But what of the voice and judgment of conscience? The difficulty is that we have a conscience behind our conscience, an intellectual one behind the moral. We can see quite well that our opinions of what is noble and good, our moral valuations, are powerful levers where action is concerned; but we must begin by refining these opinions and independently creating for ourselves new tables of values.
As it is with people,so it is with colour. We change,correct or reverse our opinions about colours and this opinion may shift back and forth.
Words are not deeds. In published poems we think first of Eliot's "Jew", words edge closer to deeds. In Cline's anti-Semitic textbooks, words get as close to deeds as words can well get. Blood libels scrawled on front doors are deed.
In a correspondence, words are hardly even words. They are soundless cries and whispers, "gouts of bile," as Larkin characterized his political opinions, ways of saying, "Gloomy old sod, aren't I?" Or more simply, "Grrr."
Correspondences are self-dramatizations. Above all, a word in a letter is never your last word on any subject. There was no public side to Larkin's prejudices, and nothing that could be construed as a racist the word suggest a system of thought, rather than an absence of thought, which would be closer to the reality, closer to the jolts and twitches of self response.
There is no use for demonstrations, as your enemy loves to terrify and suppress opinions, and despises peoples.
To me, capital punishment is a form of societal self-defense. It should not be employed indiscriminately, but in cases of the most heinous crimes, the death penalty may be the only appropriate punishment. Some people believe it is right to take a life to save the life of someone else, but they would not vote to take the life of a convicted criminal, no matter how horrible the crime. Others believe that killing another person for any reason is simply wrong. I respect those opinions, but I disagree with them. I'm convinced that government has a duty to promote community defense. The death penalty, when applied in appropriate cases, can be a strong deterrent to crime. It is certainly a deterrent to the convicted criminal sentenced to death, and it is also a deterrent to other potential capital offenders.
Politics disabuses a person of the notion that you can please everybody. It is an inescapable fact that people will always have different opinions, and some people are going to disagree. Sooner or later, a person constructs his or her own "platform" and stands on it, regardless of what others think, say, or do. It is also true that some people delight in another person's demise.
Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.
We may not assent to the teaching even of the Catholic bishops, if at any time they are deceived into opinions contrary to the canonical Scriptures of God; but if they should so fall into error, and yet maintain the bond of unity and charity, let the apostle's saying avail in their case: 'And if in anything ye are otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.' Now these divine words have so manifest an application to the whole Church, that none but heretics in their stubborn perverseness and blind fury can bark against them.
Machines have no political opinions, but they have profound political effects. They demand a strict regimentation of time, and, by abolishing the need for manual skill, have transformed the majority of the population from workers into laborers. There are, that is to say, fewer and fewer jobs which a man can find a pride and satisfaction in doing well, more and more which have no interest in themselves and can be valued only for the money they provide.
As I was writing about Grace Marks, and about her interlude in the Asylum, I came to see her in context the context of other people's opinions, both the popular images of madness and the scientific explanations for it available at the time. A lot of what was believed and said on the subject appears like sheer lunacy to us now. But we shouldn't be too arrogant how many of our own theories will look silly when those who follow us have come up with something better? But whatever the scientists may come up with, writers and artists will continue to portray altered mental states, simply because few aspects of our nature fascinate people so much. The so-called mad person will always represent a possible future for every member of the audience who knows when such a malady may strike? When "mad," at least in literature, you aren't yourself; you take on another self, a self that is either not you at all, or a truer, more elemental one than the person you're used to seeing in the mirror. You're in danger of becoming, in Shakespeare's works, a mere picture or beast, and in Susanna Moodie's words, a mere machine; or else you may become an inspired prophet, a truth-sayer, a shaman, one who oversteps the boundaries of the ordinarily visible and audible, and also, and especially, the ordinarily sayable. Portraying this process is deep power for the artist, partly because it's a little too close to the process of artistic creation itself, and partly because the prospect of losing our self and being taken over by another, unfamiliar self is one of our deepest human fears.
Another argument of hope may be drawn from this that some of the inventions already known are such as before they were discovered it could hardly have entered any man's head to think of; they would have been simply set aside as impossible. For in conjecturing what may be men set before them the example of what has been, and divine of the new with an imagination preoccupied and colored by the old; which way of forming opinions is very fallacious, for streams that are drawn from the springheads of nature do not always run in the old channels.
This was a good beginning. All the outmoded rules of the hospital were broken. Minds which had been tied down by subservience to foreign experience were now set in motion. People began to speak, to think and to act boldly. A new world opened in front of them. They knew that what they were doing now was something unprecedented which doctors in capitalist countries had not been able to do. They were engaged in a battle to save lives and as the scope of the battle became wider an increasing number of people were drawn in. Later on when a difficulty occurred in the course of treatment they solicited the opinions of many doctors both within and without the hospital, depending on the wisdom of the many to tide over one crisis after another.
A constitutional statesman is in general a man of common opinions and uncommon abilities.
A difficulty in seeking Truth is the notion that certain men are ordained of heaven to seek Truth for all mankind and that we are to accept their acquisitions in the place of seeking for ourselves. We can never attain Truth by proxy. By divine ordination every man is an original investigator of Truth. He denies his own reason who hands over his religious views and opinions to any priest or religious teacher We are to accept nothing on the opinions of others. What another man has thought and believed, what a Church Council or synod has formulated is nothing to me, only that it may be a reason for personal investigation ending in acceptance or rejection as I may find it in harmony with reason and well established truth.
Men's thoughts, are much according to their inclination; their discourse and speeches, according to their learning and infused opinions; but their deeds, are after as they have been accustomed.
As the government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
I was presented to Monsieur de Montmagny, the viceroy. He asked my nationality, name, and rank. When I had satisfied him by recounting the success of my voyage, which he either believed or pretended to, he kindly lent me a room in his apartment. I was happy to meet a man capable of enlightened opinions, one who was not surprised when I told him that the earth must have turned beneath me while I was aloft. Having begun my ascent two leagues from Paris, I had come down in almost a straight line to Canada.
The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.
Whenever a time comes that the justice overwhelms and overcomes cruelty, it is prohibited to form negative conjectures and opinions about anyone, except when one knows it about him. But whenever a time comes that cruelty and oppression overwhelms the (quantum of) justice, then one must not have good opinions about the beneficence of a person, till such time he knows it(for sure).
Anything is possible. You can be told you have a 90-percent chance or a 50-percent chance or a 1-percent chance, but you have to believe, and you have to fight. By fight I mean arm yourself with all the available information, get second opinions, third opinions, and fourth opinions. Understand what has invaded your body, and what the possible cures are. It's another fact of cancer that the more informed and empowered patient has a better chance of long-term survival. What if I had lost? What if I relapsed and the cancer came back? I still believe I would have gained something in the struggle, because in what time I had left I would have been a more complete, compassionate, and intelligent man, and therefore more alive.
The book of the world, so richly studied by autodidacts, is being closed by the learned, who are raising walls of opinions to shut the world out.
His ridiculous and diabolical opinions made me shudder. I began to look a little more closely at this person and was amazed to see something frightening in his face that I had not noticed before: his eyes were small and sunken, his skin dark, his mouth big, his chin hairy and his nails black. Oh God, I thought immediately, this miserable creature is condemned already and may even be the Antichrist that people talk about so much in our world.
The past was characterized not by ignorance but by false opinions. Men always had opinions about everything, but those opinions were without ground and indemonstrable. Yet they governed the nations of men and were authoritative. Thus the problem of Enlightenment is not merely discovery of the truth but the conflict between the truth and the beliefs of men.
Socrates too thought that living according to the opinions of others was an illness. But he did not urge men to look for a source for producing their own unique opinions, or criticize them for being conformists. His measure of health was not sincerity, authenticity or any of the other necessarily vague criteria for distinguishing a healthy self. The truth is the one thing most needful; and conforming to nature is quite different from conforming to law, convention or opinion.
Prejudices, strong prejudices, are visions about the way things are. They are divinations of the order of the whole of things, and hence the road to a knowledge of that whole is by way of erroneous opinions about it. Error is indeed our enemy, but it alone points to the truth and therefore deserves our respectful treatment.