Thursday, December 8, 2011

Oh, Now I Get It

Tout comprendre rend très-indulgent.
"To know all is to forgive all."
Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein. Corinne, Book 18, chapter 5.
Otherwise (mis)translated as "to understand all is to forgive all" or "to understand everything is to forgive everything" has become something of a pejorative in American discourse, with many people taking it to mean that if you understand why someone did something you must also excuse their behavior. Politically (and in other contexts) it manifests itself as the idea that anyone who can understand a position well enough to articulate it to others must be a de-facto supporter of said position. (Some academics are spared this, but it tends to be common in the public.) The sad side effect of this is that ignorance becomes a virtue when dealing with people one disagrees with. Although given the human tendency to want to be around like-minded people, perhaps it's more accurate to say that it lends legitimacy to the long-standing idea of virtuous ignorance.

Personally, I don't get it. Having recently had something of an epiphany that gives me a better understanding of libertarian/anarcho-capitalist economic and social policy thought, I find it much easier to compare and contrast with other philosophies that I understand.

But I guess in the eyes of a partisan, this simply makes me too wishy-washy to be reliable.

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