Letters to a Young Contrarian

By Christopher Hitchens | Go to book overview

IV

I was most heartened to have your reply. It is true that the odds in favor of stupidity or superstition or unchecked authority seem intimidating and that vast stretches of human time have seemingly elapsed with no successful challenge to these things. But it is no less true that there is an ineradicable instinct to see beyond, or through, these tyrannical conditions. One way of phrasing it might to be say that injustice and irrationality are inevitable parts of the human condition, but that challenges to them are inevitable also. On Sigmund Freud's memorial in Vienna appear the words: "The voice of reason is small, but very persistent." Philosophers and theologians have cogitated or defined this in differing ways, postulating that we respond to a divinely implanted "conscience" or that—as Adam Smith had it—we carry around an unseen witness to our thoughts and doings, and seek to make a good impression on this worthy bystander. Neither assumption need be valid; it's enough that we know that this innate spirit exists. We have to add the qualification, however, that even if it is presumptively latent in all of us it very often remains just that—latent. Its existence guarantees nothing in itself,

-27-

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Letters to a Young Contrarian
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction xi
  • I 1
  • II 13
  • III 19
  • IV 27
  • V 35
  • VI 41
  • VII 47
  • VIII 53
  • IX 55
  • X 61
  • IX 69
  • XII 79
  • XIII 85
  • XIV 95
  • XV 105
  • XVI 115
  • XVII 123
  • XVIII 127
  • Envoi 139
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