|C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the Worlds Best Literature.|
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.
|The Courage of Opinions|
|By Phillips Brooks (18351893)|
From Essays and Addresses
|WE have spoken of physical courage, or the courage of nerves; of moral courage, or the courage of principles. Besides these there is intellectual courage, or the courage of opinions. Let me say a few words upon that, for surely there is nothing which we more need to understand.|| 1|
| The ways in which people form their opinions are most remarkable. Every man, when he begins his reasonable life, finds certain general opinions current in the world. He is shaped by these opinions in one way or another, either directly or by reaction. If he is soft and plastic, like the majority of people, he takes the opinions that are about him for his own. If he is self-asserting and defiant, he takes the opposite of these opinions and gives to them his vehement adherence. We know the two kinds well, and as we ordinarily see them, the fault which is at the root of both is intellectual cowardice. One man clings servilely to the old ready-made opinions which he finds, because he is afraid of being called rash and radical; another rejects the traditions of his people from fear of being thought fearful, and timid, and a slave. The results are very different: one is the tame conservative and the other is the fiery iconoclast; but I beg you to see that the cause in both cases is the same. Both are cowards. Both are equally removed from that brave seeking of the truth which is not set upon either winning or avoiding any name, which will take no opinion for the sake of conformity and reject no opinion for the sake of originality; which is free, thereforefree to gather its own convictions, a slave neither to any compulsion nor to any antagonism. Tell me, have you never seen two teachers, one of them slavishly adopting old methods because he feared to be called imitator, the other crudely devising new plans because he was afraid of seeming conservative, both of them really cowards, neither of them really thinking out his work?
| The great vice of our people in their relation to the politics of the land is cowardice. It is not lack of intelligence: our people know the meaning of political conditions with wonderful sagacity. It is not low morality: the great mass of our people apply high standards to the acts of public men. But it is cowardice. It is the disposition of one part of our people to fall in with current ways of working, to run with the mass; and of another part to rush headlong into this or that new scheme or policy of opposition, merely to escape the stigma of conservatism.|| 3|