Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

In Praise of Prejudice: The Necessity of Preconceived Ideas

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

In Praise of Prejudice: The Necessity of Preconceived Ideas

Article excerpt

IN PRAISE OF PREJUDICE: THE NECESSITY OF PRECONCEIVED IDEAS by Theodore Dalrymple Encounter, 129 pages, $20

Theodore Dalrymple is a man of prejudice, and he argues that it's a good thing. Good prejudices, Dalrymple writes, come before metaphysics and reflection. It is good, for example, that some men and women examine die reasons for not having children outside of marriage. But, regardless of their desire for ratiocination, potential parents need to acquire the social prejudice that it is better for a child to have a mother and father who are married.

Furthermore, he argues, "We can rid ourselves of any particular attitude to any given question, no doubt, but we cannot give up having any attitude whatsoever to it." Indeed, "to overturn a prejudice is not to destroy prejudice as such. It is rather to inculcate another prejudice."

In his career as a physician and a psychiatrist, working regularly with patients in an English prison, Dalrymple witnessed the pernicious effects of bad prejudices on sexual mores, chiefly in the form of increases in domestic abuse and children born out of wedlock. …

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