“Quite casually ignorant”

Now against the specialist, against the man who studies only art or electricity, or the violin, or the thumbscrew or what not, there is only one really important argument, and that, for some reason or other, is never offered.  People say that specialists are inhuman; but that is unjust.  People say an expert is not a man; but that is unkind and untrue.  The real difficulty about the specialist or expert is much more singular and fascinating.  The trouble with the expert is never that he is not a man; it is always that wherever he is not an expert he is too much of an ordinary man.  Wherever he is not exceptionally learned he is quite casually ignorant.  This is the great fallacy in the case of what is called the impartiality of men of science.  If scientific men had no idea beyond their scientific work it might be all very well — that is to say, all very well for everybody except them.  But the truth is that, beyond their scientific ideas, they have not the absence of ideas but the presence of the most vulgar and sentimental ideas that happen to be common to their social clique.  If a biologist had no views on art and morals it might be all very well.  The truth is that the biologist has all the wrong views of art and morals that happen to be going about in the smart set of his time.

William Blake (1910)

Published in: on July 1, 2009 at 7:31 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. My goodness, how timely!

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