Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"Arguments for doing nothing"

Fans of the Cambridge classicist Francis Cornford (1874–1943) [ODNB] will know his Microcosmographia Academica (subtitled "being a Guide for the Young Academic Politician"), first published anonymously in 1908. (A centenary edition was published in 2008 by Cambridge University Press as University Politics [CUP].)

Chapter VII addresses the issue of "Argument": "There is only one argument for doing something: the rest are arguments for doing nothing".

Cornford then expounds:
The Principle of the Dangerous Precedent is that you should not now do an admittedly right action for fear you, or your equally timid successors, should not have the courage to do right in some future case, which, ex hypothesi, is essentially different, but superficially resembles the present one. Every public action which is not customary, either is wrong, or, if it is right, is a dangerous precedent. It follows that nothing should ever be done for the first time.
Should Cornford be required reading for archaeological ethicists and museum curators?


Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

1 comment:

DR.KWAME OPOKU said...

This should be required reading for all those who engage in public debate.

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails