“I know how unfashionable it is now to acknowledge in life or history any genius loftier than ourselves. Our democratic dogma has leveled not only all voters but all leaders; we delight to show that living geniuses are only mediocrities, and that dead ones are myths. … Since it is contrary to good manners to exalt ourselves, we achieve the same result by slyly indicating how inferior are the great men of the earth.” ~ Will Durant (The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time)
My son recently shared this quote … so apropos for our times. It got me to thinking about my own experience as a university teacher. For example, I’d critique Aristotle’s defense of the idea of natural slavery (who wouldn’t) but then add that I thought his insights about, for example, how to live well are good ones. Often a student would claim that they reject anything a defender of slavery said. I would point out the ad hominem nature of this attack, often to no avail.
Or think of Trump or other Republican politicians saying they sometimes disagree with Dr. Fauci and other scientists about COVID, as if politicians are the equals of scientists regarding knowledge of pandemics. People often pontificate about history, economics, or biology when they don’t know what they’re talking about. (This is the essence of Plato’s critique of democracy—people who vote don’t know what they’re doing.)
Sometimes is best to say “I think the physician or scientist probably knows more about that than I do.” This takes humility but it typically gets you closer to the truth than false bravado.