Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I've been working my way through Dawkins' The Selfish Gene over break, among other activities, but I am breaking from that before beginning the last chapter to read some Orwell. My sister gave me a copy of "Why I Write," and within four pages I have a gem I feel like sharing. (The "power of facing unpleasant facts" is a great line but it was referenced in an Econtalk not too long ago, so I don't think I'd be doing anything unique by mentioning it.)
The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they abandon individual ambition - in many cases, indeed, they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all - and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, wilful [sic] people who are determined to live their own lives to the end.

The first line seems almost silly to me, until I realize that I fully place myself (rightly or wrongly) among the gifted minority. Upon further reflection, I can conclude that I am not sure whether or not this is true, but I would place the probability it is true above 50%.

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Compared with the totality of knowledge which is continually utilized in the evolution of a dynamic civilization, the difference between the knowledge that the wisest and that which the most ignorant individual can deliberately employ is comparatively insignificant. ~Fredrich Hayek in The Constitution of Liberty