“A lord over ten cities”

All human beings will agree that a Specialist can be trusted too much; though this will not prevent All Political Parties from trusting him with everything they want to shirk. But, indeed, we are past the point of trusting experts as experts. We have come to trusting experts even in the things about which they are amateurs… A man is not only autocratic on one subject, but on all other subjects by right of that subject; and is allowed to be a lord over ten cities because he has been something like a monomaniac over one. This is no exaggeration; a glance at popular magazines and public controversies will give you scores of instances of it. The religion of Haeckel the biologist is more important than his biology. The journalism of a famous cricketer is more prominent than his cricket. Every week or so a paper has what is called a “Symposium,” in which all sorts of “authorities” or “representative men” give their opinions on some public question. You will always find that the “authorities” are authorities on some other subject; and that the “representative men” represent nobody and nothing except their own accidental likes and dislikes.

[…]

Now, we have all seen this sort of thing, and we all know it to be the most monstrous rubbish. We all know these people are not authorities on these subjects, even when they are really authorities on their own. We should all resent it if it were written in a clear and logical combination of ideas. Suppose Paderewski wrote, “Having played the piano diligently for twenty years, I have never come across any case against Capital Punishment.” Suppose Sir Flinders Petrie wrote, “The complete excavation of all ancient Egyptian foundations or fragments leaves us without any real light as to who wrote the Letters of Junius.” Suppose Sir Frederick Treves wrote, “I have conducted a hundred successful operations, and, believe me, there was not one that would have failed if Ireland had had Home Rule.” Set out plainly thus, such judgments are absurd, but not more absurd than that primary plutocratic or editorial judgment that calls in such judges. We really do to-day trust the learned about the things of which they are ignorant, and the traveller about the countries he has not visited.

— The Illustrated London News, 22 June 1912.

Published in: on February 24, 2016 at 12:45 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Reblogged this on The blog of cultural significance.

  2. You are an excellent person!


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