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Personal growth: The persistence of intolerance April 5, 2017

Posted by Dennis Mellersh in Concept of personal growth.
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By Dennis Mellersh

Our tendency towards resistance, intolerance, and non-acceptance of what is new and complex is an ageless phenomenon.

And so, the need for self-examination and making efforts to cultivate an open mind –  key principles of our self-actualization programs.

Writing in 1580 in his first book of essays, Michel de Montaigne noted, “…it is a stupid presumption to go about despising and condemning as false, anything that seems to us improbable; this is a common fault in those who think they have more intelligence than the crowd…it is a dangerous and serious presumption…to condemn what we do not understand.”

Montaigne was witnessing firsthand an era of rapid explosion of knowledge and opinion through book publishing, in turn  due to advances in printing technology that were making information widely available in books printed in national languages.

Montaigne called these languages the “vulgar tongue.” Books previously were available primarily in the classical, ancient languages of Latin and Greek.

As if in anticipation of the intolerance and resistance expressed through the modern practice of “commenting” in the age of the Internet, Montaigne wrote about “the rashness of those hasty critics who pounce on writings of every sort, especially on new books…written in the vulgar tongue – a practice which allows the whole world to comment, and seemingly to prove that their conception and design are vulgar also.”

He included himself in this criticism, noting, “Pride and curiosity are the two scourges of our souls. The latter prompts us to poke our noses into everything, and the former forbids us to leave anything unresolved and undecided.” (1)
(1) Montaigne quotations from Montaigne Essays, translated by J.M. Cohen, Penguin Classics, Penguin Books Ltd., 1971

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