Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: Bertrand Russell, change, Dogma, liberal, liberalism, possibility
When things are uncertain or even scary and everyone looks around for people to lead them and to believe in, they often look for assertions of finitude, grand visions that are certain, minds that have been made up, plans that are strong and complete. They certainly are not interested in wishy-washiness, ambivalence, backtracking and changes of mind.
But, as Russell describes below, there is often a problem with absolute certainty: shifting reality – what is perceived to be true now will need to be adjusted tomorrow, as circumstances change. Ironically, the one thing we can be sure of is that circumstances will change; and that, in a mutable world, it’s better to hold your ideas lightly.
The genuine Liberal does not say “this is true,” he says “I am inclined to think that under present circumstances this opinion is probably the best.” And it is only in this limited and undogmatic sense that he will advocate democracy.
The essence of the Liberal outlook lies not in what opinions are held, but in how they are held: instead of being held dogmatically, they are held tentatively, and with a consciousness that new evidence may at any moment lead to their abandonment.
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