Your Cornford reading for the day

From the Moveable Type blog, April 3, 2008.

We interrupt the steady stream of Israel-blogging to bring a reminder of the real world, via Part VI of Cornford’s Microcosmographia Academica (last making appearances in this place here and here):

You will begin, I suppose, by thinking that people who disagree with you and oppress you must be dishonest. Cynicism is the besetting and venial fault of declining youth, and disillusionment its last illusion. It is quite a mistake to suppose that real dishonesty is at an common. The number of rogues is about equal to the number of men who act honestly; and it is very small. The great majority would sooner behave honestly than not. The reason why they do not give way to this natural preference of humanity is that they are afraid that others will not; and the others do not because they are afraid that they will not. Thus it comes about that, while behaviour which looks dishonest is fairly common, sincere dishonesty is about as rare as the courage to evoke good faith in your neighbours by showing that you trust them.

No; the Political Motive in the academic breast is honest enough. It is Fear — genuine, perpetual, heartfelt timorousness.

Never chalk up to malicious intent what can be just as easily ascribed to raw, unadulterated scaredy-pantsness?

There is a lot of truth in that. A whole heapin’ lot.

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