February 14, 2005

does not leave the man hesitating in the moment of decision...

We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason, because we suspect that this stock in each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations and ages. Many of our men of speculation , instead of exploding general prejudices, employ their sagacity to discover the latent wisdom which prevails in them. If they find what they seek, and they seldom fail, they think it more wise to continue the prejudice, with the reasons involved, than to cast away the coat of prejudice and to leave nothing but the naked reason, because prejudice, with its reason, has a motive to give action to that reason, and an affection which will give it permanence. Prejudice is of ready application in the emergency; it previously engages the mind in a steady course of wisdom and virtue, and does not leave the man hesitating in the moment of decision, skeptical, puzzled, and unresolved. Prejudice renders a man's virtue his habit, and not a series of unconnected acts. Through just prejudice, his duty becomes a part of his nature.
--Edmund Burke

This was quoted in The Roads to Modernity, by Gertrude Himmelfarb, which Charlene and I have both just started reading. Great book so far. She dissents from the common academic wisdom that the Enlightenment was primarily a French affair, and that it was not very important. She puts British thinkers at the center, and argues their importance in forming the traditions of the United States. I don't know enough to really criticize her ideas, or review the book. But I like the flavor of it.

Posted by John Weidner at February 14, 2005 8:21 PM
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