Truth Before Dishonor

I would rather be right than popular

Ad Effigiem

Posted by John Hitchcock on 2009/10/16

Superversive (Tom Simon) wrote a very good, but lengthy article a couple years back. I believe there is plenty of value in the piece. I made a sidebar link to it many moons ago. I hope the first three paragraphs will be enough of a hook to entice you to read the entire piece.

Of all the habitual fallacies and prejudices that have poisoned the wells of reason in our time, none, perhaps, has been so destructive as what Owen Barfield christened ‘chronological snobbery’. This is the strange belief that modern ideas and habits, simply because they are modern, are inherently superior to those of former times. This belief has become so prevalent that it is now recognized as a category of informal fallacy in itself.

This snobbery is perhaps the last remaining vestige or outcrop of the once formidable massif of Victorian optimism. The belief in the inevitability of progress was dealt a crushing blow by the First World War, and even the belief in progress itself was drastically undermined by the rank flowering of cultural and moral relativism that took its shallow root in the decades after 1960. The Victorians were chronological snobs because they thought themselves the first geniuses on the earth, the evolutionary apex of a long history of fools. Modern relativists, in my experience, are chronological snobs because they believe we are all fools. Denying even the possibility of genius, they refuse to take lessons from a lot of uppity dead white men who think they have something to teach.

But whether you arrive at this position by the high road of egotism or the low road of relativism, the result is the same, and fatal to the reasoning faculty. Any other fallacy can be disproved by argument and evidence. Chronological snobbery will not hear the arguments, because they are the arguments of dead men. It will not look at the evidence, because the evidence is old. At bottom I suppose it is a cognitive disorder, somewhat akin to paranoia. The paranoiac believes everyone is conspiring against him, and cannot be persuaded otherwise, because everyone who tries to talk him out of his delusion is obviously part of the conspiracy. The snob believes everyone who disagrees with him is stupid, and cannot be persuaded otherwise, because everyone who tries to talk him out of it is a fool by definition.


One Response to “Ad Effigiem”

  1. […] Cross Posted on Truth Before Dishonor Category: Culture and Society, Education, History  |  Comment (RSS) […]


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