Thank you for your compliment to Esther and to her parents. We do not claim credit for her achievements. She was lucky to be the oldest of six, so we had little time for her and gave her little of our attention. She befitted from our benign neglect. She learned from a young age to choose her own path through life. She chose for her motto: "Always make new mistakes." I believe that is the key to her happy and productive life.
The simple dictates of good sense had taught the inhabitants of the British colonies, that men born on the American side of the Atlantic ocean had received from nature the same rights as others born under the meridian of Greenwich, and that a difference of sixty-six degrees of longitude could have no power of changing them. They understood, more perfectly perhaps than Europeans, what were the rights common to all the individuals of the human race; and among these they included the right of not paying any tax to which they had not consented. But the British Government, pretending to believe that God had created America, as well as Asia, for the gratification and good pleasure of the inhabitants of London, resolved to hold in bondage a subject nation, situated across the seas at the distance of three thousand miles, intending to make her the instrument in due time of enslaving the mother country itself. Accordingly, it commanded the servile representatives of the people of England to violate the rights of America, by subjecting her to compulsory taxation. This injustice, she conceived, authorised her to dissolve every tie of connection, and she declared her independence.
Then was observed, for the first time, the example of a great people throwing off at once every species of chains, and peaceably framing for itself the form of government and the laws which it judged would be most conducive to its happiness; and as, from its geographical position, and its former political state, it was obliged to become a federal nation, thirteen republican constitutions were seen to grow up in its bosom, having for their basis a solemn recognition of the natural rights of man, and for their first object the preservation of those rights through every department of the union.
If we examine the nature of these constitutions, we shall discover in what respect they were indebted to the progress of the political sciences, and what was the portion of error, resulting from the prejudices of education which formed its way into them: why, for instance, the simplicity of these constitutions is disfigured by the system of a balance of powers; and why an identity of interests, rather than an equality of rights, is adopted as their principle. It is manifest that this principle of identity of interests, when made the rule of political rights is not only a violation of such rights, with respect to those who are denied an equal share in the exercise of them, but that it ceases to exist the very instant it becomes an actual inequality. We insist the rather upon this, as it is the only dangerous error remaining, the only error respecting which men of enlightened minds want still to be undeceived. At the same time, however, we see realized in these republics an idea, at that time almost new even in theory; I mean the necessity of establishing by law a regular and peaceable mode of reforming the constitutions themselves, and of placing this business in other hands than those entrusted with the legislative power.
Meanwhile, in consequence of America declaring herself independent of the British government, a war ensued between the two enlightened nations, in which one contended for the natural rights of mankind, the other for that impious doctrine which subjects these rights to prescription, to political interests, and written conventions. The great cause at issue was tried, during this war, in the tribunal of opinion, and, as it were, before the assembled nations of mankind. The rights of men were freely investigated, and strenuously supported in writings which circulated from the banks of the Neva to those of the Guadalquivir. These discussions penetrated into the most enslaved countries, into the most distant and retired hamlets. The simple inhabitants were astonished to hear of rights belonging to them: they enquired into the nature and importance of those rights: they found that other men were in arms, to re-conquer or to defend them.
In this state of things it could not be long before the transatlantic revolution must find its imitators in the European quarter of the world. And if there existed a country in which, from attachment to their cause, the writings and principles of the Americans were more widely disseminated than in any other part of Europe; a country at once the most enlightened, and the least free; in which philosophers had soared to the sublimest pitch of intellectual attainment, and the government was sunk in the deepest and most intolerable ignorance; where the spirit of the laws was so far below the general spirit and illumination, that national pride and inveterate prejudice were alike ashamed of vindicating the old institutions: if, I say, there existed such a country, were not the people of that country destined by the very nature of things, to give the first impulse to this revolution, expected by the friends of humanity with such eager impatience, such ardent hope? Accordingly it was to commence with France.
It is to the press we owe the possibility of spreading those publications which the emergency of the moment, or the transient fluctuations of opinion, may require, and of interesting thereby in any question, treated in a single point of view, whole communities of men reading and understanding the same language.
All those means which render the progress of the human mind more easy, more rapid, more certain, are also the benefits of the press. Without the instrumentality of this art, such books could not have been multiplied as are adapted to every class of readers, and every degree of instruction. To the press we owe those continued discussions which alone can enlighten doubtful questions, and six upon an immoveable basis, truths too abstract, too subtile, too remote from the prejudices of the people or the common opinion of the learned, not to be soon forgotten and lost. To the press we owe those books purely elementary, dictionaries, works in which are collected, with all their details, a multitude of facts, observations, and experiments, in which all their proofs are developed, all their difficulties investigated. To the press we owe those valuable compilations, containing sometimes all that has been discovered, written, thought, upon a particular branch of science, and sometimes the result of the annual labours of all the literati of a country. To the press we owe those tables, those catalogues, those pictures of every kind, of which some exhibit a view of inductions which the mind could only have acquired by the most tedious operations; others present at will the fact, the discovery, the number, the method, the object which we are desirous of ascertaining; while others again furnish, in a more commodious form and a more arranged order, the materials from which genius may fashion and derive new truths.
To these benefits we shall have occasion to add others, when we proceed to analyse the effects that have arisen from the substitution of the vernacular tongue of each country, in the room of the almost exclusive application, which had preceded, so far as relates to the sciences, of one language, the common medium of communication between the learned of all nations.
In short, is it not the press that has freed the instruction of the people from every political and religious chain? In vain might either despotism invade our schools; in vain might it attempt, by rigid institutions, invariably to six what truths shall be preserved in them, what errors inculcated on the mind; in vain might chairs, consecrated to the moral instruction of the people, and the tuition of youth in philosophy and the sciences, be obliged to deliver no doctrines but such as are favourable to this double tyranny: the press can diffuse at the same time a pure and independent light. That instruction which is to be acquired from books in silence and solitude, can never be universally corrupted: a single corner of the earth free to commit their leaves to the press, would be a sufficient security. How admist that variety of productions, amidst that multitude of existing copies of the same book, amidst impressions continually renewed, will it be possible to shut so closely all the doors of truth, as to leave no opening, no crack or crevice by which it may enter? If it was difficult even when the business was to destroy a few copies only of a manuscript, to prevent for ever its revival, when it was sufficient to proscribe a truth, or opinion, for a certain number of years to devote it to eternal oblivion, is not this difficulty now rendered impossible, when it would require a vigilance incessantly occupied, and an activity that should never slumber? And even should success attend the suppression of those too palpable truths, that wound directly the interests of inquisitors, how are others to be prevented from penetrating and spreading, which include those proscribed truths without suffering them to be perceived, which prepare the way, and must one day infallibly lead to them? Could it be done without obliging the personages in question to throw off that mask of hypocrisy, the fall of which would prove no less fatal than truth itself to the reign of error? We shall accordingly see reason triumphing over these vain efforts: we shall see her in this war, a war continually reviving, and frequently cruel, successful alike against violence and stratagem; braving the flames, and resisting seduction; crushing in turn, under its mighty hand, both the fanatical hypocrisy which requires for its dogmas a sincere adoration, and the political hypocrisy imploring on its knees that it may be allowed to enjoy in peace the profit of errors, in which, if you will take its word, it is no less advantageous to the people than to itself, that they should for ever be plunged.
Holmes and Watson don’t just differ in the stuff of their attics—in one attic, the furniture acquired by a detective and selfproclaimed loner, who loves music and opera, pipe smoking and indoor target practice, esoteric works on chemistry and renaissance architecture; in the other, that of a war surgeon and self-proclaimed womanizer, who loves a hearty dinner and a pleasant evening out—but in the way their minds organize that furniture to begin with. Holmes knows the biases of his attic like the back of his hand, or the strings of his violin. He knows that if he focuses on a pleasant feeling, he will drop his guard. He knows that if he lets an incidental physical feature get to him, he will run the risk of losing objectivity in the rest of his observation. He knows that if he comes too quickly to a judgment, he will miss much of the evidence against it and pay more attention to the elements that are in its favor. And he knows how strong the pull to act according to a prejudgment will be.
And so he chooses to be selective with those elements that he allows inside his head to begin with. That means with both the furniture that exists already and the potential furniture that is vying to get past the hippocampal gateway and make its way into long-term storage. For we should never forget that any experience, any aspect of the world to which we bring our attention is a future memory ready to be made, a new piece of furniture, a new picture to be added to the file, a new element to fit in to our already crowded attics. We can’t stop our minds from forming basic judgments. We can’t control every piece of information that we retain. But we can know more about the filters that generally guard our attic’s entrance and use our motivation to attend more to the things that matter for our goals—and give less weight to those that don’t.
If people ask me about my worldview, I say that I am a naturalist. When most people hear that word, they think of someone who spends a lot of time outdoors watching birds and admiring landscapes—and I suppose that description applies to me. But I think of naturalism as a philosophy rather than a lifestyle. F a philosophical perspective, naturalists believe that the physical universe is the universe. In other words, there are no supernatural entities or forces acting on nature, because there is no empirical evidence for anything beyond or outside of nature. T Naturalists posit that the universe is made up of only four things: space, time. matter, and energy—and that's it. The matter and energy in.n the universe can come together in an essentially infinite number of configurations over time, and these configurations cannot be predicted with any certainty for complex systems over extended periods.^ But matter and energy do not influence and are not influenced by supernatural forces.
Condorcet,proscribed by a sanguinary faction, formed the idea of addressing to his fellow-citizens a summary of his principles, and of his conduct in public affairs. He set down a few lines in execution of this project: but when he recollected, as he was obliged to do, thirty years of labour directed to the public service, and the multitude of fugitive pieces in which, since the revolution, he had uniformly attacked every institution inimical to liberty, he rejected the idea of a useless justification. Free as he was from the dominion of the passions, he could not consent to stain the purity of his mind by recollecting his persecutors; perpetually and sublimely inattentive to himself, he determined to consecrate the short space that remained between him and death to a work of general and permanent utility. That work is the performance now given to the world. It has relation to a number of others, in which the rights of men had previously been discussed and established; in which superstition had received its last and fatal blow; in which the methods of the mathematical sciences, applied to new objects, have opened new avenues to the moral and political sciences; in which the genuine principles of social happiness have received a developement, and a kind of demonstration, unknown before; lastly, in which we every where perceive marks of that profound morality, which banishes even the very frailties of self-love—of those pure and incorruptible virtues within the influence of which it is impossible to live without feeling a religious veneration.
May this deplorable instance of the most extraordinary talents lost to his country—to the cause of liberty—to the progress of science, and its beneficial application to the wants of civilized man, excite a bitterness of regret that shall prove advantageous to the public welfare! May this death, which will in no small degree contribute, in the pages of history, to characterise the era in which it has taken place, inspire a firm and dauntless attachment to the rights of which it was a violation! Such is the only homage worthy the sage, who, the fatal sword suspended over his head, could meditate in peace the melioration and happiness of his fellow-creatures; such the only consolation those can experience who have been the objects of his affection, and have known all the extent of his virtue.
Reason is to the philosopher what grace is to the Christian.
Grace causes the Christian to act, reason the philosopher.
Other men are carried away by their passions, their actions not being preceded by reflection: these are the men who walk in darkness. On the other hand, the philosopher, even in his passions, acts only after reflection: he walks in the dark, but by a torch.
The philosopher forms his principles from an infinity of particular observations. Most people adopt principles without thinking of the observations that have produced them: they believe that maxims exist, so to speak, by themselves. But the philosopher takes maxims from their source; he examines their origin; he knows their proper value, and he makes use of them only in so far as they suit him.
Truth is not for the philosopher a mistress who corrupts his imagination and whom he believes is to be found everywhere; he contents himself with being able to unravel it where he can perceive it. He does not confound it with probability; he takes for true what is true, for false what is false, for doubtful what is doubtful, and for probable what is only probable. He does more, and here you have a great perfection of the philosopher: when he has no reason by which to judge, he knows how to live in suspension of judgment
The philosophic spirit is, then, a spirit of observation and exactness, which relates everything to true principles: but the philosopher does not cultivate the mind alone, he carries his attention and needs further. Our philosopher does not believe in exiling himself from this world, he does not believe that he is in enemy country; he wishes to enjoy with wise economy the goods which nature offers him; he wishes to find pleasure with others, and in order to find it. he must make it: thus he tries to be agreeable to those with whom chance and his choice have thrown him, and at the same time he finds what is agreeable to him. He is an honest man who wishes to please and to make himself useful.
The majority of the great, whose dissipations do not leave enough time to meditate, are savage towards those whom they do not believe to be their equals. The ordinary philosophers who meditate too much, or rather who meditate badly, are savage towards everybody: they flee men, and men avoid them. But our philosopher who knows how to strike a balance between retreat from commerce with men, is full of humanity. He is Terence’s Chrémés who feels that he is a man, and that humanity alone is interested in the good and bad fortune of his neighbor. Homo sum, humani a me nihil olienum puto. [I am a man, nothing human is foreign to me. ]
It would be useless to remark here how jealous the philosopher is of everything calling itself honor and probity. Civil society is, so to speak, a divinity for him on earth; he burns incense to it, he honors it by probity, by an exact attention to his duties, and by a sincere desire not to be a useless or embarrassing member of it. The sentiments of probity enter as much into the mechanical constitution of the philosopher as the illumination of the mind. The more you find reason in a man, the more you find in him probity. On the other hand, where fanaticism and superstition reign, there reign the passions and anger. The temperament of the philosopher is to act according to the spirit of order or reason: as he loves society extremely, it is more important to him than to other men to bend every effort to produce only effects conformable to the idea of the honest man.
This love of society, so essential to the philosopher, makes us see how very true was the remark of Marcus Aurelius: “How happy will the people be when kings are philosophers or philosophers are kings!”
If we wish to imitate the physical sciences, we must not imitate them in their contemporary, most developed form; we must imitate them in their historical youth, when their state of development was comparable to our own at the present time. Otherwise we should behave like boys who try to copy the imposing manners of full-grown men without understanding their raison d' être, also without seeing that in development one cannot jump over intermediate and preliminary phases.
I have been racking my brain for the past few weeks trying to think of ways to talk about reason and being reasonable. It turns out it's not a simple subject. I am a very non-confrontational person. I am, most of the time, the very definition of a reasonable man. I don't like telling people things they don't want to hear. I want people to get along. I want people to like me. I want to find good things in people. I want to understand viewpoints that differ from mine. I want my tombstone to say, "He was nice to work with."
I have children. I want to raise them in a world they can add value to that has value to them. I want for them to feel entitled only to working hard at doing what they love in order to be excellent at it and to share their lives and the rewards with those that they love. Of course, I think this is all anyone wants for their children or themselves. I try and inculcate them with a sense of logic about the world, which means most of the time I'm point out things to them that are absurd and ridiculous as a counterpoint. And right now there is plenty to point to.
I console myself, however, with the thought that for anyone trully paying attention, for atleast the last 300 years, the world has always been chock full of absurd contradictions, and has always seemed to be going down hill and fast. I get this when I read Thomas Jefferson, when I read Camu, when I read Vonnegut. I console myself with the remarkable advances in the sciences. I play a scientist on TV, I am in awe of those that do it for real.
Testable, provable phenomena, and the preditions they allow, big and small, brought me here to in front of you today and they will take me back to my family when I am done. They allowed me to drive to DC on a bus, type my speech on a screen, ride to this rally in a car, walk on shoes that support my feet, and wear clothes and a hat that protects my pale skin from the sun. To fly on a plane home. That plane I will get on exists and stays in the air because of a million million large and tiny tested predictions lift, drag, material performance, physics, electricity, radiowaves, wear, tear sheer, checklists, human error, machine error and redundancy. It is a miracle of engineering. It is the result of an ancient and very human drive. A drive that makes us what we are in all of our unique specialization. A drive to solve problems.
Many tens of thousands of people combine their collective genius to make an impossibly fast and efficient, thin, inflated bubble of aluminum so stable and secure that you'd have to fly for several thousand years before the odds gave you an even chance of being in an accident. Everything that we have that makes our lives possible exists because human beings have tested the things they found in their surroundings, made predictions based on those tests, and then improved upon them. This is reason, the human capacity to make sense of the world.
Here are some other things that, like the components of the airplane, have been tested and proven. I'm going to call them "facts":
- E equals mc-fucking-squared.
- Force equals mass times acceleration.
- The Earth is not the center of the Universe.
- Man landed on the Moon in 1969 and a few times thereafter.
- Burning airplane fuel caused a tragic catastrophic collapse of the Twin Towers in 2001.
- The Earth is spherical. Not precisely round, it is officially slightly pear-shaped.
- Human industry is causing a significant rise in the Earth's overall temperature.
- The Earth is over four-billion years old.
- Evolution is literally a fact of life.
- As Niel deGrasse Tyson says, "Facts are true whether or not you believe them."
Now, here are some of my beliefs that are true to me:
- You cannot teach kids about sex by telling them not to have it.
- I believe that making drugs illegal is stupid and damaging to us as a people.
- I believe that if we take care of our surroundings they will take care of us.
- I believe that inside every tool is a hammer.
- I believe that people have an inalienable right to choose what to do with their own bodies.
- I believe that in a community it is our duty that we should take care of each other in times of need.
- I believe that if you tell people the truth and let them make decisions based on that, much of the time they'll make pretty good decisions but not always.
- I believe that which is detestable to you, you should not do to another.
- I believe that, while not all people are essentially good, most are trying.
- I believe that rules do not make us moral, loving each other makes us moral.
And finally, I have concluded through careful, empirical analysis and much thought that somebody is looking out for me, keeping track of what I think about things, forgiving me when I do less than I ought, giving me strength to shoot for more than I think I'm capable of. I believe they know everything that I do and think and they still love me and I've concluded after careful consideration that this person keeping score is me.
How I hate the man who talks about the 'brute creation', with an ugly emphasis on Brute. Only Christians are capable of it. As for me, I am proud of my close kinship with other animals. I take a jealous pride in my Simian ancestry. I like to think that I was once a magnificent hairy fellow living in the trees and that my frame has come down through geological time via sea jelly and worms and Amphioxus, Fish, Dinosaurs, and Apes. Who would exchange these for the pallid couple in the Garden of Eden?