some that need to be asked, it should stimulate you, the reader, to ask more, for that is the way we should now proceed, questioning what we think we know; and questioning why we assume we know what we think we know.

Answers are needed, of course, but it is only in the formulation of questions that any real and valuable answers will be arrived at.

This book represents a beginning: a way to question; a pre-disposition to question, rather than this meek acceptance of the imagined wisdom of others. It is the essence of taking control of one’s life without taking hold of the reins of power. Those reins may be wrested from the hands of the powerful, but a continual propensity to question makes the powerful answerable to those they have some power over. Accountability not violence is the way out of our predicament.

Robert L. Fielding


We often look to the words of others to guide us through our lives: we look to the words of our parents, our siblings, then our teachers, and we follow paths that have been laid down before us, as often without questioning the wisdom that is in the words of those who have guided us. We trust those situated above us: either in age, in positions within an organization; or above us in reputation.

Our lives reverberate with the words of others; the language we use is idiomatic, which means it has been handed down to us; it has been uttered so often by so many that it has gone into our minds as a set of words learned from youth; often heard and repeated, rarely if ever questioned as to the truth of meaning it expresses. It is the way wisdom is passed down through the ages; from father to son; from teacher to pupil; from king to subjects.

We live in a time in which conventional wisdom appears to have let us down, or, alternatively, we have not listened quite so attentively as we formerly used to the words of the wise.

Quotations have always been a rich source of wisdom, and have been called upon to justify action, or to inform actions beforehand. Yet, even the words of the wise, the renowned, the adored and the revered should be scrutinized for the content they contain. To adhere to words without examining their worth and their applicability to us living life in the present moment is to abdicate our responsibilities, to ourselves and our children – to those who will succeed us.

Some of the actions we take now will have repercussions that our children will have to live with after we have departed this life – long after. It is this that makes it imperative that we examine those ‘truths’ we take for granted, the words handed down to us to use as yardsticks to measure whether we are behaving in ways that will pass the test of time.

The quotations examined in this book are not obscure ones, do not come from unknown sources, but rather from those of our forefathers revered by us in all the fields in which we think, act and account for ourselves: in the fields of politics, religion, science, the arts and humanities, from the world of literature, from entertainment and from any field in which greatness and wisdom are a part.

The wisdom inherent in anything handed down to us in the form of words is accounted wise for a variety of reasons: words may be thought wise because they were uttered by someone who is looked up to – has always been looked up to – and, it is thought, has always been correct in his or her thinking. There seems, on the face of it, no reason to suppose that the words are anyway in error; they may be thought wise chiefly because they have always been thought wise – have gone unquestioned – because so many account them with so much wisdom, and the many cannot be wrong, can they?

Words can be thought wise because we are habitually used to saying them – quoting them – because they are a part of our everyday speech. Words can be thought wise chiefly perhaps because we have never thought to scrutinize the supposed wisdom contained in them, and finally, words have often been though wise because we have been content to let them rule our lives rather than engage in the harder work of thinking about them, of questioning the wisdom they express.

In questioning this wisdom it is possible, and indeed desirable, to delve, so to speak, into the train of thought that preceded the words quoted. In this way, it should be possible to get to a closer meaning of them, as well as approaching the fullest extent of their origins and implications.

Indeed, it is this exploring of the implications which may be the most fruitful part of the exercise, in terms of anything the reader is able to take away and use to straighten out issues of which he is uncertain.

This is quite normal; that notions and ideas, expressed as opinions, can and often do apply to fields of human experience unrelated to the initial application of the idea expressed. Thus, for example, an idea expressed by Albert Einstein, for example, purporting to relate to scientific endeavour, could equally well apply to the solving of a problem in the humanities.

In going into the implications of the words quoted, it should be possible to broaden their meaning and make them readily applicable to the reader. This is a feature of conversation, of discussion, surely, that issues get broadened out sufficiently to enable them to become more accessible. This is the whole point of this book and the discussions contained within it; to extrapolate from a short quotation into a longer and fuller debate surrounding its meaning and to initiate both a new discussion and develop an older one.

Robert L. Fielding

“Sometimes questions are more important than answers.”
Nancy Willard

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

“Questions are never indiscreet: answers sometimes are”
Oscar Wilde

“He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever”
Chinese proverb

“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.”
Naguib Mahfouz

“Questions are the creative acts of intelligence”
“The power to question is the basis of all human progress.”
Indira Ghandi

“If you judge, investigate”

“There are two sides to every question, because, when there are no longer two sides it ceases to be a question”

Robert L. Fielding


All riches have their origin in mind. Wealth is in ideas - not money.
Robert Collier

Do what you love and the money will follow.
Marsha Sinetar

He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money.
Benjamin Franklin

I'd like to live as a poor man with lots of money.
Pablo Picasso

It is not the creation of wealth that is wrong, but the love of money for its own sake.
Margaret Thatcher

Money is a mechanism for control.
David Korten

Money is our madness, our vast collective madness.
David Herbert Lawrence

Profit is sweet, even if it comes from deception.

Subdue your appetites, my dears, and you've conquered human nature.
Charles Dickens
English novelist (1812 - 1870)

The only way not to think about money is to have a great deal of it.
Edith Wharton
US novelist (1862 - 1937)

The chief value of money lies in the fact that one lives in a world in which it is overestimated.
H. L. Mencken
US editor (1880 - 1956)

A wise man should have money in his head, but not in his heart.
Jonathan Swift
Irish essayist, novelist, & satirist (1667 - 1745)

Lack of money is no obstacle. Lack of an idea is an obstacle.
Ken Hakuta

It is pretty hard to tell what does bring happiness; poverty and wealth have both failed.
Kin Hubbard
(1868 - 1930)

He had learned over the years that poor people did not feel so poor when allowed to give occasionally.
Lawana Blackwell, The Courtship of the Vicar's Daughter, 1998

Money can't buy happiness, but neither can poverty.
Leo Rosten
US (Polish-born) author (1908 - )

Wealth is the parent of luxury and indolence, and poverty of meanness and viciousness, and both of discontent.
Plato, The Republic
Greek author & philosopher in Athens (427 BC - 347 BC)

Money is like a sixth sense without which you cannot make a complete use of the other five.
W. Somerset Maugham, 'Of Human Bondage', 1915
English dramatist & novelist (1874 - 1965)

"A little, justly gained, is better than thousands secured by stealth, or at the expense of another's rights and interests." --from Money for the Millions

"The way to get things done is to stimulate competition. I do not mean in a sordid, money-getting way, but in the desire to excel." --Charles Schwab

"I was part of that strange race of people aptly described as spending their lives doing things they detest to make money they don't want to buy things they don't need to impress people they dislike." --Emile Henry Gauvreay

So you think that money is the root of all evil? Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can't exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal wlth one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?
AYN RAND, Atlas Shrugged

Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. And it will leave you unfulfilled.
BARACK OBAMA, speech, Jul. 12, 2006

Robert L. Fielding

Ayn Rand, the Russian-American novelist and philosopher, discusses money with Charles Schwab, the American steel magnate. Both have strident views on money and the virtues or otherwise of doing things that are lucrative.

CS: You said that money is a tool of exchange, which can't exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them, rather than is generally stated, that money is the root of all evil.

AR: Yes, I did say that. That is my opinion, and it contradicts what many think of money. I may ask you where we would be without it. It became the principle means of exchanging goods of different kinds; it stems from the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for money. Money is a tool of exchange , which could not have existed unless there had been goods produced and men able to produce them. Do you not agree?

CS: Wholeheartedly; it is a way to get things done to stimulate competition – in the desire to excel.

AR: Then how is it that some say money is the root of all evil? Surely the greater evils would be committed by men with no such medium of exchange, attempting to bully and barter others, insisting, for example, that one cow was equal in value to five sheep, and not four. I do think men would have become far more brutalized if money had never come into existence.

CS: Quite possibly, I have even thought that if money had not been coined, it would have been necessary to coin it to prevent such disagreements as you just mentioned from detracting from the proper business of farmers, in your example.

Money has indeed assisted all of us in our development from hunter-gatherers, to sedentary croppers and such, selling our goods, our wares, if you wish to include makers of tools and so on, in the way that we have developed.

AR: Then it is as you say, money, far from being the root of all evil, is our saviour. I am unable to see how it can be called the root of anything except industry, which is hardly evil.

CS: I think what is generally meant by those who say that money is the root of all evil is that it is rather the desire to get money – notice I didn’t say ‘earn money’ – it is this desire, got rampant in some, that is the root of al level.

AR: So money is blamed for man’s abuse of it. Is that fair?

CS: Hardly, but since money is inanimate, no one minds it acquiring a bad name.
However, it does not end there, as I am sure you are aware. Professions associated with money have, by their association, one might almost say compliance in this extreme desire to get money – here I am thinking of bankers, financiers, accountants, money lenders, and then on to the illegal – to the money launderers, extortionists, blackmailers and the like.

AR: Yes, it does seem, doesn’t it, that if you have any dealings with money, people immediately take up a stance – an attitude – towards you; if you are rich, you are envied, or congratulated, honoured by heads of state; if your bank has gone broke you are either sympathized with or reviled for incompetence; if you merely exchange one currency for another, you are detested and not trusted. Money does seem to bring out the worst in man. Perhaps that is why it is called the root of all evil.

CS: Exactly; we all need money to conduct our daily lives, and it is at the point of exchange that any lack of trust shows itself.

In the grocer’s, the butcher’s, the baker’s or the candlestick maker’s, the point of sale can be the sticking point; prices can be thought too high by the buyer, appropriate by the vendor, and it is at the point of sale that any argument is likely to break out.

We say, don’t we, that there is no sentiment in business, meaning, I suppose, that where money is concerned, friendship must perforce be absent.

AR: And yet I still ask where we would be without it; any business could not be concluded without it.

CS: Any business could not be instigated without it. We have agreed upon that, but it does not get us much further in our attempt to decide if money is the root of all evil or not. How can we proceed?

AR: Let’s say then, that as money is the medium by which one man comes to exchange the produce of his work with another such man, it is man placed in this position that is at the root of all evil; it is exchanging that is wrong, and yet how could life be conducted otherwise?

CS: Yes, now if one man is invited to dine at another man’s house, and does not bring something to show his appreciation of being so invited, let us say by bringing a bottle of wine, or some chocolates for the man’s wife, sweets for his children – whatever the custom is – then he may find himself not invited again if he does not comply with expectations, might he not?

AR: That is true. So what is at fault with money is that it allows no such room for difference of expectations to enter into any transaction.

CS: Well, that is not quite true; there is still some room for barter, for bargaining, even when the transaction is made using coinage.

AR: Then it is something like every man ‘s propensity to be jealous of his own work, his own belongings, and in guarding against that sin of all sins where commerce is concerned, to twist, or be twisted out of something, as we say of unfair dealing. It is not money that is the root of all evil; all money is, is the expression of giving and taking, exchanging. It is exchanging ghat is the root of all evil.

CS: Well, not in itself; I cannot find it in me to condemn one man for wishing to exchange his cow for an agreed upon number of sheep. What I do condemn is the chicanery by which one man is made to give up too many sheep for that one cow – that is evil. What follows is also evil: and what follows is the man not being honest in the deal continuing to be dishonest in all subsequent dealings with others.

AR: Until it reaches a point at which we say a crime has been committed.

CS: It is interesting that you should bring that word in to the discussion, for without law, there would be no crime, except in an absolute sense, in which an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is called in to compensate the aggrieved.

Laws had to be promulgated once this exchange took hold, for if money is the medium of exchange, the law and any punishment stemming from it being broken, is surely the medium of the transaction that does not abide by the mutual trust between two men exchanging goods.

AR: We have laws, surely, precisely because men dealing with one another either cannot be trusted, or to avoid them being tempted to be untrustworthy. Let us agree then that it is not money that is the root of all evil, but rather that it is gaining unfair advantage that is at the root of all evil. After all, we don’t say sugar is poison because it causes tooth decay, do we?

CS: That’s true, we don’t, but we warn our children not to eat too many sweet things, don’t we? Really, it is not money that is the root of all evil; money is at the root of all evil, or I should say that the unscrupulous getting of money is the root of all evil. Anyone who holds that money is so is merely labeling; using the word for a species of greed. Money, like sugar, is merely the means by which we come to be greedy or how we come to have tooth decay in the case of our eating too much sugar.


In the dialogue that follows the great artist Pablo Picasso talks to the great English novelist Charles Dickens about how money is spent and how this can alter the normal course of a life.

Charles Dickens: You said you would like to live as a poor man with lots of money. What did you mean by that? It sounds contradictory.

Pablo Picasso: It does sound contradictory, but it is not. The poor do not have to subdue their appetites; that is done for them by their lack of anything to pay for sating them. They do not have them, or if they do, they must try not to dwell on them, for if they do not, they surely go mad.

A cat has romance – sex to be more precise – continually on its mind – the same could probably be said for rabbits for all I know – and that is all well and good for there are so many other cats, so many other rabbits on the common to fulfill the desire.

We poor men and women, that is practically all there is for us, that and little else. But really, unless you go beyond animal passions, there is little to sustain desire.

The poor man may think – if he has time – he may conjure scenes from his youth, from his imagined future – though again, that way lies madness – he may gain an interest in reading, if he can join a library, in nature, if he has a garden, in his children if he has any, in his neighbours, in his community, in his country.

But give him money and his mind will wander away from those things that formerly interested him when he was poor, and he will move on to creative and conspicuous ways of spending his pile.

CD: So you would like to remain poor, or should I say you would like to retain something from the life of a poor man while yet having money. That would take incredible self-discipline, I would say.

PP: And you would be right, for once one has money, one also has troops of friends to spend it on, and troops of friends – those friends who appear out of the woodwork once they smell the colour of money – troops of friends like those keep your mind firmly on your fortune.

CD: How do they do that?

PP: You must know the answer to your question, having written about people who have money and people who do not. They keep their richer friend’s mind on pecuniary matters by fuelling envy, by encouraging tp keep up with the Joneses, as you English say.

One person whispers into his friend’s ear that such-a-body has such and such, and before you know it, he has one. Money is no good to most people who have it if they cannot show that they have it.

CD: That is unfortunately generally the case, yes.

PP: If I could beat that trap set for the unwary, I would be fine.

CD: But why would you want money then?

PP: To pay the bills, to keep the bailiff and his men at bay, to give me time to roam.

CD: To roam where?

PP: To roam the hills of my beloved country, to seek out the raven haired village beauty, to climb the heights and conquer, and to drink with scoundrels and laugh at those we are inhibited from laughing at, and to roam my mind.

Money begets business and business takes control of the mind, leaving no space for freedom.

CD: But if you have money, surely you are free.

PP: Free in what sense? Freedom is not just something talked about in lecture theatres and wrote about by Greek elders.

CD: Then what is it, to you?

PP: Freedom is freedom to be whatever I desire to be.

CD: But surely, if you are rich you can be whatever you desire.

PP: That sounds true, but it is not. To think of freedom in one direction only is to miss the point entirely. To be free to starve and yet be what one feels one was born to do, born to be, is infinitely preferable to living in the lap of luxury and yet regretting something essential in life.

What is in short supply in life, my old friend, is not money – that is easily got – but time. Time is slipping through our fingers, however tightly we try to hold it in, time is sliding into a conical pile that is getting higher and higher.

Money will not halt time, in fact, spending money will make it as an express rushing through tunnels of blackness; the spender is continually looking for that light at the end, the light of having found some fulfilment in his spending time and money, searching in entirely the wrong place for that desired light.

CD: From where can that light be found?

PP: In creativity, I know of no other sure place. It can be found on a cold winter’s night, if you stare into the embers of the fire that has warmed you on your way to slumber; it can be found in the beauty of a leaf, a leaf that has fallen from its branch, from its suckling mother to land dry and folding on the red earth below. Death can be an act of creation. Indeed, death is but one of God’s steps in the life bestowed to each of us.

Money dulls that light; hence I say that I would prefer to have choices that the rich do not have; choices of my own choosing rather than choices of someone else’s. What say sir?

CD: I have seen too many people lie in a poor man’s grave, which is spare indeed, to allow you the entire truth of what you are saying.

It seems to me that if you are to be poor, you must be poor in rustic life, not urban. The poor of the city are always put upon by everyone, by those above them.

The poor boy who sweeps the crossing, keeping it clear of mire that the well dressed, the important, and the self-important to cross without getting a speck of mud or a flake of soot on their new clothes, that boy is continually being moved on by the constabulary. He cannot take his ease but he must be prodded in his side by the policeman’s staff; that he must be barked at by the dogs of the wealthy while he takes but a moment to view a garden of flowers and recall that which is beyond any recall.

No, you take it from me; to be poor in the city is to be poor indeed, to be poor in the city is to know what real poverty is. To be poor in the country is most probably never to have enough to eat, but it is to sit among the blessings of nature and bide in thoughts.


Plato and DH Lawrence, two thinkers from entirely different ages meet to discuss what effect money has had on the lives of those that surround them: those that have it and those that don’t.

Plato: You said that in every living thing, there is a desire to love, didn’t you?

DH Lawrence: Yes, I did say that. I also said that nothing that comes from the deep passionate soul is bad, or can be bad.

P:And how do you think the two notions are connected?

DHL: By sating the antithesis of both: that money is our madness, our vast collective madness.

P: Meaning, I presume, that what is untainted by money, what is left, is both living and passionate?

DHL: Yes, the chief evil that money bestows upon mankind is the continual working out, the accounting for everything, the roar of the machinery of rationality, the zany rationality of finance, the rationality that shoves men six hundred feet below ground for eight hours a day, the rationality that throws children into the bonded slavery of the cotton mill, the rationality that makes paid work into a hell upon Earth.

You said, did you not, that poverty breeds meanness and viciousness, wealth indolence and luxury?

P: I did say that, and I think, in your own way, you agree with me.

DHL: I certainly do, but probably for different reasons; I have seen the grim faces of the miner in his dirt, besmirched by so much coal dust, now gone and, vanished by carbolic soap and water, and then grim in his pleasure – drinking to bring on sort of false jollity, an attempt to erase from consciousness, if only for the hour, that return to the face he must hack at to earn his poor crust.

P: But why must it be that way? Why must man be hardened by his labour, hardened to meanness and to viciousness, as I have stated?

DHL The rows of figures, the foot-soldiers of capital, the infantry of the system. A perfect competition that exist between all the owners of the pits that have sprung up to spoil the earth hereabouts, the perfect competition, if anything could be so less than perfect, means that capital always feels itself on the knife edge of ruin, even as it is raking in profit, even as it is boosted by what displays its dominance in the market – the rows upon rows of figures – even those are in black. Capital rules the heads and the hearts of the capitalist, and it rules the heads but not the hearts of the downtrodden who support it with sweated toil.

Perfect competition such as we have when no one company can hold sway in coal production and so must continually get ever more an d more from its other factors of production: its labour and its plant; its property, to deluge the already flooded market with a product it can swell do without.

P: But the world needs coal, does it not? The collier lads would not like to return to a cold hearth, a cheerless home bereft of any warmth, would they not?

DHL: They would, but that was got from wood, the wood that grows everywhere, in elm and sycamore and oak, the same wood that is cut down to make pit props to stave off the whole thing collapsing upon the poor working lads below.

This land was covered with trees, and they have been shorn from the earth by the creature below, the living mine, taking in its quantity of air and spewing out its carbon every day.

P: But we have moved on from those days I was so wont to live through, when we had neither iron nor steel, fuel as only that we could break off the living tree. We cannot go backwards, can we?

DHL: No, we most definitely cannot. And that has been used to justify all this – all this getting and spending, laying waste our powers, as the poet Wordsworth observed, even back in his golden days.  

Progress has been held up as the Holy Grail of modernity, when it is nothing more than the yoke
of the working man, the tool used to control him, and for what, for the rich to live in a world of luxury and indolence, in your own words.

It is in the getting and the spending that we ignore what it is we spend and what we get in return. It was Joyce who said, was it not, that the whore on the streets of night-town sells cheap what has been so very dear to buy.

How are these collier lads any different; they sell their souls to make money – a little for them and a lot for the owner – they buy dear, using what God gave them, to buy worthless chattels, cheated as they are at every turn on Saturday when they strut around the town as if they own it, which they most certainly never will.

Tell me that is how you envisaged your precious democracy to turn out, with the rich man in his castle, and the poor man at his gate. Tell me that was what you were thinking about as you envisaged the power of the people, by them and for them as has been said since.

Robert L. Fielding

Common Sense

Common sense is defined by Merriam-Webster as, "sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts." Thus, "common sense" (in this view) equates to the knowledge and experience which most people already have, or which the person using the term believes that they do or should have. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as, "the basic level of practical knowledge and judgment that we all need to help us live in a reasonable and safe way".
Sound judgment not based on specialized knowledge; native good judgment.

“Common sense is seeing things as they are; and doing things as they ought to be.”
― Harriet Beecher Stowe

“Never assume the obvious is true.”
― William Safire

“Common sense will nearly always stand you in better stead than a slavish adherence to the conventions.”
― M.M. Kaye, Shadow of the Moon

“Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.”
Albert Einstein quotes

“The philosophy of one century is the common sense of the next”
Henry Ward Beecher

“Seek advice but use your own common sense”
Yiddish Proverb

“One pound of learning requires ten pounds of common sense to apply it.”
Persian Proverb

What is common sense? Harriet Beecher Stowe talks to William Safire

Harriet Beecher Stowe: Why did you urge us not to assume that the obvious is true?

William Safire: For the fairly simple reason that it rarely is. What looks obvious only appears so because something vital, something integral to the item in question is being overlooked.

HBS: Why do we do that, do you think?

WS: We tend not to look too deeply into something, or even not sufficiently deeply, because that is something like work to most of us, and we would rather not work.

HBS: Do you mean that we are lazy?

WS: Yes, I am afraid we are. If delving beneath the surface of something - something self-apparent – then I would say that we are indeed lazy.

HBS: But that is not how laziness is viewed, is it?

WS: Then how is it viewed? Should we merely say that the man who prefers to stay in bed in the morning rather than get up and do a day’s work is lazy and leave it at that?

HBS: How would you have us look at laziness then, if not in that way?

WS: By taking laziness as not merely being physically idle, but mentally idle too.

HBS: But how can we tell if a man is mentally lazy? Surely, mental laziness is a state of mind, and as such not able to be seen, wouldn’t you say?

WS: Yes, that is true, but if we listen to the man who is mentally idle, we will notice that he does certain things – says certain things – gives his opinion on certain things in certain ways – that is how mental laziness appears. And one of the ways is thinking and then saying that what is obvious must be true.
That is the way to all sorts of species of folly: to prejudice, which has been defined as the production of ready-made answers to complex questions. It is the prejudiced man who sees something and then makes a generalization about it. Such are usually called ‘sweeping generalizations’, are they not?

HBS: Yes, why is that?

WS: Because they sweep all before them – usually under the carpet – a carpet of one’s own making, a carpet that covers all other possibilities. It is this mental sweeping under the carpet that is typical of the prejudiced mind – and it is a form of mental laziness.

HBS: I can see that, but why do you say so?

WS: Because the alternative – to think something through, as we say, to collect all the related data and then to weigh the matter rationally, then that involves some kind of work – not physical work, I grant you, but work nevertheless, and it is just that kind of work that the lazy mind abhors.

HBS: Do you think that is the only reason?

WS: Not, but perhaps it is the main one, or one of the main ones.

HBS: Can you think of another?

WS: Yes, I can. The casting of doubt – we say the shadow of doubt – doubting something is true merely because it seems obvious is comfortable.

HBS: Why do you say it is comfortable?

WS: Because it means nothing has to be done, and that is comfortable and comforting to the lazy mind. It is comforting because nothing untoward is brought into view, nothing that threatens the world view of the lazy man, who is habitually used to ignoring anything that works against his comfortable stance. He has no tolerance for what psychologist call cognitive dissonance.

HBS: And what is that? What is cognitive dissonance?

WS: It is a condition in which one’s views are threatened, by which one is made uncomfortable. People have a propensity to seek consonance in all they see, in their thoughts and in the way they view the world around them.
If a man thinks al people of colour are thieves, for instance, then his seeing such a person performing an act of open kindness or honesty will cause him to experience cognitive dissonance, to some degree.

HBS: Then how does he deal with the discomfort he experiences – the dissonance?

WS: By ignoring it, or by rationalising it, by saying to himself, for instance, that the man being honest and kind is not at all typical of his race, and that, the exception proves the rule, as we say.

HBS: Then you think that the saying that holds that the exception proves the rule is a form of ignoring reality, of being mentally lazy?

WS: Yes, I most certainly do. That particular saying, and many others like it, are tantamount to our rationalizing our own prejudices, our own mental laziness, our own ignoring of facts that do not fit in with our own world view.
In fact, I would say that sayings such as that one, little aphorisms of that sort, that purport to establish some truism based upon observed reality, are nothing more than mental laziness put into words.
Let’s look at some examples.
1. Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.

2. Lately I've found that if it weren't for stereotypes, conversation would be much more difficult for the closed-minded.

3. Justice is incidental to law and order.

4. It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once.

5. Wonder, rather than doubt, is the root of knowledge.

The first of these has a lot of sarcasm about it, letting us know two things: that it was written by a woman, and that she thinks herself and her sex superior to men.
The second folds in on itself by using the idea of conversing with stereotypical people on the one hand, and the implied difficulties people with closed minds have talking to the hypothesized open-minded people – the polar opposites of those closed-minded people just mentioned.
The third does seem to have an amount of wisdom behind it, condemning law and order as being not the same thing as the higher quality: justice.
Fourthly, again, this aphorism does sound to have some wisdom as the basis of its meaning; that liberties are chiseled away – eroded – rather than being taken at one fell-swoop, and finally, the fifth too does seem to have some knowledge of how the world is organized.
What they all have in common is a sort of catch-all meaning that implies a sort of knowledge that is superior – better informed – than is general amongst the rest of us.

HBS: So you think that it is that quality – of having a knowledge that is superior to ours – that is typical of such sayings, do you?

WS: Yes, I do, and it is that, if accepted, which it invariably is, that prevents us from thin king, or better, makes us think in one direction – the direction of the right answer, when in fact, what we should always be doing is to question – question – question!
It is by always questioning that we gain the knowledge to learn for ourselves the truth of the saying, the rightness of the aphorism, or the wrong ensconced in both. We must always examine our assumptions, for if we do not, our freedom will be taken from us.

HBS: How will our freedom be taken from us?

WS: By allowing erroneous thoughts to dominate our thinking. Once that happens, once we stop testing what we are habitually led to think by vested interests, we can be made to accept anything. That is the way we are led away from what we hold dear to what are, in effect, what someone else holds dear, that someone else not necessarily having our best interests at heart.

WS: And you said, did you not that common sense is seeing things as they are; and doing things as they ought to be?

HBS: I did say that, yes.

WS: Let us take the first part of your opinion; that common sense is seeing things as they are.

HSB: Yes, I do think that is what common sense is; seeing things as they are, rather than how we might prefer them to be.

WS: An admirable sentiment, if we could only abide by it.

HBS: What do you mean? Things are as they are, surely, and it is our common sense to see them that way.

WS: That is rather tautological, if you don’t mind my saying so. Things, as we call them, can appear to us in many ways. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, is it not?

HBS: It is said to be, yes, but that is not my intent, to repeat that. Some things are not beautiful, and so may not appear so to the beholder – to the one who looks at them.

WS: The aphorism that holds that beauty is in the eye of the beholder includes all shades of beauty, even unto ugliness. We see what we want to see – that is the meaning of the words, I feel.

HBS: And do you take those words to be wrong?

WS: Indeed, I do not, but don’t you see, if we see what we desire to see, then that can hardly be termed common sense, can it?

HBS: What would you call it then?

WS: Being blinkered, or something of that sort, which we all are, from time to time.

HBS: Then you think the first part of my words is wrong, do you?

WS: Unfortunately, yes, I do. But do not be affronted by my objection. There is something in the nature of the aphorism, as we have already said, that is at fault; the form is a sort of catch-all phrase intended to sound right to the majority of people, when, in actual fact, it does little more than fool people by its supposed wisdom.

HBS: Then what of the second part – and then doing things as they ought to be – what of that idea?

WS: I take issue with the words ‘as they ought to be’. What does that mean? Who is to decide what ought to be? It is something like gaining consensual approval for something there can never be any general approval for. We cannot agree on anything beginning with the words ‘ought to be’, can we?
There are as m any opinions of what ought to be as there are people to utter the words, are there not?

HBS: Now you must allow me to disagree with you there. There are some things upon which we can all agree; there are moral absolutes, are there not, that are agreed upon by the many.

WS: Then let us take one: Thou shalt not kill! Is surely one, being as it is one of the Ten Commandments. Surely that is inviolate! Surely that cannot be disputed by any sane, rational person, and yet there are instances in which killing is the right and proper thing to do.

HBS: Can you give me an example of when it is right for one individual to kill another.

WS: When one individual is threatening the lives of others. There are many such instances, though that is the main, in my opinion. If we go to what you call moral absolutes and still find exceptions, how many more will be found in examples of a more ordinary nature? No, doing things as they ought to be done has the ring of despotism about it. Once an authority decides for the many what is right to do, then we are living under a yoke, are we not?

HBS: But we already live under such a yoke, as you call it, do we not? We live in a land with laws that dictate to us what ought to be done, what must be done, and what must never be done, do we not?

WS: We most certainly do, that is true. It is also true, however, that the laws that bind us are of our own making. We have agreed, like Socrates, to live under a system that forbids certain things – we might say aspects of our freedom – in order that we may live in a civilized society; we have made a pact, a social contract, to obey laws that ultimately protect us as they protect others from anything we might wish to do.

In that sense, and in only that sense will I allow your words to remain as they are. I have the proviso of social reason to act against your words being taken too far.

HBS: Do you then hold what most people call common sense to be nothing more than a sort of consensus of inertia?

WS: A Consensus of inertia, yes, I do.

Dialogue 2 In which W. Somerset Maugham, the great English novellist, writer and thinker of his day discusses common sense with Victor Hugo the French writer and artist of his.

W. Somerset Maugham: I said that, in my opinion, common-sense appears to be only another name for the thoughtlessness of the unthinking. It is made of the prejudices of childhood, the idiosyncrasies of individual character and the opinion of the newspapers.

Victor Hugo: The phrase, ‘the thoughtlessness of the unthinking’ has a ring to it. What do you mean by it?

WSM: Precisely what I say. Much of what many do is instigated, not by rational thought, but by instinct.

VH: Instinct, but that is something we say animals have, something that drives animals rather than us.

WSM: And that is true, it is something that makes animals behave in the ways they behave, we think, but I believe much of what drives us – human beings – is animal-like, it is more akin to instinct that thought. If it is thought about, it is rationalized to remove any doubt in the person ‘s mind that he is doing something wrong.

VH: You use the example of something that is wrong when you could just as easily used an example of something that is right.

WSM: If something is done automatically, without recourse to rational thought, it is more likely to be in error, wouldn’t you say?

VH: Not necessarily. If someone sees an old lady fall, and rushes to help her, that is not wrong in any way, although it may be done without thinking.

WSM: That is true. I think there is something of a collective store which we are used to calling culture, something that is charitable, something that is protective, something that communicates kinship of some kind.

But what occurs if that something, that element of charity, let us call it, what happens if that is eroded?

VH: Why should it be eroded? How can it be eroded?

WSM: It can and is eroded, in my opinion, by a willed selfishness brought on by needs of various kinds.

VH: What kind of needs?

WSM: Those needs that are animal in nature – the need for warmth, the need for food, for sex, for shelter. Those needs that do not require thought to be felt. Yes, I think I would define them so; needs that do not require thought to be felt. They are, in fact as much feelings as anything. Do you need to think to know you are hungry or cold?

VH: No, of course not, but how can you equate those kinds of needs to the old lady who has fallen, to the one rushing to assist her, to help her to get up again?

WSM: By recourse to observation; an old lady falls down in the street. A young man sees her fall and rushes to her side. What is going through his mind?

VH: That she needs help.

WSM: No, that is what is going through your mind, not necessarily through his.

VH: But why should he be different? Why should he be thinking to act in a way that is different to the way I am thinking to act – to help her?

WSM: Because he has different needs to you, or let us say that he feels them differently, or that they act on his mind in different ways to you.

He sees her fall, he sees she is vulnerable. He assumes that she has money on her –in her purse – or in her pockets – and he is tempted to take it from her. His needs have overridden hers, do you see.

VH: Then he is wrong.

WSM: Not in his mind, not in his way of looking at the situation. Don’t forget, he does not have the same rationality that you have; he does not have the same needs that you have.

Let me ask you a question: what needs of yours are you striving to fulfill when you go over to help the old lady to her feet?

VH: My needs are overridden by hers.

WSM: That will be true, yes, so then, let me ask you which needs of yours are fulfilled just after you have helped her to her feet, when she thanks you?

VH: My own need to think well of myself, to think others think well of me, to think my family and my friends think well of me for acting in such a way.

WSM: Precisely. Now let us return to the young man who has stolen the old lady’s money from her and left her on the ground where she fell. What of him? Which of your needs does he feel?

VH: Probably none of them, for how can he be applauded by his friends for robbing her?

WSM: If they would have done exactly the same thing in the same situation. He doesn’t suffer any pangs of guilt or remorse, as you would if you had robbed her and left her on the ground. He has no remorse, for he has not damaged his own self-image in his own eyes. He has walked away from the old lady feeling nothing but his having behaved properly.

Can you see that the thoughtlessness of the unthinking is something that goes on in those for whom thinking is minimalized when needs must be met.

VH: But you have used an extreme case to make your point, surely.

WSM: That is true, and I have controlled the actors in the scenario I have used, but in so doing have I not proved something to you?

VH: You certainly have.

WSM: Then my creating a specific scenario has been of real value, has it not?

VH: Yes, it has, and, I may also say that the acts you used were not too far-fetched. I was at no time questioning you as to the credibility of the situation you were describing.

WSM Then all is well. Your opinion has been changed. If we had not discussed my words, perhaps you would have accepted them without thinking them through.

VH: Yes, it is very likely that I would.

WSM: And that, my friend is how common sense is generated and maintained.

VH: But we do not have the time or the energy to go through everything we hold as true, do we?

WSM: Indeed we do not. But should we not stop and think before we hurt someone?

VH: We most certainly should. What thought could the young man use to make him act differently?

WSM: I am at a loss to answer. I might say that he should remember his own mother; what would he do if it was his own mother.

VH: But if his own mother had ill-treated him as a child, what then?

WSM: Again, I am at a loss to answer. All we can do is to educate our children to think before they hurt someone; think before they take what is not theirs.

VH: But how do we do that if they feel their needs in a different way to the way we feel ours. For we each of us have those same needs, do we not – the need for warmth, for food, security and so on.

WSM: We do indeed have those same needs, but they may be felt in different measures to the way we feel ours.

VH: But hunger is hunger, no matter who feels hungry. Surely that is true.

WSM: It is, but there are needs that the young man has that we do not have.

VH: Which are?

WSM: Those brought on by what is euphemistically termed substance abuse: by addiction to drugs, to alcohol, even to tobacco. If he feels the need that an absence of these create, he will be moved in ways that we know very little of, will he not?

VH: Then what can we do? How can we proceed?

WSM: By weaning him off those substances.

VH: And replacing them with what?

WSM: I am not sure that they can be replaced by anything really. Rather, we should help him to find fulfillment of a more lasting nature.

VH: By what means?

WSM: Education, education, education.


VH: Why do you mention the opinion of newspapers? What has that got to do with any discussion of common sense – on the thoughtlessness of the unthinking?

WSM: A very great deal to do with it, my friend. First, we must ask ourselves what the main aim – for there is only ever one – of any newspaper is.

VH: I suppose you are going to say that the press wishes to influence public opinion.

WSM: Undoubtedly that is one wish, but it is subordinated to the one aim, which is to make money – any other wishes, as you call them, are subordinate to that one aim – to turn over a profit. Now, how does a newspaper go about doing that?

VH: By selling as many newspapers as it can.

WSM: Exactly, and to do that it must influence public opinion, and to influence public opinion, it must take in the public, or as many of the public as it can.

VH: And it does that by printing pages that are in the public’s interest.

WSM: You might be forgiven for thinking so, but in fact, it is the public are taken in to the extent that they believe that everything a particular newspaper prints is in their interest.

VH: Then if it is not in the public’s interest, whose interest is it in?

WSM: The proprietor’s. His and no one else’s.

VS: And how is that achieved without it being transparently obvious?

WSM: By making the readership identify with it. That is done by creating a culture within a culture.

VH: How can it do that? How can it possibly create a culture?

WSM: By manipulating the thinking of the readers, or I should say that portion of thinking which is done without thinking – or without too much thinking. It manipulates stories to generate a sort of consensus – usually a negative consensus, a species of fascism – a tradition of exclusivity – a culture of disapproval of any but the accepted.

VH: But how does it achieve that?

WSM: As I have intimated, by creating a consensus of non-thinking, knee-jerk opinion that goes under many sobriquets – high moral ground, fair play, rough justice, national promotion, sport, luck, and other things readers can readily identify with what they think they think is in their interest.

VH: Why do you say what they think they think is in their own interest?

WSM: Because they don’t really think, or if they do think, they do not think things through rationally. If they are asked to think, which they rarely are, they will turn the page and read something else. They do not wish to cope with anything like cognitive dissonance. If their views come under scrutiny, which is seldom if ever, they move on until they reach something that readily accords with their ‘opinion’.

That is why the most popular newspapers, the most widely read, are reduced to headlines – bites – that only require the slightest of thought to agree with. It is in that way that newspapers influence opinion – by a sort of subliminal means, which, by the way, is forbidden on TV and on the silver screen. In the press, it is not flashed before the readers’ eyes, never to reappear again, but in a sense it is if the reader’s eyes light on it for no more than a split second as they turn to the back pages.

With so much news appearing so quickly, a sort of tacit approval, or disapproval is sought and won without the reader really appreciating how his opinion is being constantly attacked, attacked and changed – made less radical in the traditional sense of that word, which is usually taken to mean having views that are distinctly left wing – made less radical in the traditional sense of that word, but really made much more radical in a real sense – their opinions are continually being chiselled to make them more and more disapproving of anything at variance with a sort of populism, and more approving of that populism.

Prejudice is, they say, the providing of ready-made answers to complex questions. It is the popular daily newspaper that provides that ready-made answer, leaving the readership able to leave what does not concern them.

VH: But everything concerns everybody, isn’t that the point of newspapers, to keep the public aware of events in the world.

WSM: That is the stated aim, which, as I have said, is subordinate to the main aim – that of making money.

VH: But if what you say is true, the press does more than make them aware of events.

WSM: Of course it does. It informs them where they stand on them, and, one could argue, it does the nation a great service – preventing unrest and social disorder – it placates where there is disapproval, and provides approval where there was none – it influences public opinion and gets paid every morning to do it.

To return to the ‘thoughtlessness of the unthinking’ as I believe we were talking about, the press encourages such a state.

VH: So, in encouraging it, it must be well aware that it exists.

WSM: Well aware. It actively encourages the consensus of inertia, and turns a profit for doing it.

Robert L. Fielding

Robert L. Fielding