Being the kind of person who, rather than using my own mind, prefers
to follow authority, I thought it was time to revisit the great seventeenth-century
philosopher and Oratorian Nicolas Malebranche's list of eleven reasons
why we prefer to follow authority, rather than to use our own minds:
the natural laziness of men, who do not want to take the trouble to
the lack of a capacity for meditating, into which we have fallen for
lack of application to it during youth, when the fibres of the brain
were capable of all kinds of inflections.
lack of love for abstract truths, which are the foundation of everything
we can know in this lower world.
the satisfaction one receives from the knowledge of probabilities, which
are very agreeable and very moving, because they are founded upon sensible
stupid vanity that makes us hope to be esteemed as scholars, for we
call scholars those who have read the most.
we imagine without reason that the ancients were more enlightened than
we can be, and that there is nothing to do at which they have not already
because a false respect mixed with a stupid curiosity makes us
those things farthest removed from us, the oldest things, those from
the farthest or most unknown countries, and even the most obscure
when we esteem a new opinion, or a contemporary author, it seems their
glory effaces our own because we are too near to it; but we have no
comparable fear of the honour rendered to the ancients.
and novelty cannot be found together in things of the faith. Because
men do not wish to make the distinction between truths that depend upon
reason and those that depend upon tradition, they do not consider that
one should learn them in completely different ways. They confused novelty
with error and antiquity with truth.
are in an age when the knowledge of ancient opinions is still in vogue,
and hardly anyone who uses his mind can be placed above evil customs
by the strength of his reason.
because men act only for interest, and this is what causes even those
who have disabused themselves and recognise the vanity of such studies
nevertheless to continue applying themselves to them; because honours,
dignities, and even benefices are attached to them, and those who excel
in such studies always have more of these than those who are unaware