Monday, February 20, 2012

Against certainty - quotes worth noting

On the subject of 'methodological agnosticism' (my current religion), I saw this a while ago:
"The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts while the stupid ones are full of confidence." - Charles Bukowski
Digging around, I subsequently found that Bukowski was actually paraphrasing Bertrand Russell who said (in his worth-a-read 'Triumph of Stupidity' article - a short response to the rise of the Nazis in Germany)...
"The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt."
The quote was superimposed on a photo of Sarah Palin. I shared it on Facebook when I saw it. My mate, Steve, commented with his preferred version - this one from Yeats' 'Second Coming'
"The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity"
Then there's an older quote I heard on the radio (and blogged about it), from the (then) Archbishop of York, John Hapgood:
"Has it occurred to you that the lust for certainty may be a sin?"
Or this from Darwin:
“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.” 
This Wikipedia link to the page about The Dunning Kruger Effect may also be of interest. Or this:
"Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them." Laurence J. Peter
And then, moving on, to a not-unrelated topic, there's this:
"..you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into” (source unknown). …
I used that last quote in a post that I wrote about The Backfire Effect a while ago- the observation that bringing evidence to bear against strongly held views usually results in the views being held even more strongly.

And who can forget…
 “…when the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?” (J.M. Keynes)
If you haven't done so already, I'd recommend that you go back up this post and read the Bertrand Russell essay, as it makes some interesting points about the lack of purpose that arises from a lack of intellectual confidence.

And finally, this blog seems to exist, these days, largely to quote and endorse Chris Dillow's writing. His chosen strapline is 'An extremist, not a fanatic' - a nice distinction I think? He's written this and this as well.

2 comments:

Luke said...

Can I add a quote from Crowmwell (not sure how humble he was about his own beliefs, but still...)

"I BESEECH YOU IN THE BOWELS OF CHRIST THINK IT POSSIBLE YOU MAY BE MISTAKEN."

Don't worry about endorsing Chris Dillow - remember that you knew him before he was the rock star of english economics bloggers (but still a modest rockstar).

Jason Ervine said...

I've great time reading through such excellent quotes. I'm a quote lover and seems like you as well, so I'm leaving a link for you that will lead you to a great quotes place. Thanks.
quotes on stupidity