Sunday, January 03, 2021

Among hobgoblins to avoid . . .

Ralph Waldo Emerson tells us in Self-Reliance that:

 A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day.--'Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.'--Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.

Emerson implies that the above-mentioned hobgoblin is a big problem . . . only for small minds. But inconsistency is really no bad thing? Because being misunderstood is no bad thing? Well, included among the misunderstood are Socrates and Jesus, and recall what happened to them!

By the way, this Self-Reliance essay just goes on and on . . .


At 3:35 PM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

I'm not sure I understand Emerson's move from consistency/inconsistency to being understood/misunderstood. Is he suggesting that Jesus and the other greats were misunderstood because they were inconsistent? I freely admit I've read through this blog post and blockquote rather breezily and superficially; perhaps things will become clearer upon deeper reading.

At 9:50 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I think Emerson isn't being entirely honest. He fudges the issue by adding "foolish" - who could ever object to being critical about a "foolish" consistency?

Jeffery Hodges

* * *


Post a Comment

<< Home