← Jonathan Swift, Irish novelist & satirist (1667 - 1745) --
I think that the above quotation is extremely profound.
I would love to know more about the context in which it was first spoken or written, by Swift.
At first glance it appears to be one of those maxims that is undoubtedly true. You know? You read it or hear it, and think “Hmmmm” or “Wow” and nod your head.
I myself do believe it to be true, for the most part. More true than not true.
But a trifle overstated.
I speak from personal experience.
It is the word “useless” that I would argue is a possible exaggeration, on Swift’s part.
There are very few things that are useless, really.
But in this scenario of “reasoning” someone from a former state of – for lack of a better word, unreasonableness -- not only is it not useless to attempt to do so, but it is entirely possible to be successful.
I know because it happened to me.
I am assuming that Swift is perhaps referring to someone who may be designating certain areas of their belief system [their “weltanshung” or worldview] to be answerable to “faith” rather than reason. Or even “belief” over “evidence.”
I once did this.
By that I mean I lived out a worldview not only based in faith, but also capped off with it. At the top and bottom of the pyramid of my worldview, faith sealed whatever was reasonable, in a state of insulation.
Yes, seemingly impenetrable.
In many ways, the entire premise of faith-based belief relies upon this impenetrable idea, right up front. In other words, there is no such a thing as adherence to “faith” without a commensurate rejection of reason. It’s an integral part of the deal.
And yet, for me, reason found a way in, or rather, it’s way out.
So, at an essential level, I must disagree with Swift.
It is not "useless" to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.
It is only difficult to do so.
Therefore, two questions I ponder tonight.
1) What is it that caused me to initially re-assess my faith-based convictions?
2) What would it take, for me to revert back to them?
When I come up with any transferable and hopefully coherent answers to these questions, I am going to write a book on the subject, entitled Gullible’s Travels.