Thursday, September 8, 2016

"Beware of my partisanship"

Peter Wehner has been re-reading Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia (1938) and is impressed by "George Orwell’s Fierce Modesty." Orwell:
I hope the account I have given is not too misleading. I believe on such an issue as this no one is or can be completely truthful. It is difficult to be certain about anything except what you have seen with your own eyes, and consciously or unconsciously everyone writes as a partisan. In case I have not said this somewhere earlier in the book I will say it now: beware of my partisanship, my mistakes of fact and the distortion inevitably caused by my having seen only one corner of events. And beware of exactly the same thing when you read any other book on this period of the Spanish war.
I am struck by the honesty and self-knowledge of Orwell, in particular his acknowledgement that we all write as partisans and that distortions arise because we see “only one corner of events.”

This is among the hardest things for us to accept—that at best each of us, whether we’re reporting on an event or contemplating metaphysical matters, has only a partial knowledge of the truth. We of course don’t approach it that way. We hold the views we do because at a given moment we believe that they are true, that they reflect the reality of things. If we knew where our views were wrong or incomplete, presumably we would change them. ....

That’s the danger of living in an echo chamber, isn’t it, surrounding ourselves only with people who reinforce what we already believe. That’s true whether we’re talking about politics, philosophy, theology, the social sciences, or even the hard sciences. Because the temptation is to see just about everything in partisan terms. .... [more]