Category Archives: knowledge

British social policy defined

An idiocy wrapped in a lunacy wrapped in an absurdity, to produce misery and squalor

Dalrymple writes:

A tax on knowledge is a terrible thing, but a tax on ignorance, prejudice, evasion and half-truth is worse. That is what every British household with a television must pay, for the privilege of having the earnest but frivolous lucubrations of the BBC purveyed to it, whether it wants them or not.

This poll tax — or licence fee, as it is known — is the equivalent of nearly $200 per household a year, and is thus worth evading. Unfortunately, it costs nearly three times as much to catch evaders as the licence fees would have raised if paid. One proposal is to halve the licence fee for single mothers. Dalrymple comments:

In other words, we should subsidise a subsidy, in the name of a universal right to misinformation and trashy entertainment (and at the same time confer yet another incentive for single parenthood).

A good tool but a bad master

Dalrymple notes that information (whether true or false) without perspective may be a higher form of ignorance — and a more dangerous form, insofar as it disguises itself as knowledge.

Ik wil alleen duidelijk maken dat informatie (of die nu juist of onjuist is) op zichzelf, als perspectief ontbreekt, een hogere vorm van onwetendheid kan zijn, en een gevaarlijker vorm in zoverre ze zich vermomt als kennis; en dat daarom een enorm magazijn van kennis op zichzelf niemand daadwerkelijk iets zal bijbrengen, hoe toegankelijk dat magazijn ook is voor mensen.

However long you browse the internet, it is no substitute for slow cultivation of judgment and a critical spirit, or for the development of a mature perspective.

Hoe lang je ook surft op internet, het kan geen vervanging zijn voor het langzame aankweken van beoordelingsvermogen en een kritische geest, of voor het ontwikkelen van een volwassen perspectief. Overmatig vertrouwen op gemakkelijk toegankelijke bronnen zou kunnen leiden tot een permanent oppervlakkige kijk op de dingen.

My hand shakes; I want to interrupt, to shout

Zeven Hoofdzonden (detail), attr. Jheronimus Bosch, c. 1485 or after. Museo del Prado

Zeven Hoofdzonden (detail), attr. Jheronimus Bosch, c. 1485 or after. Museo del Prado

Dogmatism, writes Dalrymple,

is the reaction of those who want to know best but suspect that the metaphysical foundations of their supposed knowledge are shaky. Ambiguity disturbs them: how can there be rational criticism founded on argument and evidence, when at the same time there is no disputing taste? The solution to the tension is to stand behind a stockade of indubitable truth.

The search for certainty

is much more important than the search for truth. I know a man, an eminent writer, who has changed his opinion many times in his long life, often by 180°, but never admits to having done so. He has held every successive opinion with angry intransigence. Challenges by people of another opinion make him turn red with rage: they do not merely differ from him in opinion, they are attacking him personally. It is not true that bigotry is the exclusive province of the ignorant and stupid; there is the clever and well-informed variety, the more dangerous because the less easily recognised.

Dalrymple does not exclude himself.

When someone expresses an opinion that is very different from my own, I often feel a mounting tension, though the subject may be one that, if I am honest with myself, is of little importance or consequence to me. Certainly it cannot harm me that someone thinks differently from me about it; yet my heart begins to beat wildly, and I am sure that my blood pressure has risen. I feel an excitation, I tell myself to keep calm but I don’t succeed; my hand shakes; I want to interrupt, to shout. I am not defending truth, but my opinion. Generally I succeed in controlling myself, but occasionally I do not, especially when my interlocutor is young. I immediately feel ashamed of myself afterwards; I even feel ashamed that, at my age, I am still so little capable of detachment.

The IMF would make the Apocalypse seem dull

Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 07.37.00The habit, writes Dalrymple, of

informing oneself, however sketchily, about what is going on in the world is deeply ingrained. Christine Lagarde has never, as far as I know, said anything interesting, but one reads what she says all the same.

Barthes advanced learning by about as much as Madoff advanced Wall Street’s reputation for rectitude

Dalrymple on the 'abject, shallow' nonsense of the French charlatan-philosopher

Dalrymple on the abject, shallow nonsense of the French ‘structuralist’ charlatan-philosopher (2010)

The Dalrympian attitude

  • Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 09.13.54There is no fixed doctrine to which one must subscribe
  • Man is fallible
  • Regress is as much to be feared as progress is to be hoped
  • Human action always has unforeseen consequences
  • Prudence is a virtue
  • Ignorance is always greater than knowledge
  • Those who came before us were as intelligent as we
  • Tradition contains wisdom as well as irrationality
  • Life cannot be lived according to a preconceived plan
  • Wickedness lies in wait for all of us
  • Man is imperfectible