To Remember – What Kind of Consistency is Important
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesman and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. Speak what you think now in hard words and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words, though it contradict everything you think today. ” Emerson, Self-Reliance
“Ah, you’re trying to refute me by quoting things I’ve said or written myself. But I live from one day to the next! If something strikes me as probable, I say it; and that is how, unlike everyone else, I remain a free agent.” Cicero, Discussions at Tusculum
I don’t think there is a more impressive thing to do intellectually than turn over a long-held a opinion in light of new evidence. And maybe free agency isn’t the right metaphor any longer because what I really think he’s talking about is having a higher loyalty. That is, being ok with the embarrassment contradicting yourself in exchange for working towards the truth. Being consistently inaccurate to be constantly accurate.
Several of the classes I am taking this semester put a lot of emphasis on reframing problems, deconstructing the wedge issues and examining the individual components through a different sort of lens.
I think being able to do that well can occasionally give the impression of inconsistency — two problems may look very similar on the surface, but digging a little deeper reveals that the best approaches will be unique to the situation. If one is only used to looking at the superficial, though, it can be difficult to understand why the reactions might be different. I could be off my mark completely though, it’s just something I’ve been rolling around in my head for a while.
Would it be too much to say that a similar practice is carried out through the processes of evolution?
The way a person develops intellectually seems a lot like how reproductive success in nature is constantly readjusting to a changing environment. Consistency in the former would be towards truth, as you say, and in the latter as continued existence in future generations. Both have to leave behind what doesn’t work unless they miss their mark by idolizing the past.
Time after time, I don’t know how you do it, nice post.
I have to bite my tongue every time i hear some cretin blab on about sticking to their guns. The only people who aren’t changing their opinion with the times are the dinosaurs.
I think what Emerson and Cicero are talking about is the freedom to make mistakes in clear public view . . . which requires a clear lack of vanity concerning the infallibility of one’s views.
Personally i think that you chaps are giving Cicero far too much credit. To me it looks like he got caught out and then backtracked as quickly as he could. It seems sophic, in the sense that he just seems to be saying this (getting away from his past, and disallowing others from using it) in order to win a current argument. Just because he said many insightful things does not seperate him from being irrational and proud. Just because he died a long time ago should not mean that we should put him on a pedastale and idiolise everything about him to be great. He was only human, but we turn these figure into much more then they every could have been.
Yes, I’m sure that’s what happened in a FICTIONAL DISCUSSION HE WROTE.
(same anonymous person)
Right well my mistake, it is obvious now that i should have done more research before trying to make any points. It ws my understanding though that the discussions of the time were heavily based on real life discussions, much moreso then one might find today. They have just had some enhancement to make the scope of the piece larger. And so the assumption that this was said as some sort of retort seemed probably to me.
After looking into it, i was wrong, and this quote is testamount to his beliefs in general as opposed to a specific attack in a specific debate.
Though as proven here, my understanding of this subject is limited at best.