Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Quote of the Day (Benjamin Disraeli, on How ‘Ignorance Never Settles a Question’)

“Ignorance never settles a question. Questions must be settled by knowledge…. I often remember with pleasure a passage in Plato where the great sage descants upon what he calls ‘double ignorance,’ and that is where a man is ignorant that he is ignorant. But, Sir, in legislating there is another kind of double ignorance that is fatal. There is, in the first place, an ignorance of principles, and, in the second, an ignorance of facts.” — English Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), address in the House of Commons opposing William Gladstone’s Reform Bill, May 14, 1866

I loved this quotation, but groaned when I learned the circumstances surrounding it: i.e., Disraeli’s opposition to a measure that would have effectively widened the franchise in Great Britain to the working class.

Then, researching a bit further, I discovered that, once his own Conservative Party was in power within the year, “Diz” not only endorsed the bill he had once opposed, but strengthened its provisions—by convincing those on the fence that the new members of the electorate would back the Conservatives in the next election.

That didn’t happen, but passage of the bill did stop the momentum towards class-based violence in Britain. 

In the end, then, the “question” of voting was settled, though in a more roundabout way than Disraeli’s understanding of “principles” and “facts” might have originally suggested.

No comments: