APREJUDICE is different from a preference. A preference consists in my sayMg, whatever the absolute values may he, that I like A more than I like B. I may be unreasonable in my preference, or I may think others are unreasonable or wicked in their preferences; but this does not make my preference a prej udice.
To do this, I have to add that A absolutely is better than B. Nor is this enough to make a preference into a prejudice, for I might have a, whole series of reasons for thinking that A is better absolutely than B. It would hardly be prejudice in a reasonably informed man to say that the landscape of Tuscany is more cheering, and more conducive to a human way of living—given present conditions—than the landscape of Siberia.
There are serious reasons for this statement, e.g., climatic and cultural.
Tuscany begot Dante and Michael Angelo, and foreigners travel far, and at great expense, to visit it.. Whereas to be sent to Siberia has generally been viewed as a kind of punishment for criminal or political self-assertion. To have a prejudice, one needs to say that A is better than B for insufficient and hasty reasons. One must pre-judge the matter. Normally, one pre-judges the matter in question by making use of irrelevant standards of judgment.
Means of Comparison
Titus, for instance, if we are comparing the respective climates of Germany and Prance, we should discuss the matter in terms of temperatures and rainfalls and mountain ranges and the Gulf Stream, and not in terms of politics.
We should not say that the German climate is bad because we hate the Nazis, or that the French climate is unhealthy because France has made a pact with the Soviet Union. This latter way of thinking and arguing, however, is much commoner than the way of discussing with distinctions; and one of the first things we need to do, to develop our minds, is to get away from that prejudiced way of arguing. So let us watch out for it when we are reading the newspapers and many hooks.
Nearly all of us start reflective life with inborn prejudices, that is to say, prejudices which we have learned at a very early age, and which can scarcely ever he eradi cated entirely. For we have our prejudices before our judgments. Thus an English schoolboy may be inclined to a belief that one Englishman can easily defeat ten foreigners in battle and normally does so. But after maturer reflection, and having conversed with foreigners, he will observe that such a view is held in France concerning French .ten, in Germany concerning Germans. and so on. Yet again an Irishmen is inclined to think that everything the British do is wrong. Such a view is also a prejudice, and is repulsive to a kind of law of averages of corporate behaviour.
The wise man, I fancy, should not endeavour to destroy all his prejudices outright, but rather to convert as many of them as possible Into reasonable preferences. For instance, ii is unlikely that a young man who has dwelt pleasurably for years on the thought of one Englishman laying out ten foreigners will ever come to think quite so kindly of foreigners as of his own people. Nor need we expect him to do so. But he may well mature his first. statement— "the English are superior to foreigners" —into the statement: "I personally love the English virtues and ways, the ways of my own people." This latter is a civio and civilised sentiment of high value, whereas the former is the expression of an undeveloped mind. One very good way of avoiding prejudice is to promise yourself that you won't talk about a thing if you have never seen it. There are a few people who may understand things they have never seen, but these people are rare. This maxim applies especially to politics, where the instinct for making moral judgments on others is especially assertive. The wisest man is not the man who can make the most moral judgments in the least space of time: but the man who can withhold his judgment when he does not really know,
There must be Fairness
Thus a wise man will sort out his inclinations and preferences, and the better he understands them the less he
be inclined to prejudiced judgments. If I recognise in myself, for instance, a loathing of economic explanations, I will be most careful to allow for it in my judgments on matters of fact In which communism or socialism are involved. And I won't state so readily that X or Y (who are socialists) are bad people: I will say that I myself dislike intensely the ideas of X or Y. Often enough, intellectually, there is much to be learned from ideas we dislike strongly. But very often, when we dieagree about facts, we are really dieagreeing about a personal preference. P.S. If the first three lines of this column (Wordsworth brought up to date) seemed anodyne and pointless, December IC, this 11748 because a !MI word was changed somewhere between one and my readers.