Let’s contradict ourselves


I just got a short and witty reader letter (most aren’t!) in response to one of my pieces in the current issue of The Economist. It quotes Walt Whitman, and I love the quote. In fact, I am considering making it the motto of The Hannibal Blog and all its commenters.

Dear Sirs,

It was interesting to read about the Red and Blue and Purple and Orange of Kaleidofornia (“California Splitting”). Perhaps Walt Whitman said it best:
“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes. “

Rama Rao
Irvine , CA

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4 thoughts on “Let’s contradict ourselves

  1. !!!
    De gustibus disputandum

    It is an awful quote. If there is no coherence, there is nothing. There seems to be some lack of wit or of distance in his poetry:

    All men and women – me also,
    All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages,
    All identities that have existed, or may exist, on this globe or any globe,
    All lives and deaths – all of past, present and future,
    This vast similitude spans them, and always has spanned, and shall
    forever span them, and compactly hold them.

    Doesn’t he sound like a preacher? This “all men and women…me also” could be a Ian Steward joke.

    • I think you mean De gustibus NON EST disputandum (“There is no arguing about taste.”)

      I sympathize with your passion for coherence. I try to be coherent myself.

      Alas, I find that whatever I try to be coherent about has a tendency to reveal unexpected complexities, forcing me to contradict myself. So the choice is between being coherently silly or incoherently inquisitive.

      Anyway, I like the quote. Once you’re afraid of (being honest about ) contradicting yourself, you’re going down a dangerous path…

  2. What is it about words beginning with “c” ?

    Contradict, coherence, completeness, consistency, conscience, conscious, comical, commonsense, comment, wholeness (amongst others of note).

  3. I meant “here we are arguing about tastes”, but my Latin is mainly guesswork, and I remembered Nietzsche as saying that in fact taste was at the core of all arguments.

    I also thought that this was not an argument about tastes, but about two philosophical positions.

    Yet there won’t be a fight because I am Swiss and you aren’t 100% USA.

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