Saturday, 7 September 2013

George Ross - memorial lecture tomorrow

I am giving the George Ross Memorial lecture tomorrow (Sunday) at 2pm, Conway Hall, London, part of the Philosophy Now Festival. I'll be talking about stuff from my book The War For Children's Minds, which George liked, I'm told. I didn't meet him but I have discovered a lot about him and clearly I missed out.

Here are George's Ten Commandments. Discuss...!


Published in Humanism Scotland Winter 2001, p. 11

1.          Sapere aude - Dare to know. Take the risk of discovery, exercise the right of unfettered criticism, accept the loneliness of autonomy. Have the courage to use independently your own understanding, without recourse to anyone else's guidance. Always question, always examine critically your thoughts and deeds. Always ask 'why?' Try also to ask 'why not?' Be creative. 

2.          Know thyself. To thine own self be true. Remember that an unexamined life is not worth living. 

3.          Universalize your actions: never do anything which you would not want to say that anybody and everybody should be able to do in a similar situation. Treat your fellow human beings as you want them to treat you. Do not have double standards: apply to yourself the principles and laws that you yourself formulate. Never treat people as a means to an end: only as an end in itself. 

4.          Be kind and compassionate, and be involved: remember that the hottest place in hell is destined to those who adopt a neutral attitude in a moral conflict. 

5.          Take very seriously your duty towards others, but do not take yourself seriously. Always aim for the best result possible, not for the best possible result. 

6.          Remember that all human opinions, values, tenets and beliefs are of necessity subjective and relative. Always treat them as hypotheses or premises. Never bestow upon an opinion, doctrine, dogma or belief of any sort an absolute character: this is the cause of most heinous crimes against humanity. Beware of peddlers of absolutes, for people have been – and are – exterminated in the name of absolutes. Nobody has ever been killed for a hypothesis, so far at least. 

7.          Be regular and ordinary in your life, like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work. Do not make a virtue of banality, by calling it 'common sense'. Remember that the surest defence against evil is extreme individualism, originality of thinking, whimsicality. 

8.          Tolerate any stance, except intolerance itself. To detest another man's opinions is one thing. To suppress them is quite another. This distinction is the essence of liberalism. Plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than that only freedom can make security secure. 

9.          Treat with respect the planet on which we live. It is the only one we've got at present and we must bequeath it to our children – and our children's children. 

10.        Strive to live in such a way that the world you leave behind you is a better place, freer, wiser, more tolerant, than the world you found when you were born. Try to make a difference – however small. 

                                                                                  ©George Ross 2000

[With due acknowledgements to the ancient (pre-Socratic) Greeks, Socrates, Plato, Horace, Dante, Shakespeare, Voltaire, Kant, Flaubert, G. B. Shaw, Popper, Joseph Brodsky and … S. J. Simon (Why You Lose at Bridge)

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