Is It Better to Have No Ideas Than False Ones?

Thomas Jefferson is supposed to have said the following:

It is always better to have no ideas than false ones; to believe nothing, than to believe what is wrong.

Now contrast that with this great quote from Teddy Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Roosevelt seems to imply that it doesn’t necessarily matter what the man in the arena is fighting for, but that he is fighting, and this alone elevates him to a higher pedestal than the spectator.

That’s all fine and well in, say, a sporting event. But apply this logic elsewhere.

Should we think higher of the politician who believes he is fighting for a worthy cause — but a cause we virulently disagree with — than the citizen bystander not running for anything?

Should we respect the person who has taken the time to come up with ideas — but ideas you think are dangerous — more than the person who has produced no ideas at all?

Do you respect the ignorant voter more than the one who chooses not to vote at all?

10 Responses to Is It Better to Have No Ideas Than False Ones?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *