Friday, January 02, 2015

Indifference vs. Earnestness for Knowledge

"Of course no one denies that partiality in the sense of bias is to be avoided. What I have been pointing out is that indifference is fatal, and earnestness for knowledge essential. What would you say if Newton had professed himself indifferent as to whether he succeeded in making fresh astronomical discoveries, or failed? Should you say that that showed the needful attitude of impartiality which ensured the evidence being valued correctly, and that without it he would run the risk of rash conclusions, and would believe on an insufficient induction? or should you not rather say that if he cared so little about it he would probably not succeed if discovery were at all difficult? I say again that we must secure ourselves from being biassed by our wishes, not as the juryman does, by indifference as to results, but as the physical explorer does, by a longing for true knowledge."

Wilfrid Philip Ward, "The Wish to Believe," in Witnesses to the Unseen, and Other Essays, p. 252.

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