Like the Saliva in Pavlov’s Dogs

“Holding radical opinions is by no means a guarantee that one belongs to the thinking part. It is just as easy to be blind on the Left as on the Right. The only difference to human history is that the point of resistance to reality comes sooner or later in chronological time. How to stick to principle or social aim while facing facts as they are is the peculiar problem for human intelligence in a democratic culture, and this reliance on brain power always implies that it is free, that the choice is real. Hence, the need of resisting absolutes — that is, party labels, rigid loyalties, simple rules of thumb, easy or cynical fatalism. Anybody can take sides when things are labeled ‘revolutionary’, ‘reactionary’, or ‘democratic’. But what is it we are asked to believe, to consent to, to support? What value is there in opinions that flow from us like the saliva in Pavlov’s dogs, at the ringing of a bell? And again, if our fate is mechanically ground out by the omnipotence of interests, then why indulge in so much talk and print? If talk and print play their part, then why handle them like a mace, incapable of flexible and pointed use?” (Jacques Barzun, Of Human Freedom)