‘Every one is forward to complain of the prejudices that mislead other men or parties, as if he were free, and had none of his own.’

“This being objected on all sides, it is agreed that it is a fault and an hindrance to knowledge.


What now is the cure? No other but this, that every man should let alone others prejudices and examine his own. No body is convinced of his by the accusation of another; he recriminates by the same rule, and is clear. The only way to remove this great cause of ignorance and error out of the world is for every one impartially to examine himself. If others will not deal fairly with their own minds, does that make my errors truths, or ought it to make me in love with them and willing to impose on myself? If others love cataracts on their eyes, should that hinder me from couching of mine as soon as I could? Every one declares against blindness, and yet who almost is not fond of that which dims his sight, and keeps the clear light out of his mind, which should lead him into truth and knowledge? False or doubtful positions, relied upon as unquestionable maxims, keep those in the dark from truth, who build on them. Such are usually the prejudices imbibed from education, party reverence, fashion, interest, &c. This is the mote which every one sees in his brother’s eye, but never regards the beam in his own. For who is there almost that is ever brought fairly to examine his own principles, and see whether they are such as will bear the trial? but yet this should be one of the first things every one should set about, and be scrupulous in, who would rightly conduct his understanding in the search of truth and knowledge.

To those who are willing to get rid of this great hindrance of knowledge for to such only I write to those who would shake off this great and dangerous impostor prejudice, who dresses up falsehood in the likeness of truth, and so dexterously hoodwinks men’s minds as to keep them in the dark with a belief that they are more in the light than any that do not see with their eyes, I shall offer this one mark whereby prejudice may be known. He that is strongly of any opinion, must suppose (unless he be self-condemned) that his persuasion is built upon good grounds, and that his assent is no greater than what the evidence of the truth he holds forces him to, and that they are arguments and not inclination or fancy that make him so confident and positive in his tenets. Now if, after all his profession, he cannot bear any opposition to his opinion, if he cannot so much as give a patient hearing, much less examine and weigh the arguments on the other side, does he not plainly confess it is prejudice governs him? And it is not the evidence of truth, but some lazy anticipation, some beloved presumption that he desires to rest undisturbed in. For if what he holds be, as he gives out, well fenced with evidence, and he sees it to be true, what need he fear to put it to the proof? If his opinion be settled upon a firm foundation, if the arguments that support it and have obtained his assent be clear, good, and convincing, why should he be shy to have it tried whether they be proof or not?

He whose assent goes beyond his evidence owes this excess of his adherence only to prejudice, and does, in effect, own it, when he refuses to hear what is offered against it; declaring thereby that it is not evidence he seeks, but the quiet enjoyment of the opinion he is fond of, with a forward condemnation of all that may stand in opposition to it, unheard and unexamined; which, what is it but prejudice?

Qui aequum staiueril parte inauditd alterd, etiam si acqiium statuerit, hand aequus fuerit.

John Locke, Of the Conduct of the Understanding

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