Good, new ideas are hard to come by, which justifies our reliance on good, old ones. No point in re-inventing the wheel, after all, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Good, new ideas are hard to come by, which justifies our reliance on good, old ones. No point in re-inventing the wheel, after all, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But the problem with old, received wisdom – like the two sayings I’ve just used – is that its familiarity makes it lose its edge. We take it for granted, assuming that all the intelligence we need is contained in the words of a quotation or proverb, when really it is only in the understanding that any insight comes through.
So my idea was to take stale sayings, quotations and proverbs and breathe new life into them. The trick is simply to read them as though for the first time, questioning what they really mean. What you usually find is that none are one-size-fits-all capsules of sagacity: all become false or useless when misused. When that happens, wisdom descends into folly.
The easiest way to illustrate this is to point out the oft-observed fact that for every proverb there is an equal and opposite proverb. That’s what this very short film does.
Julian Baggini is a British writer specialising in philosophy. He is the author of The Pig that Wants to be Eaten and 99 other Thought Experiments (2005) and is a co-founder and editor of The Philosophers’ Magazine. He has written for the Guardian, theIndependent, the Observer and the BBC, and has been a regular guest on BBC Radio 4′s In Our Time. Baggini was awarded his PhD in 1996 from University College London for a thesis on the philosophy of personal identity. His latest book is Should You Judge This Book by Its Cover? He has undertaken many events for the Bristol Festival of Ideas ranging from The Philosophy of the Simpsons to issues of identity and Britishness. He was one of the judges for the first Bristol Festival of Ideas Book Prize.