Critical Thinking

A writer-editor-teacher’s quote of the week #132

We know it is a matter of association and sympathy, not reasoning and examination; that hardly a man in the world has an opinion upon morals, politics or religion which he got otherwise than through his associations and sympathies. Broadly speaking, there are none but corn-pone opinions. And broadly speaking, corn-pone stands for self-approval. Self-approval is acquired mainly from the approval of other people. The result is conformity. Sometimes conformity has a sordid business interest – the bread-and-butter interest – but not in most cases, I think. I think that in the majority of cases it is unconscious and not calculated; that it is born of the human being’s natural yearning to stand well with his fellows and have their inspiring approval and praise— a yearning which is commonly so strong and so insistent that it cannot be effectually resisted, and must have its way.

– from “Corn-pone Opinions” by Mark Twain, re-published in The Best American Essays of the Century, edited by Joyce Carol Oates and co-edited by Robert Atwan

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