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David Stove - The Columbus Argument

David Stove - The Columbus Argument

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12/28/2013

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ON
cIInd'rEW[/'rU"lnEEdlto'r
 
Copyright©2003byTransactionPublishers,NewBrunswick,NewJersey.AllrightsreservedunderInternationalandPan-AmericanCopyrightConven-tions.Nopartofthisbookmaybereproducedortransmittedinanyformorbyanymeans,electronicormechanical,includingphotocopy,recording,oranyinformationstorageandretrievalsystem,withoutpriorpermissioninwritingfromthepublisher.AllinquiriesshouldbeaddressedtoTransactionPublishers,Rutgers-TheStateUniversity,35BerrueCircle,Piscataway,NewJersey08854-8042.
ThisbookisdedicatedtothevictimsofSeptember11,2001.
Thisbookisprintedonacid-freepaperthatmeetstheAmericanNationalStan-dardforPermanenceofPaperforPrintedLibraryMaterials.LibraryofCongressCatalogNumber:2002073210ISBN:0-7658-0136-1PrintedinCanadaLibraryofCongressCataloging-in-PublicationDataStove,D.
C.
(DavidCharles)Onenlightenment
I
DavidStove;editedwithanintroductionbyAndrewIrvine;withaprefacebyRogerKimball.p.
em.
Includesbibliographicalreferencesandindex.ISBN0-7658-0136-1(alk.paper)
1.
Enlightenment.
1.
Irvine,A.D.II.Title.B8025762002J90-dc2120020732]0
 
"Icannothelpfeelingthatrationalthought,'thecalmsunshineofthemind:
has
alighttoexist,aswellasmadness;andeventhatithassomerighttobeheard(thoughIadmitthatthatismoredebatable),Itis,inanycase,anecessityoflifejorsomepeople,"...[But]givenalargeaggregationofhumanbeings,andalongtime,youcannotreasonablyexpectrationalthoughttowin.Youcouldasreasonablyexpectathousandunbiaseddice,alltossedatonce,alltocomedownJive:say.Therearesimplyfartoomanyways,andeasyways,inwhichhumanthoughtcangowrong.
0/;
putittheotherwayround:anthropocentrismcannotlose.Thejunglewillreclaimtheclearing..."
=David
Stove,
"WhatisWrongwith
Our
Thoughts?"
(1991)
10
TheColumbusArgument
Theremightbegoodargumentsforbeinganti-conservativeinparticularcircumstances.Butarethereanygoodargumentsforbeinganti-conservativein
all
circumstances?Ifthereare,theywouldclearlyhavetobeverygeneralarguments:generalenoughtobephilosophical,oratleasttobeofinteresttophilosophers.Therehasonlyeverbeenoneverygeneralargumentforanti-conservatism,asfarasIknow,anditisnotagoodone.Butitisonewhichhasbeensowidely
thought
goodthathardlyanyoneinthelast150years,touchedatallbyeducation,canhaveentirelyescapeditsinfluence.Icallitthe
"They
AlllaughedatChristopherColumbus'Argument,"andforshort"theColumbusargument."
It
goesasfollows:"Throughoutalmostallofhumanhistory,peoplewhohaveopposedinnovations,whetherinbelieforinbehavior,havemetwithhostility.Death,orpersecution,orprison,oratbestneglect,hasbeentheregularrewardfortheirefforts.Yetwhateverimprovementshaveactuallybeenmadeinhumanlife,eitherinouropinionsorinourpractice,havedepended,andmustalwaysdepend,onsomeinnovatorinthefirstplace.Weought,therefore,notmerelytotolerate,buttowelcome,innovators."ThegermoftheargumentgoesbacktoSocrates'suggestion,whenontrialforhislife,thatheactuallydeserved,notdeath,butalifepensionfromthestateforthemoralandintellectualstimulationhehadgivenit.Butthemodern
locusclassicus
is,ofcourse,JohnStuartMill'sessay
OnLiberty
(1859).AndtheargumentintheformwhichMillgaveit(whichisessentiallyasIhavegivenitabove)hasswepttheworld.WitheverydaythathaspassedsinceMillpublishedit,it
Thisessayfirstappearedin1987.--Ed.
149

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